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First time using a Charcoal Smoker, couldn't get the temp. past 150

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by rugsrme, Oct 26, 2010.

  1. rugsrme

    rugsrme Fire Starter

    Anyone familiar with the Grillpro 16' smoker or ECB's may be of some help to me.

    I couldn't get the temperature above 150.  I used kingsford charcoal and mesquite wood chips, 2/3 coal.

    This unit was very inexpensive so I didn't expect miracles so...

    Is there a material I could use to tighten up the fit between the sections? it seemed like allot of smoke escaped through them and I assume heat too.

    I tried adjusting the damper on the top, opening and closing the bottom door. Everything seemed to burn OK though.

    I also don't trust the thermometer yet either.


  2. adiochiro3

    adiochiro3 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Used to have the same problem with my ECB.  there are a lot of great mods for those types here on the forum.  Your biggest problem is probably poor oxygen flow leading to a really slow burn with charcoal.  A friend had the opposite problem: too much heat.  After comparing notes, i found out that he was using straight wood -- no coals. 

    Together, we came up with the answer: a mix of both (coals for steady temps, wood for smoke and temp boost.  I never did worry about air leaks and smoke pouring out all of the fittings & joints.  Once I added one or two sticks of wood on the coals I never had a problem maintaining heat. Once everything is going, I add 6-8 coals and a stick or two of wood every 30 minutes or so.  Might be different in a cold climate, though.

    More holes in the coal pan is also a big help.  I think knowing what I know now, I would put an adjustable vent on top of the dome lid to manage air flow more easily.  Other than that, just smoke on and keep an eye on your temps (cook chamber and meat).  Keep the cook chamber around 225-250* and you're golden.  Keep adding wood to your coal pile until you learn how to maintain that temp range.  Also, a squirt bottle of water is handy to calm things down if you overshoot (just go easy with the spray b/c you can kick up ash -- which is not a desired flavor!!).

    BTW -- I had a lot of fantastic food come out of that ECB, so don't let the price tag or construction discourage you.  Those lightweight, leaky units just take more fuel and fussing to maintain temps -- that's the main difference IMHO!  Smoke is smoke, and heat is heat, no matter what the design.  I've smoked stuff in regular BBQs, cardboard boxes and terra cotta pots with fine results.

    Last edited: Oct 27, 2010
  3. I'm not familiar with your smoker but the one that came in my Chargiller reads 75 to 100 degrees LOW. Lowes carries a Taylor digital one for about $15 and the Maverick ET-73 and ET-7 are popular too. I used my ET-7 for the first time this weekend on a butt and it worked great. That would be the first thing I would do.


    Also, keep the damper on the smoke stack open all the way when cooking and adjust the air flow (temp) with the vent for the coals.

    Good luck!
  4. rugsrme

    rugsrme Fire Starter

    That was my problem thanks.  I guess just coal and wood "chips" didn't cut it. I got some Mesquite chunks, some are about the size of baseballs. It shot right up to 275, so now I can cool it down and practice maintaining an even temp.

    Thanks again, I'll post Qview of my first fatties in a couple hrs. on the fatty forum.


    They turned out fantastic. I finished 2 fattys in about 1 1/2 hrs. at 200-220 deg.  I still think the thermometer is about 25 deg. off. I'll try checking it with another thermometer, I have an oven thermometer, that should help for the comparison.

    Thanks all for your help,

    Last edited: Oct 27, 2010
  5. If above is working for you stick with it.  If you need to try something else, you might try adding some lump charcoal, as it burns hotter than regular charcoal.
  6. meateater

    meateater Legendary Pitmaster SMF Premier Member

    Be carefull with mesquite wood, it's very strong and can get out of hand quickly. On a pork butt for example I only use a small piece "golfball" size along with hickory.
  7. rugsrme

    rugsrme Fire Starter

    Yes sir, I learned that the hard way, very strong, even though I like allot of smoke taste, it was over powering.
  8. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I have the brinkmann gourmet, and didn't even light a fire in it until I had an elevated charcoal grate with 4" high sides. The grate I have rests on the inner lip of the stock charcoal pan. The biggest problem to overcome is allowing the ashes to drop-out from the coals. I burn kingsford blue bag as well. Another mod I did was to cover the lower intake (bottom canter of pan) with a flat piece of sheet metal having a wedge shaped cut for an opening when rotated over the vent to control intake air. Mostly this intake stays full open, but there have been a few times when I closed it to about 1/2 to keep it happy. Also, I drilled a 1-1/4" hole through the outer and inner pans for added combustion air when the going gets tough. I close this off with a ball of fine steel wool when the fire is too hot.

    Another couple mods I've done was to drill a 1-1/4" hole in the top of the lid just behind the handle when faced so the stock therm is centered above the door. Then, I fitted a rope around the lid and wrapped it in foil for a lid seal.

    For running double grate smoking, I added custom hangers for the lower grate, which attach to the upper grate supports and drop down 4" to hang the second grate on instead of resting it on the rim of the water pan (this only steams the food). These were fashioned out of 3/16" chrome plated wire.

    I can get close to 300* out this rig with these mods, and can smoke 2 quartered chickens at a time, or a separated/trimmed medium packer brisket.  

    As you mentioned, stock therms are only good for a baseline reference after you verify them with another thermometer in the chamber or on the cooking grate.

  9. rugsrme

    rugsrme Fire Starter

    Eric, I was thinking about making a different set up for my coals, something more like they use in the UDS that sounds like what you did.

    Also, this thing don't have a bottom in it. The coal pan sits on the legs and there is quite a gap around it. It also don't have any kind of adjustable intake on the bottom, just the door for adding more coal.

    If I do make an elevated basket, I'm going to put a bottom under it and do some type of controllable intake, then it would be like a micro usd! but I think it would work allot better.

    I think I saw pictures of the mods your talking about.
  10. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Yeah, you've got to have a reasonable amount of control over the air-flow going through the unit, otherwise you're controlling temps only with the amount of hot coals in the coal grate. The chances of getting good results are pletty slim, it's usually a fight the entire smoke, and excessive amounts of charcoal or lump will be used in the process. The main issue I had to overcome was the total lack of ash fall-out. As long as there is a couple inches of open space under the coal grate and a wide enough gap in the grate wires/bars, it should work out fine even for a 12-16 hour smoke.

    I'm not sure if you saw my actual mod pics, or just saw a few tidbits in a few q-views I posted, but here's the mod thread I did a few months back:


    I have since this thread removed the cast iron grate (though I liked the extra thermal mass) and installed a wire grate instead just for a wider gap, and this seems to help  get a more thorough burn of the briquettes and even more natural ash fall-out. I still remove the barrel anytime I mess with the fire just so I won't get air-born ashes getting up onto the cooking grate.

    You've got the right idea though about covering the bottom, etc. That's the only way you'll really get any control over the heat, fuel useage and smoke.

    Stay with it, 'cause you're getting close to a workable smoker!