Top critical review
9 people found this helpful
Adequate for the price
on April 24, 2013
This smoker works well enough in most conditions, but there are a few problems. On the positive side the unit is compact, and not prone to blow or tip over. It assembled pretty quickly, though I found the handles had to be bent to fit the pre-drilled holes, which seem to have been drilled too close together. Instructions were fine and there were no missing parts - actually I was left with a puzzling handful of bolts at the end, presumably because the bolt packet is the same for multiple Brinkman units. Using it is straightforward, and my first batch of ribs came out pretty good. Inside the unit is big enough to hold quite a bit - the unit held two full racks of spare ribs, which is enough to overfeed 4-6 people. It could probably fit two briskets or two butts just as well.
As for the problems, the lack of control over the heating element means there is no way to adjust the temperature. I found the unit ran pretty hot (for a smoker) at between 250 and 280, when I would have preferred to be cooking at around 225. There are also no vents for allowing more air in or smoke out as there are on most grills, so without modification there is really nothing to be done about the temperature..
One would think that the fixed-heating element would at least provide consistent temperature, and that would be a good thing, but the fact is that the thin walls of this unit mean that the internal temp is greatly effected by the outdoor temp. On a cool or breezy day, the unit will run much cooler, and presumably on a hot day it will run hotter. Only spending hundreds of dollars on a heavier duty smoker would fix that, but it's worth mentioning because it does affect cooking time and its something to watch out for. Not that you can really watch out for it, since the unit doesn't have a built-in thermometer...
My final complaint about the unit is that it doesn't have a door to add wood chips. This means having to carefully lift top part of the unit off of the heating base, mindful that the meat and water pan are inside, and setting it aside while adding more wood. It's not a huge hassle but it does lose heat and its more complicated than it needs to be. The larger Brinkman, which at the time of writing is actually just $5 more and includes a cover does have a door and is probably a better deal. Buying a cover for this cost me an extra $12, so in the end the bigger Brinkman would actually have been cheaper.
Overall this is a fine starter unit if you're looking to do a little smoking without spending hundreds of dollars, but using it will leave you wishing for a little more control and for a few changes to the hardware that you may end up making yourself, as apparently many Brinkman owners do.