I got one of these about a year ago and used it several times before using the element in a different smoker.
The lid does leak, mostly by design. What I did was drape a towel across the top to insulate a bit and slightly plug around 2/3 of the gap along the perimeter of the lid. This was in 40* weather and I held around 220-240 by doing the following.
Place charcoal ~6 briquettes (natural is best, otherwise use lump) and 1- 2 wood chunks on the bottom of the smoker (sitting on the lava rock gravel). Center pieces between the coils of the heating element. I did not use a pan of any sort, just let the direct heat from the element get the coals and wood going. You do have to watch so that the wood does not ignite. If it does ignite, stuff some aluminum foil in the intake hole (where the electrical cord comes out) until it settles down. A sudden spike in temp will be a sign the wood ignited.
I didn't use water in the pan, but did shorter cooks so it didn't matter much. If you want a longer cook, make sure any water you add is boiling vigorously first. Don't open the lid during the cook if you can avoid it, the unit is barely powerful enough and recovery is slow.
Stale smell may be due to your wood. I'd try another source to make sure.
If you put a vent on the top of the lid like on a kettle grill, I think you'd lose too much heat.
The top grate and bottom grate will cook differently, fill the top one first.
Originally Posted by cheezeerider
I bought an electric ECB .... The meat seems to have a stale smoke flavor.
Is it me, or should the lid have a vent? .... Any Ideas?