My First Brisket Attempt – Unmodified ECB Smoker

I decided that I should probably post articles in the order that I cooked them.  That is proving to be difficult for me because a) I want to talk about the stuff I've been doing recently and b) I didn't document it all as well as I should have.

Ah well, at least I can try to tell you what might have gone wrong on these attempts.

This was actually the first thing I cooked in my smoker so I guess I should talk about what kind of smoker I have.  Officially, it's called a Brinkmann Smoke-N-Grill, and it looks like this:

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But, people who are into BBQ call it an ECB.  That stands for El Cheapo Brinkmann.  I know what you are thinking.  "El Cheapo Brinkmann, that makes it sound like this thing is a hunk of junk."  Well, it turns out that you get quite a bit more than your $45 worth.  You can often find these on sale (heck, even at Ace Hardware in my town) near the end of the season.

Anyway, to really make decent BBQ on an ECB, you need to do some modifications.  But, we will get to that later because, when I attempted my first brisket, I didn't know anything about mods.  So, I was having to deal with the following shortcomings of the ECB.

  1. It's insanely hard to manage your temperature because this baby has no vents
  2. It's insanely hard to manage your temperature because the thermostat sucks eggs
  3. If you need to smoke something for more than 4-5 hours, you are in trouble.  Adding charcoal through the tiny door is a mess

But, I didn't know what to expect so I started my brisket around 9am or so and crossed my fingers.

You know, we should probably talk about brisket at this point.  The briskets (yes, plural) that I was attempting to smoke were actually partial briskets.  We got them at Costco and they were just the flat.  On a complete brisket, there is a flat and a point  I've come to learn that you really want to do the whole thing together.

Anyway, people were coming over to the party around 6pm so I was hoping to be done by then. NOTE: If you are wanting to smoke a complete brisket in an ECB, I would start smoking about 24 hours before you want to serve.  Yup.  A full freaking day.  About an hour before folks arrived I put some bratwurst on the top rack of my ECB and those turned out really great.  Smoked bratwurst sounded a little weird to me, but the end result is a nice snap on the casing and tons of juicy meat on the inside.  I think I smoked them until 180F internal temp.

The brisket, however, was nowhere near done.  To really do a brisket correctly (so that it's falling apart) you want it to hit 180F or 190F internal.  I was starting to realize that I was never going to be able to get to that temp with my ECB (mainly because I was going to have to start fresh with charcoal and getting to that charcoal bowl once you have the smoker loaded is a nightmare (that's actually addressed in one of the mods).

So, we smoked the briskets until they got to about 140-145F and then we just sliced them very thin, like you would a roast.  Think smoky tasting slices of beef about the size and thickness of bacon and you aren't far off.  We ate it all that night and, even though it didn't go exactly according to plan, it is still fondly remembered.  Sadly, no pictures were taken (at least, I don't think so).  So, you'll have to use your imagination.

Now, if you want to see some pictures of brisket done right (or, at least, better) then check out my follow-up post Smoked Brisket (Round 2) – Modified ECB.

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