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Controlling heat on an ECB?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Hey guys,

One question I have while reading through the forums. I see it commonly suggested that poultry should smoke at about 325 degrees, and ribs at about 225 degrees. Ok, great! So as a total newbie, what do I do differently in preparing the ECB for doing a 325-degree smoke, versus a 225-degree smoke?

What are the single most important factor(s) that affect the cooking temperature, on a humble El Cheapo Brinkmann? If I had to guess right now, I would say first is the amount of lit charcoal at any given time, since fuel = heat; then second, whether the water pan had water in it, and whether that water were cold or hot, since its entropy plays an important part in the overall internal temperature.

Is this accurate? Am I missing some biggies? Probably airflow, like venting the charcoal pan and optionally the top, but that's a mod I've seen discussed as optional in most cases.

-Jeff
post #2 of 15

My Old ECB

Hello Jishaq,

I started with an ECB I bought at Wally World. I had the hardest time controlling the fire. After two tries at chicken and one at ribs... All three not working out so well, I made the mods that you can find on this site. The main one being to put the charcoal pan on it's own stand so you can lift the whole unit up over and off the coals. However, it was still more trouble than it was worth. (This is just my opinion of course, I'm sure others here get along with them just fine) I knew I loved the flavor of smoked food, and I really wanted to get good at smoking but cooking on that ECB was going to drive me to drinking (In a bad way! PDT_Armataz_01_05.gif) Any way, one day at Home Depot, I see a two door vertical Brinkman that wasn't much more than the ECB I bought at Wally World a year before. So, I GAVE AWAY my Brinkman to a stranger. I wouldn't do that to a friend!! Bought the new one at Home Depot and now the only complaint I have with my smoker is that it's not big enough. Every time I smoke, my family, my neighbors, they all want in on it. I love to smoke meat now. I wish I had more time for it. I'm currently working on building a great big one.

The moral to the story is... your second paragraph points out all the key details. You have the basics figured out. What ever you do... don't get so discouraged that you give it up all together. Who knows... maybe you'll love the ECB... I'm sure there is someone out there that does? They sure seem to sell a lot of them. Sorry to be all dome and gloom. It's just that even after the mods I absolutely hated mine.

Best of luck,

Smoke Chef
post #3 of 15
Jeff-

What I have found with the ECB is that your temperature is directly related to how much fuel you dump in, I start with 20 lit briquettes and dump it on top of 10 unlit that give me a temp around 235-250 (which is an acceptable smoke temp) Of course if you are smoking on a windy day or if it's cold outside, that will also affect your temp. It’s all about fire management with the ECB. I use a smaller stainless dog dish for my water bowl and always fill it with hot water, I have on occasion filled the bowl with cold water when temp has spiked and I have noticed the temp will drop..

I'm sure someone with more ECB experience can give you some more perspective.
post #4 of 15
Thread Starter 
[quote=Fastfusion;371057]Jeff-

...I start with 20 lit briquettes and dump it on top of 10 unlit that give me a temp around 235-250 (which is an acceptable smoke temp)

Yeah, I was thinking of making a little table of "amount of lit charcoal vs amount of unlit charcoal" and then record the temperature each hour. This would tell me about when the temp peaked, what it peaked at, and also how long it burned before the temps dropped below an acceptable level.

That actually made me reconsider using lump hardwood charcoal, since the irregular size and shape make it difficult to put a consistent amount in. Even if you weight lump charcoal, you still wind up with a large variance in size / shape / density, which can surely skew the results. But from all I've read, regular charcoal briquettes are "bad" -- but perhaps I need to do a little more research on this, because I don't know the full story. Using uniformly-sized briquettes would make it much more predictable, at least for me.

Thanks,
-Jeff
post #5 of 15
Just one man's opinion, of course, but I got my offset because I wanted to learn how to control the fire. Part of the pleasure I get from smoking low & slow is whiling away the day (or a good portion of it) sitting my deck, sippin' a few brews and tending my fire.

Speaking to that directly, I am by no means an expert, but I think you have all the pieces of the puzzle. They just haven't all gone together for you yet. I have my best success using the minion method (which is explained elsewhere on this forum in much better detail than I can give). Generally if I have any difficulty it's a problem keeping my temps down rather than raising them, but on the occasion when I have wanted higher temps I simply --as you say-- added more fuel to the fire and/or opened up the dampers on the firebox.

FWIW, it took me a whole summer of smoking various foods before I got to a point where I felt like I knew what I was doing, and even longer to gain some confidence about it all. Also, just so you know, I have not modified my smoker at all. It has a lower and upper damper on the firebox, and a damper on the flue.
post #6 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the input, BP. Question -- when you say you add more fuel when it gets too cold ... is this lit briquettes, or unlit?

I tried adding some unlit briquettes to coals that were half ash, half white-hot coal. One or two of the smaller pieces ended up burning, probably because they randomly happened to land on a particularly hot spot. Most of them just kind of sat there and never burned. So I get the feeling you gotta start any additional fuel in a chimney starter first, unless your existing coals are roaring hot.
post #7 of 15
Umm...I'm not sure your question is directed at me since I wasn't specific about how I do it, but:

I start out with my firebox roughly 3/4 full of unlit coal, and dump in a full starter chimney of fully lit. EDITED TO ADD: Much more often than not, as the unlit catches fire, the temps go quite a bit higher than I want. I play with the dampers until I'm fairly stable at whatever my cooking temp is going to be. This can take as long as an hour-ish. Longer on a hot day ('cuz I'm usually trying to cool it down, not heat it up). Anyway, once I get the meat in, I'm not sure exactly how to tell you how I know when to add more; it's kind of an educated guess. If I'm trying to maintain a relatively high temp, I'll add another chimney of lit. If I'm trying to maintain lower temps, I add a chimney of unlit when there is still plenty of heat still left so that I know the unlit is going to catch before the fire gets too low.

Again, I'm no expert. I've just gotten to a point where I more-or-less trust my gut instincts about what to do and when.

I hope this is not too vague to be helpful...
post #8 of 15
Thread Starter 
Perfect! Thanks.

-Jeff
post #9 of 15
Actually, I would not smoke my chicken at 350 degrees. You probably saw that temp in reference to getting a crisp skin and even then, it should only be for last 20-30 minutes of your smoke.

250 is the ideal temp for chicken. If you cook it at 350, it isn't going to take long at all and the smoke won't have time to penetrate. Here is a link for Jeff's recommended temps and times....

http://www.wyntk.us/food/smoking-tim...eratures.shtml
post #10 of 15
i think youre on the right path. in my experiences , the learning curve on the ecb is what helped me to figure out what the hell i was doing. it takes patience (and mods) to get it all worked out , but youll get there. once i felt i had figured out the ecb, i got a wsm from craigslist. i feel like im cheating when i use it because its almost effortless and i dont have to hover over the smoker any more. using the ecb taught me the mechanics of smoking and without them id still be lost. dont give up on it, youll get there.... good luck
post #11 of 15
I think Brick Pig is telling us how he controls temps in his OffSet. please correct me if I'm wrong. But for those of us that are blessed with an ecb,we have to have a little different approach. (nothing he said is incorrect he's right on) With the ecb we must make sure we have control of? Yes air flow with out that my friend we wont stand a Chance,chasing so many temp. swings not fun. So out of the box Mr.ecb is out of round there is an uneven gap around the lid. Gently push it back into round (on cardboard so no scratches) Next find something-aluminum foil ,furnace rope what ever you come up with to fill the gap. As for the fire ring or ash pan it won't work out of the box IMHO. I use a 13.5" Webber charcoal rack with any thing fire proof 2" tall so i have a space between coals and ash pan = air flow. You may not need to but I drilled holes in the bottom of both the ash pan and the base of the ecb, refrigoator magnets work great to cover the holes for air flow as needed. Also the little round thing on the lid (temp. gadge is worthless.......) get a good one to replace it. (I don't think one must spend a lot of money,just don't go too cheep you deside. Wow I've gon on long enough. some one with better other ideas will be by I'm sure this group is a vary helpfull lot.good luck.and fill free to pm me I'll try to gey pics of R2D2 for you thats my ecb. Beardo.......
post #12 of 15
I think Brick Pig is telling us how he controls temps in his OffSet. please correct me if I'm wrong. But for those of us that are blessed with an ecb,we have to have a little different approach. (nothing he said is incorrect he's right on) With the ecb we must make sure we have control of? Yes air flow with out that my friend we wont stand a Chance,chasing so many temp. swings not fun. So out of the box Mr.ecb is out of round there is an uneven gap around the lid. Gently push it back into round (on cardboard so no scratches) Next find something-aluminum foil ,furnace rope what ever you come up with to fill the gap. As for the fire ring or ash pan it won't work out of the box IMHO. I use a 13.5" Webber charcoal rack with any thing fire proof 2" tall so i have a space between coals and ash pan = air flow. You may not need to but I drilled holes in the bottom of both the ash pan and the base of the ecb, refrigoator magnets work great to cover the holes for air flow as needed. Also the little round thing on the lid (temp. gadge is worthless.......) get a good one to replace it. (I don't think one must spend a lot of money,just don't go too cheep you deside. Wow I've gon on long enough. some one with better other ideas will be by I'm sure this group is a vary helpfull lot.good luck.and fill free to pm me I'll try to gey pics of R2D2 for you thats my ecb. Beardo.......
post #13 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the kind words!

-Jeff
post #14 of 15
Thread Starter 
Ah a magnet, what a great idea. I was using a chunk of pie tin held in place by a nut, but it was laughable flimsy and didn't really work. Thanks!

-Jeff
post #15 of 15
The fridge magnet idea is awesome. Thanks for sharing that.points.gif
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