Monday, January 3, 2011

How I Smoke Chicken on my Cheap Offset Smoker (Brinkmann, Char-Griller, etc)

This weekend I had a craving for BBQ.

Now some of you might think I BBQ all the time, but last year the majority of what I did was grilling, fire roasting, "stir fired" dishes, and such. I wanted a proper old fashioned BBQ chicken dinner with barbecued beans, potato salad, and ABTs.

And since I was going old fashioned, I thought I would go "old school" and break out Trevor's Brinkmann Pitmaster Deluxe.

The cheap offset smoker is the first smoker that many people ever get. The cheap offsets include the Brinkmann Smoke n Pit (SnP) you can get at Home Depot or the Char-Griller at Lowes, both around $200. While these units might not be able to match the quality of high end cookers like Big Green Eggs, Stumps Smokers, or even a well made Ugly Drum Smoker, with a few modifications and techniques, they can meet the needs of the weekend backyard warrior. When well cared for, these units can last many years. Mine is going on seven years old.

The Modifications
These are only the ones I have done and are the easiest. (For the "bible on SnP mods," read more here: Smoke Ring.)

I installed a metal baffle (red arrow) to deflect the heat from coming directly out and up of the fire box. I also use a water pan (yellow arrow) to act as a heat capacitor helping to tame heat fluctuations and add moisture to the cooking chamber.

I added a raised cooking grid to increase cooking surface capacity by 324 square inches. I bought the grid at Lowes and some nuts and bolts, nothing complicated or expensive.

I lowered the bottom of the exhaust stack to the level of the grid. This evens out the temps in the cooking chamber. Before, the hottest gasses in the chamber escaped at the top yellow arrow. Now, those hottest gasses mix with the rest of the air in the areas where your food is cooking. To do this, just roll up a piece of flashing and stuff it up your stack. The tension of it trying to unroll will hold it in place.

The best "modification" for cheap offset smokers is great weather.

If you only ever intend to BBQ during the daytime in the summer, then these are the smokers for you. Seriously. If you are a fair weather kind of BBQr, then an SnP will be perfect for you and not break your budget. And let's be honest, that's 95% of people. Most people aren't idiots....errrr,ummmm... "hardcore" like me and my BBQ Brethren, who enjoy cooking in the snow, wind and rain.

The Cooking Process
Brine your bird or bird pieces in a simple brine for 3-4 hours (Multiply as needed to cover pieces/bird.)
1 quart water
2 Tbsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 bay leaf

Rinse and dry the bird thoroughly. Drying is a key step in avoiding rubbery skin. Season the bird with your favorite hen rub. My rock solid favorite for years has been Poultry Perfect Rub from Bill & Cheryl Jamison's book Smoke and Spice. It has the right blend of seasoning and enough paprika to get a gorgeous colored bird.

For my fire, I like to use the Minion Method which is basically adding some hot coals to a bed of unlit coals to create a low temp, long burning fire. I set my coals up like this. (The flecks of color you see are hickory, I was using Kingsford Hickory Briquettes).

Then I start a half chimney of coals and when they are burning hot, pour them into the void. The hot coals provide the initial heat and the unlit ones provide sustained heat as they gradually ignite. After dumping the hot coals in, have the intake vent barely open and the stack vent fully open like this. Notice the exhaust of the stack, you don't want thick white smoke, just a thin blue smoke.

Once the temperature of the smoker gets to 275f, add your chicken to the smoker. I normally BBQ/smoke at a 225f temp at the grate but I like to go a little hotter for chicken to avoid rubbery skin. On a cheap offset, a temp reading of 275f is about 250f-ish at the grate level.

Now "mop" the chicken every 30-45 minutes using my favorite mop sauce. True mopping literally uses a cloth mop dipped in the liquid and then dabbed onto the meat. You realize how careful you have to be with cross contamination, right? To make it simple, I put the mop sauce in plastic deli style condiment squirt bottle and just splash/squirt the mop sauce onto the chicken.

NMT Chicken Mop Sauce
adapted from Bill Martin

1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup beer
1/2 cup Kraft original BBQ sauce
1 ounce hot sauce
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp pepper

If your coals start burning out a couple of hours into the cook, "re-Minion" them by moving all of the hot coals toward the cooking chamber...

And add fresh ones on the other end.

If the ash starts to build up under the coals this will restrict air flow. I have a tiny garden shovel and a metal ash pail with a lid that I used to "clean a path" like this. (Quit making fun of my arthritic, bent up coal's the original one! He's got character. And he's only 7 years old, honestly, who picks on a 7 year old?)

Quit "mop/splash/squirting" the chicken when it hits an internal temp of 140-145f in the breast.

Pull the chicken when it hits 160f in the breast and 175 in the thigh. Let rest for 10 minutes so the carryover cooking will take it to 165f/180f. This has consistently taken right at 3 hours when you can hold a steady temp.

To finish, it depends on my mood. Most times, I leave it as is, but sometimes I like to give it a VERY LIGHT glaze of a premium BBQ sauce like Carnovire or Billy Bones.


  1. Still too much work for this lazy southerner, but it sure looks good!

  2. Oh Yum! I do love real BBQ. I want some smoked chicken!! And those stuffed jalapenos wrapped in bacon look pretty dang good too!!!

  3. The first photo looks like it's of a very upscale tv dinner.

  4. Wait, you mean there are people that only BBQ when the weather is nice? What's up with that?

    Seriously, great how-to post and nice chicken.

    1. iam from england and it is seldom nice

  5. Um, that doesn't look old school to me! If I went into a bbq joint and got a meal like that served to me, I'd be one happy clam!!

  6. You are exceptionally high-tech! I bet it was AMAZING!! I had Mike's Smokehouse BBQ (Halls) a few weeks ago, and I'm going to post about it soon-- if you ever feel like BBQ without the work, it's by far the best in Knoxville!

  7. Man I just got a semester's worth of culinary BBQ class out of one post! Visuals help me, and this most certainly did! I have to try those peppers you already know I am in your snow club! LOL

  8. @DeepSouthDish:
    An alternative is to have a neighbor like me, lol.

    They are even good cold from the fridge the next day.

    For some reason, BBQ just tastes best on a paper plate, butcher paper, or a styrofoam lunch tray.

    What can I say, not every one shares our madness!

    It's more old school for me just by using the offset, either way the results are great!

    I'll have to check them out. I work on Breda Drive near Broadway, just got to get up there for lunch.

    @Chef E:
    You'll love them, spicy little buggers but the cheese cools them off.

  9. If I want good bbq I have to go up to harlem to the only good bbq joint in the city. And now I've got a serious craving. Thanks to you. As per usual.

  10. Hi, I'm new to your blog. Thanks for the tutorial. An avid cook, I just started delving into smoking meat and I am hooked. I appreciate your wealth of knowledge and willingness to share it. Can't wait to follow along.

  11. wow these all look amazing! What I would do to have a smoker in the city!

  12. I see you put this in a to-go box. Very convenient for me that way. Thanks, I'll take 10 to-go! GREG

  13. You are amazing Chris! Absolutely amazing!

  14. It is not is, um, commitment to our craft, yeah...those are some good chicken parts. I like the step by step or the SnP

  15. Was just noticing that your brine solution calls for significantly less salt and sugar then the Cooks Illustrated recipe I use.
    Theirs, for 1 Qt of water is 1/4Cup PLUS 2 TBSP. Kosher salt. (Morton's not Crystal) and 1/2 Cup of Sugar.
    Maple syrup sounds like a nice substitution.
    I read you on the BGE forum, too!
    Thanks for being you, Chris!

  16. I am totally craving some real bbq now... yum!

  17. im brand new to smoking i just bought the same snp you used did the mods you suggested they worked great followed all your recepie and it was wonderful!!!!! very moist perfect flavor cant thankyou enough im hooked!!!!!!!!!

  18. Hey, great post. I really like the flavor of smoked salmon myself, especially if I use apple woodchips.

  19. Does anyone know the nashville smoker?? I Am dutch and absolutely New to this. Hope anyone can help!!!

  20. Can someone help a dutch starter. Don't know how to work my smoker in the wright way. I have a nashville offset smoker. And don't know If the quality is Good but I Love to get in starting smoking my Meat. With Good wood and stuff.


  21. Does anyone know the nashville smoker?? I Am dutch and absolutely New to this. Hope anyone can help!!!

  22. How long did this take to cook? Thx!

  23. I tried this, did it without the mods used 3 starter baskets full, one each hour, then so much smoke the fire company showed up at the house. Note started at 12pm and pulled chicken at 4 p.m. at 165 deg. and put in microwave to bring up to 180. Grill is now on sale on Craigslist $40 (Daytona Beach) what a piece of junk. I'm going back to my Weber 22"'s

  24. I have had my brinkmann 25yrs and love it. Its been repainted, new red cedar shelf, bottom repaired (thanks son; mike).
    Only smoker/grill that is simple and as easy as can be if the Cajun smoker-yes had and wore out many over a 30 yr period -a great smoker.


Comments are moderated and won't appear immediately.