For me I start with some wine barrel wood staves I got from a friend in Napa, some good beer, and small HOT fire!
It starts like this:
And burns like this:
I almost sold the pit last summer, man I'm glad I didn't I sure to do love it. My favorite thing to do is get a raging hot fire real close to the opening of the barrel and grill steaks from the inside (not the grate over the fire). That allows the same heat to hit the steaks but without the flare ups yet all of the same smokey good taste from being cooked over real wood like a Santa Maria pit.