Help! Bought an ECB, did the mods, it still just wants to cruise at 200 degrees

Discussion in 'ECB Owners Group' started by brianv, Aug 8, 2014.

  1. brianv

    brianv Fire Starter

    So, as the title says, I bought an ECB, and before firing it up I did the following mods:

    1. I replaced the firebowl with a cheap Masterchef kettle grill base that I picked up for $10 at TSC. This has an adjustable vent, although it's above the charcoal bed, and a bottom ash cleanout with a little basket hanging underneath, which isn't sealed, so I presume it's sucking a large amount of air through the ash cleanout as well.

    2. Moved the legs to the outside to accomodate #1 above.

    3. I put a fiberglass stove gasket around the lid, attached with RTV. Some smoke gets past / through the gasket.

    4. Drilled 6 5/8" round exhaust holes in the lid.

    5. Added a new thermometer, after calibrating it in both icewater and boiling water.

    Once this was all complete, I coated the inside with olive oil, and went for the cure / burn in. I lit about 2-3lbs of RO briquettes in my chimney, put it in the firebowl. I used a 1/2 pan of water as well as I wanted to make sure I could keep the temperature in the range I want for smoking.

    At this point, it just wanted to sit between 200 and 210 degrees, and sat there without moving for a few hours. The temperature didn't respond at all to my adjusting the vents on the firebox, nor did it respond to adding more charcoal. When I lifted the smoker off the firebox, the temp would drop into the 180-190 range after a minute or two, but went right back to 200-210 once I put the smoker back on the firebox.

    I'd like it to sit somewhere around 250 naturally, so what else can I do to increase the temps in this box? I can try drilling new holes in the firepan below the charcoal grate, but seeing as the temps didn't seem to respond to the existing vents at all, is this even worth trying?

    Thanks in advance for any suggestions! I'd love to use my ECB, but I need to get it dialed in right first.
  2. thinblueduke

    thinblueduke Meat Mopper

    Wow, you've really done your homework.  Could you post a few pics, and maybe tell us what you're using for fuel?
  3. brianv

    brianv Fire Starter

    Sure, I can post pics later, although they will look more or less like all the other ECB pics on here.

    Fur fuel, I'm using Royal Oak premium bricquettes. Same as this:

    Edit: As a side note - wow did this stuff produce a lot of ash. I'm re-thinking my decision on it, but at the same time, I kind of find $1.50+ per pund for lump or 'all natural' bricquettes to be quite expensive...
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2014
  4. brianv

    brianv Fire Starter

    This is the cheapo grill I am using as a replacement charcoal pan.

    As you can see in this pic, it has three holes allowing in air, as well as the bottom ash cleanout. For $10, it was cheaper than trying to add the proper grate and hardware to the stock charcoal pan.

    Here's the whole business with my fiberglass gasket attached. I cut it to length, threaded a paperclip through the two lose ends (after fiddling with them so they wouldn't unravel), figured out where it should sit, moved the gastket up, laid a bead of RTV, then rolled the gasket down onto the RTV. It fills the gap perfectly, but some smoke still comes *through* the gasket as it isn't woven that tight, and isn't being compressed like it would be in a wood stove door.

    Here you can see the 6 x 5/8" exhaust holes I drilled, three on each side of the handle. While exhaust came out there, there wasn't tons. When I had some smoke going through her, I had more smoke exiting under the bottom of the smoker than I did through the top vent holes.

    Here's how the grill fits into the body of the ECB. It sits about 3/4" higher than the stock charcoal pan, but it's a touch deeper, so the coal position end up being pretty close to the original, all things considered.
  5. grillmonkey

    grillmonkey Smoking Fanatic

    Here's your problem. If you're getting smoke through your gasket and out of the bottom, your top holes are way too small. They look more like 3/8" in the picture, but even at 5/8", they are too small. Consider this, remember the gap you had around your lid before you did the gasket mod? Well, you will probably need that much area in holes in the lid. For example, if the lid gap area was 4 sq. in. then you would need at least the equivalent of 4 sq. inches of holes in the lid to get decent air flow now that the gap is filled.

    Some people use the Weber vent cover from a kettle grill on top of their ECB, and it has 4 holes about 1" in dia. I didn't actually measure mine, but looking out the window, they are big holes.
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2014
  6. brianv

    brianv Fire Starter

    Well, you've hit the nail on the head. My holes are 5/16", not 5/8".

    With some quick math, a my six 5/16" holes give a total exhaust area of 6 x 0.0767 = 0.46 square inches.

    Most people have success with 3x1" diameter holes, which is 3 x (0.7854) = 2.34 square inches.

    So, that means instead of 6 holes of this size, I need about 30. While the smart thing to do would be to buy a step bit, I don't want to spend $105 to get a bit to finish my $50 smoker, so I guess it's time for the 'Swiss Cheese' method.
  7. brianv

    brianv Fire Starter


    I brought the number of vent holes up to 27 to give me just about 2 square inches of exuast. I started with 20, and added them until smoke was no longer leaking out the bottom. It seems tuned in that sense, at least.

    I'm doing a second test smoke to check the temps, and I think the thermometer I bought is crap. It's still readin ~190 degrees... however, I stuck a Weber digital thermometer in one of the vent holes in the top, and it read 260 degrees. I originally calibrated the new thermometer to boiling water (212 degrees), so I have no idea how it can be so far off.  Is the weber reading here likely to be accurate?

    You can't read the Brinkmann thermometer as it's scaled down, but it says ~170 degrees.

    The thermometer I bought for the ECB was this one:

    The Weber instant read thermometer I have is this one:

    Last edited: Aug 8, 2014
  8. grillmonkey

    grillmonkey Smoking Fanatic

    Digital are usually more accurate than dial.
  9. bobank03

    bobank03 Smoking Fanatic

    Welcome to SMF and our ECB addiction Brian. Thanks for adding the pics. Where in the world are you located? In some cases it makes a difference on the answers we give you. You van also add it to your profile. 

    The gasket around the lid is not 100% airtight it is more to steer the heat and smoke up into the dome and out the vent holes. Some smoke out around the bottom of the ECB is normal, though if you are getting more smoke/heat escaping out the bottom then that means you don't have enough air flow out the top, which I think you have pretty much figured out. 

    You can get an inexpensive step drill at Northern Tools or Harbor Freight, for future reference. 

    I use lump charcoal in my ECB and using the minion method, I can control the temps and get 4-5 hours out of my pan. 

    I bought my thermometer for the dome from Amazon too and I wish I would have bought the River Country adjustable model as the one I bought is off by 40 degrees. I am going to replace mine next time I order from Amazon. 
  10. bobank03

    bobank03 Smoking Fanatic

    The bottom line here is that I would boil test both of those thermometers again, at the same time. If the Brinkmann dial on is as far off as I think it is, try the river country adjustable model. It is only a few bucks more and it's adjustable, so you can't go wrong. I went ahead and ordered mine a few minutes ago. Needed some other stuff too, so I went ahead and ordered it. 

    I will review it in a few days if you want to see if it is worth it...
  11. brianv

    brianv Fire Starter

    I updated my profile. I live near Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

    The Brinkmann thermometer is adjustable. When I got it, it was about 40 degrees off as well in boiling water. I adjusted it so that boiling was at 212.

    As it site right now, it`s picking up the current ambient air temperature. It just seems that it`s not picking up the heat inside the unit all that well. I wonder if the difference is how I mounted it?

    The Weber digital I've rechecked a few times. It's accurate at both boiling and ice water.

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