7.2.1 Modifying charcoal-burning bullet water-type
The smoker modification Section was edited by Tom Kelly from a summary
of posts by Mike Roberts, Pat Lehnherr, Harry Jiles and The Bear--
The Brinkmann water smoker is an inexpensive tool which can make some
excellent barbecue. It is sometimes referred to as an ECB on this mail List (El Cheapo
Brinkmann). Don't let this moniker fool you however. The ECB makes some mighty fine
barbecue right out of the box. However, there are several modifications which can improve
its performance, ease its use and therefore enhance your enjoyment.
Modification 1 - Improve accessibility to the firepan.
WHY? - The small door on the side of the Brinkmann does not allow for
easy access to the firepan. Adding wood, lump charcoal or briquettes is a hit or miss
prospect. Try throwing in a few preburned Kingsford briquettes and you'll see what we
mean. This modification makes fire maintenance a snap.
HOW? - Remove the legs from the unit and install them on the outside.
Obtain a length of ungalvanized threaded rod and six matching nuts. Alternately, obtain 3
bolts of sufficient length and 6 matching nuts. Drill through the lip of the firepan at
three locations approximately 120 degrees apart. Center the hole between the inside and
outside diameter of the lip making sure that the nuts can be installed without interfering
with the pan. Measure from the ground up to the ledge on the legs that the firepan used to
sit on. Cut three pieces of threaded rod about 1 inch longer than this measurement or use
your 3 bolts in an inverted position. Now all you do is thread on a nut above and below
the lip of the pan to secure it in place at the same height it used to sit. Set the
Brinkmann smoker over the pan and you are ready to smoke.
Starting a fire and maintaining it is now much easier. When you have to
add fuel or shake up' the fire or remove ash, all you have to do is CAREFULLY lift
the unit straight up about 6 inches and set it aside. You have to be particularly careful
if you have water in your water pan. Tend to the fire and then replace the main unit. The
top is never removed and the door is not opened so less heat is lost.
Modification 2 - Improve firepan airflow
WHY? - The Brinkmann firepan has no air holes to improve combustion of
the fuel. It apparently used to but rumor has it that someone used the smoker on a deck
and some hot embers dropped out and set the deck on fire. Ergo, no more holes. But, no
holes means poor combustion and incomplete burning. This modification lets more air get to
HOW? - Take the firepan and drill about five 3/8-inch holes in the
bottom of the pan. This will give you about 1/2 square inches of airflow area. This
increased airflow allows for better combustion.
Another advantage of this modification (assuming you have made
modification number 1) is that you can lift off the main unit and using fire gloves or a
couple pairs of pliers, pick up the firepan and shake it. This gets rid of much of the ash
and keeps the holes free for air supply.
CAUTION - DO NOT USE THIS MODIFIED UNIT ON ANY COMBUSTIBLE SURFACE (Such
as a wood deck). If you plan on using this on a deck, make sure that the unit is placed in
a sand-filled tray or similar fire resistant arrangement.
Modification 3 - Improve accessibility to the water pan
WHY? - The small door on the side of the Brinkmann does not lend itself
to easily refilling the water pan. Adding water is a hit or miss prospect and can end up
with water spilling into the firepan.
HOW? - Technically this is not a mod but more of a tip. Run down to your
local K-Mart or auto parts store and purchase a plastic funnel with a long flexible
filling end. Then, adding water is a snap. Open the door, hold the funnel end over the pan
and fill with water safely from the other end.
CAUTION - ADD WATER CAREFULLY! IF THE WATER HAS COMPLETELY BOILED OFF,
ADD WATER VERY SLOWLY TO AVOID BEING BURNED. THE WATER CAN FLASH TO STEAM OR BOIL
VIGOROUSLY IF ADDED TO A VERY HOT, DRY WATER PAN.
Modification 4 - Improve temperature indication
WHY? - The temperature gauge that comes as standard equipment with the
Brinkmann leaves a bit to be desired. The LOW, IDEAL, HIGH' indication doesn't
really tell you what's going on temperature wise. You'll be hard pressed to maintain 220F
using the stock gauge.
HOW? - Obtain a good quality candy or meat thermometer (temperature
range about 150-350F) that has a shaft at least 4 inches long. Obtain two matching corks,
each about 4 times the diameter of the thermometer shaft. Drill a hole through the center
of one of the corks (top to bottom) just slightly smaller than the shaft diameter. Now
drill two holes, one in the side of the dome and one in the side of the body. The hole
should be sized so you can push the cork in about half its height. The holes should put
the shaft within an inch of the upper surface of each grill. Now you can monitor the
temperature at the grills more accurately. Plug the unused hole with the undrilled cork.
NOTE - Don't try to use the existing hole where the stock 'thermometer'
is installed. For one thing, it's too large to easily get a good fitting cork. For
another, it's several inches above the upper grill and that location will read somewhat
hotter than the grill level itself.
A more expensive but easier fix is to obtain a Sunbeam or Polder
electronic remote reading thermometer. They can be purchased for around $25 to $30 at
kitchen shops or stores such as Service Merchandise. Push the probe through a small piece
of wood or a cork so that it is not in direct contact with the metal grill, replace the
lid and you can read the temperature at the remote display. Very accurate.