Thinking about upgrading from UDS

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by jlafrenz, Jun 7, 2015.

  1. jlafrenz

    jlafrenz Fire Starter

    I built my UDS a couple of years ago and have been more than pleased with it. In fact, it has helped me discover a new passion of BBQ. While it is great, there are a few things that I would like to do that are limiting with the UDS. The first is volume of food. The UDS has held 16lb briskets and a couple 8lb butts which is typically good enough, but there are times when I would like to throw on a rack of ribs or a fatty with these just for variety and the thought that I might was well since the smoker is already going. 

    One thing I have considered it building a second UDS. The issue I face here is that now I have 2 different fires to tend to and my fuel consumption increases. I would have the ability to use different woods in each of them though so that is a bonus. I have also thought about stepping up into a backyard size reverse flow smoker or vault smoker. These get quite a bit pricier than the UDS and I am concerned about the return on investment. Assuming I buy something of quality I should have it forever though. 

    I have been trying to read as much as I can, but have come up with some specific questions and concerns. 

    The first is about fuel consumption. One reason for a larger smoker is multiple meats can take advantage of the same heat source. Do either of these compare in fuel consumption to the UDS? I can get upwards of 18 hours on a single bag of lump with my UDS. I am used to using the Minion Method and have seen some mention of this with the two types I have mentioned, but not specifics of how well it worked or how to do it. One thing I like about the UDS is that I load charcoal once and that's it. I don't want to have to get up at 4 in the morning to add another chimney of lit coals. I don't mind getting up to check temps or just having to throw more fuel on it as long as I don't have to light it first. Another benefit of not having to add coals is fire management. I know opening the door lets out heat and lets air in potentially causing temp spikes. 

    The UDS suffers from some hot spots. In mine, the outside is roughly 40 degrees lower in temp than the center on average. This is also impacted by weather. I live in Missouri so we have a wide variety of weather. I find that controlling the temp on the UDS isn't that difficult with a little practice and patience. If I invest in a new smoker, temp stability would need to be high on the list. Also, an even cook temp across the whole smoking chamber is ideal because I smoke almost everything I do at the same temp. Chicken is the exception. I have read that reverse flow are supposed to have even heat, but can still have variances. It seems that a vault is pretty consistent throughout, but please correct me if I am wrong.  

    Any guidance or first hand experiences you can provide me with would be welcomed. 

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