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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!!