The Brinkmann Smoke ‘N Grill charcoal smoker aims to provide an ideal entry point for barbecue newcomers. Find out everything you need to know with our in-depth review.
The Brinkmann Smoke N’ Grill is a budget entry level charcoal smoker-grill combo that works as a great entry point for users new to smoking.
It’s built on a tiered vertical skeleton that allows smoke to work naturally through your food.
It has a fairly weak build so presents a lot of problems with heat retention, but for casual newcomers and users this is a decent starting point.
So does a smoker unit that lists itself as a prime smoker and grill manage to live up to those expectations?
Stacked vertical design
Fresh out the box, this thing is a little unusual looking.
It sort of looks like some sort of hybrid between a kamado grill and a charcoal pit, with its tall and stacked design resembling something close the ceramic Kamado grills that we’ve seen from Kamado Joe or Akorn.
That’s where most of the similarities end however, and beyond this it’s much more faithful to traditional vertical smokers that we have seen from other brands like Pit Boss or Masterbuilt.
It has a tired smoking build, with the coals, water pan, cooking grates, and lid all sitting on top of one another.
The Brinkmann comes with a water pan insert that is perfectly designed to slot into the foot of the smoker chamber.
Where traditional charcoal smokers with offset or horizontal designs might make do with a flimsy aluminum pan, Brinkmann have supplied a purpose-made tray that acts as much as a shield as it does a means of creating steam.
The smoker’s vertical design means that your food would otherwise almost always be exposed to direct heat, so we’re really pleased to see Brinkmann take the initiative to do this.
At the very foot of the chamber sits deposit for your coals. This goes underneath the water pan, with a few inches’ grace between them.
This allows enough space for a smoker box, so you can add wood chips to help enhance the cooking aromas of your food further.
This is where the compact size of the smoker grills starts to become an issue, as accessibility to the coals can be awkward.
When accessing through the side door, it’s really difficult to access coals at the far side of the chamber. While it’s certainly doable, it means causing a lot of disruption to your coals, and also means leaving the door open for longer than would ideally be the case.
Anyone with any experience of charcoal smoking will know how disruptive it is when you open your smoker to change coals.
Unfortunately, the awkward positioning of the access door and limited charcoal capacity creates a combination that presents more problems that it solves.
I mentioned Kamado grills earlier, and the comparison is fair when considering more than just their shape.
Kamado ceramic grills are well known for generating high temperatures thanks to their solid build and air retention.
And this is worth noting because Brinkmann’s smoker grill just doesn’t compare as favorably here.
The grill chamber is made with heavy-gauge, cold-rolled steel that’s far more lightweight than other types of smoker. Despite this, it’s highly resistant to the type of warping we’ve seen with other types of vertical smoker grills.
Now, being lightweight doesn’t necessarily mean being poor at retaining heat. However, the build doesn’t compare to the double insulation we often see with ceramic egg-like cookers, and with that we saw much lower high temperatures, and poor temperature consistency.
Brinkmann have supplied a thermometer probe that can sit upon the very top rack to give you an ambient cooking temperature as you cook.
As a general rule, I never trust the probes that are supplied by manufacturers with their smokers or grills. They tend to be cheap and, more importantly, frustratingly poor at returning an accurate reading.
Unfortunately, the probe provided here is no different. It can give you a vague idea of where your heat levels are at, but in all honesty, I’d say you’re better off chucking it and investing in a digital grill surface thermometer.
If you’re straight up grilling, or smoking something brittle like fish, then this a vague temperature reading isn’t a huge issue.
However, if you want to smoke something serious like a brisket, you need a much more precise reading.
There’s no doubt that this is a compact smoker, so cooking space is limited. However, the Brinkmann does offerr enough flexibility to smoke over two tiered levels, so you can effectively double the cooking area by adding an extra grate (this is provided by Brinkmann, so kudos to them).
While space is limited, there’s still enough here to cook for small parties or families. But if you do decide to have a go at smoking something special like brisket or whole chicken, then you will struggle to fit much else in.
The Brinkmann Smoke ‘N Grill is a smoker combo grill that knows exactly what it is.
It’s an entry level unit that acts as the perfect training wheels for any newcomers to BBQ smoking. Simple and easy-to-use, it does away with any of the frills that beginners might find intimidating or daunting when getting to grips with low and slow cooking.
Its capacity for heat retention isn’t great, and some might find its diminutive size frustrating, but there is enough here to love for casual fans of outdoor cooking.