New smoker here (UDS build and other general questions)
After a long hiatus due to a lack of employment and having to move to an apartment, I finally am ready to continue and finish my UDS now that everything's back on track.
I did have a few build questions and some other general questions.
1.) I built a square firebox, around 17"x17"x8". Is square fine? I see all these round ones now I don't know if I should redo it.
2.) I am using three 3/4" inlets, 2 with caps and 1 with a 3/4" ball valve. Is that big enough, or should I go with three 1" inlets? Also, is leaving the 2" screw top on the lid open enough for a vent? Do I have to add a vertical pipe or can I just open it at the lid when I use the smoker?
3.) I read about lighting a small bit of charcoal, placing them in the center of a "charcoal ring" so to speak, so that you get a longer burn. Do you use briquettes, lump hardwood charcoal or what? I bought some nartural lump hardwood charcoal to use, will that work? Do I use that in a chimney or briquettes to get the initial burn going?
4.) How much charcoal do you use on average? I see people using 9-10lbs but the bag I got is only 8lbs. What about wood chips? I also got hickory wood chunks at HD (about fist sized peices), how many should I use for a smoke? Do I soak them in water before, if so for how long?
5.) How do you regulate the temperature? What I mean by that is how sensitive is everything. If it gets to 225* and I close the ball valve 90% will it settle into a consistant temp right away or does it take like 15+ min for the temp to settle at that ball valve position. This is what I'm most concerned about, because a few years ago I had a cheap smoker (Brinkmann or similiar) that I would spend an hour trying to get to the right temp, only to have it too hot or drop off too much because I didn't know how long it took to settle once you opened the inlet valve at a certain point.
6.) Seasoning. I burned the barrel out (not incredibly well, since it only contained honey for a local company). Do I need to do anything else? I hear something about spraying pam, but the sides are already full of soot.
7.) Ash catch. I don't have anything right now. Rather than basically crawl in and get the ashes out every time I use it, what have you guys been using?
8.) What do you guys use for thermometers? I see you have them mounted through the side, but do you use drill a hole and stick them in, or is there some type of grommet you also use? Any good thermometer recommendations that I can buy online (no local BBQ shops besides the big box stores)? Nott too pricey but doesn't have to be cheap either.
Basically I want to smoke a brisket or something bigger for the first time (since I am having a party this weekend for the football games), and want to get as much knowledge on here before I start tinkering with it on gameday.
I know its a lot, and I probably have more I forgot about, but thank in advance for any help you guys (and gals!) can give a noob like me!
1) Square is fine, most of the time people are using what they have for material and tools. A round firebox is easier to make than a square one.
2) You should have enough draft with the 3, 3/4" holes and the 2" bung at the top. Just make sure your intake is below your outlet. You may want to find a way to control the outlet. Some people use magnets, other use a flap of metal that covers the whole hole. What ever you use, be careful, it will be hot.
3)If you do a search for the "Minion Method" here you will find different ways of doing it, but they all accomplish the same thing. A slow controlled burn of the charcoal. Hardwood lump will work for this, it is what I use. Start about a 3/4 full chimney of charcoal. If you have an old clean metal coffee can, with bottom removed, you can put that in the middle of the firebox and pour your unlit charcoal around it. When the lit charcoal is ready, pour that in the can and then remove the can. This will allow the lit coals to start the unlit coals next to them in an even fashion.
4) You will have to experiment with your UDS on this one. I would start with the whole 8# bag and see how long it goes. If you have to you can always shut down the inlets and outlet to smother the fire and use the remaining charcoal on the next cook. I add the wood dry and spread around the firebox. Put on close to the lit coals so it will ignite right away. If you are doing large pieces of meat you will not need as much smoke at the end of the cook as you will need at the beginning.
5) This is another area where you will have to experiment. I would start with everything wide open. Then close off your capped inlets first, one at a time, and see what the effect is. Every smoker is different. IMHO, I would wait 20 min. to see what happens. The Brinkman you use did not have the control of air that a UDS has. You will find that will make a big difference.
6) I really don't have an opinion on this one. You may want to spray with Pam before your first cook and that will help.
7) I use a bottom of an old Brinkman Gourmet smoker. The thing about an ash catcher is that it needs to allow air to circulate through the bottom of the firebox. It is not critical but helpful. Your ash catcher will have to be square also. I would be on the lookout for an ash vacuum. These are all metal and will not catch on fire if there is a stray lit coal.
8) I use the small vent hole in the lid. Drill out a cork that will fit in the hole and stick the thermometer of your choice. I use one like the ThermoWorks-Original Oven Thermometer. For $15 that is a good deal. If you want to get the probe closer to grate level, order the Probe Holder/Clip. You would be able to drill a hole in the side at grate level and use the clip to hold it in place.
As for your first cook. I would go with a pork butt. Reason being, if you have wild swings in temp. they are very forgiving. Also, they are cheaper than brisket, so if something does go wrong you won't be out that much $$.
I hope this helps. I am sure others will have other opinions on this, but this is just what I have learned.
Oh and don't forget to take pictures. A lot of us can't read and like to look at the pretty colors.
Thanks for answers!
Anyone else with a UDS that could chime in?
Look through the first few pages here and you will find the thread for what you need. It is a huge thread with more than you can ask for....and then some.
Here ya go.
It doesn't look as if you have stumbled upon the UDS thread yet.
Everything you want or need to know is there.
good answers Bryan
The only thing I would add is about thermometers: I use a 12" turkey frier thermo that slides in directly under my bottom cooking grate (I've got two grates in each drum and a Weber dome for both lids). That puts the probe point right in the middle of my cooking grate. I've found that there can be as much as a 50 degree difference between the center of the grate and the edges depending on weather conditions in my single-walled drum. In the double-walled, that difference is usually much less to negligible.
6) If your burn out got it to bare metal it will need a coat of oil to season it. Cover it in veg oil or pam and start a basket of charcoal. You can throw a fatty on there for practice maintaining temps before your first big cook. I did this and it gave me a good feel for what to expect when I would use it for real.
7) I bought an 16 or 18" flat pizza pan from Wal-Mart for $8 and drilled holes in it and it hangs from my lag bolt legs that keep the basket off the ground.
+1 on the pork butt idea for your first cook, they are real hard to screw up.
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