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    You are in: Home / Community Forums / Kitchen Gadgets & Appliances / Using My First Charcoal Smoker!
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    Using My First Charcoal Smoker!

    Fri Oct 05, 2012 11:40 am Groupie
    I've been lucky enough to inherit another gadget from my mom. She gave me her Brinkman charcoal smoker. A couple friends and I have been buying and enjoying a rarely stocked brand of smoked tomato hummus. All summer I kept talking about smoking my own tomatoes, dehydrating and grinding them into powder to use in homemade hummus. When I finally had the opportunity to get the smoker from Seattle to Boise, I jumped at it! My friend drove up for a family visit and on the way home she stopped by mom's house to pick up the smoker.

    The best part of my first smoking experience was that mom came down to visit a week after the smoker arrived, and we were able to do the testing and creating together! We smoked lots and lots of tomatoes, jalapenos, a brisket and a chicken. We made delicious batches of hummus and salsas with the smoked tomato and jalapeno powders. I've got some more testing to do before I am satisfied with the hummus and salsa recipes, but one recipe that hit the target the first time out was my smoked tomato chili.
    I read all about how to make your gas or charcoal BBQ a smoker, and we've smoked fish on the gas grill in the past, but I was still nervous about doing it on anything but a smoker. The Brinkman is super easy to use, although now that I've had a look at some of the newer, fancier smokers, if I decide to get really serious about this, I might just have to give mom hers back and invest in a new one.

    We smoked several batches of tomatoes. We tried organic store-bought tomatoes that were large, and we tried home-grown tomatoes that were relatively small. Although I'd much rather use tomatoes from my aunt's garden, the small ones easily slipped down through the grill racks, while the large, store-bought ones stayed put.
    After washing and slicing the tomatoes, we removed the seeds and placed them cut-side down on the grill grates that were sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. I simply sliced the jalapenos in half length-wise and put them on cut-side down also, but I think they could smoke whole too. I left the seeds in the first time, but in the future I think I'll take them out while I'm doing the tomatoes.

    The tomatoes smoked for about 3 hours, and since we did several batches we tried different flavors of wood chips, including cherry, apple, mesquite and a combination of mesquite, hickory, oak and cherry. Our favorite flavor on the tomatoes was the plain mesquite. After smoking we removed the tomato skins, which mostly just fell off, like when you char a bell pepper in the oven. Hmmmm..... smoked bell peppers! icon_idea.gif

    The smoker can be used with any lighting technique, but mom had bought an electric starter with it, so that's what we used. I'll be honest, I'm much more comfortable with just another electric gadget than I am lighter fluid and matches. So, we loaded up the bottom bowl of the smoker with the electric element and a pile of briquets. The electric element began to glow like an oven or toaster element, and soon the briquets were glowing and starting to ash over.

    When the briquets were hot enough we removed the electric starter and added either wood chips or wood pellets directly to the briquets. Then we set in the second bowl above the briquets and (carefully) filled it with water or another liquid. You can use any liquid, or combinations of liquid, from water and broth to beer and wine, and even marinades. We tried several variations over the course of the week.

    The fresh garden tomatoes were wonderful, but they were too small to keep from dropping down through the grill grates. They land in the water bowl below instead of onto briquets, but I felt like we were losing out on precious tomatoes when it happened.

    The organic store-bought tomatoes were large enough to hold their own on the smoker, so we did several batches of those. I couldn't help but throw on some jalapenos too, just for fun.

    Fun fact: Regardless of my Teflon mouth, biting into a freshly smoked, non-seeded jalapeno was NOT a good idea. I eat jalapenos with seeds raw all the time! Why was the smoked one so potent?! Well, for the first time ever my family got to see me cry from a pepper. I tamed it with snap peas dipped in ranch dip, but what did my family do?
    This: rotfl.gif

    These were our first beef brisket and whole chicken. With the convenience of two grill racks we could put the meats on the lower rack and continue smoking tomatoes on the upper rack.

    My first perfected recipe creation using our smoked tomatoes is Smoked Tomato Chili.

    Of course this recipe could be made substituting with smoked paprika or fire-roasted tomatoes, but if you have an outdoor grill at home, I encourage you to try the smoked tomatoes.
    For further investigation of the smoking process, feel free to visit our Grilling/Smoking & BBQ Forum.

    Last edited by **Tinkerbell** on Fri Feb 08, 2013 11:05 am, edited 1 time in total
    Fri Oct 05, 2012 12:25 pm
    Forum Host
    I bought one of these when they were end-of-season sale at the hardware store over 20 years ago and used it for years, until someone parked the car too close to it and pushed it out of true, so that the lid does not keep the smoke in. I can probably push it back into a round, but I've gotten a new toy that I need to get out of the box and start using.

    I used to make all my turkeys in there - even if you smoke it for just 6 hours or so, you really pretty much get the full benefit of the flavor and then can finish it off in the oven, which is more controlled.

    I use to line up cornish hens on a rack, then split and freeze them - fabulous meals with those babies. I also did fish - big fat fillets. Almonds in a aluminum foil dish - an hour or so and you have smoked almonds. Pork chops.

    When I had to chop down the apple tree, I saved a number of branches that I cut up and used those to flavor the smoke. Yum.
    Fri Oct 05, 2012 3:26 pm Groupie
    Wonderful photos! You need one of these baskets for the smoker to keep those small foods from falling in!

    Does yours have a double rack? I have an electric Brinkmann smoker with two racks and it will hold about 50 pounds of meat. Sadly mine hasn't been used in 10-12 years ~
    Fri Oct 05, 2012 3:30 pm Groupie
    duonyte! Smoked almonds??!! You have just made me a hero! icon_biggrin.gif icon_biggrin.gif icon_biggrin.gif

    Smokehouse almonds are a favorite around here, but they're spendy. I hadn't even though about trying to recreate them at home. Totally gonna do that! You rock!
    I like the cornish hen idea too. I haven't made those in years, and smoked sounds awesome. Turkey is already on my list for this year. I always brine my bird and then smoking it will just put it over the top.
    Fri Oct 05, 2012 3:32 pm Groupie
    Kerfuffle-Upon-Wincle wrote:
    Wonderful photos! You need one of these baskets for the smoker to keep those small foods from falling in!

    Does yours have a double rack? I have an electric Brinkmann smoker with two racks and it will hold about 50 pounds of meat. Sadly mine hasn't been used in 10-12 years ~

    Yes, I have two racks and made good use of them during the week. The grill basket is first on my list to purchase too. I have one for the big grill, but the handle is too long to use it in the smoker. icon_confused.gif
    Iron Bloomers
    Sat Oct 06, 2012 6:31 am Groupie
    "Tink" enjoyed reading your post...wondering if a cake cooling rack placed so the wires on it go the opposite way of the grill would work to keep those small 'maters from slipping thru

    they come in rectangular shape as well as square....
    just a thought icon_rolleyes.gif
    Sat Oct 06, 2012 6:13 pm Groupie
    Thanks IB!
    We did consider a makeshift rack, but all the cooling racks I have are rectangular and don't fit in the round smoker. We have to be able to put the lid on to keep the smoke in, so laying it over the top didn't work either.
    Hopefully the grill basket I'm wanting will do the trick. Otherwise I will just stick with the organic store-bought tomatoes and use my auntie's for the un-smoked tomatoes I've been putting in the salsas. icon_wink.gif
    Bonnie G #2
    Fri Oct 12, 2012 8:16 am Groupie
    Nice info on the smoker and techniues; DH loves to smoke but I never even thought of tomatoes, what a nice idea and the almonds - OMG!! Now I've a reason to invade his "Smoker Territory"
    Mon Oct 15, 2012 3:32 pm Groupie
    I'll definitely be trying the almonds next summer. And I will probably try to smoke and then can a mass amount of tomatoes, as well as dehydrate some to grind up.
    I was surprised that I was able to run the smoker myself. I mean, I can run the grill if I have to, but it's really not my thing, so I tend to grill outside only when DH is home to do it.
    Bonnie G #2
    Mon Oct 15, 2012 4:29 pm Groupie
    I sure know what you mean Tink, grilling is without a doubt DH's domain and the smoker too - afraid he'd might have a stroke if I stepped into his area. Even when I try to give him tips like don't press and smash down the burgers, or don't turn the steaks constantly, i get dirty looks icon_rolleyes.gif
    Thu Oct 18, 2012 12:20 am Groupie
    icon_evil.gif Don't even get me started! My DH also insists on smashing down the burgers! Why is that? Especially when we explain they're expelling all the juices by doing it, and then they can't figure out why the burgers are dried out by the time they get to the table. icon_rolleyes.gif
    Bonnie G #2
    Thu Oct 18, 2012 3:57 pm Groupie
    Sooo true, I get the same issues w/steaks - but he always reminds me that "HE is cooking" and he'll do it HIS way. But even worse is when I'M cooking (specially for one of the tag games) and following a recipe and he'll squeeze up to the stove, start tasting, and then start adding a bit of this or that - specially hot spicy stuff that sometimes makes it so hot it's impossible to it.

    But one thing I NEVER have to worry about, he sure doesn't sqeeze me out of the clean up area - he's very careful to make sure he leaves that to me even when HE"s cooking icon_biggrin.gif But hey - he's a great man, so waht can you say icon_rolleyes.gif
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