The Brinkmann Pellet Fuel Grill introduced in 2012 is an entry level smoker available at Home Depot and Bass Pro for backyarders ready to jump on the pellet bandwagon. It is very close to Traeger’s popular Lil’ Tex (below). In fact Brinkmann designed their smoker with similar dimensions and wiring connections to let buyers take advantage of the many existing aftermarket parts. Some might even call it a knock-off.
It costs a couple hundred bucks less than Lil’ Tex making it the least expensive pellet burner on the market, but includes some nice upgrades that are remnants of the days when Brinkmann made great, quarter inch thick offset pits. You get large, Oklahoma Joe style wagon wheels, a front shelf, lower shelf and a handle on the right side. It also has a slightly larger cook surface: 443 square inches vs. 413 square inches for the Lil’ Tex. And last but least, it has a built in lid temperature indicator.
Heat in these entry level pellet smokers can fluctuate with weather conditions and food characteristics. Both Brinkmann and Lil’ Tex have a three position manual Temperature Controller for Low (or Smoke), Medium and High heat. These controllers have no thermostat and can’t monitor the heat inside the cook box. They just execute pellet feed run times for Low, Medium and High. The great innovation of pellet smokers is that you can control the temp more easily than any other smoker or grill. This one gives you less control than a gas grill.
Here’s what one reader wrote us: “When I calibrated it on the low setting, as I will use it as a smoker mostly, it reads ~160°F to ~200°F (using a Franklin digital thermometer and following your instructions for seasoning/calibrating a grill). I think this is to low according to your articles. I have to flip the switch between Low and Med often. The problem is that the temp can go as low as 190°F and as high as 260°F when employing this method.” Before moving up to the Medium temperature setting, some apply the Texas Crutch (wrap the meat in aluminum foil and add some liquid like apple juice), then continue cooking until done. Finally, I spoke with a Traeger rep who owns a Lil’ Tex. To reduce temperature at the Medium setting and get close to 225°F he wedges a rock that’s about an inch thick under the right side of his hood to keep it slightly ajar.
Ortech makes a Pellet Grill Digital Controller (above) that can be used to upgrade for Brinkmann and Traeger LMH controllers. Traeger offers similar kits that work with their smokers, but Brinkmann had not tested them and therefore could only recommend using Ortech for an upgrade.