ECB- Did the mods, still won't stay hot enough. Now what?

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by rickc1, Jun 16, 2010.

  1. rickc1

    rickc1 Newbie

    Hello-- I bought an ECB several weeks ago.  So far I have:

    1.  Moved the legs to the outside and set the charcoal pan on pavers (4" off the ground, roughly the same as when using the pan inside with the legs as brackets.)

    2.  Drilled air holes in both sides of the charcoal pan.

    3.  Put a 14" circular grate in the bottom of the charcoal pan.

    4.  Added a thermometer to the cover.

    As I've seen on YouTube videos and read here (and elsewhere) I've started the charcoal in a chimney and have used different amounts of water-- both as the Brinkmann instructions call for, and the bare minimum as others say.  The last turkey breast I smoked I added new coals twice (once at about an hour and half and again an hour after that) when the temperature dropped to 200.  Still had to finish it off in the oven when the internal temp only got to 155.

    What else can I do with this?  I have been using briquet charcoal but others seems to be doing OK with that.

    How far up inside the smoker body does the pan need to be?  How much water?  And if you move the charcoal pan up higher than where it would have been using the legs inside, where does the water pan go, and how would you add water since you may not be able to reach it through the door?

    I want to make this work.


  2. Welcome to SMF, one quick question...

    Did you just put one chimney in it or did you have unlit charcoal in the pan then poured the lit coals on it?  ( a'la minion method )
  3. rickc1

    rickc1 Newbie

    Ah sorry, I should have said.  I've done it two ways-- dumping one chimney full of white coals into the pan and then adding another as I've seen on videos, and starting about 4 lbs in the charcoal pan at the same time I started a chimmey full, and then just combined them when the chimney was ready.  Each way I have lifted the whole shebang off the pavers and added another half chimney of white coals when the temperature dropped to 200.

    So I had  the pan full of white hot coals (heaping up a bit) before putting the body/water back over it when I started the cooking.


    Last edited: Jun 16, 2010
  4. what kind of ECB is it?  when I tried mine (gourmet) it wasn't enough to have a grate in the bottom, I had to build a basket out of expanded metal.  when I run it I fill the basket (about two chiminies full) then I remove 1/2 a chiminiy and start it.  when it is almost all white I dump it in to the spot I removed it from.  I also don't use any water in the pan when it is cooler out.  you have to make sure you have about 1/2 to 1" of space under the coals and around the sides so the air can get to them easy.  I also run lump not coals, but I can't see that making a huge differance.

    Last edited: Jun 16, 2010
  5. rickc1

    rickc1 Newbie

    Thanks Steve, it's not the gourmet, just the $39.99 at Walmart black thing.  With the grate there's about an inch underneath the coals and the 8 holes per side I drilled are both above and below the grate, so I'd think air is getting in there Ok.  What I can't figure out from the mod photos I've seen online is how you have enough clearance betweem the top of the coals and the bottom of the water pan unless you put the water pan on the lower grill grate.

     So, dumping hot coals in the right places on top of unlight charcoal is the key?


  6. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Hey Rick,

    I have the Gourmet which I've been playing with off and on for a few weeks.

    My mods include, by order of completion:

    (1) lower pan intake air control louver, with wire lever and markings designating the vent control position;

    (2) cast iron charcoal grate resting on the inner lip of the charcoal pan with approx. 12" diameter x 4" high wire cage to keep the coals away from the drum...this keeps the coals well above the pan for longer smokes to keep the coals above the fallen ash;

    (3) 1-1/4" vent hole hole drilled in the lid just to the rear of the handle when viewing the factory louver control installed, yet, as I see no need at this point in time;

    (4) foil-wrapped rope lid seal fitted tightly below the rim above the drum...this is pressed down against the drum when the lid is in place;

    (5) digital thermometer lead fed into top to monitor grate temps.

    Mods 3 & 4 are to help even out upper/lower grate temps somewhat, as the upper grate was approx. 50* hotter with the exhaust being vented out the lid seam.

    The problem you are describing with the inability to maintain enough heat, even though you have plenty of hot coals has been an issue for me as well. I find that when temps are dropping and I still have an adequate amount of coals on the grate, it's time to lift the cylinder (barrel) gently off off the fire pan and lightly shake the ashes off of the briquettes. I let them reheat in open air for a couple minutes before replacing the drum. This will usually give the coals a jump start again for a couple hours.

    Ash build-up even with a larger opening in the coal grate still seems to sneak up on me. I thinks it's because with a grill, you are occasionally providing a slight vibration when removing the lid, turning foods over, moving food over the hotter coals to sear, etc. With the smoker, it sits undisturbed for the most part, and ash doesn't seem to drop off the briquettes very well in this environment, especially when they are piled high, and can eventually choke the coals out completely. This is what I'm fighting with even today, while I burn up some spare ribs.

    Maybe another mod to gently clear the ashes from the coals is next on my agenda...hmm...something on the order of a manual stoker, or the cleaning system in the one-touch Weber wheels are turnin' already.

    Hopes this gives you a bit more insight.

    Happy smokin' with the ECB, brother!

    Last edited: Jun 16, 2010
  7. timberjet

    timberjet Master of the Pit

    One word, propane. I used to fight my ecb constantly, now as long as the water pan is kosher and I have fuel I can maintain any temp down to about 200 for as long as the smoking wood is there and when that runs short the temp climbs A bit. I took an old turkey fryer burner and mounted it in there and voila! I can even still use charcoal if I really want to and the burner lights it right up. Do A search on your gourmet, there is an awsome tutorial with pictures on all the great mods to do to one for charcoal use. I will try to find it again and post it up. I found it!

    This is an awsome tutorial and he seems to have it all straigtened out
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2010
  8. timberjet

    timberjet Master of the Pit

    Rick, you can move your bottom grill up A few inches by drilling holes above the existing brackets and putting machine screws through with nuts on the inside. Or you can put your fire pan on legs or pavers and lower it just A bit too.
  9. timberjet

    timberjet Master of the Pit

    Sorry rick I missed in your initial post that you had the pan on pavers. I have another ecb that I use that has A turkey fryer burner under it with the legs cut short and the legs on the outside of the smoker. I will never go back to coal again in either one of my R2D2's.
  10. that is good for a gourmet, I have done most of the mods, and the only thing you can improve on that he hasn't done is the charcoal grate, his is a little improvment over nothing but not much.  I did my mods 1 at a time so I could see what difference each one made.

    with the grate the style he did, it made a bit of differance, but was still all over the place for temp so I had to baby sit the smoker.  when I made the new basket I went from 3ish hours of reasonable burn to 7 hours of much more constant (1/4 the amount of adjusting) burn.  I am adding another mod to my basket to slow down how fast other lump catches fire as I found I did het a temp spike around the 3 hour mark as to much lum was lighting up. 

    here is a pic of the new basket all loaded up to go. 


    there are 6 feet on the bottom of the basket holding it 1" above the ground.

    the mod I am making to the basket is to put a devider into it that will go 2/3rd of the way across to control the path of the ignighting charcoal.  if I get it done today or tomorrow I will post another pic of it.

      the only other mods I have done are a good temp gage, extending the legs, and a control valve on the air inlet.  once I get the fire box to how I want it I will then work on adding vents to the lid, but so far I haven't needed them.

    Last edited: Jun 17, 2010
  11. thebeav

    thebeav Newbie

    Really cool! I have the black ECB but think I could use some of your mods Thanks for sharing.  Is that a gas line running to your fire pan?
  12. flash

    flash Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I did all the mods and with 3/4 of a pan of briquettes and 1/2 pan of water got this:

  13. timberjet

    timberjet Master of the Pit

    I'm sure this is A dumb question but have you checked that thermometer? Is your paint smoking on the lid? Do you have any pictures of the unit the way you have it rigged? I had to install A vent on the top of mine off an old weber and that helped A lot, or just drill some holes. Hope any of this helps. Don't give up on it yet!
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2010
  14. no, not a gas line, just used pipe for my bottom air inlet.

  15. csmith2884

    csmith2884 Meat Mopper SMF Premier Member

     Is the 9 inch grate up off the bottom of the charcoal pan? I have two steel blocks that lift it up about an inch or 1.5 inches made all the difference in air flow. I now have a gourmet that works on propane or charcoal but with the 3 R2D2's I had I could get 300+ no problem just couldn't keep it forever. 

     Also you asked about the water pan placement? Mine goes right where the lower grill goes you need an air space between the two pans, if you are right on top of the coals you could be smothering your own fire.?
  16. skinnyhead

    skinnyhead Newbie

    Try putting aluminum foil around the gap between the lid and the smoker. Works like a charm.

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