Originally Posted by whitelightnin92
I just finished my first build of an UDS thanks the the help I got from this thread. It was fun to build and I'm excited to get it up and running. I did my first initial burn and and seasoned it without any incident. When I started my first cook it seemed to be going well, but the results were horrbile. I ended up smoking a pork butt, got it up to temp, took it in the house to pull it and I wanted to cry. It was a big rubber band with a very wet and soggy bark. I used the same rub and temps and process as when I smoke on my gas grill. When I do it on my gas grill it comes out with a perfect crunchy bark, with the amazingy tender and moist interior. I figured the UDS would be a heck of a lot easier to control temps and produce a perfect butt. I tried again the next day with slightly different results. I ended up smoking it on the UDS until it hit 150 and then I wrapped it in foil and finished it in my oven. When it got up to temp I pulled it and it was so tender your grandma could have taken her dentures out to eat it. When I had it on the UDS temps were all over. At one time they dropped down to 175 and others went as high as 380. That was from me adjusting 1 of the 2 ball valves very slightly. People seem to have good luck and great results, but I'm floundering. Any advice or tips to help a noobie?
I know the feeling of a cook going bad. Don't let that stop you from trying, once you get the hang of it the reward will be priceless.
Since you're having issues, start with smoking uncooked bratwurst. About 2 hours and use a meat probe to verify it's cooked enough but these are easy to do.
For the pork butt, first of all you have to make sure your smoker (without any food in it) can hold ~225 for 8+ hours with minimal attention. You must start with your firebasket filled with like 1/3 of 1/2 a bag of unlit coals. Then you pour a 1/3 chimney full of fully lit coals (no more flames, just white) on top in the middle. From my similar temperature experience, chances are your airflow is not correct. You need to have about 3.14 square inches of exhaust. Search for "CircleAreaCalculator" which is an XLS I posted on here, or just find and use the formula. This area comes most easily by the typical 2 inch hole in the lids. Leave it fully opened. If using Weber lid, leave that fully opened.
Your intakes, if you have three 3/4 inch holes for the air to pass through, would typically be half way open all around, or like 1 fully open, 1 closed, and 1 half way opened.
FIREBASKET: Make sure it's got some breathing room. Someone mentioned on this page they have 1/2 inch clearance from the ground. That's likely not enough. You should have at least 2 inches or the ash will snuff it out.
The pork itself needs to smoke inside there without any wrapping until the meat hits 190-200 degrees. And it's OK to have the smoker hit 250, pork is very forgiving. So chances are it did not cook well enough.
At first my UDS did not hold temps well, and once I increased the exhaust magically it did. :) For about a year now I can leave my smokers over night and have a fairly confident feeling that in the morning the temp will be where I need it. A few times I woke up to the gauge reading: 225 :)
I've made several UDS's and reconfigured them multiple times with all kinds of intake and exhaust methods. As long as I maintain the correct ratio of intake and exhaust circular area it's usually good enough to cook in. But I have learned that different configurations of that effect things like amount of fuel used, amount of smoke produced, amount of moisture inside.