I've had a couple seasons of experience with charcoal-based smoking using a WSM. But I'm not as spry and nimble as I once was and I noticed I hadn't used the WSM in many months. So, I bought an MES 30 hoping it would be less demanding of me and therefore enable me to once again enjoy smoking my own meats. The first night, bratwurst, went very, very well. But I fired up the MES for the second time tonight, only to meet the unexpected.
I was following a recipe for whole chicken that specified using an inch of water in the pan and smoking at 220 for 3 to 3-1/2 hours. All went well until the bird's temperature reached about 155, at which point everything stalled.
As near as I can tell, the MES temperature was 220, give or take maybe 10 degrees. I measured using the built-in thermometer, as well as an oven thermometer (which I determined to have failed as a result of a short drop sustained last night), and (as an afterthought based on suspicion the oven thermometer had failed) a Taylor digital probe, clumsily dropped through the air vent and suspended in free air (rather than properly located near the rack surface).
When the stall failed to resolve after an hour or so of patient waiting, I cranked up the temperature to 275 (the MES ceiling), finished the bird, and had a first-class meal.
My question is, what happened? My best guess is that the actual smoker temperature was less than the planned temperature; maybe something like 200-210 rather than 220. I suppose that the difference between the stalled meat temperature, 155, and the smoker temperature just wasn't enough to yield a rate of increase of meat temperature fast enough to finish the bird in hours rather than days.
So, questions follow. Does all that make sense or is some other explanation likely? Was cranking the temperature a reasonable way to handle the stall? That is, it did seem to work well this time but what about the general case? How much patience is reasonable when using an electric smoker? Are there any useful rules of thumb for such situations? Etc.
Thanks for any thoughts!