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Unread 01-27-2014, 01:55 PM   #1
packerfannate
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Default newbie question

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.

Questions:

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.
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Unread 01-27-2014, 02:05 PM   #2
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I havnt had much luck with Lump in my UDS I use KBB mostly but sometimes Stubbs. Lump burns Hotter n faster but needs more airflow than Briquets in my experiences.

My typical load before adding more KBB on Top:


I'll dump half chimney of lit on top ( I let lit ash over all grey first )
I run it 280-300* for everything. I but the bags of chunks at Walmart - I run Hickory mostly but it gives stronger taste - fruit woods are usually milder taste.

Run exhaust ( min 2" goatskin) full open for no bitter taste.
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Unread 01-27-2014, 02:57 PM   #3
grillinguy247
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The question that would help people help you is
1. How far from the bottom are your air intakes?
2. Is your charcoal basket raised up from the bottom?
3. If it is then how high?
4. What is your exhaust setup?

If you could answer these questions and/or add pictures it would help us identify the problem.
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Unread 01-28-2014, 11:37 AM   #4
packerfannate
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Thanks for the quick replies. I will try alternate wood.

Here are the answers to the questions posted above.

1. How far from the bottom are your air intakes? - About 2 inches
2. Is your charcoal basket raised up from the bottom? - about 2 inches
3. If it is then how high? - about 2 inches
4. What is your exhaust setup? - Instead of a 2 inch hole I cut 3 X 1 inch holes and added the same pipe fittings as the intake. I keep 1 capped most of the time and then can adjust the other two as needed.
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Unread 01-28-2014, 11:38 AM   #5
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another newbie question. What is KBB?
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Unread 01-28-2014, 11:39 AM   #6
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Kingsford Blue Bag
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Unread 01-28-2014, 12:01 PM   #7
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Kelly Blue Book?

I always read KBB as Kingsford Blue Briquettes. To-may-to, to-mah-to.

What was the source of your cherry wood? If it wasn't seasoned for an appropriate length of time it will create more creosote for a longer time in your cooks. Most commercially purchased woods are pre-seasoned and the chunks are ready to use right out of the bag. But if your wood wasn't seasoned it may explain the bitter flavor, or if that oak piece left over collected moisture since the previous cook with it.
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Unread 01-28-2014, 12:04 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by packerfannate View Post
.....
Questions:

What can I do to get my temperatures up?

What was the outside temperatures when you were cooking at 225+? Colder outside temps wreak havoc on smokers.

Was it the briquettes that gave the meat a bitter flavor?

Depends on who made them. Were they Kingsford? Gas Station brand? Were they...gasp...matchlights? Did you wait 30-60 minutes for the temperature to stabilize before putting the meat on?

That leftover piece of wood might have been the culprit. I normally take my leftover wood chunks and use them for the fireplace.

Do briquettes burn hotter than lump charcoal?

In most cases, no. It's the other way around.

What do you recommend for fuel wood?

Unless you have a stick burner (or a fat wallet), the wood is for flavoring/smoke. Stay away from pine, cedar, and other conifer woods. Other than that, experiment.

Any advice you could provide would be greatly appreciated.
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Unread 01-28-2014, 12:13 PM   #9
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Being the troubleshooter that I am, I have to ask what changed? It used to work fine, but now it's not. Something has changed. Maybe the thermo is shot, could be any number of things.
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Unread 01-28-2014, 12:25 PM   #10
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You need a bigger exhaust IMHO
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Unread 01-28-2014, 02:52 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SmittyJonz View Post

Run exhaust ( min 2" goatskin) full open for no bitter taste.


What is goatskin?
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Unread 01-28-2014, 02:56 PM   #12
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Quote:
What can I do to get my temperatures up?

What was the outside temperatures when you were cooking at 225+? Colder outside temps wreak havoc on smokers.

Was it the briquettes that gave the meat a bitter flavor?

Depends on who made them. Were they Kingsford? Gas Station brand? Were they...gasp...matchlights? Did you wait 30-60 minutes for the temperature to stabilize before putting the meat on?

That leftover piece of wood might have been the culprit. I normally take my leftover wood chunks and use them for the fireplace.

Do briquettes burn hotter than lump charcoal?

In most cases, no. It's the other way around.

What do you recommend for fuel wood?

Unless you have a stick burner (or a fat wallet), the wood is for flavoring/smoke. Stay away from pine, cedar, and other conifer woods. Other than that, experiment.
Temp when it worked at 225 was quite a bit warmer - end of summer - 80s - 90s

The briquettes I used were Kingsford - I did not wait 30 - 60 minutes before putting the meat on. More like 15 - 20. And the rack was packed with chicken drumsticks and thighs.

If you only use the wood for flavor, what do you use for heat?
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Unread 01-28-2014, 03:13 PM   #13
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Your exhaust should be wide open. You control your temp. with the ball valve.
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Unread 01-28-2014, 03:14 PM   #14
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On every charcoal smoker I've ever used, I have at least as much exhaust as intake air and control the heat with the intake. If you're putting food on before you have a clean fire, or if the smoke is trapped because there's not enough exhaust, that could explain bitterness.

Can you post a pic of your UDS?
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Unread 01-28-2014, 03:21 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by packerfannate View Post
Temp when it worked at 225 was quite a bit warmer - end of summer - 80s - 90s

The briquettes I used were Kingsford - I did not wait 30 - 60 minutes before putting the meat on. More like 15 - 20. And the rack was packed with chicken drumsticks and thighs.

If you only use the wood for flavor, what do you use for heat?
Charcoal, primarily. The wood will provide some heat (in order for the wood to produce smoke, it has to burn somewhat), and provide more heat than you want if there is too much air in the UDS.

N8Man has a link on how to load the fire basket. Mine is roughly 2/3 to 3/4 charcoal, with the rest in wood chunks.

Everyone also forgot to ask you if any of the charcoal/wood was wet or damp, or christened with "foreign" substances.
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