Using a UDS
Download the UDS User Guide by clicking on the following link:
Please read the following warnings!
The UDS is a smoker, not a grill. Never exceed 300*F. Doing so may scorch the paint.
VERY IMPORTANT!!! WHEN OPENING THE LID, DO WHAT YOU NEED TO DO AND CLOSE IT AGAIN AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!!! Opening the lid provides unlimited oxygen to the coals. Leaving the lid off will result in the coals getting hot enough to ignite the grease seasoning buildup on the walls and heat deflector of the smoker, resulting in an inferno that will RUIN YOUR SMOKER!!! It is best to close the vents about 5 minutes before opening the lid to starve the coals of oxygen, giving you a longer working time before the coals get hot.
If your smoker has side shelves, do not use them to lift the smoker. They are capable of holding a plate, thermometer, or spatula, but will not support the weight of the smoker full of charcoal.
Be very, very careful not to hit and bend the thermometer stem when lowering the fire basket or bottom grate into the smoker. If damaged, the thermometer will not read accurately, and you could overheat the smoker and burn your ribs or, worse yet, destroy the paint.
After using the Ultimate Drum Smoker, do not overeat. Overeating carries with it a plethora of health risks including but not limited to elevated blood pressure, breathlessness, increased heart rate, etc… Seriously.
What you will need:
• Smoke wood
• A chimney lighter, or fire starter cubes
• An instant-read meat thermometer
1. Lighting your UDS
a) Until you are familiar with your UDS and how it works, allow 2 hours or more for lighting the smoker and getting the temperature stabilized before you place meat in the smoker. Once you understand how the UDS works you will be able to get up and running much faster.
b) Remove the lid, grates, and charcoal basket from the smoker.
c) Fill the charcoal basket almost to the top with charcoal. Any type of plain charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal will work. Do not use Match-Light or other self-lighting briquettes! These are impregnated with lighter fluid and will impart a petroleum flavor to your food as they burn. The basket is large enough to hold a full 17.6 lb bag of lump, or approximately 12-15 lbs of briquettes. Kingsford briquettes in the blue bag are a good charcoal to learn with.
Chimney lighter method
d) The best way to light charcoal is with a Weber chimney lighter or similar. Follow the instructions for your chimney and light 1/3 to ½ of a chimney full of charcoal. Again, lighter fluid is not recommended. If you use lighter fluid, make sure the coals are well lit so that the fluid is burned off before placing in the charcoal basket.
e) Once coals are lit and are covered with white ash, or glowing red, make a small well, or hole, in the center of the unlit charcoal in the basket and pour the lit coals into a neat pile in the well, directly in the center of the basket.
Fire starter method
f) Alternately, you can use a fire starter cube or square. Tuck the fire starter into the top of the charcoal in the center of the basket. Light it and after a short while the coals around it will begin to light. Wait until the coals are well lit in a 3” or 4” diameter area in the middle to place the basket in the UDS.
g) After adding lit coals to the charcoal basket, sprinkle a few chunks of smoke wood evenly spaced on top of the charcoal basket. Place one chunk directly on or very near the lit coals, then as you go around place each chunk slightly closer to the outside of the basket than the last, so that as the fire creeps from the center outward, it can light the chunks one at a time without burning them all at once. Another method is to place the chunks at various levels in the charcoal. This is preferable if you are using the chimney lighter method, as the coals generally burn from the top down so by placing wood deeper in the basket you will get more consistent smoke throughout the cook. You will learn as you go how much smoke you prefer. Start with less and use more next time if you would like a stronger smoke profile.
h) Once smoke wood is added, place the heat deflector on top of the basket. It should snap into the brackets. Carefully lower it into the bottom of the drum, keeping an even air space all the way around the basket.
Note: The heat deflector is completely optional. Some people never use it, others use it every time. Experiment and decide for yourself which you like better. For example, use it on long, slow cooks like brisket or pork butt, but go without when doing skin on chicken quarters or appetizers.
i) Open the vents all the way, and remove the threaded cap on the back of the smoker. This provides maximum airflow while the smoker is lighting and is coming up to temperature. Place the lid on the UDS and wait for the temperature to climb to the desired smoking temperature.
2. Controlling temperature
Fire needs oxygen to burn. The more oxygen, the hotter the fire. Without oxygen (air) the fire will go out. The temperature of your smoker is controlled by the vents on the side or bottom. You will have either two ball valves or a sliding stainless steel vent door depending on the design of your smoker. Opening the vents further allows more air to the fire, raising the temperature, and conversely, closing the vents starves the fire of oxygen and the temperature will drop.
Once the charcoal is lit and the smoker is approximately 50* below the target temperature, replace threaded cap on the rear of the UDS. When the temperature reaches 25* below the target, close one of the vents approximately 1/3 to 1/2 of the way. If you only have one riser, partially closing the bottom vent is preferable. Then as the temperature of the smoker approaches the target temp begin to “throttle” the temp with the remaining vent on the riser. With a little practice it is easy to dial the smoker in on an exact temperature with very few adjustments.
Once the charcoal is lit and the smoker is approximately 50* below the target temperature, replace threaded cap on the rear of the UDS. When the temperature reaches 25* below the target, close the vent halfway. Then as the temperature of the smoker approaches the target temp begin to “throttle” the temp by opening or closing the vent as necessary. With a little practice it is easy to dial the smoker in on an exact temperature with very few adjustments.
a) Continue to monitor the temperature of the smoker and make adjustments as necessary. When you first start controlling the temperature of the smoker, the lit charcoal will put off a whitish, acrid smoke due to being starved of oxygen. Do not add food at this point! One of the keywords of BBQ is “thin blue smoke”. Be patient and wait for the whitish smoke to go away and the smoke to turn “thin blue”. This can take a half hour or longer so pre-planning and patience is needed. Sometimes thin blue smoke can be almost impossible to see without a dark backdrop of some kind. Smoking your food with long durations of thin blue smoke will result in much better tasting food than if you allow the meat to come in contact with the acrid, white, strong-smelling smoke seen at startup.
b) Once the white smoke has started to dissipate, open the lid and place the grates inside the smoker and place your food on the grates. Close the lid. Do this as quickly as possible to retain heat.
c) Once the meat has been placed in the smoker and the lid is on, keep an eye on temperatures. Remember, by opening the lid you allowed more oxygen to the fire, so most likely the temperature will spike above your desired temperature for a short time. Avoid the temptation to make drastic changes to the valve settings. It should stabilize and come back down to near where it was set before. However, the cold meat will have some effect on the temperature of the smoker, so small adjustments may need to be made over the next half hour or so. The more meat you place in the smoker the hotter the fire you will need. For that reason you may at times actually find that you need to remove the threaded cap to maintain temperature. Note: The threaded cap air inlet and the lower ball valve will allow much more air to the fire than the ball valve on the riser, even though the openings are all the same size. This is due to the “chimney effect” of the riser. The purpose of the riser is simply to allow minor adjustments at waist level without stooping over.
3. Inserting meat probes
There are two holes in the left side of the smoker to facilitate the use of remote meat probes to monitor the meat and/or smoker temperature. The holes are covered by a round magnet. Simply move a magnet, insert probe, and then place the magnet over the remaining hole to block airflow as much as possible. Usually two probe wires can be run through one hole.
4. Using the hanging rack
The optional hanging rack provides options for smoking a variety of different foods. By hanging large or odd-shaped items such as ribs or half chickens, the capacity of the smoker is greatly increased. Some folks claim that by hanging, the meat is stretched during cooking as opposed to shrinking up like it does on the grate, resulting in more tender, succulent barbecue. Whatever the reason, there is something magical about meat suspended above a smoking fire.
To use the hanging rack, remove both grates and place the rack on the top row of support bolts. Place the meat you are cooking on the stainless steel hooks, and hang them from the cross bars. If hanging ribs, place the hook between the second and third bone of the large end of the rack of ribs. The rack includes eight hooks. More hooks are available if needed.
5. Seasoning your smoker
It is a good idea to “season” your new smoker to burn off any oils or other materials leftover from building the smoker, and to give the inside a pleasant, smoky aroma. This will help prevent off flavors during your first cook.
a) Rub the entire interior of the UDS and the cooking grates with vegetable oil, or spray with a cooking spray such as PAM.
b) Light the smoker and add smoke wood as described above.
c) Once the temperature has stabilized, add a few strips of bacon to the grates. If you do half a dozen or so you can enjoy a piece or two after an hour and a half.
d) Run the smoker at around 250*-275* while seasoning. Plan on running the smoker all afternoon. This will give the smoker a nice baked-on coating of cooking oil / smoke and the extended time will allow you to learn a little about how to control the temperature of the unit before you risk a meal on it.
Note: The vent settings you set to maintain temps in an empty smoker will be quite different from the vent settings needed once it is loaded with cold meat.
6. Shutting down the smoker
To shut down the smoker, simply close all the ball valves and wrap the chimney with aluminum foil to prevent airflow. The fire will eventually starve from lack of oxygen and go out. When you are ready to light the smoker again, simply bump the basket on the ground to shake out the ash, add fresh charcoal to the top, and light the smoker using the methods described above.