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Meco (5031?) Please Help!

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

Hey ya'll,

 

So my room mates are getting in to smoking this season, too, and have pushed for a new smoker.  Cost is coming before quality here due to impatience and they selected a Southern Country/Meco (I think 5031, it's a charcoal water smoker with 2 openings in the body and 1 sliding panel that operates in both of them) against my warnings.  I've lurked around here and the internet in general and can't find any real input on this particular smoker.  It's the one with the two doors on the front of it (both open at the same time as they're just one piece of sheet metal behind two cuts, so no independant control) and no low body dampers.  I know it's a cheapo but it seems like some people have gotten it to work for them.

 

To date we've only done the initial cure/burn, with an underwhelming amount of charcoal, no wood, and a consistent, albeit low, temperature.  We're hoping to toss some wings on for trial tomorrow.  Long run will be everything from sausage and ribs to butt and brisket.

 

Short of talking them into the leap toward a WSM, can anyone give me some advice with these?

 

-How did you get yours to reach temp?  To hold it?

-Are there any mods you recommend?  (beyond a replacement temp gauge)

-Would it be wise to insulate the body, and if so how?

-How does one control the heat on this as there is no built-in damper on the bottom, only two smoke venting dampers on top?

-The instruction manual says to open the front/chamber doors for air intake, which opens on the bottom on the charcoal pan and on the top even with the bottom food grate/directly over the waterpan... To me this seems like charcoal and water refill doors that would let out heat and smoke if left open.  Any input here?

-Super noooooooob question, but what in the hell is the "cover plate" for?  It's a rectangular piece of metal, approx 4" long x 1" wide, with a half circle cut into it to make a notch and a handle; it is screwed in on one side, and tucks into the slot in the base on the other.  I feel like I've seen this on other portable charcoal grills but have never known its purpose.

 

If no one has very much experience with these, can anyone tell me:

-How to cut/build dampers into a smoker myself

-How to insulate a bullet style vertical smoker

-If Lowe's will return an item (at least for store credit) that has only had 1 fire in it

-Please only respond to this part if you've already read and hopefully responded to the rest, but would I save myself some hairline and a few years of life on my heart if I just returned this thing and got the WSM?  How "hot to trot out of the box" is the WSM?

 

Thanks for reading ya'll, my room mates and my GI tract much appreciate any and all input!

post #2 of 8
I started charcoal smoking with a meco smoker and I quite smoking with charcoal for ten years after that.

Very hard to manage temps. Eats a lot of fuel and requires massive amounts of charcoal. There really is no good way to control temps. You want need your exhaust vents open at all times. Do your best to control temps with the lower door. Do not use water in the water pan. Wrap the pan in foil for easy clean up. Fill charcoal pan full and use minion method for lighting.

Wouldn't bother insulating it. To much of a pain in the @$$ for what the smoker isn't capable of doing.

I'd return it and get the WSM. I have 4 mini-WSM's and a 18.5 WSM. Rock solid charcoal smokers.
post #3 of 8

I debated this very smoker, and after asking here, went with the WSM 18.5.

 

Out of the box - from what I've read, the only out of the box item on the WSM that you may have to address is the thermometer.  It runs hotter than what the thermometer shows.  But the ease of getting the vents to a position where the temp stays constant for LONG periods of time is really good.

 

I'd call Lowes to see if it can be returned/exchanged.

post #4 of 8
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the input guys; so neither of you have heard of any mods for the door on this or anything then?  I think I'll go pick up the WSM pretty soon here, but I may actually hold on to this as a project.  Seems like a challenge no one has addressed yet, and for such an economical selection it'd be cool if I could figure something out!

post #5 of 8
not familiar with it... but after doing a little search and reading some reviews.. i wouldn't be able to get it back to the store for a refund quick enough.. I second the WSM ...
post #6 of 8
Thread Starter 

Went through with tonight's Q, it actually held temp for me after figuring out how they intend the damper system to work.  No pro smoker, the temp wavered between 230 and 250, but I made a juvenile mistake and did not refill the water pan, had a bit of a grease fire and some burnt product unfortunately.  There were some bites that were delicious and as planned, and they went down well with the beer!

post #7 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by DenaliEast View Post
 

Went through with tonight's Q, it actually held temp for me after figuring out how they intend the damper system to work.  No pro smoker, the temp wavered between 230 and 250, but I made a juvenile mistake and did not refill the water pan, had a bit of a grease fire and some burnt product unfortunately.  There were some bites that were delicious and as planned, and they went down well with the beer!

 

Sounds like a great learning experience.  If you are committed to keeping it, then try to start a log of the temps and how the damper and vents were set.

 

The beer always makes things better!

 

Cheers!

post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 
Problem is they won't return it so now we're stuck trying to make the best of it. Second cook went alright, difficulty maintaining temp of course but implementing my digital thermometer was definitely a huge help. Both the stock and replacement thermo I got for it are way off. I ended up making too big of a fire that I had to keep damped down so we got that stale smoke taste. Tried out the minion method and while it kept burning for a while I noted that all the coals seemed to take off in the first 45 min rather than having a slow domino effect. I'm going to keep playing around with it and crossing my fingers, but I see a wsm or home built uds on the horizon, hoping to can cannibalize for parts if I build. In the meantime I'll put up a meco review here after a few more tries so that others can have a good idea before point of sale
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