This has been a great discussion for the budget constrained BBQ fanatic (me). Thanks to everyone that has provided details and humor here! I'm hoping my questions below will help more than just me.
The Scenario: I finally built "the standard" 55gal UDS w/leverlock- 4 6"x1/2" steel pipe air intakes, 8 1/2" exhaust holes in lid, 16" expanded steel coal basket 2" off bottom, 1 grill 6" down from top. The first cook went reasonably well, just 2 (very large) slabs of spares cut into ribs and 'chine' (plus about 8lbs of lump and 8large hickory chunks). I tried the 3-2-1 method for the first time (I've never foiled ribs before when cooking on a side burner smoker). I discovered where the thermo is (a remote digital w/the probe hanging just below the grate) is critical; dropped from 230 to 190 only 1hr into the cook. I opened vents and it dropped more. I finally opened it up and moved the probe 3" toward the side and temp was 400+. OK. Shut all vents and plugged 6 exhaust holes and got that under control. At 2hrs I thought I should turn the ribs and so shut all intakes for 5min then opened it back up. Before I could get both turned I had flames out the top of the drum; ALL the dripping caught fire.
Overall, the ribs had a great flavor and were done OK - a bit dark in some spots, a bit over done in others. Sadly they lacked a deep smoke flavor (only the outer "crust" had much smoke). And worst, they fatty layer (around the rib 'tips') had not rendered out. Not pleasant eating
1) Is it common for the center temp to drop while the "sides" don't?
2) Is it common to get a flare up like I got? Or was that because I let it get so hot earlier.
3) How does one get more smoke into meat when you can't just throw some wood on the coals?
4) How does one get a longer cooking time when directly over coals so more fat will render - but not over cook the meat (other than the obvious 'lower temp')?
Thanks for any and all advice. I promise some pr0n from the next cook in return.