My chicken refused to get hotter than 154 degrees. See my story below.
I have a new MES 30". After initial seasoning, I decided on smoking a whole chicken and also cooking some beans. I used the MES recipe as the starting point for the chicken, and used the time and temperature in Dutch's baked bean recipe for the beans, although I didn't use most of his ingredients because I wanted to fully understand what flavor the smoking was adding to the beans.
I set the MES to 220 degrees, and added chips every 45 minutes, checking to make sure the previous set had turned to ash.
Prior to doing this cooking, but after doing the initial seasoning, I ran the MES for a few hours, without any wood chips, after putting four pyrex cups filled with a little cooking oil into the smoker. I monitored the smoker temp and the oil temp using my Maverick remote thermometer. According to my Maverick probes, the smoker was running around 235, instead of 220, and even the MES showed a temp of 225, despite being set for 220. I have read a lot about people building their own PID controller to get better temp regulation, so I was aware that temperature control was going to be an issue.
However, despite these findings, I decided to proceed with my first recipe without making any compensation to the MES temperature settings.
I split the chick in half, as recommended by MES. I put the beans (just one can) in a small casserole dish. I put my Maverick probe in the chicken breast, set the MES to 220, and then monitored the temperatures every thirty minutes. I added two cups of water to the water tray. My goal was to cook for three hours.
The first issue is that the MES wouldn't quite get to 220 degrees. This is odd because, during my tests with the cooker empty it got hotter than 220, as I already noted above. I decide that this was due to the water in the pan. The hottest it ever got was about 215, and would sometimes dip below 210.
The big issue is that the chicken refused to go above 154 degrees. It stalled out at this temperature after about three hours, and after four hours had gone up exactly one more degree, to 155 degrees. Thinking there was some problem with the Maverick probe, I brought out my Thermapen and stuck the chicken and it gave me the same reading. The beans weren't very hot either.
I don't understand the thermodynamics of how the surround temperature can be 210 - 215, and yet not have the meat rise above 154.
I finally brought the chicken inside and we ate it. The meat was very moist and not underdone, so I can't complain.
Unfortunately, the smoke flavor, while tasty, was overpowering. The rub I used was completely and totally obliterated. I could have used anything and I don't think I would have tasted it.
So, while a little disappointed, and certainly very puzzled, I'm going to keep on plugging, although I think I will be only smoking for a very short amount of time having now learned that most definitely is such a thing as too much smoke.
I wonder if not using the water in the pan would decrease the amount of smokiness. It is my understanding that the moist environment is part of what helps the smoke adhere to the food. Should I not use water in the pan?
I'm all ears if anyone has suggestions or comments.