These are actual questions I have received from web visitors via email and my answers back to them:
Q: Jeff, I have a square box smoker (Brinkman) with the smoker box on the side. I have a real problem keeping the heat at a constant 225 degrees. It seems like I must keep alot of wood burning in it or the temperature barely will get to 180 degrees. Do I just have a cheap smoker box or am I doing something wrong? I do start out the fire with charcoal also. Hope you can help me since I am a rookie at this and enjoy smoking meat..
A:You are dealing with several problems here.. the Brinkmann uses light gauge metal and therefore it is not going to maintain heat as well as a smoker with a firebox with heavier gauge material.
To correct or help that problem you should try using only lump charcoal which burns hotter than wood or briquettes and you should also try lining the bottom of the firebox with fire bricks.
You will notice when you add the fire bricks that the smoker will take longer to heat up but will maintain temperature much better without the up and down spikes.
Also make sure your intake vent on the firebox is open all the way when you first start your fire and that the damper coming off of the smoking chamber is 3/4 to full open as well to allow plenty of airflow which is what drives your heat.
After the smoker reaches proper temperatures you can close the intake on the firebox a little if it starts getting too hot.
You can also close the damper(s) on the smoke chamber a little if you want more smoke flavor but I would never close more than half way.
Another option.. (I am full of ideas today) you can make a insulation blanket for your smoker out of water heater insulation and duct tape. They make blankets for water heaters and these can be modified to fit your firebox and/or your smoke chamber. You may have to remove part of the insulation in the summer time if it becomes difficult to keep the temperatures down.
Every smoker is different and you will have to do a little trial and error to see what works best.. I think your best option is firebricks in the firebox using lump charcoal and insulation blanket on the smoke chamber only.
Let me know if this works and also let me know if you have any more questions or need clarification on any of this.
Follow Up Q: Thanks I will try that. I did notice that the seals on the doors and the
smoke chamber did have alot of cracks in them and did not seal the way I
thought they should. If I use the insulation on the smoking chamber, do I
run the insulation all the way to the bottom? I know that it gets pretty hot
at the bottom where the smoke enters the chamber. I did do some ribs that
where absoulutly the best but my briskets have for the most part been tough
Follow Up A: You may try it only at the top and see if that helps but you may end up needing to go all of the way to the bottom.. according to what I have read the water heater blanket material should be able to withstand fairly high temperatures.
On your briskets, if they tend to end up dry, try smoking them upside down to let the fat cap protect the precious meat and mop every 1 to 1.5 hours after it has been in the smoker for at least 2 to 4 hours with 1 cup water, 1 stick butter and 2 tablespoons of cajun seasoning (I like Tony Chacheres) melted and mixed in the microwave.
You may also try wrapping in foil after the meat has reached an internal temperature of 140 degrees. Splash on some apple juice, honey, or some beef broth (or a mix of all three) just before closing the foil. Cook the brisket to an internal temperature of 180 for slicing or 195-200 for pulling.
If you wrapped it in foil uncover and then brush the brisket with a good finishing sauce (I use my special bbq sauce recipe sold HERE but if you have another favorite it will work) about an hour before the brisket is finished for some extra good flavor.
Be sure and contain the juices in the foil and pour it back over the sliced or pulled brisket for even more flavor and moisture.