The ball valve is what controls the air intake. That in turn controls the rate of burn, or temperature. To heat it up you open the valve or remove a cap from one of the other intakes, then adjust the valve again.
How long it burns at a given temperature is controlled by the amount of charcoal (fuel) that is available to burn.
Once the fire is going and temps stabilized there is no need to access the basket. I can shake the basket from the top with a rod (through the food grate). This thing will burn long enough to cook an entire butt or brisket without a problem.
I was going to start a new thread, but then I figured the maiden voyage is all part of the drum being born. So here's the mid-way Q-view from the Pig Barrel putting forth some most excellent pigcicles..
The loin back ribs
The Thin Blue wisping from the exhaust
Temp doing a fine job at 240Âº
I may not have time for the finished pics, but these are enough to keep bubba from saying it didn't happen