Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Having thoroughly solved the how-fast-can-I-light-charcoal riddle, it was time to address another issue faced by many ECB water smoker owners: capacity. With two grill grates, you're rather limited in how much food you can smoke at once. While some people get around this by using rib racks and other contraptions to make things sit at odd angles in order to make more food fit, there's another answer: add more grates.

Although it was cleaner, this is basically how my smoker looked when I bought it. A charcoal pan (which you can't see), a water pan, and two grates.

I've never tried, but I'm guessing you might be able to squeeze three racks of ribs onto those two grates. With the body of the smoker being 16.5" in diameter, it would be tight. And the body of the smoker only has holders for the two racks, so it's not like you can just set more grates in the thing without a way to hold them in place.

The nice thing about most water smokers, though, is that they are fairly generous with vertical space--almost like the manufacturers wanted to see if someone could find a way to fill the things without using a 20 pound turkey. In my smoker, I think there's about 8" between the grates. I didn't measure, since that would make too much sense. I just relied on my gut and got away with it.

To add racks, I looked for round, unplated charcoal grill grates. The grates I settled on were 13.5" in diameter and came from Home Depot--the same size grates were available at places like Walmart and Menards, but the grates at Home Depot were made from 3/16" diameter rods, whereas the others were made of 1/8" diameter rods. Since I'm not exactly a surgeon with a welder, I always prefer working with heavier stuff.

After that purchase, I picked up some 3/16" diameter rods to make the stand offs for each grate.

To start, I picked one area on each new grate to weld the stand offs on. I chose the second rod in on each grate--in this case, these rods were about 7.5" long--and decided (On a whim? Where did I get this number?) to make each stand off 2.75" tall. This whole stand off business will make sense in a few paragraphs, but for now: 2 legs at 2.75" long + 7.5" wide = 13" of rod for each standoff. So I started cutting the 3/16" rod into 13" sections.

Then I made a mark 2.75" from each end (note how the top rod in the above photo has two marks...someone couldn't read a tape measure).

Then I walked over to my preferred metal-bending tool--which happens to double as my neighbor's clothesline hanger--and got to work. While my neighbor was smoking something on this Traeger grill, of course. I inserted each rod in an appropriately sized hole (there's a few to choose from) until the mark I put on the rod was even with the hole, and then bent each rod to about 90 degrees.

The result was four sets of relatively similar stand offs. Here is one set:

At this point, things were literally taking shape. With the stand offs bent and ready to attach to the grates, it was time to clear out the garage and get set up for work.

After three small welds at each end of the stand offs, the grates were ready for their photo shoot. Two grates sit on top of each original grates, which makes for quite a stack. For an easy visual, here are the grates sitting out where they can be seen:

And here are the grates all nestled into the smoker in one glorious stack:

I brought the grates inside and scrubbed them in the sink, as using meat to clean off the welding slag didn't seem like the best way to go about doing so. The grates need to be seasoned before using, but--at this point--smoking six racks of ribs should be no problem for my little green egg smoker. Of course, that doesn't mean I won't try to smoke ten...