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NC-Q 04-01-2013 10:30 PM

Built a UDS! Cooked things! Can't control temps! PRON!
A few weeks ago I just finished building a UDS after reading approximately 1 ba-zillion articles and posts (including the entire 'big' thread). I've done approximately 7 or so cooks and test burns on it to try to get a feel for it, but I still haven't achieved what I would like to think of as "UDS Zen." To me, my vision of UDS Zen would look something like this: I do anything other than stare at the thermometer for a period of approximately 30 mins and when I come back, the temperature is somewhat the same as when I left. OK, so maybe I'm exaggerating a little bit, but I've been cooking on a Silver Smoker with a few of the typical mods for a number of years, and have grown quite used to nearly constant fiddling and monitoring. I expect that. I expected to be able to control my UDS temps better than I have. I've still been able to turn out a few tasty things in the process:
Some Ribs.
Some More Ribs.
A Chicken.

Oh yeah, and here's the UDS:

So I've gotten a few theories as to why my temps are so out of control and feel free to offer any feedback, or not, as I know these very questions have been addressed in the past. I guess I'm just looking for some clairvoyant UDS insight:

1. Wind- It's windy here in Charleston. Perhaps adding a chimney would help with the ups and downs?
2. Patience- Some people have suggested that it takes a while for the temps to "settle in." I'm not sure how long I'll need to keep messin' with it, but I don't seem to be recognizing any patterns yet. I have 3 1" pipe nipples for intakes, 2 with caps, 1 with a ball valve. I have been adjusting them in the typical fashion (capping and adjusting with valve), but it seems to only wnat to climb or fall no matter what I set it on. Maybe I'm just not being patient enough for the temps to stabilize, I've waited up to an hour between adjustments.
3. Leaks- I don't think this is a big issue, but it could be. I'm able to shut the thing completely down if I close off the air intakes and the damper, so I don't think it leaks too much. Only faint wisps of smoke come from around the rim (the lid fits pretty durn well).
4. Ashes- I built my basket out of expando and a weber charcoal grate from an 18 incher. Standard stuff. It's 3 inches off the bottom of the drum. I've been simply lighting about 1/4 of a chimney of kingsford blue and putting them in the center of the basket filled about 1/2 way... Not using the coffee can method, perhaps this may help?

So I wasn't planning on writing a novella for my first "real" post to the forums, but I guess y'all seem like a nice enough crowd, I'm frustrated and full of chicken, so why not?

4uweque 04-01-2013 10:37 PM

Looks really nice, my only suggestion would be to add a chimney, about 7 inches. That's the only thing different on mine and it cooks like it has a thermostat.

NC-Q 04-01-2013 10:42 PM

Thanks, I will drop by Lowes and pick up some pipe tomorrow for a chimney. I haven't used the damper for anything other than shutting it down so far, don't suppose I will ever need to based on what I've gathered here.

olewarthog 04-02-2013 01:54 PM

start with fewer lit coals. I only start about with about 10-12 briqs. I watch the temps as it starts to rise after adding the lit coals. If I plan on cooking at 250-260, I cap one nipple at 200. I cap the second nipple at 225. At 240, I close the ball valve about half way. Most of the time, mine will then settle in between 250-260. If it goes past 260, I'll nudge the valve closed a little more. If it stops short of 250, I'll nudge it open a little. The key is to start with a small controlled fire & catch your target temp on the way up. If you get too big of a fire mass, you will be wiggle that valve all day trying to get it under control.

I will add this. my drum did like to continue to creep up in temp until I used some red RTV silicone around the lid. However my lid did let quite a bit of smoke out until I sealed it.

hcj3rd 04-02-2013 02:22 PM

My drum never has had any wild temp fluctuations. Mine is built identical to yours except I have a 6" x 2" threaded pipe for exhaust. I think if you add the exhaust it will probably draft better. The only other reason to have temp swings is air leakage somewhere. Be sure not to leave the lid off for any length of time or you will have a temp spike. If I have to open the lid I get in and out quick.

gmag 04-02-2013 02:29 PM

Looks good. UDS's seem to be gaining a ton of popularity...makes me want to build my own!

Just BS 04-02-2013 02:41 PM

I think we all have the same frustrations when we stepped into the world of BBQ'ing on the UDS. Shoot. I used to walk around with the thermo reciever and stare at it every 30 seconds... now I leave it on the counter and check on it every now and again, but the difference between 250 and 262 ain't worth stressing over. Besides it'll be 247 in a bit anyways.

But I digress. Have you cooked with a cap off and your ball valve closed yet? I'm running 3/4" intakes, so we're a bit different, but once I figured out what my UDS's temp was with a constant intake, it help me better understand how to control the ball valve. NOTE: Once you add an exhaust your temps will increase.

Anyways, your food looks good. Enjoy it! BBQ, like life, is more about the journey than it is the destination.

J-Rod 04-02-2013 02:41 PM

What others said. A chimney might help you, not so much with lowering temps but especially with battling the wind. On my UDS I got one 1-1/2" downdraft style inlet with ball valve and a 2"x6" chimney and it holds steady like like a champ, even when it's windy as hell. The last big cook I did for a bunch of people was out on a farm with zero trees for windblock. I couldn't believe how the two cookers basically gave the wind the finger and cooked at a steady 250 for hours.

EDIT- you are still learning your pit too, it takes time to get a "program" down for each particular pit. You'll get there.

Just BS 04-02-2013 02:52 PM

Are ya using briquets or lump. Briquets will give ya a stedier temp...lump will taste better (IMHO). But your temps will change when bigger or smaller lumps get going, especially on gusty wind days.

Also wanted to say that a 1" open cap might push you over 300*, but since you're full of chickens I'd just cook one or two of them if you choose to try my experiment.

Bludawg 04-02-2013 03:26 PM

What temps are you wanting to cook at? I cook at 300 My drum is constructed just like yours with the exception of all my intakes are 3/4" I start with a Full basket of lump and dump a 1/2 a hot chimney on top. And wait 10 min before dropping it in the drum with all intakes open. At 250 I cap 1 and close the ball valve by 1/4 it settles in at 300 on the button. I'm cooking with in 20 min from light up. Sometimes it will creep up 25 deg but I'm fine with that. Adjustments normally take about 15 min to show up on the thermo. For what is worth the West Tx wind never quits blowing I guess because of all the Suckers in DC.

Kloogee 04-02-2013 08:21 PM

I may have overlooked it in your post, but what temp are you trying to cook at and what type of fluctuations are you talking about?

Those details may help with additional guidance from the brethren.

ETA: It could be that what you consider a wild fluctuation is what others consider normal. Maybe not, but worth it to throw the details out there.

Budman1 04-02-2013 08:45 PM

I use lump also, and have very few problems.

Meat Burner 04-02-2013 08:48 PM

Definitely agree with adding the exhaust. A whisp of smoke around the lid is not an issue. The whole patience thing and starting with a small initial fire extremely important. Bring the temp up a little isn't a problem but bringing the temp down can be very difficult. Keep after it and you will master it bro!

Qbert60 04-02-2013 09:00 PM

When I fire up my UDS, I get the temp up to about 300*, then start closing the inlets until I get to 250* - 275*. It's easier to get temp back down then it is to get it up.

flyingbassman5 04-02-2013 09:05 PM

Give it a few cooks and she will settle down. Plus you will start to learn the way she likes to be handled.

Mine likes to be started with about 12 briquettes in the center and with 1 of the 4 intakes 100% open makes her rock 275 all day. Usually let her take about an hour to get up to temp.

She'll come around..

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