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!