Issues with MES

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by maplemountain q, Jul 9, 2014.

  1. I've been using a MES 30" non-digital that uses a control similar to a electric griddle (hope you all understand what I'm describing).  I'm having two issues.

    1) The temperature swings vary nearly 20 degrees from the time the temp control calls for heat until it heats up to the target temp.  Is this an issue with the control or is this normal since it's not digital?  I'm considering calling masterbuilt and attempt to get a new control to see if this helps.  Any one else have this problem?

    2) I don't get a good, solid smoke ring in any of the meats I'm working with.  Even running a range of 225-240 degrees, I don't get a solid smoke.  I've been using relatively small wood chips from Mo's (  and would expect a much greater smoke.  I'm considering using saw dust but wonder if that would burn up too quick.  I'm also about ready to get the a-maze-n so I can get a solid smoke and ring developing on the meat.  

    What are everyone's thoughts?
  2. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    You won't get a Smoke Ring from an electric smoker, but it's all show anyway.

    I don't know how well the analog MES 30 is insulated, but when my Digital MES 40 drops to the set point, I can hear the element click on. Then in the Summer it might continue downward for another 4 or 5 degrees before it starts to rise. In the Winter that might drop 8 or 10 degrees before rising.

    By the same token in the Summer when mine hits the top set point, and the element turns off, the heat may continue to rise a lot more in the Summer than in the Winter.

    Yours could also be dropping 20* below set point because you have a lot of cold meat in the beginning of a smoke???

    And Yes, If you want to make life easier, get an AMNPS.

  3. I also have a MES 40 and it does as Bear has said. You can put sand in your water pan and cover it with foil. That will help some. Get a AMNPS you will love it.

    Happy smoken.

  4. Thanks for the advice fellas...

    I would not rank that particular setup as 10 out of 10 for being insulated.  I feel a lot of residual heat on the sides when it's cooking.  I've learned through experience that allowing the meat to rise in temperature safely prior to smoking that I get more consistent yes, I agree this affects the temp range.  

    With the sand in the water tray, are you using moistened sand or just dry?  Is this similar to the wet/dry method I've read about?  

    Seems like the AMNPS is on a lot of folks' favorite things to own list...I'd like to do some cold smoking as well which has further increased my desire to own one.  
  5. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    The sand would be the clean sand, like play sand, and it would be dry, and covered with foil so it doesn't get the drips in it. This has nothing to do with the "wet/dry" method you read about. This is just a heat sinc that won't produce any moisture. You could also put fire bricks in your smoker to absorb heat, and hold it to prevent negative temperature spikes.

  6. Thanks for the info Bear!
  7. sb59

    sb59 Smoking Fanatic

    Check out these threads >

    And quite a few others, try the search bar.

    I've been using that model for a few years now. you get used to the swings. The reason is the coil still is quite hot even after it shuts off so you will get a residual rise then when it comes on it takes longer to heat the box so you get extra fall. When I use the amaz. with sawdust the burning dust does most of the heating for lower temp. smokes ( between 160 & 180 ) When I do fish the amaz. provides almost all the heat with the coil barely coming on for smokes around 165 average. I find that for most smokes 10 degree swings are no big deal to the end result. But you must baby sit the analog more carefully because the temps. will creep up as the product gets closer to the final temp. and is retaining more heat.
    tmac5454 likes this.
  8. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    1. I've got the digital MES 30 and I've consistently noticed that there's a 20-40 degree discrepancy between the MES therm and another one that I use while the heating element warms up to the target temp. After it reaches it, I also consistently found that the MES and the other therm I use stay within 2-3 degrees of each other which more than acceptable. The only I get temp drops is when I open the door to move or baste the meat and then the temp on both therms return to the target temp and stabilize.

    2. I also found out after I bought my MES that I won't get a smoke ring, which is fine as long as I get the taste profiles I'm looking for--which is what I've been getting. Early on I read posts about Todd Johnson's AMNPS and that's what I exclusively use with wood pellets I also get from him. In fact, as an experiment I tried wood chips in the MES to see if the results would be as good or better than wood pellets; the results convinced me to stick with the AMNPS and wood pellets.

    My problem, at times, was keeping the AMNPS lit because it would get too humid within the box from water in the water pan (I fill it with playground sand now to use as a heat sink) or when I choose a very cool but humid night to try cold smoking cheese. The AMNPS would go out but there was TONS of smoke inside the box and the cheese came out really good. But on a dry, sunny day with the sand-filled water pan in place, the AMNPS lasts for hours and the interior box temp remains steady. I save the wood chips for my Weber charcoal grill.
  9. Thanks for all the input...couple things I'm taking away from this:  The temp swings seem somewhat unavoidable.  I'm ok with this as I'm generally watching the smoker closely throughout the cooking process.  I'm going to try the sand in the water tray since several folks have mentioned this.  I just put my order in for the AMNPS!  Pretty excited to try it out some time next week.  Currently, I'm brining a brisket for pastrami so that will be the maiden smoke. 

    Thanks again for all the good info!
  10. foamheart

    foamheart Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Maple, the analog to the digital is much like a snap acting relief valve vs. a modulating. Let me explain, a snap type relief valve is all or nothing. its open or closed. A modulating Relief valve has the ability to sense where the pressure is and open to maintain a set point. A snap only opens then closes.

    I have been using analogs for a long time, although I have not used a Masterbuilt. With the other brands you must start the unit on high to start the heating process to create smoke, then turn the temp on the rheostat to the preselected heat for the unit basically becomes cyclic to maintain a set point averaged by the high low. The unit may have set points at 225 to come on and 275 to turn off, and the temp you'll see on the knob is 250. These are just examples.

    That's why the first smoke on high is so important. If its a low temp its trying to maintain, it may not be enough heating time to maintain the chips smolder. 

    Again I restate, I have not used a Masterbuilt. But that is the basic thesis of how an analog works. That is why we progressed to digital, because it is much more precise.

    Also in over 30 years of smoking with them, I only used a water pan when I was doing hot and fast skin meats, basically fowl. Because the will crack and break if not brought up to temp and maintained slowly when using high heat. That is why it is more important with an analog to maintain temp by keeping the door closed. Those heat recovery rebounds are harsh. Actually I finally learned how to never open the smoker till I was done and pulling the meat.

    The reason you are not seeing the smoke you expect, you must keep that door closed. An analog does not recover like an digital. HIgh temp for the first 15 to 30 mins to smoke the chamber, then set to your chosen cooking temp. Then walk way till you are ready to pull.

    Its a great unit, its fun to use, and can make totally awesome meats when mastered. Its just less a plug and play than a digital unit. You have to think ahead of it.
  11. sb59

    sb59 Smoking Fanatic

    Maple, once you get your amaz. smoker you'll get a much better quality smoke with more consistency. I currently put mine in a cookie sheet on the rack where the chip and water pan were. You will probably have to give up the bottom rack to place a disposable drip pan, which I did anyway because letting the juices flow to the bottom of the smoker & out the tiny drip hole as designed was just too much of a mess! I also drilled vent intakes & exhausts in the box to aid in smoke flow & temp control. I found when using the smoker as designed for higher temp smokes even when the chips burned they created a lot of creosote drip, probably because of the poor venting. Also if you can swing it get your self a wireless remote therm., it makes life & smoke cooking much easier. Btw , the therm. in the door of the smoker is pretty much junk !
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2014
  12. sb59

    sb59 Smoking Fanatic

    My quick mods. to this smoker. I'm kind of a slam banger, you can do much fancier if you like!

    3 1/2 in. holes with a swinging soup can lid pop riveted to front left corner.

    1 1in. hole upper right side with same brilliantly designed damper.

    Home made smoke gen. with sawdust on bottom where orig. chip & water pan were. Drip pan above that on angle brackets riveted in place.

    Cured venison drying with mult. probes. Top rack runs average 10 degrees hotter then lower two racks. Next fix maybe small fan or blower to even the temps.

    Last edited: Jul 25, 2014
  13. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Does the fire bricks method work any better than the sand in the water pan as a heat sink? And how effective is either method for preventing temp swings?

    The only issue I had with the play sand method was through my own dumbness. I left the foil-covered, play sand-filled water pan in the MES when I put it on my hand truck and wheeled it to my garage for storage. The next time I brought it out, set it up and opened the door, I found all this damp sand piled along the rear floor of the smoker. I had thought the foil would hold tight but sand is heavier than a thin foil layer.Boy, that was fun to clean but it told me a lesson. I now remove the sand-filled water pan and store it outside the MES until I'm all set to smoke.
  14. sb59

    sb59 Smoking Fanatic

    The smoke in the photos right above your question is going on as I type this. I have a pan of sand in the drip pan for the 1st time and my temps. are swinging maybe 2 degrees each way instead of the usual 5 or 6.
  15. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    So stick with what I've already got. I like that answer. Thanks, SB59!
  16. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Personally I don't do any of the sand or bricks, because I don't open my door during the smoke, and I don't get the big temp swings. I also don't want all that extra frozen sand or ice cold bricks to have to heat up while I'm preheating my smoker & starting my smoke. But maybe that's just me.

  17. sb59

    sb59 Smoking Fanatic

    You're working with the better digital Masterbuilt Bear. We're dealing with the analog, which is a whole diff. animal. This is my 1st time using sand & it does seem to help lessen the swings. I've been smoking about 6hrs. now & as I bump up the temps. my swings are consistently 2-3 degrees either side of my set temps. instead of the usual 5 or 6. All I did was fill and foil the water pan & place it in the disposable drip pan. I'll fiddle & come up with something better in the future smokes.
  18. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I can see it helping on swings, but how long will your smoker have to fight off the ice cold sand in a good old PA or Jersey Winter.

    I thought about trying it when I was using my MES 30 without a window in the door, but that is what kept me from it.

  19. sb59

    sb59 Smoking Fanatic

    Beats me? I'm smart enough to do all my smoking in the summer and vacuum bag and freeze. Because I'm dumb enough to spend all my free time in the winter sitting in trees like a frozen squirrel waiting for a deer to walk by so I can smoke him with the bow then smoke him again in the summer!
  20. foamheart

    foamheart Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Oh my we use camo body paint on out legs so we can wear shorts in the trees. It also helps with mosquitos.

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