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Old 11-30-2012, 02:35 PM   #1
Found some matches.
Join Date: 11-28-12
Location: Cheyenne, WY
Default UDS Temp Issues

Hi All
Long time lurker, first time poster. A few weeks ago, I was able to get an empty (unlined!) drum from a co worker and start my UDS build. Was able to complete within a day or so, and got to smoking the next day.
When I fired up the charcoal (I have a home-made chimney) and put it in the pan, I was having trouble getting the heat up to where I was aiming for 2 chickens. I created a windbreak and got the temp to settle in around 210 degrees, and went about my work. I let it chug along until the chickens reached 185 internal (just to be sure) and then sealed off the ports and let it choke out.

Given my successful run, I decided to try to smoke the thanksgiving turkey as well. The night before, I soaked some cherry wood chips, and started my chimney like I had previous times. All the coals were glowing orange when I put them in the center of my fire pit, and I went off to get the turkey prepped. When I got back, the drum had heated up to about 100. Getting worried, I set up a wind break, and let it ride for another 30 minutes, all 3 air vents open on the bottom. After this, the temp had gone up to about 125-150, and wasnt moving. I lit another chimney full of coals, stalled the rest of the family on the stuffing, etc and put more hot coals in a while later. Long story short, got it up to about 200 before I put the turkey in. I went to go get some whole chickens while the turkey was getting started (might as well, right?). When I got back from the store with the chickens, I was broken hearted to see that my smoker temp had plunged to ~90 degrees! I took the lid off pulled the fire pit, took it into the wind and it oranged up really quickly so I dropped it back in.

I figured that this would help, but after I let it ride on that for another 30 mins or so, I had to raise the white flag, and go to plan b and put the turkey in the oven. The chickens were still in the pit smoking away, and the temp didnt seem to change at all. After a while, I went out and cracked the lid (had been operating with my ~2" hole fully open) and within 15 min, the temp shot up to 325.

I obviously have an airflow issue of some kind, I'm just not sure where. My dad suggested that I put an exhaust pipe on the lid (right now it's just flat and covered with a piece of metal that slides), though I'm not sure that will work.

For reference, I've got 3 3/4" holes drilled about 2" off the bottom of the barrel for air intakes.

I thought that I was smart enough to do this on my own, but I'm not so I'd love some help!
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Old 11-30-2012, 03:11 PM   #2
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Join Date: 11-29-12
Location: East Northport, NY

I'm a newbie at this but I think that expanding your intake holes to 1" would increase the amount of oxygen that your coals are receiving. You can always choke them down if your fire runs too hot. Some other variables to consider are 1. the height of your coals off the bottom of the drum; I would think that 3" - 4" would allow your intakes to scoot O2 both under and to the sides of your basket; 2. the quality of your charcoal; 3. your method for building your fire.


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Old 11-30-2012, 03:15 PM   #3
Found some matches.
Join Date: 11-28-12
Location: Cheyenne, WY

Hey Steve, thanks for the reply.

I'm using kingsford bricks for charcoal at the moment. There's about 2-2.5" (cant remember exactly) under my fire pit, and my starting method was the minion method for both burns.
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Old 11-30-2012, 03:22 PM   #4
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Join Date: 04-25-11
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There are two constants to look at here. Airflow and fuel. If your temp is not high enough, one or both of those constants is in short supply. Your air intake and exhaust numbers seem to be in line with a good setup. Can you post a photo of your charcoal basket? You might simply not have enough charcoal going to get the temp you need.
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Old 11-30-2012, 03:25 PM   #5
Found some matches.
Join Date: 11-28-12
Location: Cheyenne, WY

For this cook, I used a full bag of kingsford charcoal. I can get a picture of the basket when I get home, but as of right now it's partially filled with used charcoal.
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Old 11-30-2012, 04:09 PM   #6
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It is one of two things 1) Your Charcoal has drawn damp and wont hold a fire or 2) Your basket is to close to the bottom of the drum not allowing enough air. it need to be at least 3" off the bottom.
So cooking chicken at 210 how did you like the rubbery skin? My UDS don't run below 250 & more in the 275-350 range. Poultry being in the upper end of that 325-350. Food for thought.
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Old 11-30-2012, 06:17 PM   #7
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I'd be curious to know what your smoke flow looked like out of the top? A fire running that cool would be puking heavy white smoke. Raise your basket up a couple inches, and add a stack to create a better draft, and use fresh charcoal. I've tried using my leftovers from a previous smoke, and I noticed it doesn't burn as well!
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Old 11-30-2012, 10:01 PM   #8
Found some matches.
Join Date: 11-28-12
Location: Cheyenne, WY

Thanks guys. I'm going to do another smoke tomorrow so I'll try to raise the fire basket a bit. I've basically got a webber grate with expanded metal wrapped around it, and some ss bolts holding the metal together and holding the grate off the ground. Should be an easy fix.
As for the stack, i'm not exactly sure how to do that. I didnt have a hole saw, so I used an expanded drill bit for my holes at the bottom, and use a recip saw for the one on top (no bung). The hole got kind of sideways and isnt exactly a circle, so any ideas there? Perhaps just seal this hole completely and make a new one?

blu - the chicken skin wasnt rubbery at all, it was fairly firm. Attached some pr0n
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Old 11-30-2012, 11:02 PM   #9
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Join Date: 03-05-10
Location: Portland, MO

In my uds, I prefer to use lump charcoal as it lights faster and burns hotter. This allows me to close down 2 of my 3 one inch intakes, and leave the 2 inch stack wide open. My uds usually cruises at about 250 with the ball valve open about 3/4 open.
SNPP w/ mods, Patio Master(30 years old), Kettle Grill, Copper Penny UDS, and Maverick 73 thermo.

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Old 12-01-2012, 08:39 AM   #10
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I'd suggest some practice runs :-).

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Old 12-01-2012, 08:59 AM   #11
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If you are set on using charcoal left over from a previous cook and adding new to fill the basket. Put the new charcoal on the bottom, old charcoal on the top with the exception of the ones you are lighting in the chimney.
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Old 12-01-2012, 06:40 PM   #12
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Approximately how big is your exhaust?
Is a pict possible?
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Old 12-01-2012, 06:57 PM   #13
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Join Date: 09-10-12
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What are you using as a temp gauge? Those analog ones are usually WAY off.

When you start your UDS, do you open all of your intakes? If not, you should. Then AS SOON AS YOU REACH YOUR DESIRED TEMP, cap off all but one of your intakes. For me in our current ambient weather pattern, that puts my UDS right around 220. If I want to run higher, I open up another intake and gate down the ball valve.

You will find that the more you cook with your UDS the more stable the temps will be.
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Old 12-01-2012, 07:03 PM   #14
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I would check your gauge first before changing anything

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Old 12-01-2012, 09:19 PM   #15
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Post pics of your charcoal basket.
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