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View Full Version : Moving beyond an UDS?


unreal41683
07-18-2019, 11:23 AM
So, I built an UDS smoker maybe 12 or 13 years ago. I've gotten a lot of use out of it on and off over the years, and I've been smoking a lot more this year than in a few of the more recent years. My UDS has been pretty good overall, I'm sure everyone has some frustrations with their smokers from time to time, but I've been making some fan favorite BBQ on it for as long as it's been around.

Recently I've found that I'm having some more significant issues with getting the charcoal to extinguish properly when I'm done and/or controlling temperature properly. I bought some food grade silicone as I thought that I might have some air leaks in or around the vents. I haven't applied that (or the gasket tape that I also bought) but I'm starting to wonder if maybe the barrel is starting to rust out and that could be what is actually leading to air leakage. I also bought a large sheet of reflectix (https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B000BPAULS/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o09_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1) which I've been setting up around my smoker to try and make a bit of a wind break when I'm smoking.

On the brisket that I made over the weekend, I think there were several issues that I experienced that all came together. It was my 3rd brisket ever (I was pretty intimidated to take brisket on in general), and I struggled to get the temperature up at first. I opened up a second air vent (I normally run with just one ball valve open 1/2 to 3/4 of the way). It kept staying around 200 for a very long time. I may have put my air temp sensor too close to the brisket, and I definitely didn't pay enough attention to it as it started up, so at about 4 hours in I found my temperatures at around 325 and climbing. Knowing that the smoker was at this point fairly out of control and that I've had a lot of trouble getting the coals to extinguish, I pulled the brisket off the smoker (it was around 170 at the time), wrapped it in butcher paper, and threw it in the oven at 225 (for the next 10 hours). The smoker was still going even with all the vents shut 10 hours later. Hey, it got 4 hours of smoke and I didn't want it burning up.

I had a similar experience earlier this year where I shut down the smoker on Saturday and decided to do something else on it on Sunday and I opened the barrel up as I lit the chimney of new coals. When I came back to the chimney, the barrel had started the coals back on fire in the bottom on its own.

All of this points me in the direction of trying to determine what I want to do moving forward. I am interested in continuing to bbq, so that seems to point me in the direction of replacing my UDS. I could just buy a new barrel and build a new (and likely improved) UDS, but there are lots of other options as well. I could buy a WSM, which seems like a similar build but more professionally made. I could buy a stick burner mass produced like an Old Country BBQ smoker. I could get something custom from a local fabricator (I definitely don't want a trailer based build, but something porch focused with wheels would be good), so like this (http://www.custompits.com/the-porch-model3). I've been watching Craigslist to see if there's something that I could pick up used for a decent deal to try my hand at a different smoker. I could buy something like a pellet smoker. I'm sure there's other options.

I don't want a straight electric or propane smoker. I have a Thermoworks Smoke (which is so much better than my experiences with much cheaper Mavericks).

Cost isn't my primary concern, but I do want to get something that would be good value for the money. I probably wouldn't want to go much over the $1250 range. It absolutely has to fit at least 1 full size packer brisket from Costco, 2 pork butts, or a whole turkey.

Currently, I like that when my UDS runs properly, once I get it dialed in pretty well I can set it and it just runs. I'm not sure if I want the more high maintenance associated with maintaining an actual fire. It's always easy to smoke for just yourself since who cares when it finishes, but smoking for a party or something means more sleepless nights. Also, it would mean stocking wood, as well (as a new 1st time homeowner, I worry a bit about termites).

Given all that long story, what would you guys recommend I look at? Do you have any advice in general?

SmokinJohn
07-18-2019, 11:57 AM
I would build another UDS, and see if you have enough left for a pellet pooper.

thirdeye
07-18-2019, 01:03 PM
If you have enough leakage you can't put out your charcoal there is a leak somewhere. The bottom is a good place to check for rust erosion. Lay it on its side and look inside for light leaks or do a good visual inspection from the outside.

unreal41683
07-18-2019, 02:03 PM
Here's an example of something I might look at on Craigslist:

20" Horizon Classic (https://atlanta.craigslist.org/atl/app/d/atlanta-20-horizon-classic-smoker/6935584318.html)

4ever3
07-18-2019, 02:25 PM
Obviously you’ve been happy with the meat that comes outta the drum for several years so build ya new one!

bschoen
07-18-2019, 03:12 PM
To check for leaks, as Thirdeye recommends, at night in a dark spot put a flashlight/ lantern on the ground and put your drum, upside down over it, check for light.


If I was in your position and liked the drum style, I'd spend the $400 and try one of those OK Joe barrels from wallyworld. If you want to spend twice that, Hunsacker (sp?) or Gateway build some high end units. If you want to whore around with cookers, craigslist.

HDOFDC
07-18-2019, 04:17 PM
I've had my UDS for about 8 years. I keep it under the carport so as of now I have not had any rust issues and I keep the ash cleaned out of the inside. My UDS never ran like some folks where it was locked in and held temperature. I didn't trust it to do overnight cooks as the temp had to be fiddled with either up or down every hour. I bought a Heatermeter and a Rotodamper to control the temperature and now my drum is as solid as my home oven. The Heatermeter has 3 temperature probes for food and the Pitdroid software on my phone allows me to set high and low temp alarms for pit and food. You can view the web page the Heatermeter generates from any device that has internet access.

unreal41683
07-18-2019, 04:34 PM
Yeah, I never took care of my UDS real well. It hasn't had a cover ever and sits in exposed locations at every place I've lived. I've also never cleaned the ash out of the bottom of the can directly. When I built the firebox, I put a metal plate under the expanded metal and a ring welded around the edge about an inch high. When I load in new charcoal, I normally try and knock out the existing ash from the plate and ring. I don't get much ash at the bottom of the can (not saying there's none), but I haven't actually removed any since I tried one time with my vacuum (not a shop vac) and that vacuum smelled like smoke and ash for the next several months whenever it ran.

I wouldn't be surprised to find out I need to replace the can itself. Just trying to get advice about whether I should stick to an UDS or go exploring other paths. I'm not saying I didn't get my money's worth out of the old smoker, it just may well be time to replace it.

If I rebuild an UDS, at least I know what details to pay the most attention to now. The can that I have is narrower at the top, which has always made it a little tricky to get the grate in and out of. I've thought for a long time about putting in a second shelf for either more capacity or to hold a terra cotta heatsink (I've bought the extra grate and terra cotta base, but never actually installed them). When I reinstall the pipe nipples I'll put ball valves on all three (probably from Harbor Freight this time). I will make sure that the fittings are sealed around with high temp food grade silicone. I'll make sure that the nipples leave the ball valves with their handles pointing up.

pharp
07-18-2019, 05:56 PM
https://www.humphreysbbq.com/products/the-long-weekender

arclite
07-18-2019, 06:14 PM
Based off your experience (and expectations) I'd stick with a charcoal based cooker. Kettle, WSM, Performer, Ceramic or another UDS.

WilliamKY
07-18-2019, 06:28 PM
Big Poppa stainless UDS. $1050.

JWFokker
07-18-2019, 08:00 PM
If you can stretch your budget, there is the Karubecue C60. All the flavor of an offset, none of the skill required. Pretty much what every pellet cooker wishes it could be.

Nuco59
07-18-2019, 08:59 PM
Build another UDS and you are good for another 11-13 years. Sound like one of the best bang for your bucks deal you'll ever run across.

You could spend more and get a bigger, nicer cooker- but would it really be better?

That's your call.

Grilling_beers
07-18-2019, 09:42 PM
If you like the idea of set it and forget it, check out a ceramic cooker like a BGE. I really like mine and it makes great bbq. I don’t ever have problems with temp control. In fact it is so easy, I want a stick burner to have more of a challenge.

EmperorMA
07-18-2019, 10:23 PM
How about a Pit Barrel Cooker 18.5 and a WSM 22.5? Well within your budget and the PBC gives you the familiarity of your UDS along with something new to learn and perfect brisket on with the WSM. Both burn the same stuff, too.

LifeLongWNYer
07-18-2019, 10:49 PM
I am never satisfied, plus, I keep reading about/seeing new "things" for a UDS on this forum, so I build a new one every couple of years. Each is better than the predecessor, so I expect I'll never be fully happy with my current UDS. ( Kind of like women, there is always a better one out there )


Anyway, back to the topic, just build a new one. If cost/labor/time is a real consideration, just take your current one apart, and install all the parts on a new drum. Since you know where to drill the holes, it shouldn't take very long.






JBP

unreal41683
07-19-2019, 10:30 AM
My concern on BGE's is that they seem to not really be big enough most of the time. A coworker recently made his second brisket and had to split the flat from the point to be able to fit inside. What size egg do you need to do a whole brisket?

I'm not likely to buy an UDS from a builder, if I go that route, I'll pick up another barrel and build it myself again (it'll be a lot easier without having to do the firebox again). If I do that, I could always pick up one of the fan controller solutions like a BBQ guru.

ebijack
07-19-2019, 10:50 AM
My concern on BGE's is that they seem to not really be big enough most of the time. A coworker recently made his second brisket and had to split the flat from the point to be able to fit inside. What size egg do you need to do a whole brisket?
I'm not likely to buy an UDS from a builder, if I go that route, I'll pick up another barrel and build it myself again (it'll be a lot easier without having to do the firebox again. If I do that, I could always pick up one of the fan controller solutions like a BBQ guru.
A 22 inch grate will fit a 15-17lb brisket. If you either place chunks of wood under the middle, use empty beer can. Or make a hump grate. Which allows heat to the middle section of the brisket during the full cook. Unlike a can/wood.
I've built quite a few UDS's. But my last ones have been stubby UDS's. If your not hanging ribs. Not much of a reason for a full size drum. But it does require more work to build.
But the advantages are, easier to move around.
MUCH easier to get the coal basket in/out. No more stained shirts/coats from the belly rubbing against the edge while reaching down into the drum.
If you do not have any air leaks. You should not ever require a controller to maintain any temp. Once set, they run till out of coals. Mine goes 27hrs easy on one load. Smoked a butt, then a brisket. All on the same load of coal/wood. No adjustments required.
i still have 2 cooking grates and one drip pan grate when required. But I typically use one of my other smokers if I need 2+ cooking grates.

unreal41683
07-19-2019, 11:12 AM
I actually recently installed chains on my firebox that I've put a carabiner on and hold on one of the rack screws so that I can pull the firebox out without reaching down into the smoker (since I was experiencing the same issue with stained shirts).

Now when I need it out I lift the chains up and I lower it back down with the reverse.

lastmajordude
07-19-2019, 12:10 PM
I bought an egg a few years back, never liked capacity or the way it cooked. Then I bought a drum and havenít looked back.

arclite
07-19-2019, 05:22 PM
My concern on BGE's is that they seem to not really be big enough most of the time. A coworker recently made his second brisket and had to split the flat from the point to be able to fit inside. What size egg do you need to do a whole brisket?


Ceramics are usually more than capable to feed a backyard crowd.

On my Primo Junior with no extender grate.

15-17lb. whole packer brisket.
3 racks of ribs (4 is possible) with a rib rack.
2, 10lb. Pork butts (3-4 if creative).
2, Whole, bone-in legs of lamb.
Whole, bone-in beef shank (regardless of cooker I highly recommend. Very delicious!)
3 Lamb shoulders...

and that's just off the top of my head. I haven't done it, but interwebz pics of a Primo Junior cooking 2, 12lb whole turkeys are out there. While my Junior isn't the biggest ceramic, the oval shape adds a lot of capacity options as meat proteins tend to be oblong, not round.

When needing more grilling space I opt for a Kettle, but I assume most UDS owners do the same. A kettle also does double duty as a smoker.

unreal41683
07-19-2019, 06:12 PM
New food grade barrel is $25. May go grab one this weekend.

unreal41683
07-23-2019, 11:27 AM
Grabbed two barrels over the weekend (and found a axe throwing place that gives their scrap wood away free to any takers). Gonna do the burn outs this weekend. Ending up building one for me and getting a coworker into his first smoker.

Ended up on udsparts.com and just submitted an order for around $270, for odds and ends. Only overlap between our two orders was a set of wheels and a grate each.

I got long tube intakes, a side shelf, extra grate, and wheels. He got an exhaust, firebox, grate, bottle opener, lid hook, and wheels.

Planning on putting spaces for 3 racks in mine, one for a deflector and two for meats. Also going to set mine up upside down so that the Weber kettle lid fits properly. I'm going to guess that having the bottom be removable in mine will make construction a bit easier.

Thanks everyone for your advice.

Stingerhook
07-23-2019, 01:22 PM
Sounds like you have a plan.

el luchador
07-23-2019, 03:52 PM
I wanted to only have one cooker, for smoking and grilling. it had to be affordable and easy to run.

so far Ive been extremely happy with this

https://www.walmart.com/ip/Char-Broil-KAMANDER-Charcoal-Kamado-Grill/55283713

very humid cooking environment
set it and forget it cooking
very low maintenance
can get extremely hot for searing and grilling

and at only $274 I dont believe it can be beat as far as value for the money.

Kalbi
07-23-2019, 04:12 PM
A 22 inch grate will fit a 15-17lb brisket. If you either place chunks of wood under the middle, use empty beer can. Or make a hump grate. Which allows heat to the middle section of the brisket during the full cook. Unlike a can/wood.


Great idea about the hump grate. I've just recently made my smoker from a 28 gallon air compressor. Only 15" grates (x2) and only 3 smokes under my belt so looking to learn and to improvise.

SmokerKing
07-23-2019, 04:21 PM
I have a Large BGE, 2) Akorn Jr's, and Red Box smokers.
My 2) BUFORDS are my favorites and go to's for volume and party's.

unreal41683
07-25-2019, 10:50 AM
And now I own a pellet grill too. Found Costco selling a Louisiana Grill LG900 for $499, pulled the trigger and it actually rang up at $399.

http://bbq-brethren.com/forum/showthread.php?t=274145

Still building a new UDS too.

jermoQ
07-25-2019, 11:31 AM
Awesome! I hope you enjoy your pellet grill and your new UDS. Now you will have plenty of room to cook a whole bunch of food.

unreal41683
07-27-2019, 04:35 PM
Got the fires going today.

173614

pal251
07-27-2019, 11:24 PM
Check for air leaks. Maybe put a bright lantern inside of it at night and check for light