Should have read the entire thread before replying as I see you bought a MES. Here is another suggestion for a WSM mod though
Originally Posted by armyguy209
I have 3 smokers currently and they each serve their purpose(Primo oval XL, Make 2 Star, and a WSM 22.5 with mods). The only problem with these is that none of them serve a purpose that I now need, making snack sticks, sausage, and jerky.
I need a dedicated smoker that can actually hit these low temps and hold them(130-170°F). I've been eyeballing a few electric smokers, and actually went down to bass pro today to pick up their Redhead/masterbuilt 30 electric smoker. I also picked up the MES coldsmoker so that I can still pile on the smoke at the lower temps. They are sitting in the house unopened, and after reading I kind of feel now that I bought the wrong smoker. Good news is that I can take them right back tomorrow.
Take a look at this WSM mod I came up with for my 18.5" WSM. I made it just for use with sausage, snack sticks and jerky.
Short version is I took an extra door for the WSM body and mounted an electric element in the door. The element plugs into a "plug and play" Auber Instrument PID controller. When I want electric for those low temps for sausage & sticks, I use the element and an Amazen pellet tray in the empty fire ring of the WSM. When I want to use the WSM like normal as a charcoal smoker, I just have to put the unmodified door back in the body.
The element I used is the perfect size for the 18.5" WSM, as it is centered in the body on an extra fire grate I put on top of the fire ring. I have a couple of extra 18.5" food grates and stack them using wood block spacers to load on extra layers of sausage & sticks. I tried kielbasa hanging in the smoke hanger adapter for the WSM but had to flip the sausage as the lower section did not heat as quickly as the upper. Laying it flat on multiple cooking grates at the top grate level and above gave much more even heating and cook times (I found no need to flip or rotate this way).
I had the extra WSM door and the heating element was like $30 or so on Amazon if my memory serves correctly. I tried the analog thermostat on the heating element to start with and it worked, but the temp swing was greater than I wanted (it's analog, and this was expected). So I added the Auber PID. I crank the analog dial to full on and plug it into the Auber PID box and the PID runs the show from there. I think the entire mod with a ready built PID controller was around $150, but like I said, I already had an extra door. It's still going to be less expensive to do a e-WSM mod than to buy a new smoker. You may want a higer wattage element if you have a 22.5" WSM as you will be heating more air volume. Another option would be to take a thermal wrap and put it around the WSM body to make it an insulated smoker. I have not tried this, nor do I think I need it in my 18.5" model and I've used the e-WSM in the dead of winter (20* weather).
Not an expensive mod and in my case it made the wife happy as I did not have to take up more real estate on the porch with another smoker (but I do have a huge warming cabinet in storage for the uber sausage machine conversion).
Here is the link to the e-WSM mod and a couple of smokes with it: