Proper smoking proceedure when heating/firing with wood (no charcoal)? Using an UDS.

Discussion in 'Wood Smokers' started by 777funk, Apr 15, 2016.

  1. 777funk

    777funk Fire Starter

    I just smoked (or should I say ruined) a couple racks of spare ribs in my UDS and I know what ruined them, but I'm not sure the best way to fix it. Maybe easier (rather than troubleshoot my wrong way) is to see how more experienced smokers do this. My wife said the ribs were good (nice of her), but I know how they cooked and don't care for any amount of wood gas flavor. Rather than quit the hobby after a few tries, I might as well learn to do it right since everyone in our family likes smoked food.

    Here were my problems:

    1. Too hot at the beginning of the smoke (375F) because I had a lot of fuel on planning for a long burn. After 20-30 minutes of being closed down the temps came down to 275ish.

    2. Since I knew I needed a lot of fuel I got the logs (4" diameter or 6" splits) going well; then smothered it down for 10 minutes once I had a roaring fire. This brought the temp down but it came back up when I opened the lid to put the meat on.

    3. This created a lot of wood gas which made for a bitter and thick white smoke at the beginning of the cooking.

    Here's what I wish I had:

    1. 250F bed of glowing coals that would burn steady for 2-3 hours without adding; simply by controlling the fire.

    2. The ability to add more fuel as needed to maintain for longer than 2-3 hours but without the wood gas.

    I am not too sure how to achieve this.

    I'd like to use wood since I have plenty of it and don't like shelling out $15 in charcoal each time I smoke. Also it makes sense to me to use Hickory or another good smoking wood as a fuel source since that's where the flavor is coming from in the first place.
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2016
  2. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Build a fire in a pit adjoining the UDS....   burn the wood down to hot coals... add the coals to the UDS....  That should give you about 30 minutes of heat....   repeat.... repeat.....    or make your own charcoal.... check out u-tube for that..   or do what the rest of the world does, burn charcoal...  kingsford blue....   use the minion method.....      Plain old ordinary firewood is not good for an UDS....   Too hot....  too much creosote...   too many gasses that have not been burned off......
  3. What Dave said.

    Just try it with the Minion method before you give up on the UDS. I've had a 30 gal one for about a year and just finished second cook on a new 50. I've run the 30gal. smoker, 20 hours on one load of fuel and had some left over. You won't use $15 worth of coal every time. Yesterday I did a 5 hour cook (ribs) and I bet the 50 didn't use more than 3 pounds and a couple of chunks of wood. My wife, neighbor and dog, along with me, all loved the result.

    Here is what was left in the basket for the next time when it was shut down. The basket wasn't full to begin and you can see it only burned a few inches next to the divider. This was the first experiment with the divided basket and I liked how it seemed to work out.

  4. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I like the divided basket....  Looks like a great idea.... 
  5. Thanks Dave,  

    But I don't believe it is my idea, must have seen it somewhere, just don't remember where or I would give credit. My thinking is a smaller burning front would be easier to control and less sensitive to an occasional open pit. On the previous cook when removing the lid at the end, in the dark, I could see the whole face of the open 18" basket start to come up at once. Time will tell if this is better, worked great yesterday. I'll watch it on a longer cook, I think it will also offer better timing and control of how fast the fire can get to the chunks.

    777 let us know how it goes for you.
  6. 777funk

    777funk Fire Starter

    Thanks! I won't give up yet!

    I guess what got me set on using wood was that I've been cooking in the wood stove. Grilling meat or putting a pan pizza on the hot coals can't be beat!

    Smoking with wood is MUCH harder. I'll bet there's a way. My son said maybe start a fire and get it going really good and hot then throw a bunch more wood on there and put the lid on it. I wonder if maybe baseball sized chunks would turn into charcoal this way.

    Really kind of trying to re-invent the wheel... but it'd be great if it worked. I will most likely always have plenty of dry hardwood (oak and hickory) on hand.
  7. rogerwilco

    rogerwilco Meat Mopper

    777funk, if you build a really big fire, the result will be a really hot cooking chamber...something you don't care for. If you build a really big fire and then add a whole bunch of wood to will just get that much bigger and hotter. If, intending to keep all that extra wood from extra-nuking the cook chamber environment, you then greatly restrict the incoming air flow, you will be the proud owner of stinky, sooty, smouldering gases and white billowing smoke which will bath you food in rather unpleasant flavorings.
    In some cookers, such as the ceramic Big Green Eggs, they can be filled with a tremendous amount of lump charcoal and then oxygen-starved until only enough can burn at any one time to produce the desired (low and slow) temperature in the cooker. Charcoal is capable of doing this without much off-gassing; wood is not.
    For wood fires, a hot fire (with vents fully open) will be a clean-burning fire. A small, hot fire will be a low-temp-in-the-cook-chamber and clean-burning fire. A small, hot fire will require frequent additions of more wood as a fuel source. If too much is added, the temperature will rise. The trick is too discover how much fire is required to maintain "X" amount of temperature in the cook chamber and to achieve this by having a fully engaged fire. There really isn't much way of getting around the adding-frequent-fuel(wood) requirement, but this is where lawn chairs, buddies, and beer comes in to play....all requirements for successful BBQing on a stick-burner.
    Good luck in your smoking endeavors!
  8. 777funk

    777funk Fire Starter

    Figured it out today. I bought a bag of Kingsford but couldn't bring myself to use it (I'm tight and I also like a challenge). Anyways, no charcoal this time and I was able to hold 225-250F in the smoker for 6 hours easily and without any smoke other than the baseball sized chunks of hickory I added to the thick bed of coals.

    The trick...

    A THICK (and I mean thick) bed of coals.

    My method to get the thick bed of coals.

    1. Plan on having 3-4 hours of fire before cooking anything

    2. After lighting, as soon as it's going good enough to add firewood, add about 6 to 8 quantity 8" x 18" logs split into about 8 pieces each (nothing bigger than wrist size diameter) and add in a 1/2 Teepee fashion (against the UDS wall) until full then stack on top of that.

    3. Let it burn with the lid half on and all vents open until the flames die down and smoke cloud dissipates (about 3-4 hours as mentioned).

    You now have a nice 8" thick bed of coals. Put the lid on and shut the air mostly off on each of the 4 - 15/16" vent holes at the bottom of the smoker. Let it get to 250F ish (or desired temp), add meat, and cook away. This gave me abundant burn time with coals and little smoke other than the chunks I added.

    Very easy! The main thing is lots of wood split into enough pieces (not 8" rounds or splits of the same like you'd put into a wood stove).

    EDIT: I should add that my UDS is just a barrel with 4 - 15/16" holes on the bottom and a Weber grill grate 10" from the top. The coals sit on the bottom of the drum (no grate used). I tried a few bricks and a grate and found that it just made life more difficult and the fire wasn't as steady as without it.
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2016
  9. fwismoker

    fwismoker Master of the Pit

    Here's a cooker I invented that you would LOVE, I call it the 007.   No matter direct or indirect it turns out some mighty fine food.  It runs on straight wood splits, more info is in the link below.    Hope it helps.  OBTW Cfarmer has one as well.

    I cook low and slow to to hot and fast or anywhere in between and everything form Pizza or pies to ribs to burgers...Absolutely nothing I can't cook on the 007, hence the name. lol   Definitely a special kind of cooker.  The cleanest of smoke guaranteed.

    Last edited: Jul 13, 2016
  10. c farmer

    c farmer Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    It can be done a lot easier and I use it a lot. Up and running in 10 minutes.

       Like FWIsmoker posted.   I have one like it. Cooking on the grate with all wood.   Doesn't matter the temp.  250 - 500 and higher.  

    To burn all wood you need to have the lid off of the uds ,  with this set up there is a big gap between the barrel and the lid.

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