Thanks everyone for your replies. I was starting to get pretty mad at the lump (I wouldnt' stop BBQing, that would be a tragidy).
Originally Posted by Bama BBQ I am interested why your fire keeps going out. It is either choking or not enough coals were lit. If choking ensure the vents are clear. I like to add a chimney full of lit and give the pile time to catch before assembling the cooker.
Are you using water in the pan?
Can you describe how you build a fire?
I have attached a picture here (very crudely drawn) that will hopefully describe how I build my fire. I have built it the same using briquettes or lump.
To build my fire I have been placing unlit lump or briquettes (fuel) on OUTSIDE of the No. 10 can, and filling the fire ring. Over that unlit fuel I place some smoke wood, sometimes soaked, sometimes not. INSIDE the No. 10 can I put lit fuel. Full charcoal chimney worth (I have a couple charcoal chimneys from dutch oven cooking). This lit fuel always overflows the No. 10 Can. I then use pliers to remove the No. 10 can, so there is no barrier between the lit and unlit fuel.
When my fuel has been Briquettes I have had great heat for a long time (11 hours worth). With Lump ... it just struggles.
About Dampers: When using the lump I have left all four (the three bottom and one top) all the way open. I never close them, because I don't want to choke out whatever little fire I may have. With the briquettes I started with them open, and then closed them down as needed to pull down temp, starting with the top one.
To Bama's other question, yes, I keep water in the pan.