The smoker I have as of now was a gift/loaner from my neighbor in NJ who got it for free from a friend who lives in MA. Since I live closer to his friend when I'm in MA, he asked me to pick it up and said I could use it for awhile. But, it's going to my neighbor in September. Because of this, I started looking around for different smokers to buy/make and I'm pretty set on the UDS idea.
I'm a noob when it comes to smoking and definitely when it comes to smokers so I'm asking for a little guidance here. My thought was an electric heating element like what meateater is using (one from cabela's), 2 grates with a thermometer at each level, valve on the bottom, four openings on top with plugs for exhaust airflow as necessary equally spaced apart and (here's where my main question comes in) a side fire box. Does it make sense/is it necessary to have a side fire box on a UDS? I understand that I could simply put chunks on top of the electric heating element but I'd rather keep temp maintenance as simple as possible since I am pretty new at this.
Building everything isn't a problem. My dad is a good welder and I'm sure between the two of us we can/will make it work.
Also, say I was making a pork shoulder and some ribs for dinner, and I had the ribs on bottom and the pork shoulder on top, how difference would the temps be between the two levels? Planned on the heating element around 6" off the bottom of the barrel, bottom grade around 20" above that and the second grate 12" above that. Make sense? Figured the fire box inlet into the UDS would be put in around 2" above the heating element? Tried searching around a bit for this stuff so I wasn't asking repetitive questions but didn't find a lot on fire boxes with a UDS.
I appreciate the help,