Congrats on your new Smoker BR Ragin Cajun....
Originally Posted by BR Ragin Cajun
Anyway, have read several threads on here and my main questions and concerns are:
1. What style/cut of wood to use? Pellets? Chips? Chunks? Seems chips or pellets would work best.
By all means buy an AMNPS a big improvement over just about anything else for the MES. However that doesn't mean you need the AMNPS, in fact some have problems keeping the dang thing lit or get crossover burns and have to go back to just using chips and the built in chip tray inside the MES. So it would be wise to learn how to properly use the stock MES, start with wood chips and you can add a few chunks. I will post below MES New Owner tips...
2. Soak or not soak chips, chunks? I assume you don't soak pellets but don't know as I have never used them. Used pecan 1" to 3" diameter chunks from limbs that fell in yard and I cut up when smoking on my BBQ pit. Hardly ever soaked them and if i did briefly like 20 minutes. They never flared up on the coals either way. Chips did I guess cause thinner and high heat of coals. So just assuming with electric smoker especially on lower heat setting no need to soak.
Everyone has a different take on soaking wood chips. My preference is soak em. Some claim soaking adds steam, it doesn't or if it does it is so little it will be gone in seconds, who cares with a water pan in the smoker. I soak em to get a few extra minutes of smoke out of them.
3. Air Damper Setting? Instructions say to keep completely closed for hot smoking and open for cold smoking like sausage or jerky. Read on forum different points of view on this. Some say closed, some say partially open or all the way. So I'm confused. Mainly it was on threads dealing with how this electric smoker does not produce good smoke or Length of time it takes etc.
Check your MES manual again, I think it says open for actual smoking. I have always kept it wide open for wood chips and chunks. For the AWNS and the AWNPS it varies according to the instructions that came with each accessory. When using wood chips via the chip tray, there are 3 small air inlet holes on the plastic part of the tube, air flow is necessary for combustion and smoldering, I have tried various setting in my MES40 for chips wide open has worked best for me. It doesn't hurt to experiment, thats part of the learning process.
4. Use water pan? Friend of my mine who uses a REAL Smoker! Lol! It is a pit with a side firebox real nice rig. He says no need for water pan. Your cooking at such low temps and most meats fatty enough and with recipe methods no threat of drying out? So opinions anyone for an electric smoker?
Your friend may have a real stick burner or side fire box smoker, but that doesn't mean he knows what works best. The fact is many competition BBQ/Smoker teams even those using a "real smoker" now also use a water pan. Don't believe me just watch Pitmasters or any other show that feature the equipment competition teams are using. Masterbuilt didn't make a mistake when they put the water pan in the MES, it helps control the heat and provides a moist cooking environment which aids in preventing dried out Q. Having said that, are there some who figured out how to successfully smoke their Q without a water pan, sure! But a water pan makes it easier to cook great tasting Q without it being dried or over cooked.
5. Fact or Fiction? No Smoke Ring? Have read on some threads that electric smokers don't produce a good bark or smoke ring. Others say they do. So? Good Bark I care about as far as smoke ring could care less. More concerned about texture and taste. I know on stove top smoker get good bark but never really noticed if ring or not. Of course on BBQ pit I get both. Meat from both taste the same. Good!
Like Dave said, don't expect much if any of a smoke ring with an electric smoker. There are several long threads on this forum about how to get a smoke ring, I have tried them in my 6 years as a member of this forum, most don't work with any kind of consistency, so I just don't bother. Taste, appearance and texture are what matters, and the MES delivers on all but the smoke ring.
CONGRATS on your NEW MES, Making it Easy to Smoke Q!
I post the tips below for newbies, it attempts to answer some of the common questions that are asked, hopefully it helps.
MES New Owner Tips:
Collected from input of many MES owners, some may seem a bit dated due to new MES with higher watt elements but work as a general rule.
• Season it. (Many spray the inside with PAM)
• No extension cords, unless it is 12 ga or heavier.
• Spray your racks with PAM prior to smoke (makes cleanup easier).
• For easier cleanup, use alum foil on the water pan and drain pan.
• Manual says preheating isn't necessary, preheat, it will make getting up to initial set temp faster, and temp recovery when opening hatch faster. (These instructions were for older MES units with lower wattage elements, however the value of preheating applies to all units.) Preheat to 270º. Cold ambient 45º and colder as long as 2 hours, 1 hour for warmer temps and as little as 30 min. in summer. Preheating help establish a stable cooking platform without the dramatic temp swings in first hour of smoking. (Experiment with preheating and see if it helps.)
• Add boiling hot water to pan, this will allow you to get up to set temp faster.
• Start the smoke with a few wood chips. The manual says 1 cup max, you will find a hand full is almost too much. 1st chip dump just a few chips 8-10, 15 minutes later a little more chips 10-12, another 15 minutes 12-15 chips. This should produce a nice bed of hot ash with good chip combustion. 12-20 chips every 30 minutes should work from this point on. Your goal is TBS (thin blue smoke). When its right you can smell the sweet smoke, it won't smell bitter or be cloudy white. Dark smoke is nothing but awful.
• Do not adjust vent leave it wide open. Unless using the AMNS, (follow AMNS instructions).
• Use external probe for sensing meat internal temp, you can run the probe cord through the exhaust vent. *You may want to run 2nd probe inserted into a wood block or potato with 2” to 3" tip exposed to verify the internal MES cooking temp. (Newer MES models have the built in probes. verify they are +/- 5º accurate).
• Once your meat is loaded, avoid opening the hatch. New models can recover to set temp faster, but every time you open the door you extend the cooking time. Thus spritzing isn't really necessary in a MES due to the water pan keeping the smoking environment moist enough to not dry out the meat.
• If you do have to open your MES plan your moves so you can keep door open time to a minimum. (I’ve decided to not stress and plan for open door times by adding 20 minutes per door opening, although best is to keep to absolute minimum).
• When your done cooking, the proper way to shut the MES down is to turn off the controller then unplug. (Sounds simple but the controller has been known to get stuck if not shut down properly.)
• If your MES seems to struggle getting to either the preheat temp of 270º or is taking extraordinary long times to raise to cooking temps after meat is loaded try doing a RESET..
Proper RESET = cycle the MES off with the controller, unplug electrical cord, count to 10, re-plug electric cord, turn on MES with on/off, reset temps.
If you tried a reset, and 20-30 minutes later there is little change do the reset again.
• Cleanup is easy with a Brillo (or similar) pad to scrub the tough stuff, and throw grates, water & drain pan into dishwasher. Some have complained about the spot welds on the drain pan rusting, I hit those spots with a touch of PAM then store the cleaned stuff back in the MES.
You do not need to clean the inside cabinet, most experienced smokers consider that just seasoning. With a hot wet rag, wipe out the inside bottom and any excessive gunk on the walls. Again with hot damp cloth, wipe the door gasket, and the door frames (for better seal).
Congrats on you new MES purchase, and welcome to the MES owners club.
SMOKE - ON DUDE