HI there folks!
It has been a wild week here in the Hinterlands! So much so that I did not get to do the cook I was planning for this post. I will how ever get it done later in the week and do a share with you next Monday.
I do however have the post to share about modifying (modding) the ECB (El Cheapo Brinkman). First I want to send out kudos’s to the Brinkman folks, the bullet Brinkman has helped a lot of folks get started in backyard smoking. It’s CHEAP (http://tinyurl.com/lfewxdp) and for the money it works great! It does have some short comings but that’s why there are so many web sites out there that talk about what you can do to up the performance of the smoker. Now you may ask why don’t they make it “better” so we don’t have to mod it, that’s easy….If they did the modding then they would have to charge more for it……thus it would move it out of the “let’s experiment with smoking” price range. Most of us would not spend the money for something that we are not sure we can or really want to do.
So lets get started!
I will start by telling you I was advised about modding the ECB by a gentleman that had just upgraded to a Primo brand Smoker. He had been using his ECB for about 4 years and finally convinced himself to spend the $$$ and get one. I had told him that I had gotten my ECB for Christmas and was looking forward to setting it up and cooking my first batch of spareribs. He made some suggestions and from there I dug through the internet and found lots of conversations about various mods to do.
One of my faves is this one from RandyQ http://randyq.addr.com/ecb/ecbmods.html . I have done most of these mods to mine except for the charcoal rails and the venting he has on his charcoal pan. I drilled ¼ inch holes around the sides of the pan and a pentagram on the bottom of the pan. I tried to space the holes evenly around the sides starting with 4 then adding a couple of more to see if the fire got any hotter. One of the main issues folks have with the ECB is the fire does not get hot enough. YOU have to make sure that you are building the fire in the correct pan. The water pan is 13.5 inches in diameter and the fire pan is around 15 inches in diameter. The fire pan is a metal pan coated in porcelain, when you drill into it you are drilling in glass for the first few millimeters….USE EYE PROTECTION! This stuff will cut your hands and as mama use to say “will put your eye out”. I also went on line http://tinyurl.com/n37om63 and bought a fire grate to fit in the bottom of my fire bowl to lift the charcoal up so air can get under it.
I also put legs on the charcoal pan as Randy explained so I could lift the smoker off the charcoal to add to it or clean it out without opening the lid. You will take the existing legs that are on the ECB and attach them to the out side of the cooker and then install the carriage bolts to be the legs on the fire bowl. These legs I added to the fire bowl are galvanized carriage bolts…galvanized metal will make you very, very sick when it get red hot and leaks fumes ( I use to be a welder so I know this first hand). IF you can find them use stainless steel rods or carriage bolts. They are not coated in galvanized zinc and will not rust over the years. If you cannot find stainless steel then used the galvanized but BURN them first. I tossed the ones I used into the Charcoal pan when is was done with a cook and left them in there over night so the zinc would have totally be burn off. You can also use muriatic acid, just put them in there for a few minutes, it will do the same thing, rinse them off before you start handling them. RandyQ talks about where to put the carriage bolts to make legs on the fire bowl.
Next was the temperature gauge that comes on the smoker from the factory….it does not give you what the temperature is just the range. It also is on the lid so it does not let you know the temperature at the cook grate so I went to HD and bought an inexpensive after market one for a BBQ grill and drilled a hole in the side at the level of the lower cook grate, near the door. Recently I bought a Maverick ET 732 digital temperature gauge ( I am very happy with it) which has a probe that sits on the cook grate and relays the smoker temp to a remote unit…very sweet!
After that I decided that I wanted to vent the dome lid so I went online to find a round vent like the ones you see on the Weber Kettle grill and installed it. I usually make a barrier around the area that the lid sits on the barrel of the ECB smoker. It’s kind of like the way a pan lid sits on a pan, there is a lot of smoke leakage there so I thought that sealing it off would help with temperature regulation and it did seem to help bring the ECB up to a higher temp range. The only problem this caused was the smoke was not moving well and this can cause a bitter taste in your meat. The lid vent relives this. The smoke has to move and exit the smoker to keep from changing the intended flavor from stale smoke. The vent romaines wide open during the smoke and is closed after you have taken everything off.
The ECB is open from just under the fire bowl to the ground this is about 5 inches high and is the entire diameter of the cooker so regulating the amount of air that reaches the fire is impossible. I went back to HD and bought some aluminum roof flashing which comes in 10ft rolls that are 10 inches wide. I cut this so that it would fit between the legs of the smoker to form a kind of gate, it has 3, so I can now close off the fire and thus regulate the temperature that way. I do this by lifting the “gate” so air can rush under when it gets to hot I can lower them and shut down the amount of air getting to the fire. Seems to work fairly well.
Last one to mention is that I use a long plastic funnel, the kind you would get in an auto store, to add water to the water bowl I also line the water bowl with aluminum foil to make cleanup easier.
So as it stands these are the current mods I have done. I am rethinking some to see if I can improve what I have but for now I am happy with what I have.
I promise that I will have something new to cook before our next visit, mean while visit the web and look around at how you can get more out of your smoker through modification.
See you soon.