noob trying to grasp all this!

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by dogwalker, Nov 11, 2015.

  1. Hi, this year was my first venture in to smoking.  My son and one of his best friends earned their Eagle Scout ranks, and a friend suggested I smoke a brisket for the celebration.  I knew nothing about it, and bought a $50 charcoal unit from walmart, read up on directions, and had a tremendous success.  Since then, I've smoked a few pork shoulders, and may smoke a turkey this Thanksgiving (although I'm also curious about the spatchcocking roasting method).

    But now I'd like to look into a smoker that doesn't require as much baby-sitting, and that will hold temperatures better, so I've been looking at electric and pellets.  In my searching, I've read a lot of pros and cons on the Masterbuilt, and some units are on sale this month.

    I've also read here about this AMPS thing, and would like to know more about that.  I've pulled up their web site, which I'll read this evening.

    The Masterbuilt models I'm looking at are:

    - 20070213 at Kohl's (but I've read to avoid this one)

    - 20070311 now on sale for $200 at Academy (found that here!)

    - 20071814 will be $130 at Ace Hardware Thanksgiving week

    While I don't care about the window, the 20070311 looks like the best option so far, but I'd like opinions here?  I know several MES units had problems with the heating element and even with holding temperatures, right?

    As for the AMPS, would that replace using the wood chips?  Just put it on the lower shelf?

    Thanks so much!
  2. Hi just a few quick words about your post, I did not look up the Kohl's smoker but if you read it was bad don't buy it It is most likely a Gen 2 unit. There are currently 3 generations of smokers in the Masterbuilt line up. The Gen 1's are the old stand by that smokes day in and day out.  They are all hinged on the left and the AMNPS goes in the bottom next to the heating element. The Gen 2's  are known to be problematic. The Gen2.5 is redesigned with blue tooth and gets Great reviews. I think it is a bit pricey but that is just me.

    I looked at the Academy sports page and saw a Gen 1 40 inch smoker for 199.00 That in a GREAT deal and would be my choice . It is a updated version and very well liked by there owners. Just several months ago l the best deal that could be found was 299.00. Here is the link for the Gen 1 at Academy

    This post is just a personal opinion like all you will receive. Continue to do your home work and shop smarter.   Jted
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  3. bentley

    bentley Fire Starter

    Dogwalker I did a lot of research on several different electric smokers and will get mixed results from all of them. I purchased the 20070311 from Academy. The unit is well build and quite impressive looking. Easy to assemble except for the electric controls locked on top of the smoker. That could use some redesign. The remote control is pretty neat but be careful if you set the smoker with the smoker unit controls; the remote over rides the settings. I did the initial  per-season and everything worked great. For the price you cant beat what you get. I was surprised at the warranty, 90 days. Tells you something about the company's products.  If it come out of the box defective that warranty is handy.   
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  4. mfreel

    mfreel Smoking Fanatic

    I had to repost that MES 40 link.  That's a steal!!!!!!!!  
    dogwalker likes this.
  5. mummel

    mummel Master of the Pit

    Dont overlook the MES 40 BT.  Check Bear's review.  Its a pretty great smoker. 
    dogwalker likes this.
  6. joe black

    joe black Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Welcome from SC, Dogwalker. It's good to have you on this great site. Sorry, but I know absolutely nothing about electric cookers. I'm a stick burner and about as far from electric as you can get. Good luck with your purchase.

    Congratulations on your Eagle Scout son. That's something that can never be taken away. I am also an Eagle dad and my son is 47 years old. I'm still proud.
    dogwalker likes this.
  7. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Go for the 20070311 on sale at Academy. That and the Ace Hardware smoker are both MES Gen 1 models but you get more bang for your buck with the 311. It's a 40-in, not a 30-in, and you get the window and the remote.

    For the AMNPS, you'll find double rails going across the bottom of the MES as they go beneath the wood chip holder/heating element box. The AMNPS is placed across those two rails just to left of the wood chip holder. It looks like this:

    that space to the left of the wood chip holder? That's where you place the AMNPS. Here's a photo of a well-used MES 40 Gen 1 showing proper placement for the AMNPS:
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2015
    dogwalker likes this.
  8. Thanks much!  That helps tremendously.  I'm going to go check it out today, and I'll let you know!
  9. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Good luck! I just posted a second photo showing the actual placement of the AMNPS in a MES 40 Gen 1 unit.
  10. I have an update.  During lunch, my wife and I went and looked at the 20070311, and I sold her on it!  She was very impressed with it.  I had just enough time to start the assembly but haven't finished it yet.  I agree with Bentley that the top controller could be redesigned.

    But I have a question, probably silly, just want to be sure.  Something seems off about the smoker rack supports.  When I put the racks in, they don't sit level.  They basically have three points of contact with the front left sitting off the support about 1/2 inch.  I put some weight on a rack, and it sits fine, so I don't know how much to care about this.  I'm sure it won't affect anything, more of a little annoyance.  I'm sure I'll get used to it, but I was wondering if any other owners encountered that?  I laid a level on the top of the unit, and it's level.  I can't imagine the unit is warped.

    The drop pan rocks a tiny bit the same way, but not much.

    I can exchange it, but then the next one may do the same, and it may be absolutely innocuous.

    Thanks again, and I'm looking forward to learning and sharing here!
  11. dr k

    dr k Master of the Pit

    The 20070311 was dented in the back in several places and the light bulb was out of socket and shattered during delivery in May when I got it from Amazon.  I called MB and they sent me a new one after I took pics of the cut cord.  I soldered the power cord back on and shrunk tubed it in layers.  The same smoker they sent me is unused but tested for six hours without smoke.  I'll use the damaged one till it fails and in the mean time use the spare as an outdoor oven for gatherings.   I think all Mes's need a little deflection, depending on the location of the the heating element, MES temp sensor and top vent.  Regardless of the model, even temps on proven therms is the what you need.  The 20070311 RF controller has 300' line of sight vs. 30' BT.   So as I snooze (optional) the RF remote and RF remote therms give me better wake up and go back to sleep confidence.   If I needed a smoker I'd do the 20070311.  The Gen 2.5 BT range needs to be improved.  That depends on the device it's paired to.

  12. bentley

    bentley Fire Starter

    Dogwalker the racks on mine are just as you described. Won't effect anything once some weight is added.  Just another sign of quality control issue.  Still worth the money as long as you don't pay full price. If I paid full price I would return the one one I have and look for something else.
  13. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Sounds like you got a unit where the QC wasn't too good. Perhaps a whole shipment was compromised and that's why the price was bombed. I have a MES 30 Gen 1 20070910 and all racks rest flush on the guides as does the drip pan. Now, the drip pan might warp after a few years of use but mine hasn't after 3+ years, but I don't use my smoker nearly as much as many guys here.

    I wouldn't like the racks rocking either because either they were warped up to a half inch or the guides were not correctly installed. I don't like to have to make adjustments for stuff that rocks. I once bought a dorm fridge online from Wal-Mart and had to return it because it was missing a part. The 2nd model they sent me rocked diagonally from back to front. I had to buy a pack of wood shims from a hardware store and place a few under one corner to stabilize it. I hate doing that.

    But it's up to you what you do. Just make sure they still have other units in stock before you bring yours back. Or if it's no big deal, rejoice in the great deal you got and have fun smoking!
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2015
  14. I've decide to do this - I'm quite sure that the wobbling racks would be ok, but I checked, and they have over 20 units left, and I explained to the lady helping me what I'd like to do.  I also called Masterbuilt, and the lady there agreed that it should be ok, but that I should exchange it if I'm not 100% comfortable.

    So, my wife and I will go up there and have them open one there and check it out.  If the racks sit flush, excellent, I'll exchange.  If they don't, then I'm fine with keeping the unit I have.  Either way, I should be testing it out this weekend!

    I don't have any wood chips, so I bought some "Western" brand bags there - one cherry and one hickory.  But I want to look into the A-Maze-N gadget.  My wife even suggested it could be a good Christmas present!

    Thanks again, and I'll you all know how it goes!

    BTW, is there some particular brand of chips I should buy, and a best company to buy from?

    Last edited: Nov 13, 2015
  15. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Dogwalker, unlike wood pellets, to me, wood chips is wood chips. I bought two different brands of hickory wood chips and I think a 3rd brand of cherry wood chips. I only use wood chips when I grill over charcoal briquettes and I want another layer of flavor. My good friend Jted introduced me to a homemade pellet smoker that can be used in a kettle grill but I'm still experimenting with that.

    I recommend to all smoker newbies to first use wood chips as you learn how to use your smoker. Follow what the owners manual says for preseasoning your MES and how much wood chips to use and how often to reload the wood chip holder. You'll quickly learn that wood chips are a PITA and that's why so many of us happily switched to the AMNPS.

    Since you have an open window of time to do an even exchange with the smoker, do it. Hopefully you'll get a perfect one next time. Mine was shipped via Amazon and there were some small white patches on the black enamel powder finish. Other than these minor cosmetic flaws my smoker has performed beautifully for over 3 years. One time I had a major overheating problem which was completely my fault. I resolved it and it's never overheated again.

    You won't find a better electric smoker for $199 anywhere. You got an excellent deal.
  16. Thanks!  I'm getting very excited about all this!  I've been reading up on posts here:
    - why I don't need to worry about keeping water in the water pan, or maybe even have any there at all

    - put foil on the water pan and on the drip pan (nice idea!)

    - introduced me to the AMNPS

    - about to read up on the 3-2-1 method

    My son will be home from college over Thanksgiving and then again for a long Christmas break.  He's going to love seeing this thing!
  17. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Dog, please cover your eyes because I'm about to shout. KEEP THE WATER PAN IN THE SMOKER! It serves important functions other than providing a steam bath for the meat. It also helps regulate heat flow by redirecting the flow of heat around it instead of all that heat just rising upward from the heating element. It also is a great as a 2nd drip pan. I foil the inside of my water pan and during a smoke it catches grease and drippings that would fall onto something else. Lastly, it helps shield the AMNPS from grease drips. Admittedly this is more effective in a MES 30 Gen 1 where the interior is smaller but you might find it helpful in your MES 40.

    3-2-1 is not locked in stone. Basically, you smoke pork ribs for 3 hours naked to the world except for the dry rub. Then you foil it for 2 hours. Unfoil for the last hour when you can also brush it with a finishing juice or BBQ sauce or whatever.

    For me, 6 hours is too long for baby back ribs so I'm trying cooking 2 racks no more than 4 hours without foiling. If I do foil it's more like 1-2-1. St. Louis ribs need a bit longer to cook in my experience. You can to 3-2-1 or 2-2-1 or, heck, 2-2.5-0.5, meaning if you want a little overlong on the foiled part you can shorten up the unfoiled cooking time so you don't overcook the ribs. With experience you'll learn what method is best for you and whether or not you even like to foil. 3-2-1 and 2-2-1 are just general guidelines. I think foiling is important when it comes to beef briskets and pulled pork to get them past their stall points. But I think it also just serves to steam the meat when applied to smoking pork ribs. I don't yet consistently get the bark on ribs and briskets where I want it yet so next year while be full of further trial and error. I always like to learn something new with each smoke.
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2015
  18. Thanks!  Sounds perfect.

    I'm on task for the turkey this year, so I'm a little nervous.  I've never been the cook before, but they've loved my pork shoulders and briskets.  Well, now I'm trying fowl and will be using my new MES, if I can.  I'm going to read up on it more, because so far, the recipes I've seen for smoking turkeys say to cook at 350 or so for the first hour, which I can't do (I think the max temp is 275).

    To experiment, I'm going to smoke a chicken this weekend and see if I can get it above 140 in four hours.  I figure I'll set the temp to max for an hour, then back off to 225.

    I haven't cooked ribs either, and now ... I'm just getting really hungry.  :)
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2015
  19. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Last edited: Nov 13, 2015
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  20. Excellent, thanks!

    Quick update, I picked up another unit, and the shelves are level, so I'm happy!  I just finished assembling it, and now seasoning it per instructions - heat at 275 for 3 hours, adding wood in the last 45 minutes.

    That AMNPS looks really cool, I may forget Christmas and pick one up before Thanksgiving!  I'm sure I can think of some other gift for Christmas.  :)

    Thanks, all, I'll let you know how it goes!  I really like this 311 unit, and so does my boss, uh, wife.

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