mes30 and getting the right smoke?

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by bikesandcars, Aug 3, 2014.

  1. I have a few smokes on my MES 30 now and have some questions.  I did some searches but couldn't find what I was looking for.

    This is my first "smoker" though I've used a weber charcoal grill to smoke some ribs casually over the years with minor success.

    I can't get a handle on how to make the best smoke with this smoker.

    Some folks complain they can't get electric smokers to smoke.  Looking at internet pictures there must be several evolutions of the MES30 smoker, I think I have the latest.  I don't have that issue...I add wood and it smokes!

    I followed the instructions on some chicken breasts and ribs and kept the top closed,  the chicken came out horribly bitter, the ribs not too bad but should have done them slower.  When opening the door mid-smoke I got a full face of the most acrid smoke I ever smelled, it almost blinded me!!! 

    I then tried catfish... so smokey and bitter it would gag a maggot

    So I did some research and everyone said to smoke with the top vent open to avoid Creosote... Creosote, what a novel idea it never occurred to me.

    So I smoked some burgers with the top vent open and used a lot fewer chips than I did at first, they turned out OK.

    I smoked some pork chops today and when checking on them (with the top vent open) I got a ton of acrid smoke when I checked shortly after opening the box. 

    I then "started over" by opening the door so it was latched but the latch was open until the smoke wasn't acrid (smelled better), and then closed the door and smoked the ribs.. the problem is after I let the wood "burn up" a little I hardly got any more smoke out of that load.  When I pulled the tray later there was nothing but ash.  The chops came out good, not too smokey, with the sauce I could barely taste the smoke. 

    watching video's of charcoal / wood smokers they go for a blue smoke.. I have yet to see that on my MES30.  it goes from white smoke to no smoke very quickly.

    So after all that rambling.. I need some help.  If I close the top vent or add too much chips the smoke lasts a long time but is acrid and ruins the food.  Not good.  If I open the door and let the acrid smoke vent I don't have much smoke left to finish the meat (it burns up quick).  So what's the best with the MES30?  Just let that top vent open and let that smoke stay in there?  Is it more in how much wood I use? 

    Is less wood more often better or more wood, vent it, then seal it for smoking? 

    not having charcoal under the wood with that super-high heat doesn't seem to let me get that ideal "blue" smoke. 
  2. Did I ramble too much?

    Maybe I should re-phrase :)

    Are there some folks here that have a consesus on what is considered "best smoke" for an electric smoker?

    Ae there specific techniques to do that on the MS30?
  3. tropics

    tropics Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    The only thing I could suggest is get a Smoke Generator AMNPS. There are some mods you can do,that will take care of the heavy smoke. Mail box mod is simple and it works great, I have a Pastrami in my MES40 now.

    Take a look at the MES Group

    Here is my mod.

    1st Mac & Cheese in my mod MES40

  4. If your altitude is below 4500 feet, consider the AMNPS suggested above.  If you have trouble keeping it lit, consider adding the mailbox mod.
  5. I looked up the AMNPS website and though I'm sure it works and is a good product it's taking me down another direction that I'm not ready to go yet.

    I'd really like to get the hang of this smoker using wood chips first if possible.

    I had noticed that the chip tray has 3 holes but no adjustable bottom damper, so between there and the grease hole that's all the ventilation it gets. I had somewhat assumed as well that MES engineered it that way on purpose, but if it was just to save money some bottom adjustability might help.

    The more air moves through the more heat loss there is, so the more the element burns and the more smoke you generate (while also turning it over quicker)... it doesn't seem to me like a direct win just to blow more air through it (more like it wastes heat and chips). But if more turnover is what's required to avoid creosote and adding more chips and using more power is a consequence then I guess that is what it is.

    Thanks a lot for the suggestions, looking forward to continuing my research here, maybe try a mod to the bottom damper to see if that helps.

    any opinions on "blue smoke".. or what the right amount of smoke should look like rolling out of the top of a MES?

    When do you guys add your regular wood chips? when pre-heating, when adding food, after food?
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2014

  6. This is about all the smoke you want. If it is blue it will be bitter. Your going to have to add chips every 20 min. or so. If it is bitter you are using to much chips. Top vent wide open.

     As said above. Get a AMNPS and kick back and enjoy. It will make your life a lot better. For the price of a little ruined meat you could buy one.

    Just my

    Happy smoken.

  7. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I found out when I first bought my MES 30 that wood chips are a pain, having to be reloaded every 20-30 minutes or so. That's why I purchased the AMNPS and will never go back to wood chips. I also have never done any mods to my smoker because none are needed. There can be flameouts with the AMNPS but there's a bunch of suggestions in these forums to help resolve that. Todd Johnson, who invented and markets the AMNPS is always available to help either by email or PM through this site.

    With the AMNPS I got sizeable smoke drifting up out of the top vent. It's when I don't see that I know it's flamed out. I think I know what TBS is supposed to look like but I just light the pellet smoker, make sure I've got ample air flow, and just let it do its thing.

    For using wood chips, you can add them as your smoker is heating up. That way you can have smoke already going when you put the meat in. A portion of it will dissipate while you've got the door open so it's your choice if you want to add wood chips after the meat has been put in and the door is closed. Don't bother to soak the wood chips; I've learned that soaking wood chips extends their smoking life by maybe 1-2 minutes at the most. I once added soaked wood chips to my MES as an experiment and saw no difference from adding dry wood chips.
  8. That kind of confirms my understanding of the best way to work chips in the MES30. It seems I should leave the top vent open and add small amounts of chips more frequently (like every 20 minutes).

    It seems to me that a heavy load of chips doesn't smolder slowly and last longer, rather it just smokes really heavy but all at once creating too much smoke for the ventilation(and creosote).

    The MES30 manual says half a cup... but that is really hard to gauge due to the odd shape of wood chips. It seems about right if not on the high side. it's almost like a few larger chunks would be better (like 1" x 1" strips laid in the pan).. more like kindling. The thing is so darned efficient it doesn't use much power or need much chips so it seems a fine line between not enough and too much.

    I haven't tried wetting the chips, thanks for that comment too, doesn't seem worthwhile.

    That AMNPS seems to solve the frequent addition problem, so I'll definately check it out, but I still wanted to learn how to use chips so I can put some of an apple tree to use.

    For cooking meat I think I need to look at this as more of an outdoor oven for barbeque that can add smoke flavor rather than a "smoker" where more smoke is better

    [edited to remove rambling]
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2014
  9. Anybody that thinks a MES is not a smoker has never seen one in use.

    From cold smoke to an overnight 24 hour brisket.

    The only draw back I can see is it won't go above 275°.

    Happy smoken.

    Last edited: Aug 5, 2014
  10. I think you mean "MES30 is NOT" a smoker right?, as in response to my comment above. I meant I was under the idea more smoke is better and concentrating on smoke volume vs concentrating on cooking the meat correctly and using smoke as a small part of the flavor.

    Those results above are impressive. I assume all done using AMNPS?

    I've never tried the "cold smoke" idea yet, I hadn't even really thought about it to be honest, that's a new area I should explore!
  11. Yes I left the word not out. I corrected it.

    Thanks for the kind words.Yes all done in a MES 40 using a AMNPS. In fact I have never used chips in my MES.

    I do about as much cold smoking in it as I do hot smoking. I bought it to cold smoke with.

    Happy smoken.

  12. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    [edited to remove rambling]  That's a funny comment. You should read MY comments. Even after editing they make a great miniseries.

    There were two reasons why I bought the MES: 1. I wanted a smoker for under $200. 2. I didn't want to hassle with charcoal or propane. Electric was going to be the easy way to go. Had I wanted to spend the money and didn't mind charcoal, I would have gone with a WSM for backyard smoking. But don't downplay the MES; after you learn to use it correctly you'll get your smoke and you'll get authentic BBQ flavors BUT it's going to be more labor intensive using wood chips. I say experiment with the amount of wood chips you add at a time. I would think that a large load of wood chips would smolder more slowly and not produce more smoke because of the greater mass and lesser amount of airflow around and through the chips. However, no matter how few or how many wood chips I used, I was still reloading every 30 minutes. I also always wondered how the heating element got hot enough to ignite the chips but it always did.

    As for the buildup of creosote inside the MES, it's totally easy to wipe down the entire with a damp paper towel or a scrub sponge to get rid of it. Creosote is only a problem if you allow it to build up. Guys here state they never clean the interior because it "seasons" the smoker. I didn't clean for a couple of years and most meat I smoked had a harsh flavor to it. After I started cleaning the smoker interior everything came out tasting smoky, flavorful, and mellow, so lesson learned as far as I'm concerned.

    In the beginning I just followed the MES instructions for the amount of wood chips to dump in at a time but noticed that smoke stopped rising out of the top vent within 30 minutes. If I wasn't right on top of adding chips, I was just roasting meat instead of smoking it. That's when I read about the AMNPS in SMF and decided to try it. Guys also like the dust smoker and other versions of Todd's stuff and other guys use their own mod or The Smoking Gun, cold smoke adapters, or some other product. I bought the AMNPS because, like the MES, it was a quality product at the price point I wanted. I use his wood pellets as well because the guys in the SMF who know say he only sells top quality wood pellets with none of the additives you see in commercially-available wood pellets sold in stores.

    I've bought quite a few things from Todd Johnson of A-MAZE-N and I join a large chorus of fellow smokers here who extol the virtues of Todd as a resource, as a businessman, and as a manufacturer. I've never done business with any person or company who exceeds Todd in friendliness and in customer service. Just can't say enough about the guy and at times I worry that people here might think I'm on his payroll. Todd is a small businessman who's a super guy selling great products so why not sing his praises in appropriate threads?

    Anyway, you can see that we're about to reach the first episode cliffhanger here so I'll have to end it here except to say that about 2 years ago I was just where you are now. I've only used my MES about 7-8 times but the results I'm getting now from following advice on techniques and troubleshooting of people here, from the products I've chosen to use, all are light years beyond what I started out producing. Some guys put down MES products but I think mine was the totally right purchase for me, as was the AMNPS.
  13. I tried something off the wall last night, something I had read about but never tried, charcoal.

    I was at my local grocery store getting some pork shoulder to make bacon, and they had a bag of lump charcoal (just charcoal'd wood, not pressed bricquettes). so I thought I'd try that.

    Interesting results. Instead of loading from the feeder I put a layer of charcoal chunks on the bottom of the heating pan, not totally full but several chunks.

    once started I had the temp set at 250, it went to 270 (my guess is on the charcoal) then somewhat stabilized.

    I put a 1/2 hamburger sized piece cut from the shoulder in there for about 1.5 hours and had some good results with it. Definatenly not a strong smokey flavor, but it developed a nice charcoal flavor and a beautiful reddish color.

    I'm going to keep this technique in mind if I want more of a roasted or charcoal fired taste. I have a gas grill and the electric smoker and dont want to have another piece of equipment around on the deck.

    The charcoal burned slowly, almost chunk by chunk. There were still several large pieces left after 2 hours, probably could have run 3 to 4 on the load. gave a very mild wood fire flavor.
  14. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    To me, you're essentially "grilling" your food instead of smoking it. Charcoal or lump charcoal on its own doesn't produce smoke; it's both the meat that's being cooked and the meat juices falling onto the charcoal that create both smoke and that charcoal flavor. But for true smoked flavor you need hard woods that will produce smoke on their own when heated, whether in the form of logs, splits, chips, chunks, pellets or dust. It's my understanding that while the WSM runs on charcoal you still have to add wood chips or something for smoking. The only reason I've seen for using any form of charcoal in a smoker is to both raise the internal heat and create chemical reactions to produce smoke rings in meat. That added heat is also the downside of tossing in some lump charcoal becac
    To me
    To me, you're essentially "grilling" your food instead of smoking it. Charcoal or lump charcoal on its own doesn't produce smoke; it's both the meat that's being cooked and the meat juices falling onto the charcoal that create both smoke and that charcoal flavor. But for true smoked flavor you need hard woods that will produce smoke on their own when heated, whether in the form of logs, splits, chips, chunks, pellets or dust. It's my understanding that while the WSM runs on charcoal you still have to add wood chips or something for smoking. The only reason I've seen for using any form of charcoal in a smoker is to both raise the internal heat and create chemical reactions to produce smoke rings in meat. That added heat is also the downside of tossing in some lump charcoal because most low and slow cooking occurs anywhere between 215* to 240*. Myron Mixon has stated he cooks all his "hogs" at 275* but he's using those big competition rigs. I've read of a few guys also preferring to cook at 275* but I think that's too high, but then I'm no expert.  
  15. ^^ I wasn't expecting to get a full "smoke" or wood flavor on par with adding wood chips... I was seeing what would happen for fun.

    I assumed of things you could put in the woodbox of a smoker charcoal is the least smokey and mildest flavor up to some of the heaviest woods like mesquite.

    I wanted to experiment with just how much smoke or flavor I would get with a loaded tray of charcoal. It turns out you do get a little smoke, and you also get a little bit of flavor along with a carbon monoxide ring (smoke ring) or the reddish brightness. It also lasts a long time (4 hours on a load).

    So if you dont want to mess with the manual process of charcoal roasting something on a grill but want that mild flavor, a tray of charcoal in the MES30 will do the trick :)

    my next actual wood smoke creation experiment will start after I get some appropriately sized chunks of apple to try (instead of chips).
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2014
  16. Some use a little charcoal in their electrics to get a smoke ring......although I don't know why it's an important thing (unless in a competition).  Doesn't add to the flavor having that ring. 
  17. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    David, what can I say? Your Qview is gorgeous and truly shows off how great the MES if used correctly. I guess it won't go over 275* because the MB designed it for low and slow with the thinking that if smokers wanted a higher temp they could buy a more expensive rig. I haven't done the research but do any electric smokers get above 275?  I just did a small bit of research and Smokin-It smokers are only rated up to 250.
  18. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Sorry, I misunderstood your intent. Experiment away, bikesandcars! Funny but I love that charcoal smell and flavor when I grill but I bought my smoker to get those wood flavors and aromas. And here's more than you'll ever want to know about smoke ring generation. No way did I read all of this:
  19. I made some pork shoulder a week ago and left the top vent open the whole time while feeding chips about every 1/2 hour to 45 minutes, it came out great. I smoked bacon Sunday at 225 till 150 internal adding chips every 30 minutes for about 1.5 hours, also came out great with the top open... so that appears to be the ticket. ended experiments with charcoal, it gave a charcoal flavor but in general no real benefit. Made a UDS to play with charcoal.
  20. So far you have had some opinions on the MES. There are 2 generations of this model. I can only speak about the gen 1. I have never liked the quality of the smoke that it produced. I bought it thinking I could set it and forget it. WRONG. I found that out on my first 16 hour cook. All I did was tend the MES for the first 6 hours. here is a shot of good smoke ( TBS ). Do your self a favor AND CALL TODD JOHNSON AND HE WILL ADVISE YOU. He will tell you which generation and what smoke generator you need. A lot of us MES owners are hard headed about the use of chips so go through the process then surccumb to the fact that a smoke generator is the right way to go . Get a AMPS .


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