I've had this cooker for about 4 years now and was actually searching for some thoughts/advice on optimizing it. It's the second cooker I've owned, the first being a charbroil silver smoker I bought in '07 when I got the bbq itch. I'll just put down my experiences with it.
1. I use A LOT of wood during a cook. Like a 20lb bag of lump charcoal and 2-3 bags of the bbq mini logs from academy.
2. I haven't been able to get a consistent temp from one end of the chamber to the other. By consistent, I mean anything close to 25 degrees. The best I've been able to do was about 50-75 from one end to the other.
3. I've also had trouble maintaining constant temps for any period of time. Lot of work babysitting the fire.
4. This may seem obvious, but the firebox gets SUPER hot. Seemingly way hotter than I think it should. I can't open the door or adjust the dampers without wearing gloves.
5. I haven't found the vertical chamber to be useful for anything other than cooking sausage or salmon. I mostly use it as a warming drawer.
I've been able to turn out some good food (at least according the friends & family we have over eat), but it's a lot of work.
For me, I'd like some advice from more experienced folks on the temp issues. Any way to insulate the firebox? Would tuning plates be useful for something this big?
I've also been thinking about using the barrel as the firebox and cooking in the vertical chamber? Good idea/bad idea?