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Your daughter, Blackmare, is a really great person, Biscuitburner! I've saving myself for marriage to her, down the road. <g>

If I can speak candidly, a Brinkmann smoker has some issues that you wouldnt experience with a Weber smoker - It benefits some from some modifications. CJV mentioned some. Some additional tips are available at this link: http://www.smoking-meat.com/modify-brinkmann-ecb-smoker

You might should bear in mind that a Weber smoker will do a noticeably better job more efficiently and effectively, w/o modification and far less tending - It is quite a bit more expensive than an ECB, but you get a much better smoker for your money.

Do I need to fire it up with nothing in it for the first time? (someone told me I should)

I would do so with an ECB - Unlike Weber smokers and grills, the metal is painted, rather than enameled. You need to burn off the toxicity of the paint.

Is there a cut of meat that is good for a first time beginner?

Chicken, Baby Back Ribs or Pork Steak would probably work pretty well - Sausage links should work pretty well, too.

Is Chestnut wood ok to use?

I would think that would work OK. I like using Apple with Pork - Think of an Apple stuck in a pig's mouth. Pecan works pretty well, too - also a nut tree. Hickory is hard to beat for Beef, and Hickory charcoal for a base fuel, with other types of wood chunks or chips for flavoring.

As another note, you don't want to overwhelm the meat with smoke - Don't soak chips or chunks you use and don't keep adding chips/chunks throughout the smoke - A little, at the start, goes a long way.

FWIW,

Bob
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