Hey all – I’ve been a long time user of the Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM) and have had really great cooks on it, usually briskets and pork shoulders. I really like the WSM as it provides very good temperature control. I also learned a ton on smoking from amazingribs.com.
My wife surprised me a few weeks ago with the new 30” Bluetooth MES. For me, while the WSM is a great smoker, there is a bit of work to complete a smoke, along with cleaning. With the MES, I was hoping that it would be easier overall to smoke which would encourage me to smoke more. So, I kept an open mind. I know amazingribs doesn’t like electric smokers and, while they do have some recommended electric brands, the MES is not recommended. Still, I was excited to give the MES a test run.
Before using the MES, I read a ton of posts out here. Things like use of the waterbowl, differences and opinion on Gen 1 and Gen 2, ANMPS/Mailbox mode, and the MB Coldsmoker. I wanted to prepare as much as I could before using the MES. I seasoned the unit per instructions the day before I smoked.
The smoke was a 6lb prime brisket (flat) that was seasoned the night before with a rub. Because I’m used to using a waterbowl, I did use water in the waterbowl, which I lined with foil. Cold meat and a humid environment is supposed to encourage more smoke to stick to the meat, so the meat went right from fridge onto the smoker. I’m used to providing smoke for the first 3 hours of a cook, then letting meat cook without smoke until about 155 degrees, which usually takes about 5 hours. Then, I usually foil the brisket (Texas Crutch) and let it finish in my indoor oven so I don’t have to keep feeding charcoal to the WSM. My plans were to complete the entire cook in the MES so eliminating the move from smoker to indoor oven (and smelling up the house, although I like the smell but not everyone does!).
From doing the seasoning, I learned that the smoker reads 20 degrees lower than actual. I used 3 other thermometers (thermapen, Maverick, candy thermo). We all know a smoker can measure different temps in different areas, so my readings are not scientific. Not sure where the MES measure current temp, but I put my probes about 12 inches from top vent and all got consistent readings. So, when I set the temp to 275 to season, my other thermos read 295 when the MES was reading near 275. Not a bad thing as long as you know it’s 20 degrees off! So, when I did the brisket, I set the MES at 240. The MES indicate temperatures between 233 and 241 all through the cook so it kept the temperature pretty consistent. My other thermos were 20 degrees higher, so I ended up cooking between 253 and 261, which is what I’m used to with the WSM.
A word on the Bluetooth: Setup was painless and a breeze with my iPad. My iPad communicated with the smoker flawlessly and range was great. I was about to move all over my house with no issues getting a reading on the outside smoker. The ap displays the current smoker temp and food temp. You can turn the unit on/off, set a new temp, set a new time, or turn the light off/on. It also tells you whether the smoker is heating or not. The tiny red heating LED on the unit is very difficult to see outside, even with the display shield. MB should replace the red LED with a green LED.
What I found was after adding chips (I used apple) to the MES, it smoked very nicely (starting in < 3 minutes) but only produced smoke for about 15 minutes. I was expected that ½ cup of chips to last 30 minutes so this was disappointing, as I had to go back and forth to the smoker every 20 minutes or so for the first 3 hours. I guess the nice thing is once you add chips, it smokes immediately and very nicely. But, they burn up lickity split. I didn’t experience any issues where the chips were just in the unit and not smoking if the unit was not heating. Since I only add smoke for 3 hours into a cook, this was not exactly a showstopper for me. I know a lot of people like the mailbox mod or ANMPS or the MB Cold Smoker to provide continuous smoke. I know there were times the unit wasn’t producing smoke in the first 3 hours as the chips had burned up. With the WSM, I used 16oz of wood chucks, loaded into the smoker 4oz at a time. With the MES, I must have loaded the unit about 8 times, so probably used about 10 oz of chips. By the way, I had the vent completely open during the cook.
A word on the food probe: When I first put the cold meat on, and for the first 2 hours, the difference between the MES and the maverick was over 15 degrees – the MES read higher. This didn’t concern me because I was not expecting a great deal of accuracy from the MES. However, 4 hours into the cook, the maverick read 160 and the MES read 159, so I would have to conclude that, when it matters later in the cook, the MES food probe seemed to accurate. At no point after 4 hours did a get any large difference.
After 4 hours, the brisket was 160, which is higher than I usually experience after 5 hours with the WSM. After 5 hours, it hit 169, so continued to let it go since I was getting good temperature rises. After another 40 minutes it was hanging out at 171, so I finally foiled with apple juice and left it in the MES. It got to 205 about 2 hours later and I removed it.
So, finally result? It was definitely much dryer than my other brisket cooks, but still tasty. It might be a tad less smoky than the WSM, but negligible. Maybe I foiled a bit too late in the process or maybe I needed to remove before 205, but that’s what I’ve been used to. Total cook time was 7.5 hours.
Cleanup was much easier than the WSM. I didn’t have one drop of liquid in the catch pan. Other than cleaning the door, which was most of the effort, most of the mess got caught in the foiled waterbowl. Two bad spots that missed the bowl got baked onto the area above the chip tray, so had to use easy-off to spot treat. Next time, I’ll use a small foil pan in the spot so cleanup will be even easier. The tip to clean while warm was a good one.
So, not a terrible result from my first smoke in the MES. I’m going to give it another whirl in a few weeks and adjust some of my cooking method to see if I can get back to a more moist brisket like I’m used to. Probably a matter of a few trials. I liked the MES and the way it holds a temperature pretty consistent for an entire cook despite you having to compensate for the unit being off with the overall temperature. I also like the fact I’m not messing with charcoal constantly. If I can get to a better result, then the only real complaint I would have is the constant monitoring and loading of wood chips. But, again, since I’m only using smoke for the first few hours, this is something I can put up with. To me adding additional things like the ANMPS/Mailbox defeats the purpose for me, personally, of easy and simple, since adding those things means messing with lighting things and additional cleaning. Of course, no offense to those who are doing this as seems like the ANMPS with a mailbox works well! But, if I’m going to use MES over the WSM it needs to be worthy of a lot of time savings. And, it was today.