How to Modify the Brinkmann "ECB" Smoker

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For any of you who are not familiar with the ECB.. this is a nickname given to the cheap bullet shaped smokers found for 30 to 50 dollars at various department and hardware stores.

The one that most folks are familiar with are made by Brinkmann and thus the name is born..

El Cheapo Brinkmann or ECB for short.

 

What the ECB Looks Like

The setup is simple.. a cylinder shaped body with a charcoal pan on the very bottom, a water pan just above that and then 2 grates above the water pan.

All of this is covered by a dome lid containing a temperature gauge that simply reads warm, ideal or hot.

There are different versions and yours may not be exactly the same as mine depending on when and where you bought it but the operation is pretty much the same and there are several things you can do to make them work a little better.

 

Problems with the ECB and How to Fix Them

Let's talk about the main problem that folks usually have with the ECB and then I will give you a few tips on how to make it operate a little better.

First and foremost I hear complaints that it is next to impossible to get the temperature up to 225 degrees and hold it there.

 

You must make sure that you are using the correct pans for water and charcoal.. the charcoal pan has a diameter of 15-1/2 inches while the water pan is only 13-1/2 inches.

Air flow to the charcoal is restricted in many cases and the only way for air to get in is thru the access door which also allows heat to escape before it makes its' way up to grate level.

 

More Air to Charcoal Pan

To get more air to the charcoal pan without allowing the heat to escape out the door you will need to drill some holes in the bottom sides of the charcoal pan.

 

Use a 1/4 inch drill bit and drill about 8 holes in opposite sides of the charcoal pan. This will get more air up into the charcoal from the bottom which will help dramatically.

 

Raised Grate for Charcoal

Another thing that will help the charcoal pan is to find a round grate that is only slightly larger than the bottom diameter of the charcoal pan. When you lay this in the bottom of the pan it will leave a space for the ashes to fall down and away from the hot coals.

You can also cut 2 round pieces of chicken wire that is about 1 inch larger than the bottom diameter of your charcoal pan.

Place this in the charcoal pan to lay your coals on.. just like the round grate above, this will allow the coals to set up above the bottom a little allowing the ashes to fall down below instead of smothering them.

 

Airflow Regulator in Lid

The next thing that will help the smoker is a air regulator in the dome lid.

To facilitate this, use a 1/4 inch drill bit and drill about 8 evenly spaced holes inside of a 4 inch area on the top of the lid.

Attach a 5 inch piece of flat metal with one machine screw so that you can cover the holes in any increment that you need to.

 

Better Access to Charcoal Pan During Cooking

Another option is to move the legs from the inside of the smoker body to the outside.

 

 

You then set the charcoal pan on bricks or some other platform that is not attached to the smoker body.

When you need fresh charcoal you only have to lift the smoker up and off the charcoal pan.. you may need a helping hand with this but I have performed this feat alone on a few occasions.

 

After dumping the ashes and putting new lit coals in the charcoal pan, you can sit the smoker on top once again.

This preserves heat by not removing the lid and allowing the heat to escape.

 

Adding a Better Temperature Gauge

As you know, the temperature gauge that ships with the ECB leaves a LOT to be desired! Warm, Ideal and Hot are no use to anyone when smoking and who knows what temperature IDEAL really is.

You can purchase a temperature gauge to install in the lid of the smoker and I highly recommend this. The one I found was at Walmart and was made by Grill Care. It is easily installed into a 7/8 inch hole drilled in the lid of the ECB. A knurled nut tightens onto the back of the gauge with a pair of pliers and keeps it secured to the lid.

 

 

Last but Not Least..

These mods are just a start but will allow you to get some good use out of your smoker and allow you a little more control over the heat.

I am convinced that the Brinkmann folks do not use their own smoker (no offense Brinkmann!).. if they ever do then these mods will become standard on every charcoal model.

I hope this has helped the hundreds of you who have written to me over the past several months saying that you cannot get your ECB to heat above 200 degrees and that controlling the heat is almost impossible.

Use the picture links that I have attached to this tutorial to give you a better idea as to how the modifications should be made.

Enjoy your ECB!!

 

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Here are just a few of the hundreds of testimonies that I have received in the last short while from folks who have bought the recipes and wanted to let me know that they are every bit as wonderful as I claim.

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Note: A download email will arrive in your email inbox within minutes of ordering.

The email will contain a link which will allow you to download my rub and sauce recipe as a PDF file.

If you do not receive the email.. first check your junk/spam folder. If you still do not find it, send me a quick email (jeff at smoking-meat dot com) and let me know that you did not receive it and I will personally work with you to make sure you get the recipes and are able to open them in a format that is best for you.

Be sure to send me a testimony after you try them out.. you will be amazed.. I PROMISE!!


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About Jeff Phillips

Long time Industrial Engineer turned self-proclaimed fire poker, pitmaster and smoke whisperer and loving every minute of it!

Comments

  1. Mike Santello says:

    Hello Smoking World. 1st time smoker here with the ECB Stainless Steel Smoker-grill. I did pork ribs for my 1st time and what a lot of work keeping the temp up around 160. Used 7 lbs of charcoal and feels like I was in a wrestling match. Also used Cherry wood chips – couldn’t taste any of eat. The ribs had good taste but wish they would have gotten hotter than 160. Going to invest in some of the mods so the next time I smoke it won’t be a chore.

  2. Russ Seff says:

    Great article.  I got a brinkmann ECB for a wedding present and have been struggling with this thing for almost 10 years now.  Glad I found this article and will be doing the mods asap.  One thing though, in your pics it appears as though you drilled holes in the water pan and not the charcoal pan.  The water pan is coated and black, the charcoal pan has no coating and is not tapered from the sided to the bottom,

  3. Jeff,

    Thanks for the tips. My ECB, has huge gaps where the lid meets the body of the smoker. Is this normal, or do I need to do something to cover the gaps? I've been stuffing foil in the gaps, but still can't get the temp to 220, even with some of the mods. Can you help???

  4. Tony Butterfield says:

    I had a very old Brinkman I bought in Texas around 1996.  This model had a black enamel base with an outside rim the carcoal pan sat in/on and the main body sat on that, making it dead easy to lift the body off and refill the charcoal pan.  The charcoal pan was also vented.

    The current unit is not as good and must cost more to manufacture.  By-the-by, Brinkman couldn't be bothered to post one to Australia for me – too much trouble!  But they would deliver to a friend in Canada, who posted it on.  Shame on you USA, how you ever going to get out of the GFC if you turn business away?

  5. james chapman says:

    I have a smoker that is similar in design but it came with a vent on the top,the fire door is still small and the coal pan is unvented. It otherwise looks exactly like a Brinkman. I have used it twice and it seemed to work well for this novice and maintained a 225-250 degree temp very well, it got higher when the water in water pan was allmost gone but adding water dailed it right back in. Mine is branded Outdoor Gourmet. I will be trying the mod of placing the coal  pan on bricks or something. Basicly i wrote this to say I believe these mods Jeff suggest will help people  since mine seemed to work well with the factory lid vent. Love your site btw Jeff thks.

  6. michael says:

    In the process in completing the mods on the ECB and they are working well.  Smoked some wings today and they turned out great.  Do you think that there is enough room inside to add a 3rd rack for wings only?  I have both filled and think I need more space.

    • Tony Butterfield says:

      I've 'beefed' mine up by using roughly 3/8" x 3" bolts, 2 nuts and washers where the standard pressed brackets are as it seemed too weak for large loads.  I just smoked two x 9kg turkeys with no trouble.  Easy to drill three extra holes and slide the bolts through, using the nuts/washers either side of the body of the smoker to set the depth into the unit before pinching them up good and tight..  By setting the heads on the inside, it helps prevent the grids sliding.  I reckon you could fit as many grids as space will allow.  I've also fitted my grids with wire 'handles' to make lifting them out when heavy that much easier.

  7. Does anyone have any comment on Ramon's question regarding the gaps around the lid?  I used my ECB for the first time yesterday and it turned out some pretty stellar pulled pork, but I'm concerned about the amount of smoke and heat escaping since the lid is so out-of-round (basically bulges on either side where all the smoke vents out, so modifying the lid would be useless to me).

    Just for the record I only used the smoker to impart the apple wood smoke, and then finished the pork in a sealed foil pan on my grill at 250F for an additional 3 hours.  I don't think it would ever cook on the smoker itself even though the needle was sitting no more than a few degrees on either side of dead center "ideal" the entire time.

    Thanks!

  8. So glad I read this…cooking country style ribs…only mod I made at this time was to drill the charcoal pan and add a grate for the ash to fall into. Made a huge difference..I was even able to bring the heat back up after a rain storm took me down to warm by adding chips and blowwing into the holes…Thank You!

  9. In responce to Ramons question I saw in anothEr video where one guy glues some door gasket from a wood burning stove to thst inside edge after he fashiond a vent in the lid. I like the foil idea too..I think im going to screw some flashing in a tent shape around my edge and add the lid vent

  10. I just purchaed an ECB and performed the Pan mod.. (Drilled some holes.. stuck the legs on the outside and rested it on bricks.. I acutally thought I was going to get too hot while smoking.. My digital kitchen gauge was showing temps around 275 @ rack level before I raised the rack.. and lowered the height of the coal.

    I do need to get a 7″ Grill pan for the coal becuase ther was a significant amount of ash at the end of a 2hr smoke.

    I’m also going to try soaking the wood for longer and wrapping in foil / venting teh foil.. putting directly on the coals made them catch pretty quickly.

  11. I have used the electric Brinkmann   smoker for over 20yrs  and had the same one for that period of time. Never had any issues with temp i use it year round ,Living in the midwest  even in winter  its works great .

  12. Jerry Freeman says:

    I just now read these replies. In Texas there was a company, 35 years ago, called Mr. Meat Smoker that started the barrel water pan smoker I believe. The main difference is the lid fits down over the barrel body thus the smoke does not escape like a Brinkman. When you use it in the rain water does not drip into it and put out the coals. I believe Brinkman either bought the patent or changed the lid to go around the patent. I have 3 of these old smokers two of which I bought 30 years ago.im going to do some of the mods suggested.i

     

  13. I am using a Master forge model  #: CBS1101L. It seems to require constant attention to maintain temp. TZhe thermometer is accurate enough but it seems to have a very healthy appetite for charcoal, Are the mods you describe for the Brinkmann ECB applicable to my smoker?

     

  14. Best instructions I've seen, and I've spent a lot of time looking. I'm a single parent feeding a son with the metabolism of a fighter jet. I'm saving these and subscribing to your newsletter. 

  15. Jason Spragg says:

    Also quick question about the mods for the Brinkmann. Trying to find a suitable grill to fit into the charcoal pan. Looked at some chicken wire and I thought it seemed a bit flimsy and thought it might just buckle under the weight of the coals. Is two levels of the chicken wire really solid enough to hold the coals or does it need further support from beneath

    • The double layer of chicken wire works but it’s not a perfect setup by any means.

      I probably need to update the page.. since I wrote that, I have found a really small round grate (maybe 8-10 inches diameter) that works perfectly. The coals sit on the grate and air is able to get to the coals from below. It works wonders for that Brinkmann smoker.

      I found the small grate at our local Westlake Ace Hardware but you may be able to find one at Home Depot, Lowes or online at Amazon.com

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