New MES owner, preparing for the 1st smoke

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by bamatmac, Jun 7, 2010.

  1. bamatmac

    bamatmac Newbie

    I joined the ranks this past weekend, but won't get to give my new 30" MES a test run until next weekend.  I've been reading the forums here and trying to gather as much information as possible to make it a success.  I've already ordered a Maverick E-73 thermometer, so should be able to get reliable temps.  I picked up a few bags of mesquite and hickory chips, so should ready.

    Sounds like a butt would be a good candidate for my first attempt, after I season the smoker of course.  From what I've read, sounds like there are some basic rules to follow.

    1.  Rub down the meat, wrap and refrigerate over night.

    2.  Let meat sit at room temp while preheating smoker.  Pre-heat smoker to around 250-275, maybe throw some chips in towards the end.

    3.  Take heat down to about 225, add the meat (with temp probe inserted), along with water pan of boiling water, apple vinegar, etc.

    4.  Add chips about every 30 min for first few hours, then maybe every hour as necessary

    5.  Spray meat with apple juice/rum/vinegar mixture every hour or so

    6.  Cook until around 200-205 internal, remove from smoker and wrap in foil for about an hour

    7.  Let rest for 10-15 min, pull, and enjoy

    If that sounds about right, I guess I'm good to go.  If I missed something, please let me know.

    My biggest concerns (from reading posts here) are getting the right amount of smoke.  I guess I'll start with some soaked chips at first, then progress towards dry if no smoke appears.  I'm also a bit worried about the water pan...should it need to be refilled, or is it usually only filled at the beginning?

    Thanks for all the posts I've seen here...it's really been a big help to a rookie.  I'll try to get some pics and document the fun next weekend.
     
  2. mr mac

    mr mac Smoking Fanatic SMF Premier Member

    Pretty good plan though you must remember not to spritz too early (I usually wait until the second hour) so you don't wash away the rub.  Also, after the first three or so hours the meat no longer takes in smoke (I think I read somewhere 140*) so no need to continue tossing in the wood.  Also, thin blue smoke, not billowing white smoke will get you where you want to be!

    Good luck and remember to post the Qview!

    Mac
     
  3. indyadmin1974

    indyadmin1974 Smoking Fanatic

    ^^What he said.

    You want to wait and spritz until you have a good bark and you can't see the actual rub anymore.  Otherwise you'll spritz it off...

    I would not use the mesquite for the butts if I were you.  Mesquite is good for beef but can make the pork bitter (been there, done that).

    Hickory will be fine though.

    Have fun and post some pics!
     
  4. bamatmac

    bamatmac Newbie

    Thanks for the advice, guys...exactly what I was looking for.

    Also, I noticed some posts talking about either (A) lining the water pan and/or drip pan with foil or (B) putting the butt itself in an aluminum pan or tray.  Is either of those a good idea, and if so, which one?  Sounds like B would disrupt some of the airflow (and hold too much grease), but ease of cleanup sounds good after a long day of drinking, er, I mean, smoking.

    Thanks again...
     
  5. smokingillini

    smokingillini Newbie

    I have done quite a few butts on my MES.  I have tried a lot of methods and this is what works best for me:
    • Using a pan makes the job a lot cleaner and easier, but you don't get a good bark on the bottom of the butt.  
    • I never spritz anything done in the MES.  In my experience everything stays plenty moist.  Spritzing seems to do more harm than good.
    • Open the damper all the way.  You will get a better smoke.
    • I fill the water pan all the way to the top and never refill it.  Letting it smoke the last couple hours with out water seems to help the bark.  Again, I am a bit obsessed with the bark in the MES because it's harder to get.  However, you have to be careful with this don't want to let it go too long with out the moisture.  Maybe for your first smoke you might not want to go that route until you get the hang of it.
    • I don't foil any more.  I inject and I find that it's more than moist enough with out it.  Foiling hurts the bark.
    • What I like to do to build the bark is: thin layer of simple yellow mustard, give a heavy coating, put it in the fridge for 24 hours, right before you put it on the smoker give it another coating in rub.
    I am no expert, but this has worked well for me.  Mileage may vary.  In the end, a rubbed butt smoked to 195 to 205 is going to be great no matter how you do it.  Good Luck!
     
  6. smokingillini

    smokingillini Newbie

    Always line your water pan.  It's a pain to clean.  You will save yourself a lot of trouble.  You are correct the grease will collect in the bottom of the pan, so you will not get much of a bark on the bottom.  However, things are a lot cleaner.  One thing I have done is poke holes in the bottom of the pan.  It makes it easier to transport and allows smoke in the bottom and grease to drip out.  But you will still not get much of a bark.
     
     
  7. pineywoods

    pineywoods Smoking Guru Staff Member Administrator Group Lead SMF Premier Member

    The meat will continue to take in smoke as long as smoke is applied. The smoke ring will stop forming at 140 degrees but that doesn't stop the meat from taking in more smoke flavor
     
  8. venture

    venture Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Water pans can be a bugger to clean.  I line mine.

    Try placing your meat on one rack and placing a drip pan below it rather than placing your meat IN the drip pan.  If you are a bark nut, this might help.  Experiment and use the method that works for your taste and the taste of those you are serving.
     
  9. sparksnsaaben

    sparksnsaaben Newbie

    As others have said, line the pan with foil.  I just started smoking with the smaller version (30" ?).  I found that I can place the water pan and racks in my dishwasher.  It's a small washer but I can fit 3 racks in it at one time.  Just be sure that it doesn't interfere with the opening of the detergent dispenser.  The racks and pan come out looking like new every time and it should be a long time before they degrade because the only physical wear on them is me removing the big chunks with a paper towel.

    If your MES is a newer version like mine, getting thin blue smoke is very difficult.  I found that combining chunks and shavings of wood together works well with no soaking.  As always, your mileage will vary.

    Also, make sure you level your smoker as well as a carpenter would.  The temperature sensor is the small 3/16" diameter shiny rod about two thirds of the way up on the right hand side on the back wall.  The temperatures that it "sees" are very inaccurate if not leveled well because of the flow of hot air inside and the poor sensor location.

    You'll see very different temperatures on your external thermometer compared to what your MES will tell you.  Don't worry about it too much, just make sure that the temperature swings occur with your set point near the middle.  Trust the external thermometer.

    I have only used one other smoker, an ECB, and in the end I love how the MES has an "appliance" feel to it.  You'll learn to deal with its quirkiness and come to love it.  Even with digital temperature controls, it is still an art form.

    Happy smoking and good luck this weekend.
     
  10. bamatmac

    bamatmac Newbie

    My "day before" is about gone.  I started with a trip to the grocery store and Costco.  Costco only sells butts in 2-packs, so 13 lbs of meat later, I got out of there.  At the grocery store, picked up a 5 lb chicken (since my 5 yr old assistant informed me that's what she wanted), and all the fixins for baked beans and corn-on-the-cob.  So, looks like I'll be doing a bit more than I planned tomorrow. :)  Here's the pics.

    Before

    [​IMG]

    After rub...ready for the fridge

    [​IMG]

    I also got the MES seasoned today.  Ran it up to 275 for 3 hrs...seems to fluctuate between 275-268 (as the element kicked on and off).  Added some soaked hickory chips during the last 45 min.  Got a lot of smoke, and most of the chips turned to ash.  Of course, that was at 275...not looking for so much white smoke at 225.  My Maverick thermometer came late today, so I'll hook it up tomorrow and see how accurate the MES temp gauge was.

    Guess that's it for today....plan to get up at 6am tomorrow to get everything started.  Will try to put all the meat on at once so we can start snacking on whatever gets done as the afternoon rolls by.  Plus, something will need to get done so I can put in the beans and corn!  

    I'm thinking 1:15/lb should do it, will cook the chicken to 165 or so, and the pork til 190-195 (then foil both for a while to let them complete the heating process).
     
  11. bamatmac

    bamatmac Newbie

    My "day before" is about gone.  I started with a trip to the grocery store and Costco.  Costco only sells butts in 2-packs, so 13 lbs of meat later, I got out of there.  At the grocery store, picked up a 5 lb chicken (since my 5 yr old assistant informed me that's what she wanted), and all the fixins for baked beans and corn-on-the-cob.  So, looks like I'll be doing a bit more than I planned tomorrow. :)  Here's the pics.

    Before

    [​IMG]

    After rub...ready for the fridge

    [​IMG]

    I also got the MES seasoned today.  Ran it up to 275 for 3 hrs...seems to fluctuate between 275-268 (as the element kicked on and off).  Added some soaked hickory chips during the last 45 min.  Got a lot of smoke, and most of the chips turned to ash.  Of course, that was at 275...not looking for so much white smoke at 225.  My Maverick thermometer came late today, so I'll hook it up tomorrow and see how accurate the MES temp gauge was.

    Guess that's it for today....plan to get up at 6am tomorrow to get everything started.  Will try to put all the meat on at once so we can start snacking on whatever gets done as the afternoon rolls by.  Plus, something will need to get done so I can put in the beans and corn!  

    I'm thinking 1:15/lb should do it, will cook the chicken to 165 or so, and the pork til 190-195 (then foil both for a while to let them complete the heating process).
     
  12. bamatmac

    bamatmac Newbie

    My "day before" is about gone.  I started with a trip to the grocery store and Costco.  Costco only sells butts in 2-packs, so 13 lbs of meat later, I got out of there.  At the grocery store, picked up a 5 lb chicken (since my 5 yr old assistant informed me that's what she wanted), and all the fixins for baked beans and corn-on-the-cob.  So, looks like I'll be doing a bit more than I planned tomorrow. :)  Here's the pics.

    Before

    [​IMG]

    After rub...ready for the fridge

    [​IMG]

    I also got the MES seasoned today.  Ran it up to 275 for 3 hrs...seems to fluctuate between 275-268 (as the element kicked on and off).  Added some soaked hickory chips during the last 45 min.  Got a lot of smoke, and most of the chips turned to ash.  Of course, that was at 275...not looking for so much white smoke at 225.  My Maverick thermometer came late today, so I'll hook it up tomorrow and see how accurate the MES temp gauge was.

    Guess that's it for today....plan to get up at 6am tomorrow to get everything started.  Will try to put all the meat on at once so we can start snacking on whatever gets done as the afternoon rolls by.  Plus, something will need to get done so I can put in the beans and corn!  

    I'm thinking 1:15/lb should do it, will cook the chicken to 165 or so, and the pork til 190-195 (then foil both for a while to let them complete the heating process).
     
  13. bamatmac

    bamatmac Newbie

    It's smoke day, but having some weird issues.  I set the MES temp at 225, but when I hooked up my Maverick, it only shows a smoker temp of around 175.  I ran out and bought a cheapie oven thermometer...it agrees with the Maverick.  

    I've pumped up the MES to 270...Maverick still only shows about 220 or so.  Anybody know what I'm doing wrong?

    Both the maverick probe and the oven thermometer are on the bottom rack...one on the left and one on the right.
     
  14. illini

    illini Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    The bottom rack you speak of would be just less than one inch from the water pan?

    It takes time for the water in the pan to heat up and it will influence the temp on the bottom rack for a time.     Also if you have meat on that rack it will influence the temp there for a time.    I cook on the middle two racks to avoid the problem you are speaking of.   placeing a foil pan on the bottom rack to catch grease drippings is a good idea too.   
     
  15. jamminjimi

    jamminjimi Meat Mopper

    I always start the smoker way in advance. So it can warm everything up. Say I want to do some ribs at 225*. I will warm the smoker to 275*. When I pull the ribs from the fridge and put them in the smoker. The smoker always has a temp drop. Then I reset my temp to 225* That makes for a shorter recovery time.
     
  16. sparksnsaaben

    sparksnsaaben Newbie

    As lllini said, try to avoid using the lowest rack.  Also you can put hot water in the pan to quicken warm up times.  Good luck.
     
  17. bamatmac

    bamatmac Newbie

    Now for the post-game...

    As I was typing my post above, I looked down and the Maverick was showing 237.  So, I ran out and turned the MES down to about 225 (from 270).  Somewhere about mid-morning, I finally got the temps somewhat stable.  The MES was running about 210-220 (as the element turned off and on), while the Maverick showed between 215-230.  I don't know if those fluctuations are normal.  I had pre-heated the smoker to 270 (per MES), but didn't get a Maverick reading before putting the food in.

    The chicken finished in about 4 hours, so I took it off for lunch, transferring the food probe to the smaller butt, and keeping the temps about 220-225.  I put in the corn/beans around 3pm, and noticed that even though I would set the MES to higher temps (240-250), the MES temp never got over 215 or so, and the Maverick was stuck at around 205-210.  I don't know if it was an issue with that much cold food at once, but would be my guess.  After about 3 hours, the corn/beans were done, but the butts (which had been on for about 10-11 hours) were still only about 170.  I foiled 'em and finished in the oven.

    In the end, the food turned out good (didn't get a chance to get pix though).  I fiddled with the temperatures for most of the day.  Part of my problem was too many variables (cooking too many things, having to open/close the door, etc) to have a good "feel" for what was working and what wasn't.  Next time, I'll slim down and stick to just one or two items.  I did get good smoke though, and the wood pretty much burned to ash so I had a hot bed of coals to dump new ones.

    I'm a bit concerned about my Maverick probes...did the ice/boiling water calibration today and got some weird results.  I could never get lower than 36 in ice water, and the water started boiling at around 175 (and temp never got over 204).  I'm at 1000 ft, so shouldn't have been that low.  I sent an e-mail to Maverick...we'll see what they say.

    Overall, was still some tasty eating, and I look forward to the next smoke (and hopefully some "after" pix to share).  Thanks again for all the help and information!
     
  18. sparksnsaaben

    sparksnsaaben Newbie

    Congratulations on your first MES smoke.  As long as it was good, who cares?  Unfortunately, you'll have to do more "testing and experimenting" to iron out the bugs.  I'm sure you'll find a good use for all that "good" smoked meat byproduct until you achieve excellent results.

    If you performed your thermometer tests with at least a few inches of probe immersion and allowed enough time for stabilization, I'd definitely say that your Maverick is out of calibration.  Did you do the same tests with the cheap oven thermometer?

    Regardless, enjoy your new smoking habit, err, obsession, err, ability.
     

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