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MES 30: Whole Chicken Stalled

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

I just got an MES 30 and last night did bratwurst with good agreement to recipe time at specified temperature and good concurrence between readings on built-in air and meat temperatures and readings on my own air and meat thermometers. However, tonight I tried a whole chicken and things are stalled.


The recipe calls for a temperature of 220 degrees and an inch of water in the pan. All went well for about two hours (of the estimated three hours) after which time internal temperature has stalled for over one hour at 155, as given by the built-in meat probe and my own probe.


I'm having trouble getting a secondary reading of air temperature. I dropped my oven thermometer and so don't know if it's reading right when it claims a temperature of only 200. I dangled a Taylor meat probe (not designed to measure air temperature, I know) down the air vent and got a reading of around 230. So I have a tie vote. The chicken and the oven thermometer think it's maybe 200 but the built-in air thermometer and the dangled Taylor think it's 225, as it should be. Meanwhile, I'm getting hungry, though not quite hungry enough to eat partially cooked chicken :-\


What might explain these results? Is the temperature really 200 despite agreement between the built-in and Taylor probes?


When, if ever, is it time to crank the set temperature up by 20 degrees or so just to get some action?

Edited by wbmccarty - 12/3/11 at 9:05am
post #2 of 8

I believe you can crank the temps up any time you want.  Most of us finish chickens off at 325 or so.  A couple of hours low and slow to give them some flavor and then at the higher temps to crisp them up and get them finished.  If you have problems with thermos you can always check the joint where the thigh meets the backbone  If that is clean and not bloody your chicken should be ok.  Clear fluid when you stick a fork in it is also a good indication


I always keep a couple of the cheap quick read analog dial thermometers (a couple of bucks at Wally World) as a back up.

post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 

alblancher, thanks for the feedback. I have complete confidence in my meat readings. It's the air readings I don't trust. My MES tops out at 275 but, given that the bird has three hours of smoke, I'll put on the afterburners and set the table. :D


In the future, I'll wire my Taylor's probe to the middle of the middle grid before adding food. That should give me a good read of internal temperature. 


So, what's the bottom line? Is that recipe that called for 3 to 3-1/2 hours at 220 just a little naive, maybe? That is, if the actual air temperature is maybe 200-210 rather than the planned 220 could that be too close to the desired 165 finishing temperature to do a bird in less than a millennium?


I've done charcoal smoking in a WSM with inevitably good results and so I supposed that the MES would be a cake walk. :-0

post #4 of 8

As a charcoal smoker you know that those chamber numbers are just there abouts.  10 degrees one way or another is fine.


You may try rephrasing your question in the Electric Smoker thread.  Asking about the chamber temps.  Someone that uses Electric can help you more.  I'm a wood burner and those fancy watt burners scare me

post #5 of 8
Thread Starter 

Thanks muchly, alblancher. I'd be the first to concede that the skill and love required to coax and coddle a charcoal fire just can't help but yield a better Q, at least in principle. Properly tuned and tweaked, my WSM held temperature rock solid.


But I've got a little less energy and a little less joint flexibility than a few years ago when I bought my WSM. As I had hoped, I'm finding my new friend Reddy Kilowatt to be easier to tend and not (to me) much inferior in terms of product (those chickens took their time but were might yummy) to what I have worked much harder to achieve. So, for me, the MES seems to have been a good choice: better electric smoke than no smoke at all. Seems I'm a food pragmatist at heart. :-) 

post #6 of 8

There's a learning curve to every smoker. A couple more smokes & you'll be smoking like a pro with your MES.

post #7 of 8

Plus, not all chickens are made the same; different weights, different fat content, moisture content, breast size, etc. can introduce variables into your smoke.  Also, are you brining your birds too?  The extra moisture from brining can reduce stall times (increased moisture = faster heat transfer in muscles).  Darn it, just gives reason to practice, practice and more practice, lol!  Be sure to keep a log of your different smokes; jot notes in a book or electronically. Great job getting them to mighty yummy!

post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 

Oh, I don't want to seem negative at all. Actually, the result was better than any store-bought bird I've eaten :-)


I'm just puzzled why the bird stopped increasing in temperature. Apparently, the skin/bark acted as an insulating layer that was able to resist 200- to 220-degree heat but not 275-degree heat.


Pops, at this point I'm just trying to learn the ins and outs of the MES. That's why I've done bratwurst and chicken. In the worst case of an inedible smoke, I wouldn't be out much money for either one. Consistent with that I'm-just-fooling-around attitude, I didn't bother brining the bird. It's downright scary to think how good that bird might have been if brining made it only a tiny bit better! There's a left-over piece in the refrigerator that's calling me even now. . . . :D

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