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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 ¼ 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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About the Author

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

37 Comments on this article. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Sidney Patin June 16, 2016 at 12:21 pm - Reply

    Very good read. Thanks to all for the suggestions for improving the ECB. One of the mods I was thinking about would be to put a ring of twisted aluminum foil around the top of the unit so the top would sit on the foil, making a fairly good seal and stopping the heat from escaping out the top. Has anyone tried this or something similar? – Sidney

  2. Matt December 19, 2015 at 9:16 am - Reply

    About the water pan…Not really sure exactly what the purpose of this is other than to catch drippings and keep them from smothering the coals. Think the secondary purpose is to have a heat reserve so the temps recover faster after lifting the lid or other ways we allow the heat to escape.

    My mod was to line the pan with foil, then fill the pan with washed sand. (I cooked the heck out of the sand prior to the first use to get rid of anything unwanted that might be in the sand that I didn’t want ‘smoking’ my meat. See next paragraph.) To keep the sand clean, I cover it with foil to catch drippings and keep them out of the sand. I change this top layer of foil prior to each cook/smoke.

    I preheat the sand on a propane burner like one would use for a turkey frying pot. This helps the smoker get to temperature much quicker as now the coals can heat and smoke the meat and you’re are not wasting those BTUs trying to heat the sand/water. The sand hold the heat well and temperature recovery is quick after lifting the lid, opening the access door, or lifting the whole thing off to add more fuel to the fire pan.

    I’ll take your criticisms, but so far it’s worked very well for me. It’s the same idea as placing foil wrapped bricks in a Bradley or similar smoker.

    • Sidney Patin June 16, 2016 at 12:18 pm - Reply

      Hello Matt. My understanding is that the water pan is there to keep the meat from burning and also to keep the meat from drying out. I have used a water smoker both with and without the pan. With the water in the pan it is a totally different kind of cooking. Someone said they filled it with wine to do a turkey. That would be interesting. Happy BBQ’ing.

  3. Michael Barnhill November 18, 2015 at 10:28 am - Reply

    Just came across your site and read your improvement suggestions to the Brinkman Smoker. I have made similar modifications to mine but another one that I made was to increase the height so I could hang long sausage links for smoking which also increased the capacity for sausage smoking. I took a piece of 18′ wide flashing and constructed a circular extension the same size as the inside diameter of the smoker body on one end but large enough on the other to allow the smoker dome lid to fit inside. Secure the seam with a few sheet metal screws. Slip this extension inside the smoker and attach it with sheet metal screws the body. Now the smoker body is about 17″ taller than before. With about 6 more 3/4″ long sheet metal screws installed around the top edge will give the grill grate and dome lid something set on. I hang my sausage from the grate that has now been moved up. I use dowel rods attached with S hooks to hang from the grate. This gives me plenty of room to hang long links and I have successfully smoked 30-lbs at one time! Be sure to use metal flashing that is substantially strong enough to support the weight. Hope others find this useful.

  4. Joel Vosberg January 3, 2015 at 4:07 pm - Reply

    I’ve used my ECB just a few times after being modified, I drilled the holes in the bottom of the ash pan so that the ash would not smother the coals but fall through, I then used an inverted brake drum to hold the pan up and still allow the ashes to fall and yet be contained within the drum. It seems to work well. I have also elevated the ash pan higher into smoker by placing a brick on the brake drum to get a higher temp. I did this toward the end of the smoking time rather than waste charcoal, this worked but placed it very close to the water pan.

  5. Baz McCutcheon November 30, 2014 at 12:41 am - Reply

    The ideal grate for the charcoal to fire from, is the grate from a standard 22″charcoal weber kettle. To fit the grate: remove the legs and other brackets and hardware that protrude into the smoker. Install the grate, its a nice tight neat fit.. Buy a deep stainless steel mixing bowl with a flat lip which is the same diameter as the bottom of the Brinkman. Attach the mixing bowl to the brinkman with some homemade metal clips and rivets. This will be your ash catcher. Install a weber type air vent (same as in the weber kettle lid) on the side wall of the bowl. Next make some new legs approx 10″ long from some 1″” square tubing and attach the legs to the outside of the Brinkman (two bolts each leg). Position the legs to give a 2″ clearance between the bottom of the bowl and the ground. You will need to drill new mounting holes for the legs.. If you find that the lip on the bowl you just fitted is marginally bigger than the diameter of the brinkman , just notch the legs to allow the lip to fit into the legs. You can also fit a weber type air vent to the brinkman lid. These two added air vents top and bottom will give you plenty of control over the fire temperature and work in the same way as the weber kettle. Install a proper Temp indicator into the brinkman lid. After cooking, to empty the ashes, turn the brinkman upside down and finish cleaning with a water hose.
    I built this a couple of years ago and it really works well. Its stands very stable and looks a neat package.

  6. Eric October 3, 2014 at 8:06 am - Reply

    I didn’t want to mount the legs on the outside and have to worry about getting round patio blocks.
    Rather than mount the legs on the outside, I used a dremel to cut 3 – two inch wide notches the lip of the charcoal pan. When I place the pan, I lift it up inside the unit with the notches matching where the legs are. Then I turn the pan so that the notches no longer match up.
    To add charcoal, I now use an oven mitt to reach under, lift the pan slightly and turn the notches to match up, then just drop it out.

    Alternatively, if I want to use the method with the round patio blocks, I can just line up the notches and hoist the smoker on and off while never rotating the pan.

    Thanks for the mods!

  7. Chris Borrett September 4, 2014 at 10:58 pm - Reply

    Nothing like a good place to chill with fellow smoke in oz and got my first smoker two days ago after many months of research on what to buy or whether to build one.in the end my daughters got me one for an early fathers day prezzie couldn’t have asked for anything better.
    Its a master forge charcoal smoker similar to your brinkmans but by the sound of it much better. Has air intake slots in coal pan. A thermometer that actually has a numberd gage although I will be installing another that goes bellow 145c for cold smoking purposes.
    And I had no probs holding the temp at 150-160
    For 3.5 hours while I smoked a chook for tea with a mesquite wood chip and my own rub.
    The air reg mod is the only other I will be installing for fine tuning purposes.
    Great site and I found the newsletter extremely usefull thanks.
    So to all those that love to smoke grab a coldy and Ill see ya out there.

  8. Eusebio Faura June 29, 2014 at 4:09 pm - Reply

    How would you fix the gap that is around the lid and top of the smoker. I am curing my smoking to be able to use it later. I am wondering what will work in that gap to help keep the smoke in? But also won’t burn up after the first use.

  9. Bobby June 18, 2014 at 2:13 pm - Reply

    Just read a manual for an ECB, and Brinkmanns offers a small grate for the charcoal pan called the Charcoal Heat Boost Grate model item#115-0001-0 that you can order. Think they would of included one instead of making you buy it.

    • Leo June 29, 2014 at 6:07 pm - Reply

      Turns out that when Brinkmann first came out with this, there were holes in the charcoal pan. After a couple of lawsuits from people who stupidly used their smoker on their deck & started it on fire, Brinkmann eliminated the holes. If the consumer drills the holes, they take on the liability, is how Brinkmann’s lawyers saw it.

  10. Jason Spragg April 7, 2014 at 11:08 am - Reply

    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

    • Jeff Phillips April 7, 2014 at 11:19 am - Reply

      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

      • Jason Spragg April 8, 2014 at 8:50 am - Reply
        • Jeff Phillips April 8, 2014 at 12:17 pm - Reply

          Jason, that would probably work. You may need to bend in or straighten the taps on the edges to make it fit a little better but that should be easy to do and also gives you a little bit of adjustment since, if you bend them out straight, it will cause the grate to sit a little higher in the charcoal pan. If you bend then under, the grate will sit lower.

          It will definitely work better than chicken wire 😉

          • Jason Spragg April 23, 2014 at 8:35 am -

            Hi Jeff, Ideally how much space do I want beneath the grill? Also do I want to be drilling the holes beneath the level of the grill to allow better airflow?

      • Joe May 10, 2014 at 10:12 am - Reply

        I used a grate meant for a Weber Smokey Joe – I found a store locally that sold them. Fits perfectly! Thinking about getting another one and using both with the grates perpendicular to each other. A single grate lets a lot of small coals fall through, so I want to try doubling it up

  11. Marsanne January 12, 2014 at 12:24 pm - Reply

    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. 

  12. Revrick September 23, 2013 at 10:12 am - Reply

    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?

     

  13. Jerry Freeman September 23, 2013 at 8:36 am - Reply

    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

     

  14. smokey joe September 19, 2013 at 10:59 am - Reply

    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 .

  15. Todd Bee September 16, 2013 at 10:28 am - Reply

    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.

  16. steve c September 8, 2013 at 4:45 pm - Reply

    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

  17. steve c September 8, 2013 at 4:34 pm - Reply

    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!

  18. David August 12, 2013 at 2:35 pm - Reply

    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!

    • Bill D May 17, 2014 at 8:01 pm - Reply

      Buying a rut kit (fiberglass impregnated rope) is probably the best idea but just making a snake out of tin foil and sealing the gap from the lid will suffice.

      • Tony Butterfield May 18, 2014 at 3:13 am - Reply

        I’m on my second Brinkmann (now living in Oz) – don’t worry about the gap. The wood will make more smoke than required and has to ‘waste’ somewhere. As for the heat, pay attention, change the draught, add charcoal, whatever is needed. Make sure you have your favourite brewski to hand. That’s why smoking is more fun than BBQ, certainly UK and Oz style, where you throw a lump of meat over coals and its either undercooked or destroyed in no time. Barely before you’ve had time to savour your favourite ale! I’ve just smoked a whole Turkey, 9kgs, took 13 hours, turned out marvellous and fed a party of 60. Didn’t matter to me though. By the end, I was truly mellowed.

        • Bob June 29, 2015 at 3:43 am - Reply

          Just picked up my first ECB and I am looking at the mods listed here. I have already drilled the charcoal pan and ordered a charcoal grate meant for a Weber Smokey Joe. My plans are to add a pair of BBQ Pit Wood Smoker Temp Gauge Thermometers, one in the lid and one in the body for each cooking level. I was thinking about a Rutland Grapho-Glas Rope Gasket Kit, 3/8-Inch to fill the gap and adding a weber kettle style adjustable damper to the lid. My thinking was this would give better air flow control and hence better temperature control and reduce temperature loss caused by a passing rain storm by reducing the amount of rain that would enter through the gap. Am I over thinking this? Can’t wait to start smoking! Thanks to everyone for their input!

    • kelly martin October 4, 2014 at 1:54 pm - Reply

      http://home.comcast.net/~day_trippr/smoker_mods.htm great site for ecb mods. This guy spent alot of time on this but it works

  19. michael July 12, 2013 at 6:58 pm - Reply

    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 July 14, 2013 at 6:05 pm - Reply

      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.

  20. james chapman July 3, 2013 at 9:46 pm - Reply

    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.

  21. Tony Butterfield June 6, 2013 at 12:36 am - Reply

    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?

  22. Ramon May 30, 2013 at 3:52 pm - Reply

    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???

  23. Russ Seff May 12, 2013 at 12:59 pm - Reply

    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,

  24. Mike Santello May 4, 2013 at 7:11 am - Reply

    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.

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