I am still relatively new to the smoking world. My wife (then fiance) gave me my first smoker for Christmas 3 years ago. It was a very simple Brinkmann Charcoal grill/smoker. This past summer I built a UDS and incorporated many of the parts from the old Brinkmann. The first several smokes the UDS worked like a champ. It has 4 1 inch air intake with black pipe for air intake. I had 2 capped and the other two wide open (one has the valve). It would cook steady at 225 for several hours (8 - 12 hours no problem).
Recently I have had some trouble keeping the temperature above 175. I have had to really work to get it over 200. I have all 4 of the intake pipes at the bottom uncapped and the valve wide open. I use lump charcoal almost exclusively. I use the minion method with one dump of lit charcoal on the top. It has been a little cooler lately but this past Saturday it around 42 - 45 degrees out.
A few weeks ago I couldn't find lump charcoal so I used charcoal briquettes and a couple small pieces of oak I had left over from a previous burn. the temperature with 2 intakes capped and the valve half closed kept the internal temperature at around 275. The meat wasn't too bad but had a slight bitter flavor. I used cherry wood for the smoke wood.
What can I do to get my temperatures up?
Was it the briquettes that gave the meat a bitter flavor?
Do briquettes burn hotter than lump charcoal?
What do you recommend for fuel wood?
Any advice you could provide would be greatly appreciated.
Brinkmann Smoke N Grill