To retro-kit, or not, that is the question (MES 40)

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by tinkerin, May 4, 2011.

  1. I have read a great many threads on here regarding the retro-kit for my MES 40 (model 20070211).

    After three smokes, I can positively say this thing is not producing ash.  Two smokes at 225, one at 275.

    Here are photos of the chip tray after 11 hours.  The tray was in the smoker the entire time, with chips added right at the beginning and for about 5 hours.  Probably a total of about 1 1/2  to 2 cups of chips in all.  Theses photo show the chip tray at the end of 11 hours, with no chips or ash removed at any time.  Basically I am left with a pile of small charcoal lumps.

    I would get small periods of TBS, and periods there was no visible smoke.

    Is this normal behavior?  Is this how a good smoker should leave the wood?  My little brinkman always left me with ash.  I called MB.  They said I should not expect ash, nor should I expect smoke below 180* as it's 'designed' this way....

    What say you, the voices of practical experience?   Should I be happy and trust the smoker is working perfectly, or should I ask for the retro-fit kit.

    Again, these pictures are after the chips had been in the smoker for 11 hours @ 225




  2. redneck69

    redneck69 Smoking Fanatic

    i have not upgraded to the larger tray yet, i invested in the AMNS (amazing smoker) i like this because i can do overnight smokes and cold smoking with it.
  3. Should have mentioned, I do have an A-MAZE-N-SMOKER , but I might not always have dust for it, so I would really like the MES to perform correctly. If making charcoal is correct, okay.  If not, the re-fit.  One thing for sure, the A-MAZE-N-SMOKER doesn't leave charcoal behind...

    I probably also should have noted that I was smoking with the vent either fully closed, or nearly so each time.  Don't know if that contributed to the chip result or not.
  4. redneck69

    redneck69 Smoking Fanatic

    when i use my chip tray, the chips always burn to powder. have you checked the actual temp of your MES with a tested digital probe?  maybe the temp on the smoker is showing one thing while the actual temp is lower?
  5. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    First I would try using the MES chip burner with only a few chips, instead of so many.

    The ones on the top might be smothering the ones on the bottom, if the metal drawer bottom is getting hot enough to make the bottom ones burn.

    Then if it doesn't start smoking below 130˚, I would call for the FREE Retro-kit.

    Then I would change that chip tray, and get your MES smoking system working.

    You can then fill your AMNS with dust, light it, and put it on the bars to the left of your chip drawer.

    If your AMNS runs out of dust after 6 to 8 hours (or 3 to 4 hours if you lit both ends), you would then have two choices:

    #1 If you want another half hour of smoke, just throw a few chips in your MES chip drawer.

    #2 If you want more hours of smoke, just pull the AMNS out, let it cool a few minutes, load it up & light it again.

    If you don't get your MES smoking system working properly, option #1 will not be available to you.

    BTW: If Masterbuilt told you that you should not expect smoke or ash below 180˚, they must have hired an idiot, like they had answering the phones a couple years ago.

    And that was before they knew they had a problem. They know about it now, so if somebody there told you that, he is either an idiot or is flat out lying to you. I hate to say that, but it is a fact.


    When I got my new MES 40, I put a few chips in and set it for 225˚. It didn't even show a hint of smoke until it got over 190˚.

    I do a lot of smoking under 140˚!!!!!

    I got the retro-kit & put it in. I put a few chips in again & set it at 225˚. It started smoking a lot about 2 minutes later at about 68˚ smoker temp.

    If they BS you again, PM Darryl "MBTechguy", and tell him Bear sent you.

  6. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Also keep in mind... if you smell smoke you are getting smoke regardless of visability, but I believe most folks are getting the retro-kit so that should tell you something. If that doesn't work we can lure you over to the "dark side" with a WSM! [​IMG]
  7. When I got My up grade kit for the Mes It was like night and Day. My problem is my chips burn to fast " I mean they Catch on Fire" and lots of white smoke.I have tried adjusting the pan but nothing has worked yet. But know matter what I love My MES
  8. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    This didn't work for me, but since yours gets that hot, maybe you should try what works for Fife.

    His gets so hot that he puts chips into his chip dumper, and pushes it in, but then he doesn't turn it to dump them in the pan. They smoke while they are in his dumper.

    Then when they stop smoking, he rotates it, dumps the ashes into the chip drawer, and starts again.

    Might as well give it a try.

  9. tjohnson

    tjohnson Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Insider OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I think the biggest improvement you can make it taking the little heat shield out from between the chip pan and heating element.  Did this to both of mine and it helps to create smoke and completely burn the chips to ashes.

    That said, I've NEVER used the chip pan in my new MES 40" for smoking food.....Go Figure?!?!!?

    Another mod I made it to cut a 2 1/4" hole in the end of the housing.  This gets the unit breathing better.  You can achieve the same thing by pulling out the chip pan about 1"-1 1/2".  Removing the chip loader during "Cold Smoking" also helps, but leave it in during hot smoking.


  10. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    I'm surprised that nobody commented on the closed vent. I always ran my MES with the top vent fully open.
  11. tjohnson

    tjohnson Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Insider OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Sorry, Missed this completely!!

    No air/oxygen can com into your smoker if it can't get out!

    Open your exhaust vent 100%.

  12. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Thanks Al,

    That was actually the first thing I noticed, but sometime during the rest of my suggestion typing, it slipped completely out of the little mind I have left!   [​IMG]

    It is a very rare thing for my exhaust vent to be anything but fully open.

    Last edited: May 5, 2011
  13. Lots of input to work with here.  That's greatly appreciated.

    Redneck69: I believe the both the box heat thermometer and the meat probe to be pretty accurate.  I have used a candy/deep fry thermometer placed in the center of the center rack.  When the temp is set at 225 and the temp reading on the digital readout is 225, the manual thermometer shows to be very very close to 225.  I've checked the meat probe against a digital kitchen instant read thermometer.  The kitchen one reads boiling water to with-in a half degree of 212 and also matches the digital house temperature thermometer. It matches the meat probe within less than a degree difference and that could just be slightly different placement in the meat.  I would be wise to get a more accurate thermometer to measure the air temp in the box though.

    Bear: I will give them a tiny bit of doubt- it might have been 160 instead of 180, but I'm pretty sure it was 180.  I wouldn't fall on a spear for that though.  Certainly it was nothing lower or higher.  It sounded to me as if the person was pulling up information on their computer and reading it off, rather than speaking with the authority of actual product knowledge.  As to the amount of chips, I will certainly work with that advice.  Re-reading my post, it's not clear how I added chips- usually about 1/2 cup at a time.  I only filled the chip loader about 1/2 to 2/3 full each time and added chips about once an hour or so for about 4-5 hours.

    JlRodriquez:Sneaky, trying to take advantage here, eh?  [​IMG]   Smell smoke? - man, I can smell smoke in my garage for days after cookin'.  And that makes me want to throw more carcass' in the cooker!   But, yes, the high number of folks getting the kit seems to point one in that direction.

    pawoodswalker: You sure you and Fife don't have that wired to 220??  [​IMG]    Yowser, I hope mine doesn't go that direction either.  Too much of a good thing...

    TJohnson:  Thanks for the mod ideas.  Couple that with your second point about the vent and maybe problem solved.  However, if you've ever seen the result of me using power tools, you might modify your recommendation to me. LOL   I'll have to remember to have you throw that non-used chip pan of yours in with the next order of dust I place...[​IMG]

    SmokinAl:  I've read completely conflicting advise on the MES vent.  Some like you and Todd saying open the whole way, others saying closed the whole way.  Must have been paying attention to the wrong ones!!  So clearly I need to now try a smoke or two with it completely open and probably some with it in-between.  I know the manual says open and honestly after doing the first one closed based on threads in here, I simply didn't think about the oxygen flow due to the vent at the time.  I figured between the drain hole, the slight space around the chip loader and such, a reasonable amount of O2 was getting in. 

    Thanks everyone.  Any more thoughts, just heap them on.  I've got some experimenting to do before I ask MB to spend money and send me a kit I may not need.

    Last edited: May 5, 2011
  14. My MES 40 would not burn the chips to ashes when I first used it. I tried several things to try to remedy the situation. One thing I noticed was that in cooler ambient temps it smoked much better and burned some of the chips up due to the element being on longer. In warmer weather the problem was much worse.
     The small chip pan has a piece of metal between the chip pan and the element. Several people have removed that and had good results. I took mine out, drilled some
    3/4 inch holes in it and put it back in.


    This worked very well,  but I still wanted the larger capacity of the retro-fit chip tray so I could use larger chunks of wood which work so much better than chips. I can get smoke for a solid hour with large chunks. The best results I have had are by putting just a couple of chips in to smoke quickly along with
    a large chunk to last longer. After dumping these into the pan I put another large chunk in the chip-loader and put it back in without dumping it. This delays it starting to
    smoke  for some time so I get good tbs for a longer time.
     Some will say if you smell smoke, you are smoking. As true as that may be I have found that if I don't have visible smoke the food will not be smokey enough for me.
     I have an AMNS and have only used it once so far. I plan to use it much more in the future, but I get great results without it so for short smokes I will likely use chunks and
    chips as described and use the AMNS for longer smokes.

  15. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Hi Chuck,

    Cutting that plate out was the first thing I thought of too, but if you can get the larger, working chip drawer set-up "FREE", there is no reason to do that.

    Your methods are the ones that seem to work best for me too.

  16.   Hello Bearcarver,

     I agree completely. I just thought I would post a chronology  of what I've tried and what results I got. The best thing about the

    big chip pan is it is longer and  deeper so it can hold full length chunks and larger diameter as well. I cut my own chunks so

    I can make any size I want. A hand-full of chips burns up very quickly with billowing smoke. The large chunks burn a long time

    with better quality smoke.

  17. tjohnson

    tjohnson Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Insider OTBS Member SMF Premier Member


    will the chunks you cut fit in the chip loader, or do you throw them in the chip pan?

    Great pic of the heat deflector mod.

    I would also think using larger chips/chunks would have less a chance to flare up.

    I found that pulling the chip pan out about 1 1/2" increases the airflow thru the chip pan housing, thus creating a better burn.  You CANNOT remove the chip pan completely, because there is a built in heat shield to protect the bottom and the door.

  18. Chuck,

    That seems like a mod even I could handle without too much mayhem.  Thanks for the good idea.  Probably one the mfr. should consider even.   I do like the idea of the bigger tray too for using chunks - I have virtually an unlimited supply of red-oak (this is an awesome smoke on beef by they way), wild cherry and apple, and a lot of maple.  It's just so easy to 'slice' a 4" diameter hunk off and lay it on my old brinkman, I'd like to be able to do that the the MES.  Granted, it's not much work to take a thin 'slice' and break it into chunks.
    Last edited: May 6, 2011
  19.     Todd,

        The chunks I like to use will fit in the loader. Usually either splits or branch cuts about 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 thick. After removing

     the block installed on the loader for the short chip pan it will hold about 7 inch lengths.

        I took a couple of pictures but they are too dark to be of any value.


      Thanks for the tip on pulling the chip pan out a bit. I will try that. I have pulled the loader out about an inch for more air.

  20.     Tinkerin,

       It was harder than it looks. The stainless is thin but tough and hard to drill with a hole saw. If I were to do it again I would

       probably just snip out some from the center of the piece without even removing it. Anything to get more heat to the chip

       pan. I suppose they did that due to the larger heating element than the older models. The retro pan sits just about on the

       element with no metal between them. Even so it seems to work well with larger wood.

        I'm like you, I have 5 acres if mostly oak with just a few hickories. I like oak personally but it's a bit strong for the wife.


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