I am actually very shocked that I had to create a login for this site because I have spent so much time searching, reading, and learning about smoking on this forum that it already feels like home.
I'm from Maryland and live in Charlotte now and have been smoking since 2012. I bought a MES 30 in 2012 (gen 1) and have done about 4-5 pork butts in it and a couple of racks of ribs. I've used a few different types of chips including some Jack Daniels chips which turned out pretty well. In the past, I used a combo of wet and dry chips and found that a wet base (1/2 and 1/2 mix for the first few hours) with only dry after that seemed to work pretty well.
Before this past weekend, my last smoke was a winter smoke and the butt wasn't fully thawed (I later found out). I probed the pork and it read a solid 32 degrees! 24 hours later, the butt still turned out great.
To maximize time sitting around drinking beer while watching the meat smoke and to avoid doing any actual work, I longed for an easier way to create smoke than adding chips every 20-30 minutes. As the forum seemed to shout, the answer for me was purchasing the AMNPS. I bought it directly from Todd about a year ago and it sat in the box until this past weekend as I did not smoke any meat for a while (had kid #2 and just didn't get it done).
Yesterday was my first time trying the AMNPS. I had an 8 pound bone-in butt and I used a little rub I got from the local meat store (Lysander's). After getting the smoker to temp at 275 for AMNPS priming, I put the unit in the smoker for about 40 minutes to burn off any manufacturing oils (per the instructions). Next, rather than microwave the pellets to dry them, I opted to load the AMNPS with pellets and toss it into the smoker (unlit) for 15 minutes to dry the pellets. Next, I pulled the AMNPS out of the smoker and set it onto the grill for lighting. I have watched videos and read many users' accounts of lighting the AMNPS. My wife has a butane creme brulee torch that turned out to be perfect. I started a cherry and let the flame burn for about 12 minutes. Once I was sure of the cherry, I put the unit into the smoker, set to 225, put in the meat, and started smoking. I put everything in around 8 PM.
Over the next few hours, I was watching the smoke come out of the unit. The first few hours produced a lighter but very steady smoke (I am now assuming this is the sought after "TBS"). I checked the cherry on the AMNPS twice and it looked solid. Around midnight, the smoke picked up and was plentiful. It would go from plentiful to TBS and back a few times throughout the smoke. Around 1:30 AM I probed the meat (after avoiding the danger zone) and did my final check on the AMNPS. It still had a solid cherry and was going strong.
I woke up the next morning and checked the smoker. There was still smoke! I couldn't believe the AMNPS made it through the night and continued to produce solid smoke for 13 hours.
For probing, I used the built-in MES temp probe as well as a Maverick. I have not checked the calibration on the Maverick yet, but I wanted to get a second opinion on the internal temp so I routed it through the exhaust hole. Both were within one degree of each other, often reading the same thing when I checked around the 160 mark. That did a lot for my confidence in both probes. As the meat was nearing completion, the probes began to differ. Ideally, I wanted to see them both say 205 before I pulled the meat. However, the MES probe lagged about 5-6 degrees behind the Maverick. After searching the forums some more, I decided that the Maverick probably was the more accurate probe (results to be confirmed during a boil test), but I decided to pull when the Maverick said 206 and the MES said 200. After opening the smoker, the meat was nearly perfectly falling apart at this point and I would pull again at these temps in the future.
After the meat was out, I wrapped in foil, wrapped in a towel, and into the styrofoam cooler it went. My last smoke was 24 hours and I wanted to be sure to have this meat ready for dinner at 6 PM, so I left a little too much time in the plan. I pulled the meat out at 11:30 AM (8 PM - 11:30 AM smoke). Planning to only let it sit for a few hours and not thinking it would be okay sitting until 6 PM, I kept wanting to take it out of the cooler to pull. Every time I unwrapped it down to the foil, though, the foil was still HOT. I ended up leaving it in the cooler until 6 PM. I'm not sure if that's too long, but it was still very hot and this method actually worked rather well.
I used Pitmaster's choice pellets from A-MAZE-N that came with the AMNPS. A buddy picked up a 20 pound bag of hickory pellets at the local Cabela's for $15. We'll see if they work as well in the AMNPS - has anyone used other brand pellets?
It's good to be back into smoking again and I am more than pleased with my first use of the AMNPS. Next up, a brisket.
Flame burning on the AMNPS:
Temp probes at 160:
Butt after removing:
A chunk happened to fall off!:
AMNPS after the smoke:
Pork after partial pulling:
Crab mac (hey, I said I'm from MD):
On the bun (Martin's Potato Rolls):