Hello, I am a new member from north NJ and just purchased the 30" MES using a 5X8 AMPS w/ pitmaster choice pellets. My wife and I work a lot of hours and have a newborn so we are limited to weekend-only use. I have made 2 smokes so far with the 1st being CostCo ribs (pre-rubbed) @ 275F using the 2-1-1 method which came out very firm (no breakdown) but very flavourful and pulled pork (using Meowey's BBQ Rub Plus - http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/50421/rub-for-pulled-pork) @ 225F and the same CostCo ribs (pre-rubbed) at 225F using the 3-2-2 method which came out MUCH MUCH better including tender ribs. The 2nd smoke got rave reviews but it still has room for improvement. I live very close to NYC so we are used to having the best food in the world (yep, I said it). However, BBQ does lack but we do have a few good places here. My goal is to have BBQ similar to those local joints. I would classify our tastes as being mostly ribs, pulled pork, chicken, and maybe a brisket. I can't think of too many other basic staples that we would make aside from maybe chicken wings. I just can't imagine us making something like meatloaf. :) I have a few questions and appreciate any helpful advice/criticism.
1) I have followed the AMPS instructions to the word but I have not had good luck. After 10 minutes of burning (40 seconds using a propane torch), I blow out the flame but the pellets stop smoking inside the smoker. Also, 10 minutes uses up a lot of the pellets but I guess that is necessary to keep the smoking process going. What am I doing wrong?
2) Aside from cleaning the racks, wiping down the door and the seal, and replacing the aluminium foil on the water pan and the drip tray, is there any other cleaning necessary?
3) How do I protect my patio deck from the grease/smoke?
4) I have read numerous threads and have never seen anyone suggest using the water pan?
5) I have a wireless probe that I confirmed accurate (shocked the hell out of me too) with a reading of 211F with boiling water. However, my smoker appear to read 10-12F LOWER than the probe. Is this a cause of concern or should I just increase the unit's temperature to 10-12F? If so, do I need to determine the temperature delta with each use?
6) How in the hell do you run the probe into the smoker? I went down through the vent against the door to clear the racks but it is a pain in the ass as I have to work fast to avoid heat loss and it must come out if I need to remove food.
7) Where exactly on the probe is the measurement taken? For example, is the measurement taken at the tip of the probe? 1/2 way?
8) The instruction manual doesn't even indicate a vent exists let alone give any explanation as to suggested use. Should I always leave it open?
9) What is the best approach to making BBQ if I need to re-heat it? For example, if I want to bring BBQ to a friend, I'd rather not be smoking throughout the night. I realize I can cook it a head of time and then re-heat but I am concerned with quality loss with reheat?
10) The pre-rubbed CostCo ribs come out very tasty but I prefer using my own rub. Any suggestions or is this a true trial-n-error?
11) Should I stick with the pitmasters choice wood pellets?