Welcome to my barbecue home page.

I'm not a web site designer, so don't expect anything fancy.

First things first. Please read the FAQ. There is far more knowledge there than I have been able to absorb and use. It is an invaluable resource for the newbie to learn about barbecue techniques, methods, equipment and recipes. Read it there, as most of it won't be repeated here.

How this page came to exist.

In early May of 2002, I saw a Vermont Castings Medallion gas grill at a local Home Depot. I wasn't in the market to buy, having been unemployed for many months, I was intrigued. The grill was well thought out and had most of the features that I would want in a replacement for my Charbroil Precision 8000 grill.

Knowing of the Vermont Castings brand (I have a Defiant), but nothing about their gas grills, I hit my two favorite searches: dogpile and google groups. Surprisingly little came back. What google found was pretty disappointing in content, but it was in posts to alt.food.barbecue. It seems that the Vermont Casting grills, while very big and very pretty, don't get hot enough to properly sear meat.

So, thanks to Home Depot and Vermont Castings, I was introduced to real barbecue and real hot smoking. I spent quite a bit of time perusing the FAQ and learning from the experiences and advice posted on alt.food.barbecue. By the end of May I made the plunge and made my first extensive post to alt.food.barbecue. That post describes my acquisition of the two ECBs (El Cheapo Brinkmann smokers) and what I did to/with them.

A week later ...

Feeling a little trepidation I decided to try making pulled pork. The advice and encouragement from the newsgroup helped, but I had my problems. I was learning why an ECB needed modifications. One was for keeping the patio clean. Another was to replace the machine screws that hold the handle to the center of the cover with machine hooks, allowing for hanging large items securely from the cover.

My first stab at smoking ribs had a slight problem. I used much too much salt and pepper in the rub and then compounded the error by using much too much rub on the meat. Hey! It's a learning process:-)

I took a chance on smoking to a deadline when the opportunity came up. It went pretty well, but I was still having a problem getting the ECB to run hot enough. Again, I got lots of helpful advice from the regulars of alt.food.barbecue. I finally came to a solution for the temperature control problem at WalMart. I replaced the charcoal bowl in my ECB with a portable Sunbeam grill. My first try with the Sunbeam fire pot was a success.

That successful solution lead me to my ECBX2 experiments, uses and results.


stacked ECBs

I've been asked for a picture of my stacked ECBs. This is what it looks like on the corner of my patio. This combination has successfully cooked two 7 pound briskets (in the lower body), two racks of spare ribs in the bottom of the upper body in rib racks and 6 pounds of brined salmon filets, all at the same time.

Modified Fire Pot

modified Sunbeam grill for fire pot

The fire pot is a modified 14" Sunbeam charcoal grill. I shortened the legs, bent the horizontal sections of the leg pairs to wrap around the charcoal bowl and attached the legs through the existing bail handle holes. This provides considerable added stability and lifts the ash pit up just off the bottom of the patio protector. This allows air flow under the ash pot and reduces the chance of  ruining the patio. It also allows the ash pit to hang from its attachments. This keeps the ash pit from rotating as you adjust the vent control.

Two chimneys of lump charcoal will keep the stacked bodies between 240 - 260 F on the grills for two to three hours on a hot sunny day. To add charcoal:
The entire cycle takes about 10 minutes and the temperature variations are roughly from 210 to 290 during the process.

I use a plant waterer to refill the water bowl, as per the FAQ. It seems to work well. Refilling the bowl just after refueling works pretty well for me as it seems to reduce the temperature swing to the high side.

Observations during use

Using the ECBs stacked like this seems to work very well. The added height appears to increase the air flow through the smoker, compensating for the increased lost due to the additional skin area and yet another leaky door.

Stacked ECBs seem to use a lot more water than using them singly. I had to refill the bowl four times in 12 hours during my first run in a stacked configuration. This make sense. There is more air moving through the smoker, and more places for the water vapor to leak out.

It appears that there is some heat induced distortion in the bottom of the bottom ECB body. It has gone out of round and doesn't seal well against the upper rim of the other body. I guess I now have distinct upper and lower sections. In use, there is very little smoke leakage from the body to body joint.

Trying the minion method.

The minion method is recommended for use in vertical smokers like the Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM) with good draft controls, unlike the ECB. The minion method is simple, fill the fire pot with cold, unlit charcoal and add one chimney of lit charcoal on top. Do not stir the lit charcoal into the unlit. Let the fire progress on its own. Use the inlet and outlet dampers to control the rate of burn. Burn times over 10 hours have been reported in WSMs.

I was planning to smoke three racks of baby back ribs at the same time I was doing two slabs of pork spare ribs. So I gave the minion method a try. I'll be using it from now on for any smoker runs longer than five hours. Not only does it take less attention, it seems to require a lot less fuel.

Comments, suggestions, ideas and web site
related problems should be sent to me.
Last updated 17-April-2003