ECB Advice

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by bigsteve, Feb 16, 2009.

  1. bigsteve

    bigsteve Master of the Pit

    Hello again,
    I'm new to smoking food, and I bought a Brinkman Gourmet charcoal smoker a few weeks back. I knew what I was buying (cheap) no surprises there. While the food I'm making is tasting very good, I feel like I'm not getting the hang of things. I know, in time it'll be fine. But in the meantime maybe someone here can suggest something to get me on track faster.

    The smoker: I modified the coal pan by installing a coal grate from a small sized Weber kettle grill. The grate is raised off the coal pan about 3/4 inch.

    My biggest issue is charcoal. How much to start with, and how long should I expect it to burn? I've been using Kingsford. Regular light stuff, not ready to light. I light it in a good sized Weber chimney. First outing, I lit a whole chimney, and laid those coals on top of a whole panfull of unlit coals. I think I could have melted scrap metal in it that day. When it finally came down to useable tempurature, it cooked a rack of St. Louis ribs in about 1 1/2 hours. I was surprised how great they tasted what with being cooked so fast. Since then, I have been experimenting with different amounts of coals. For the most part, 1/2 chimney by itself will bring the cooker up to tempurature. The tempurature starts to fall off fast after about an hour. I give it a good shake, and the tempurature spikes, but after a few minutes it falls, and I have to add charcoal. Again, about 1/2 chimney is about right.

    I have to keep at it for a couple of hours before there is a nice bed of coals that will hold the tempurature for a long while. Now, I've read on the web many times where brinkman users say they load up a whole chimney, pour it on a whole pan full of cold coals, and they are fine. The tempurature stays around 225/250 for many hours.

    So, what's going on with my cooker? Are these folks fibbing about the Brinkman running great for hours on that much coal? Am I doing something wrong? Is this normal for a Brinkman? I can't help but wonder if adding the grate lets the coal breath too well, and is burning out too fast?

    Enquiring minds want to know!
  2. justsmoke2

    justsmoke2 Smoking Fanatic

    I don't use that smoker but someone will be along to help you. Also try doing a search it may get the info you want faster.
  3. jdoe44

    jdoe44 Fire Starter

    I was having problems with smaller pieces of charcoal creating excessive ash and smothering the rest of the charcoal out. I'd end up finishing everything in the oven, and the next day I'd have a ton of ash with whole untouched lumps in it. I added an expanded steel grate to raise the coals and added some holes in the bottom of the pan to add a little airflow and so far so good. I bought a bag of kingsford competition briquettes to try out. I was using cowboy lump and it seemed to have a lot of pea-sized pieces.

    Also, I installed my feet on the outside of the smoker and made feet for the fire pan so it's freestanding. I can lift the entire smoker up and away from the coals so I have better access to it without taking out the meat, grates, and water pan. Then I can lift the pan and shake it around a bit to clear off any ash. If I'm fast enough it keeps its heat pretty well just from the water in the pan.
  4. sumosmoke

    sumosmoke Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Steve - you're on the right track with playing with the coals to see what amounts and combinations may give the temp you're looking for. I own the exact same model as you and took me a few smokes (and lots of reads on SM) to get the hang of it and felt like I "knew" my smoker.

    To get your coals to last longer before adding more, I'd suggestion arranging your coals in a manner that's commonly referred to as the minion method.

    Picture of minion method coal arrangement:

    Arrange some of the unlit coals on the other side of the circular ecb pan, and empty 1/2 a chimney full of hot coals to the pan. That method alone should get your coals to last about 3-4 hours before having to refuel.
  5. bigsteve

    bigsteve Master of the Pit


    I had thought the "Minion method" was layering a whole panfull of unlit coal, then covering those with a whole chimney of lit coals. That would explain why it was a blast furnace that day, I suppose.

    As far as unlits on one side, lit coals on the other, I was thinking along those lines for next time. I was thinking more of an outer ring of unlits, and pouring lit coals in the center. I figured a small amount of over-lap would ensure the outer ring lights.

    Still, if the unlits take off before the lit coals burn down, I would expect it to get too hot again (??)
  6. ddave

    ddave Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    The Minion Method works in a variety of directions -- up and down, side to side, etc. I think the picture that Laurel showed is actually better because it is easier to reload. When the temps start to drop, just bank the remaining lit to one side and add more unlit to the other side and it will burn its way back accross. I don't know how much room you have to manuever in the ECB but it works great in a side firebox smoker.

    As far as the unlit taking off and getting too hot, that's where controlling the air intake and not overshooting with the amount of "lit" that you start out with.

    What you may find helpful is to do a few practice runs with no meat in the smoker. Just light it up and watch your thermometer and practice controlling the temps through a few reloads. It's amazing how much you can learn about your smoker when you can run it without the added pressure of having someone waiting to eat.[​IMG]

  7. tasunkawitko

    tasunkawitko Master of the Pit OTBS Member

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