Saturday went well with the UDS. Actually all 3 smokers were flawless. The UDS Help steady at 250* For 11 hours on One load of coal and 4 wood chunks. The butts came out awesome. I am not used to flipping the meat during a cook. So the bottom was a little extra crispy. I should have flipped at the 4 hour mark and would have had a better bark all around. By the time the fatties went on the coals were dying. I ended up throwing them on the grill to get the color. For the minimal amount of time and money I put into it. The UDS is the most consistent smoker I have that will be with me until it burns out. Someday I may try a WSM, but I can't believe it will do what the drum does
Looks like I have a few bugs to work out with my UDS. I did a trial run last night with no meat - just wanted to get a feel for it. Loaded up a 9# bag of Sam's Choice briquettes in the charcoal basket, leaving a cavity in the center which I filled with a dozen lit coals. With 2 of my 1/2" vents wide open, it took 4 minutes for the temperature at the bottom cooking grate to reach 205*, so I started choking 1 vent a little to keep the temps from climbing too high. With 2 vents wide open and 1 valve open about half way, I managed to keep the temps ranging from 215* - 234* for a little over 4 hours before they started to drop. Nearing the 5 hour mark, the temps had dropped to 203* and would not climb - even with all 4 vents wide open. I had intended to let it run all night with the low temp alarm set at 205* so I could see how long it would go on a 9# bag of charcoal, staying at a good smoking temperature. Since it was after midnight and I was having trouble, I decided to pull the ET-73 and shut down the experiment so I closed all the vents.
When I got up this morning with some daylight to see by, I went out and took the lid off and saw that a little more than half the charcoal was still unburned. In fact, it looks like the charcoal pretty much burned toward one side - away from the one vent that remained closed for most of the trial. Without lifting the charcoal basket to be sure, it looks like my terra cotta ash pan experiment may be a failure, as it looks to be completely filled with ash. Since my basket just sits on top of it, this probably helped to deprive the coals of oxygen.
I think I have enough vents with 4, and that the 1/2" pipe size is large enough since I was able to get all the way up to 234* (I'd really like to keep it in the 215* - 225* range if possible). I'm trying to determine what caused the coals to burn in one direction - thinking that it was a combination of the 1 vent staying closed and the ash buildup preventing the coals from lighting back in the other direction. Won't really know for sure until Sunday when I get to remove the basket and see how much ash there really is. When I do actually cook with it I plan on using lump instead of briquettes, so there should be less ash but I'm not sure how much less since I haven't used lump in quite some time.
I'm considering getting an ash pan that's a little larger in diameter and raising the charcoal basket a little (I can go about 1/2" - 3/4" higher and still have enough clearance below the bottom cooking grate) to help with airflow. Right now I have valves on 2 of my inlets and pipe caps on the other 2. I'm wondering if I should put valves on all 4 so I can open all the vents a little to make sure there's enough oxygen all around. I think I'm going to try the ash pan/charcoal basket mod first before I add valves though.
Sorry for getting so longwinded here - trying to think this out. Any suggestions would be welcome in case I'm missing something.