Discouraged: My UDS is not stable on temps

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by dbarnett66, Feb 7, 2009.

  1. dbarnett66

    dbarnett66 Smoke Blower

    Hi all,

    I nee some help here. I have used the UDS for 3 times now and I am having one heck of a time controlling the temps. I tried some of the advice posted in the earlier threads, but I either spike to high, or I cut too much and the fire nearly goes out. It took me nearly 3 hours to narrow the temperature swings to my desired temp of 225-250. Once the UDS was dialed in, I did not have too touch it for the next 4 hours. On my last smoke, it took way tooo long for me to relaod the basket with lump and get the temps stabilzed. My 2nd attempt at a pork butt was a dismal failure. An 8 pound rost nearly took 16 hours and 4 hours of that was waiting for the temps to stabilize.

    I know the barrel is consistent once it is dailed in. I am the problem. Can someone enlighten me on how much I should load the basket below? How much time is needed before the lump is ready to go at operating temp? I am using Royal Oak from Walmart. What I really want is your process as mine is just not working. It also seems that I need at least 1 valve open and the adjustable valve at a 1/4 turn once the drum is dialed in. On an other occasion I have to close both nipple ends and use the adjustable valve only. I was expecting to turn the valve to a desired location and leave it like my old gas smoker. Thanks in advance....

  2. Don't know how a UDS works but I assume most smokers work on the same basic principles. Air to and from the fire controls the heat and the amount of smoke into the cooking chamber. The trick is to get the proper temp of 225 to 250 AND the proper amount of smoke to the meat. I load all of my charcoal and wood in layers in my fire box, then light about 25 coals until they are grey and ashed over. Then pour the coals into the fire box over the layered pile I just made. Read that advice on this forum somewhere, don't remember the thread. I always try to start out with the controls pretty much closed on the out side and about quarter on the in side of the fire box. In other words air feeding the fire is between quarter and half. Only about a quarter or less of full on the side feeding the cooking chamber. It's easier to slowly bring the temp up to desired than it is to say uhoh, try to close everything down to bring the temp down and try to play yoyo with the controls. And when coming up with temps, a little goes a long ways on the cooking chamber side(if you have controls on both sides). Hope this helps.
  3. ddave

    ddave Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Well since Bubba hasn't answered yet, I'll throw my two cents in.

    Your mileage may vary but here's what I do. My basket is 13.5" in diameter and 8" tall. My barrel has 3 - 1" intakes and 8 - 3/4" exhaust holes in the lid.

    It will hold 18 pounds of charcoal but the shot above is about 8 pounds and some wood. I then take a few briquettes (about 10 or so) and light them in a chimney starter. After they are starting to ash over, I pour them into the charcoal basket, which is on the ground. I try to keep the lit charcoal in a group in the center. I then put the basket into the drum, put the grate on, put my Maverick temp probe in place and put the lid on.

    At this point I have all three intakes open. When the temp reaches 200 I put one cap on, when it reaches 225 I close the valve about 2/3 of the way. During warmup, I only watch the Maverick thermo. The dial thermo on the side is too inconsistent when the drum is coming up to temp. After everything is warmed up, the dial thermo is more consistent.

    In lookng at a log I did today, it took 13 minutes to warm up to 200 after putting the lid on. It took about 5 minutes to go from 200 to 225. I was using Kingsford Competition Briquettes which seem to burn pretty hot.

    I have never used RO lump (can't get it around here) but I have used Lazarri Mesquite lump in the drum. The thing about the Lazarri is that the size of the chunks can vary quite a bit. I don't know if this is the case with RO but if it is, that could lead to slightly unstable burn patterns since the smaller chunks would light faster than the bigger ones. When I was using the lump, I still filled the basket about half full and filled the chimney maybe a quarter full if that. I've found that it is much easier to contol with a small hot fire to start and bring the temp up slowly.

    One thing that struck me about your post is when you said you had to reload. How big is your basket? In the picture above, I started with about 8 pounds and after 6 hours of smoking (I was doing babybacks) I shut the intakes, the fire went out and this is what the basket looked like the next day.

    I can't ever imagine having to reload unless your basket is way small. Try to catch the temp on the way up because bringing it back down means choking off the air and that is not good. When you lift the lid to put the meat on, the temp will spike a little so give yourself a little cushion when you do this. Also try not to fiddle with the intakes too much. Make small adjustments and give them 20 or so to pan out otherwise you'll be chasing it all day.

    Hope this helps.

  4. rw willy

    rw willy Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    I'll go with what DDave is saying. Good sound help.
    That being said. And I have only burned my NEW UDS 3 times empty and 1 with food. So my advice is only a minor guide.
    My charcoal basket is 18x8 inches. I used kingsford w/5 chunks of flavor wood. I load the basket as DD said and light with a half a chimney of well lit kingsford. I have my basket in the UDS and dump the lit into it. I spread my lit around the top of the basket. My first burn the temps were 40 degrees off from the center to the side of the UDS. Spreading them out helped alot to even things out. I did not wait after loading for a warm up. I put my loaded grids in and closed the lid. I had one 1/2" nippl;e open, 1" ball valve was about 30% closed. Temps were smooth with no sudden spikes (until I kicked it 4 hrs. later). I did fiddle with the valve over the course of the first 2 hrs. Not often, gave myself 15 minutes between adjustments. The adjustments of the ball valve were very small, fractions of an angle at the lever. I have 8, 1/2" holes in the lid, also.
    Hang in there and good luck
  5. crockadale

    crockadale Smoking Fanatic

    I think you will find charcoal works beter than lump in a drum.
  6. rickw

    rickw Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Looking at your basket; do you have legs on it? I do as others have said and things do pretty good with my uds. I use lump and I do get spikes but they settle down after a little bit. One thing with the spikes, try not to mess with the intakes when you get spikes as it will settle back where it was in little time.
  7. rtom

    rtom Meat Mopper SMF Premier Member

    sometimes it take me a little bit to get everything stabilized (1/2 hour or so) but after that its all good and I use RO lump as well but I start with 2- 3/4 intakes open and close from there. I only have 3 - 3/4 intakes and use a weber lid
  8. dbarnett66

    dbarnett66 Smoke Blower

    I do have legs on my basket and I think my mistake is that I load my basket dang near full, and then drop a full chimney on top of that to get the fire started. I have not used charcoal before as I thought that I was violating some unofficial secret society UDS rule...[​IMG]

    I will try putting a little less in the basket and a little less in the chimney. I think that I am starting too much fuel than I can handle.
  9. phreak

    phreak Meat Mopper

    I don't think the problem is too much lump in the basket. Reason being the first couple smokes I did with my UDS I put darn near a full chimney of lit lump in to start it. I gradually put less lit lump in and now I have it pretty much dialed in by starting it with barely a 1/3-1/4 chimney to get it going. For ****s and giggles sometime just take a couple pcs of lump and get them going then put them in the UDS and check out the temp.
  10. ddave

    ddave Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    [​IMG] YIKES [​IMG] Put about a quarter chimney full of lit (if that) on the loaded basket and I'll bet you'll be on your way. [​IMG]

    Smoke on!!

  11. jamesb

    jamesb Smoking Fanatic

    On my UDSs, I treat them the same as I do my WSM. I load the coal basket (briquettes or lump, doesn't matter), fire up a chimney of coals and once they are going, I dump them on top of the basket. The trick is to be patient and bring the drum up to temp slowly. This usually takes about 30-40 mins for me. When the drum is up to temp and you put the meat on, again you must be patient, it will take another 30 or so mins for it to come back up to temp... Once it's there it's on cruise control. I have 2 1" ball valves for intakes and 4 1" exhausts on my drums. The exhausts stay open for the the entire cook and I can control the temps via the intakes. This works for me, good luck with your future cooks! Don't give up! you will figure your drum out...
  12. gobbledot

    gobbledot Meat Mopper

    I am with Crock on this issue. I couldnt get control with Lump switched to briquetts and now runs smooth and constant. I have a coffee can that is open on both ends I place in my basket, fill basket around can with briquetts light about 15 briquetts in the chimney and after ashed over pour in coffee can then remove can. With this method it lights the coals from the inside out and I get longgggg burns. Just my 2 cents..
  13. dbarnett66

    dbarnett66 Smoke Blower

    I guess I need to burn my 80 pounds of lump first....[​IMG]
  14. ddave

    ddave Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    You can use lump, you just have to be careful how much you light first and take the temp up slow. There are guys on another forum I visit who use exclusively lump in their UDS. They take care with how the basket is loaded as well. They break up larger pieces with a slag hammer to try to get some uniformity.in piece size and arrangement. It is definitely more of a challenge though. But if you need to use it up first, it can be done.

    Or you could save it for higher temp cooks like chicken and tri-tip. With these, temps in the 350° range are fine. [​IMG]

  15. rickw

    rickw Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I'm gonna have to try some briquettes.
  16. dbarnett66

    dbarnett66 Smoke Blower

    Well, I decided to smoke a tri-tip and used just a few hot coals instead of a full reactor.[​IMG] My temps were very stable and controllable. I guess moderation is the key.
  17. ddave

    ddave Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Yeah, the drums are WAY too efficient to overload them. Glad it's working better for you now.


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