I have a vertical charcoal barrel smoker with a computer controlled fan. I have been using it this summer, mostly for pork spare ribs. I have the smoker set at 205, and it varies between 195 and 215 or so. I smoked some ribs for 4 hours and they turned out really good. I accidentally left the draw wide open while it was coming up to temp, so it went all the way up to 350. I shut it down and got it down quite a bit before I put the meat on, but it was hotter than normal to begin with. Still, the ribs came out very nicely.
Later on in the summer, I tried again, this time with more meat, and I was more careful about the temps. The ribs were stacked two high on two grills, but with plenty of room for the smoke to circulate. The temps were pretty well controlled over the 4 hours, but this time, the ribs were not nearly as tender. The ribs on the bottom rack were getting over done, but those on the top were not tender yet. Every other time I have used the smoker, the top rack has been hotter by 8F or so.
I am going to try again soon, but I would like some advice on how to adjust. My instinct is to cook for 5 hours at 195F instead of 4 hour at 205, but I though it was a good time to ask.
I am cooking with lump hardwood charcoal and a small amount of hickory chips. The ribs are in wet marinade for a day, and then dry rub for a day. I open the smoker once at the mid point to check if things need to be re-arranged.
Thanks for the advice,