Originally Posted by SmokinHusker
The paper clips as hooks is pretty neat. I use the skewers and hang them from the MES racks with stainless steel S-Hooks (bending one end open cause the only ones I could find were closed on the ends. I attach the S Hooks to each end of the skewer and then hang on the racks
Just a couple tips that I have found works for me. I use the top rack and the third rack down if need be, removing the second rack for space. If I still have jerky left over, I lay it on the top rack first and then the third rack if need be. I usually get 9-11 pieces of jerky on each skewer and 6-8 skewers per rack.
If the humidity is high, it takes mine longer to "dry", I think the longest it has taken mine to dry is 10 hrs. Looks like you had temps similar to the way I do it (I followed Rick's (NEPAS) time and temp from his jerky making). I also use a dry cure which probably makes a difference.
Do you know about the "bend test" to check the doneness of jerky?
There's a pic of it in this thread: http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/123611/elk-jerky-again
I think putting the extra jerky up on the top rack makes sense so you don't restrict the airflow to the lower racks. I always put that drip pan on the top of the top rack, pushed over to the right to force the smoke to travel all the way around that pan and up through the opening it leaves over at the left. Since the exhaust vent is in top right of my smoker, I want to get the airflow to circulate rather than just rise straight up from the heating element (which is also on the right side). There may really be no problem without the baffle, but I've always done it that way.
But that, then, means that the top side of the top rack is unavailable for smoking. If I need the extra space, I just forego the baffle.
What I ought to do is build a better baffle and attach it up higher so that it doesn't interfere with the use of the top rack!
And along the same lines, I usually have a piece of foil covering the left half (a bit less, actually) of the bottom rack to stop any drips from reaching the AMNPS. So that sort of means that the bottom rack is also off limits!
Generally, I just use the middle two racks, and for most things, that's plenty of space.
But hanging all of that jerky did take up the entire top rack, and it hung down low enough that just like you said, the third rack would have been touching. So that did leave me with the 2nd rack up as the place I put the extra. If I did take the bottom rack out, I'd have probably had room to hang the other pieces from rack 2 without it touching the cover over the heating element or the AMNPS.
I've used a foil "tent" over the AMNPS before, but I find that the way I'm doing it now seems to keep it lit better. I've had problems in the past keeping it going. We're at about 5300' elevation, and I think the thinner air makes airflow more critical for keeping the pellets burning.
I really should build a more rigid and permanent top baffle that's closer to the "ceiling" to duct the airflow the way I like. I could also build a better shield for the AMNPS so that the bottom rack wouldn't be partially unusable due to the foil.
And really, what might be neat would be some kind of a rack that slips into the rack rails, but which stands up higher so that for jerky, your hanging pieces would start off up higher to the "ceiling" for the top rack.
Then, maybe you could also use the 3rd rack up for another group hanging, and that would leave more room below.
I should play around with building a rack like that for the top, for jerky hanging. The way things are, there's a lot of wasted space above that top rack :)
Your count of how much jerky can be hung from one rack seems to match mine. I went with 9 pieces per skewer and six skewers. That seemed to give enough space that nothing was touching anything else.
The humidity here is usually extremely low, but we have had a somewhat more humid than usual summer this year (actually, about the last five or six summers we've had higher than normal summertime humidity). I'm not sure if that had anything to do with my long drying time, but I suspect that I may have started off with too low of a temperature, and as you pointed out, my marinade was very wet.
I actually put extra liquid over and above what the recipe called for in because I was concerned that I didn't have enough to fully cover all of the pieces. But I think that was a mistake, and made the strips a lot wetter than they probably are supposed to be when starting out.
A dry cure would have been even better from the perspective of getting the meat to dry quickly. I need to experiment with all of this!!!
It's funny, but I had read that other thread of yours with the "bend test" illustrated, and I did do that! In fact, I think I got a lot of my temperature regime from those posts of yours in that thread!
I kind of went through a bunch of threads on here, and copied and pasted various recipes and temperature/time profiles, etc., from some of the posts into one text file that I printed out and was referring to as I was doing this! I'm sure some of your posts got "pasted" into that "cheat sheet" that I made!
My whole procedure pretty much came from various posts here. :) I have to say thanks to all of you who have contributed!
Originally Posted by The Zil
Looks awesome. I was going to use s hooks, til I priced them. Lol. I did see instructions on the Internet on how to make a jig to shape your own S hooks, on the cheap. I like projects like that. Til I can make my own I use bamboo skewers, run to pieces of jerky through with a skewer. Then, dangle each piece through the slots on the grates. I can get about 80 pieces of jerky hung per rack, but only use 3 racks. That is with the MES 30". Takes forever to load it but this is a hobby, for me, so I don't mind. I have 8# in my MES 30 right now. I'll have to try that recipe, sounds delish.
I know what you mean about the price of the "S" hooks. I was prepared to buy a batch, but as I stood there in the hardware aisle, looking at the prices, and trying to see what they had that would do the job, but which wasn't super-expensive, that's when it occurred to me to try the paper clips! I thought there might be a pack of, say, ten or a dozen for a couple of bucks, but all they had were packs of one or two at a couple of bucks a pop. Cheapskate that I am, it made me ponder.
I like that idea of using the skewers, and allowing the jerky to dangle through the grate. That also gets things up just a bit higher, which is a plus, I think. I have seen some posts where folks used toothpicks to skewer the meat, then just let it hang down through the grate. That also looked promising, and when I was buying the skewers and paperclips, I also bought a big box of toothpicks!
In the end, though, I went with the skewers because I couldn't think of an easy way to get the meat on toothpicks into the grate while it was in the smoker. And I was afraid of it falling off if I tried to carry it from somewhere else and slip the grate into the smoker. Loading up the skewers, putting them on a tray, then putting the individual skewers up under the grate while it was in the smoker seemed like a "doable" job.
If I made a stand that I could put one of the smoker grates onto so that I could pre-hang the jerky, using the bamboo skewers the way you describe, I think I could get more jerky per grate! Then I could carry that grate to the smoker and slide it in. I may have to try that!
Also, if I were to trim the meat slices to a shorter length, I could theoretically use at least three of the four grates. That might also be a good thing to look into!
I did get a meat slicer the other day. I had looked a couple of places in town, but while the websites of these big-box stores showed that they had meat slicers, none of our local branches actually had them in stock. I would have had to order one, and since I was going to have to order anyhow, I got it from Amazon. Take that, local big-box store branches! ;-)
Anyhow, If a person was to cut the steak into slabs such that the slices from those slabs would be short enough to fit between the grates, AND if you used a method like you describe with the bamboo skewers (or something short enough to fit the depth of the grates), you'd have the tops of the slices up at the top surface of the grates, so you wouldn't have the wasted space that my paper clips forced me to have. All of that should allow more slices to be jammed into the smoker at one time.
Also, if I bent the paper clips to be more specialized hanger/hooks, I could get the skewers up closer to the bottoms of the racks. So there are a lot of possibilities for optimizing things to make it easier and get better use of the space in the smoker. But it's good to think about this ahead of time like this because once you've got that cured meat in front of you, and the smoker warming up, it's too late to plan out how you're going to hang the slices!
I guess that's part of what person learns by doing this a few times and by getting help from everyone else who's already been through it a few times!!!
Maybe it'd be worth building a special jerky hanging rack for these MESs to make things easier.
Sorry for the long ramble. It's sometimes easier to think things through when writing it out, I guess.