Smoking Turkey on a Brinkman Water Smoker

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Ok.. smoking turkey on a Brinkmann water smoker may not be your thing but for millions of people it is. And probable half of those million have problems maintaining a proper fire and turning out a good piece of meat on that 39 dollar hunk of metal.

I have recieved email after email that could be correctly labeled cries for help and folks.. I have heard your cries and am going to try and help you a bit here.

As many of you know.. I am more of a story teller so let me tell you what I did and perhaps you will learn something about smoking a turkey on the Brinkmann water smoker or the ECB (el cheapo Brinkmann) as some endearingly refer to it.

I own a couple of old rusty Brinkmann water smokers but they do not get used much.. they are some of the ones I started on years ago and have long since been abandoned for more shiny and expensive units that seem to work a lot better and have a temperature guage with actual readings instead of the "warm, ideal, hot" readings so prominently displayed on the lid of the Brinkmann water smoker.

The Challenge

This past weekend we drove to Austin, TX to visit some relatives and I was asked to smoke a turkey.  However, the only smoker available was a repainted Brinkmann water smoker.

I have always felt like I could smoke anything in any type of unit and make it turn out really good but after being used to a really nice unit you get a little "rusty" kinda like my old units out behind the house.

I figured what the hey.. I will just have to make it work so I got my 10 pound bag of 100 percent hardwood lump charcoal, my charcoal chimney, some mesquite chunks, some apricot chunks, some Bartlett pear chunks, some newspaper, a lighter, my digital probe meat thermometers and my cooking gloves and went to work.

Aquiring the Turkey

I could not find a "minimally processed" turkey so I was forced to purchase a turkey that was already 7% full of some broth/saltwater solution.

Normally I would brine a turkey that was labeled 'MINIMALLY PROCESSED" but I would not do that with this one as it was missing the label and for me that is not ideal.

Getting the Coals Ready

I stuffed the bottom of the charcoal chimney with 2 pieces of old newspaper and then poured it full of lump charcoal.

I lit the paper and after about 10 minutes it was ready to pour into my charcoal pan.. I felt like it needed another chimney full so I did another batch and poured it in. I then placed the water pan in its position just above the charcoal pan and filled it about a quarter full of water.

Turkey Takes Center Stage

At 9:30 am I placed the grate in its position on the top of the smoker body, set the salt and peppered turkey on the grate breast side up and covered it with the lid.

The 2 chimneys of lump charcoal were giving my temperatures of 245 degrees so I opened the door to let some heat escape.

Make a note of this.. I did no modifications to the smoker at all other than to place some chicken wire on the bottom of the charcoal pan so the ashes could fall down without smothering the coals.

On a Brinkmann water smoker that has had no mods done to it.. the effect is different than on normal smokers. Because the charcoal pan is several inches below the door, opening the door allows heat to escape and therefore cools down the fire. To heat things up a bit you need to close the door some or even all the way to all all of your heat to travel up to the grate area without escaping out of the doorway.

The charcoal pan is about an inch and a half less in diameter than the smoker body and therefore creates a 3/4 inch gap all around the charcoal pan that allows for more than enough airflow.

On the same token, the lid on the brinkmann does not fit tightly. There are gaps that allow for more than enough updraft to allow the smoke to escape.

Controlling the Temperature

After about an hour in the smoker the temp begin to raise even higher.. it spiked up to 278 at one point and I had to remove the lid to let some heat escape several times. I kept the door all the way open and eventually the heat came back down to around 240 and remained fairly steady for about an hour.

At around 12:30 that afternoon the temp began to drop and so I shut the door all the way and was able to maintain about 230 degrees for a while but soon had to prepare another batch of charcoal in the chimney.

I could not pour this batch in because that would require removing the turkey, the water pan and the grate so I used my barbecue tongs to quickly place the lit coals into the charcoal pan through the access door.

This batch kept the temp fairly steady for another 30 minutes or so but I soon realized that I would need another batch of lit coals so I prepared them and "tonged" them in once again throught the access door.

That was the last of my 10 pound bag of lump charcoal so I was a bit worried that I would have to resort to finishing it in the oven (something I don't like to do).

I Was Forced to Make a Hard Decision

The turkey had reached 154 degrees and after just a few minutes the Brinkmann was once again losing heat very quickly.. when it dropped down to 210 degrees I made an executive decision to do what made sense and finish it in the oven.

Fortunately they had the oven already heated up for something else and I just borrowed some unused space on the top rack and it was finished in that 375 degree oven in just a matter of 20 minutes or so.

The turkey was oh so delicious and extremely moist and juicy but as I thought about what I shoud have done to make it more of a success on the fly I realized that the only thing that would have helped would have been to have had a little more charcoal.

About 15 pounds would have been perfect..

Last Thought on Smoking a Turkey on a Brinkmann

I believe the key to getting good temperatures in the Brinkmann water smoker is to start out with plenty of charcoal and use the door to control the heat. Remember if it gets too hot you can always remove the lid for a minute to let some heat escape.

I also read the other day that you can place a clean 55 gallon barrel over the brinkmann water smoker to help hold in some heat for those of you in super cold climates who are having trouble getting adequate smoking temperatures.

So see.. smoking a turkey on a Brinkmann water smoker is not that hard.. just think it through, go ahead and do some mods on the brinmann if you can, and have plenty of good lump charcoal on hand.


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About Jeff Phillips

Long time Industrial Engineer turned self-proclaimed fire poker, pitmaster and smoke whisperer and loving every minute of it!

Comments

  1. To keep the heat up, I have been using a water heater jacket from Home depot.  It is foil on inside and out with some sort of insulation.that doesnt melt or burn.  Just wrap it around the Brinkmann and control temp by opening and closing the insulation.

  2. I have a big cooker have done 22 Turkeys at one time inject with teriyaki sauce and cook at 180 degrees one hour per pound my water pan is close to same size of grill i use gas and pecan wood and shells my grill is 48 x36cook all by biggest bird size

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