First the Q Views
About my drum. pretty typical build. Sandblasted and painted with high temp black. Top rack is 7.5" from the top of the lid. Middle rack for deflector (perforated pizza pan to allow juices through) 7" below that. 3 3/4" inch holes for intakes and refrigerator magnets for control. The charcoal basket is most of the width of a 17" grate and 10" tall. I haven't sourced an ash pan yet. I used a tall boy beer can as an exhaust pipe and it liked that much more. I need to find a plumbing supply place for a 2" pipe nipple to make that permanent. I am using a hollowed out cork as a grommet for the wires on my maverick thermometers. I generally use royal oak lump from HD.
First smoke was ribs. I used about half the basket and just dumped the lit coals in the center. My temp with 1 hole wide open was insanely steady at about 215. So I left it there. They still hadn't pulled back and showed bone after 6.5 hours. We decided it was late enough to eat them and they were still fantastic. Need more heat for the next one.
Second smoke was two pork butts and a rack of spare ribs from Aldi. I tried to do the snake method. I made a 3" wide tube of expanded steel and spread the coals and wood chunks around it. hoping to control a steady amount of smoke. I wasn't impressed. I needed 2 holes wide open to hang at 226 with the newly added beer can exhaust stack. eventually temps started dropping about 8 hours in and an hour into the stall. I thought I had ran out of charcoal. The snake or donut ring had stopped burning around and a solid third of it was unlit coals. I added a few extra coals, removed the center donut and mixed it together. Temps ran hotter which was ok at that point in the cook. at 13 hours I was still only at 178 and I decided to throw it in the oven and try to sleep until the temp alarm sounded about 3 hours later (It's hard to say when. I was a zombie when I took them out sometime early this morning.)
So, the questions,
1) Have you guys had better success with the donut continuing to burn? Late last night, I swore that was the one and only attempt at that Idea. The other interesting thing to my physics loving brain was how much more air was needed (exactly double) on a much warmer day than the first smoke with just a big old pile of coals being lit.
2) I had some ashbuildup that was choking me out, I've only seen a couple guys with a shaker hook to shake the ash?
3) Deflector plate: I like the idea of even cooking and letting juices run into the coals. I think I'm going to drill the perforations a step bigger to help ventilate and let more juices through. My cook times have been longer than my previous smoker when I had expected shorter times with an UDS. However, It has been so steady at that 215 mark that I've been on the cool side of ideal.
4) unrelated to the UDS. I bought the two pack of bone in butts from restaurant depot. I had one butt turn out pretty great. The other was insanely fatty. Pulling it had some giant channels of semi liquid fat i kind of milked down and discarded. I didn't check the temp of the fatty one coincidentally because they had been on the same level the whole time. However, I don't believe this much fat would have rendered out unless it was at a widely different temperature. Has anyone ran into this?
The pros of the UDS over my previous 2 door charcoal are the usual benefits. The drum is so well sealed that it does make temperature control a dream. It really uses less charcoal than a traditional leak prone smoker. I love the size of the 22.5" grate and ability to do that much food at once. I love being able to seal up all the vents and snuff out the remaining coals.