Best Overall Temperature To Set MES Electric Smoker Thermostat At

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by daricksta, Jul 22, 2014.

  1. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I own a MES electric digital 30 inch Gen 1 smoker. I took a BBQ class recently and the instructor said to keep smoker temps in the 180 to 225 degrees range (for pork ribs anyway). In the book "Smoke & Spice" they recommend cooking temps typically around 215 degrees. In books I have by Ray Lampe he mostly advises 235 degrees. Steven Raichlen recipes are only for gas or charcoal grills and he advises real  low and slow smoking only occurs between 250-275 degrees. In one of Myron Mixon's books, he says he cooks all his hogs at 275 degrees, but then he's using professional big rig professional smokers.

    I've read in these forums that although the top range of the MES electric digital is 275 degrees it can't always be attained. So I'm just curious as to what MES electric smoker users have found to be the primo temp.
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2014
  2. I have a 30" Gen 1 MES too.  Setpoint 230 for almost everything.  Keeps me cookin 225-235 and I know cook times are fairly consistent for planning purposes at that temp.  If i'm doing chicken I'll bump it up to max setting normally. 
  3. foamheart

    foamheart Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    The question you are asking is much like, Whats your favorite color?

    I use different temps, just to try diffeent things. Smoking is about trying to do even better tomorrow than you did today, I don't care who you are. All the Pros say consistancy untill someone wins using a different proceedure. LOL

    Myself I Have a MES30, and now a MES40 and I prefer to use 220. The reason for adapting a single temp is learming how to adjust time to meats then, instead of adjusting temp and time. Its a lot smarter and easier when you use only one variable.

    To me its alot about what you are comfortable with, and what type smoker you use. See if I am using wood or charcoal with a fire breather and have to buy it or split it and tend it. I want it to end expeditiously.  With an electric which is more a set and forget, I tend to smoke for convience. I know that with only one exception, LOL, if I stick a butt in at 220, I can figure on 18 to 22 hours. So if I put it in today, 2 hours before I want to eat tomorrow, generally I am happy. The key word is generally. No tending required.

    With a fire breather its hourly checks, so using the Texas Crutch, with a higher temp getting about the same quality is attractive if I can cut my time to 12 to 16 hours. Put it in at breakfast and be generally ready at supper. There's that word again.

    Meats always have their own internal clock you can only use generalizations and luck to guesstimate when it will be done. But!

    Back to the question again. I would say 220 is my norm. But I have been happy at 275, 260, 250, and 200. Each time I was luckly enough to get something good to eat while learning.
  4. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Thanks, guys. This does help. Even though I've had my MES for a couple of years I can count on one hand and add another finger (since I'm not a mutant) the number of times I've used it. I've more or less been setting it around 220-225 because 215 just seemed too low. Even though the BBQ instructor said his recipes were "concepts" to be used as a framework to experiment with, he presented 180-225 as his set-in-stone recommendation so that's what prompted me to start this thread.

    Foamheart, I understand what you're saying about the rigs that use hardwoods but all I have is my little smoker box which I also bought for set-it-and-forget-it convenience and because it was the best electric smoker for under $200.
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2014
  5. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    You mean you start off at 275 degrees for chicken? If so, why did you start doing this?
  6. I have never found that my chicken benefitted from low and slow. If anything hotter is better I think, it's hard to mess up and dry out chicken legs. The MES obviously can't get up to skin crisping temperatures so I like a quick sear on the BBQ after to finish. I really fill and pack the AMNPS to the top to get lots of smoke rolling and 275 can finish a bunch of thighs in an hour or so (not including preheat) with lots of smokey goodness.

    Why did I pick that temp? Chicken for me is normally a convenience food after work when I need a smoke fix and I want it done ASAP and 275 is as hot as I can go.
  7. red dog

    red dog Smoking Fanatic

    I do all my poultry at 275 on the MES. Especially Turkey as you want to get it up past the danger zone as soon as possible. I do ribs at 275 also. Seems to render the fat out better.
  8. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Different meats call for different temps, however my MES 40 is more often set between 220* & 230* than any place else on meat that isn't cured first.

  9. geerock

    geerock Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    First thing that comes to mind is why any instructor would recommend a 180 temp (or anything under 220) for cooking any meat.
  10. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I love your thinking process. I never would have thought about that but I learned in my BBQ about smoking skin-on chicken and then finishing it on the BBQ or under a broiler to crisp the skin.

    And you know what drives me nuts? In another thread the advice was to only fill the AMNPS halfway up the dividers to avoid too much smoke. You, like me, fill it all the way just to maximize the amount of smoke produced. I greatly admire that you've probably got your MES out on your patio or somewhere ready to go at any time. I keep mine in my garage bungee-corded to a hand truck since it rains so much here in Western Washington and I don't have a permanently covered spot to store it under. Man the thought of coming home from work and whipping out some smoked chicken legs/thighs is really cool. I've yet to crank my MES up to 275; I've never cooked chicken in it.

    Just curious: do you fire up your AMNPS while the MES is preheating or, like me. do you wait until it's at temp before putting in the lit AMNPS? It seemed to me like a waste of smoke if I inserted the pellet smoker too early since I'd have to open the door--letting out the smoke and heat--when I put the food in.
  11. How I fill and how much I fill the trays depends on the result I want.  Short smokes like chicken i want lots of smoke because they only cook for an hour.  I will fill the tray to the top but only 1/4 of the way, that gives me about an hour of heavy smoke.  Ribs or ABT's only get smoke for 3 hours, so I can lighten up to a wispy TBS so I fill the first tray but only about a 1/8" to the top.  Bigger hunks of meat that might take smoke 5+ hours I will do two rows, but I bank the pellets up to the outside of the runs away from each other because I tend to get a jumped row if I fill the trays level across the tops.

    I have never oversmoked with the AMNPS even if its really puffing away heavily.  

    My smoker has its own spot in the shed with a chimney venting outside, I smoke in wind, rain or sun unless it's so bad out that I don't want to go outside.

    As far as when I start the AMNPS, I do it at the last minute, I agree no need to waste pellets.  My sequence goes preheat smoker - when its nearly up to temp then I start up the AMNPS with torch and heat gun, let the flame burn while I go to the house and bring out the goods - food in - then immediately blow out the flame, check the smoke production, and then AMNPS goes in the mailbox.  I have a damper on my chimney which I keep open for the first minute or so while I re-establish a good draft, then I block it down a bit.  The damper stays full closed while preheating, I have been able to knock some time off the preheat by doing that.  And...I usually preheat to 20* above what want to cook at (unless its full out 275 you can't).  But as I said I mostly stick to 230 so I preheat to 250 and after opening the door to load it up I'm dropped down to my desired temp so there is little to no rebound needed to get back to temps and I then turn the temp down on the controller to 230 for the remainder of the cook.
  12. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Yup---That advice was given by me. Every smoker is different, so that doesn't mean that that guy likes less smoke than you do. It only means that filled all the way up could be too much smoke in his smoker. Just like I love a lot of smoke, but if I use a Tube smoker I get too much, and the AMNPS is perfect for me. Those who have trouble keeping an AMNPS lit often have good results with the Tube smoker. It all depends on the air flow in the smoker. Also those who have to use a Mailbox mod or a chimney don't have as good air flow as my smoker does, or as good as the guy who I advised to try filling his AMNPS only 1/2 way to the top. Maybe my advice won't drive you nuts any more.

  13. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    The last time I had trouble keeping the AMNPS lit it I was cold smoking cheese and it was as dismal, drizzly night. I had waited too late to get started. Even though the AMNPS kept going out, it produced enough smoke so that this second attempt at smoking cheese was superior to my first effort.

    I'm the kind of guy who needs a solid framework of "here's what you do". Variables also drive me nuts. But at the same time, I've got no problems coming up with my own variations on recipes by making ingredient substitution or changing the measurements.  I'd love to use my MES more but I have to plan ahead to use it since it involves so much time for me, unlike my charcoal grill which I wheel out and within 40 minutes or so I've made dinner.

    I'm still figuring out my MES but I am so glad I have it. Coming up this weekend (since it will be warm and sunny): smoked mozz and sharp cheddar AND baby back ribs cooked 3-2-1 style--cooked separately from the cheese of course. I make the ribs rub, my wife makes the BBQ mop.
  14. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I never thought of closing the top vent on my MES to allow for faster buildup of heat during the warm up process. I'll try that out. I also like overheating so that when you've placed the food and AMNPS in the box the temp goes down to your target temp. 230 also sounds really good to me. You've got some great suggestions here. The way my home is set up the backyard is my only smoking venue unless I want to fill our garage and everything in it with permanent wood smoke odors. I'd like it but the wife, not so much. We live on a few acres but I can't set up a permanent shed in our backyard because the yard is used for my wife's home daycare business so I'd have to put it outside the fence. Eventually I'll figure something out.

    This is the first I've heard of ABTs. In my family only my son and I would eat them.
  15. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Just re-read your comments, whataMESs about smoking 5+ hours for big hunks of meat. I was told that after three hours a chemical reaction on the surface of meats takes place which closes off any more smoke being absorbed past the crusty outside and into the meat muscle. So, even if you've got a 10-15 pounder or so going, I understood that this is consistent no matter how big the meat being smoked. Have you found this not be true on larger cuts of meat like a full beef brisket or a pork butt or a beef chuck roast? 
  16. red dog

    red dog Smoking Fanatic

    Sounds like you have a good plan for the weekend Ricksta. I'm doing the same thing on Friday. Cheese in the morning and ribs in the afternoon on the MES. We bought a Blackstone outdoor pizza oven a while back and I'm anxious to try some smoked cheese on pizza.
  17. daRicksta you haven't lived life to its fullest until you've tried ABT's. I promise if your family doesn't like heat the jalapeños are not hot if you scrape all the seeds and white veins out, with all the cream cheese and bacon goodness they are very tame that way. I've read to soak then overnight in Sprite to make then even milder. Alternatively you can use baby sweet peppers or even cut larger peppers into boat shapes and they are quite a treat too, although I prefer the jalapeños.
  18. I foil wrap so I let it smoke until it's time to wrap. It might be 3 - 4 - 5 hours until I'm at 165 to wrap. Then I'll stop smoke unless I've got a secondary item in there that still needs it. It might not do anything but I haven't found it hurts anything either.
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2014
  19. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Yep, whataMESs--I've got to try these. My son and I eat grilled whole jalapenos that come with carne asada at Mexican restaurants and one of our favorite bagels is jalapeno;/cheddar. My wife will eat sliced or chopped jalapenos in a Mexican dish if they've been seeded and the fire mostly calmed down. When I do ABTs I'll just combine the best of both worlds--jalapenos for me and the boy (no soaking in Sprite for us!) and baby sweet or bell peppers for the wife and daughter (if she happens to be visiting that day. Peppers, bacon, cream cheese--yet another holy trinity.
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2014
  20. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Red Dog, how long do you smoke your cheese? I'm doing 2-lb loaves each of mozz and sharp cheddar. I usually slice them up into roughly 1/2 sections so that they're coated on all sides with smoke. I then vacuum seal them for aging in the fridge. When I'm ready to use them in recipes or just eat them, I can use those individual sections instead of cutting into a whole loaf.

    Hope you enjoy your Blackstone oven--please report back on the results. I went the cheap route and bought a Weber pizza stone for my Weber charcoal grill. I gotta get the heat right; last week the tops of the pizzas were perfect but the bottoms were burnt--second time it's happened after a glorious first time success. Weber advised cooking over direct heat but I'm going indirect next time. Wood and coal fired ovens in pizza restaurants get much hotter than my Weber but they use indirect heat. I'm definitely going to try grilled pizza with smoked mozz next.

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