1. Sunlight is its friend. I have learned the cooking temperature will change significantly between being in the shadows and in sunlight. I cook in my backyard, generally on the east side of my house. As the sun transitions to the west the shadow from the house will cover the smoker and in a short while the temperature drops about 15 degrees. The same is true in the morning as the sun rises and sunlight hits it in the morning when I started it early: the temperature will climb.
|Here comes the shadow.|
2. It can hold a temperature pretty darn well. I'm still not terribly comfortable with "set it and forget it." But unlike the stick burner I was using where I would check it several times an hour, I'm not afraid to get it going early in the morning, then go back to sleep for a couple of hours because I'm confident the temperature will be at or near where I set it. With that said, I do need to keep sunlight and shadows in mind. The most impressive temperature success story was a pork shoulder I cooked when it rained hard for about an hour in cool temperatures (maybe 55 degrees), and the UDS kept trucking once I opened the intake valves a little bit extra.
3. Getting it fired up. Using the "minion method" for starting the charcoal, and using about 20-25 briquettes for the starting batch, I can get the temperature up and stabilized in about 30-45 minutes from adding the starting batch of charcoal to the rest of the pile.
4. Max cooking time. The longest it has gone on one load of fuel was when I cooked a 10 lb brisket using a 20 lb bag of Kingsford Charcoal and about 2-3 lbs of oak wood. It went for 15 hours before it no longer had enough fuel to keep it going above 200 degrees. When I inspected it later, I found maybe 1 lb of fuel remaining, but the ash catcher pan was nearly full. Even if it had more charcoal, it was struggling to get air with the ash piling up as it had. To combat this, for my next long cook I will install long bolts attached to the charcoal grate as legs that will raise the grate up a little higher off the ash pan and will hopefully encourage more airflow.
Here are some photos from a few cooks thus far...
|2nd cook. Spilled grease on it. It's fully "ugly" now.|
|Nighttime ops. Running steady a 3:00 AM.|
|First pork shoulder. Excellent.|
|First thing I cooked was a pork shoulder since it's so forgiving.|
|Ribs were great.|
|St Louis cut. Ribs aren't my favorite, but these were great. Nice short cook compared to the shoulders & briskets.|
|I threw these raw deer sausages on with about an hour to go for the ribs.|
|This is my 2nd brisket. Very proud of this one.|
|I cut a little too thick on the flat side of the brisket, but it was tender and had a nice fat cap.|
|I've used hickory chunks for the pork shoulder and ribs.|
|I used oak chunks with my brisket. Here is my first use of the minion method for starting the charcoal. It gets hotter much faster this way.|