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!