Originally Posted by N4YNU
I am finding they are a bit finicky, especially on these high humidity days we have been having out here and they seem to like the cook temps below 250 or they get char coaled and burn a bit faster, but have not had any flare ups with them, but I am totally impressed with the flavor from them and the consistent smoke, even though the high temps cause faster consumption, it is still far better than opening the door every 30 minutes which really destroys box temps and lengthens cook time rather drastically.
That's what I've run into. In the past, with very low humidity (which is more normal around here), for both cold and hot smoking, I've had no problems as long as I pre-dried the pellets, got them burning very well, had the AMNPS up on the rails in the smoker so it's got good circulation below it, had the pellet hopper pulled out most of the way or even removed, had the chip tray open somewhat, and did NOT use the water pan in the smoker.
But recently, I've had the pellets go out, even with all of that done. The one variable has been high humidities. So I think the pellets absorb the moisture during the smoking session, and after an hour or so, they've absorbed enough moisture that they're no longer able to burn at this elevation.
But when it all works, it's great. Nice smoke, not needing to open the door, and burning for a very long time, too!
I'll tell you what has made mine flare up, though! I've been drying the daylights out of the pellets in our convection oven. Then I light the AMNPS with a MAPP Gas torch. That get's 'em going pretty good! Then, I take a computer fan, holding it in my hand, to "blow" on the pellets to REALLY get them going. With the pellets so dry, and after using the fan to really get the cherry scorching along, they'll often burst into flames! I can then NOT blow them out. There's just too much hot smoke coming off of the cherries to not burst into flames.
I have to close the door on the smoker to get a reduced oxygen situation for a minute or so, and then I can usually blow the darned things out! But this only happens because I've got the pellets so extremely dry at that point. Since it's been humid, lately, this "problem" soon corrects itself, and then I'm back to having a hard time keeping them burning at all.
Originally Posted by Frankly
Green - I am no where near as experienced and knowledgeable as the other guys posting here, but in my opinion - just go with option 2 and start smoking the way the instructions with it say to (along with some advice from here...). You can buy the AMPNS and upgrade to other equipment later. I think the best thing to do is just jump in at the basic point, experiment and progress up the complexity and then really figure out what you want to do long term. That's been my approach and working well for me so far. The MES with a back control (I assume is a Gen1) has worked well for me so far.
That's probably good advice. You've got to start someplace, and then work your way into things as you see what's working or not for you, at your location, with your weather and elevation, etc.
The AMNPS or (as I probably should get for myself), one of the tube smoke generators just adds a bit of control because you separate the smoke generation from the cycling of the heating element. I'm going to start a thread about some of this, with one of the main points being that ideally, we set things up to have separate control over every variable to give us the most control. But, again, you have to start someplace, and then learn what works best for you in your particular situation and with your particular preferences and styles of cooking.
I started with an inexpensive Brinkmann (ECB) using charcoal and wood chunks. It actually served me very well. But I soon modified it to get it to work better for me here. And it worked even better for me for some time. Then I got an electric because I had seen them at the local Sam's Club, and I had bought a big pork butt, and as I pondered it, I decided that I really should just go get the electric and give it a try.
Over time, I've tweaked things and am still tweaking and modifying things to try to get what I want. The cooking and the results are fun and worthwhile. And the tinkering with the process and the equipment is another dimension to the hobby, just like anything else. It's fun to experiment, build things, and modify both the equipment and the processes.
This forum is fantastic because you get to see everyone else's ideas and inventions and you get the benefit of their experience and recipes!
Originally Posted by daRicksta
Wood pellets can present problems with going out. I have that problem the most with cold smokes or with hot smokes at a low temp in my MES 30. I think it's more of an airflow problem within the smoker under certain weather/outdoor temp conditions. I can light a pellet tray and have the pellets burn and smolder for hours if I let it. Many times I'll put the tray in my smoker and the pellets will burn fine. Other times the pellets keep snuffing out until the interior temp gets hot enough to get the air moving around. But then there are times when even cooking at 250° doesn't help.
What your son did with the charcoal is exactly what some other people have done in the pursuit of a smoke ring. I wonder if pellets made from Jack Daniels whiskey barrels would do the same thing? Those are charcoal pellets, not wood. They're made from the charred insides of the barrels. There are people on SMF who use them but I haven't read of anyone reporting a smoke ring from those pellets. But then I don't read all the posts here.
My experience has been just like yours.
High temperatures (or rather a large difference between the temperature in the smoker and the outside air) creates better draft up through the smoker. If the air in the smoker cabinet is warmer than the outside air, then it will be at a lower density than the outside air, and that denser, heavier outside air will want to come into the bottom opening of the smoker chamber and displace that lower density air that's already inside. That creates a good draft, and you get good circulation and fresh oxygen-rich air constantly siphoning into the bottom to keep the pellets burning.
I've had great luck cold smoking here when it's really cold out. I've smoked cheese, for example, when it's cold outside because just the heat of the smoldering pellets warmed the inside of the smoker enough to create a draft.
I've done some cheese smoking when it was so cold outside (well below zero) that I had to intermittently turn the smoker on to keep the interior temperature up around 50 degrees F. The heat from the smoldering pellets was not enough. (I need to modify the smoker so I can set temperatures to anything I want. The factory control won't let me set it below 100 degrees F, which is too hot for any cold smoking).
In both cases, I had good draft through the smoker, which kept the pellets burning just fine. But, it's usually very dry here when it's cold outside. So I had reasonable draft and low humidities.
But recently, I have had pellet burn failures due to high humidity.
In one case, I was making jerky at about 150 to 160 degrees. But it was warm and humid outside. So even though there was some draft, it wasn't enough to compensate for the extreme humidity. I ended up using a small computer fan to force air through the smoker, and that helped both to keep the pellets going and to let me dry the jerky. The poor draft and high humidity were making the drying take forever, but with the fan, it dried in just a few hours.
In another case, I was trying to cold smoke with no heat from the smoker. So I just left it off. It was about 68 degrees F out, but again, rather humid for here (about 40%). Of course, there was absolutely no draft because the smoldering pellets weren't enough to create a good draft on their own. Not enough temperature differential between the inside of the smoker and the ambient outside air, therefore, no density difference to create the convection draft.
So I used a small fan again, to force a draft through the smoker. This made the pellets burn well. Perhaps too well! And it helped to keep the temperature in the smoker lower. On the one hand, I could have used a higher inside temperature to get the draft I wanted, but on the other hand, I was smoking some butter, and didn't want the temperature to go above about 75 degrees F. So the fan-forced setup was what I needed. I also ended up putting a pan of ice in the smoker to help hold the temperature down, and that worked beautifully.
I'm not an expert on the smoke ring, but from what I've read, it's a chemical reaction that you get between myoglobin in the meat and some products of combustion that are rich when you heat with charcoal, and to some extent with gas, but of course, not at all when you heat electrically.
Just the smoldering pellets or chips don't really create those products of combustion enough to get to the concentrations you need in the smoker to get a smoke ring.
And even if you used some charcoal to keep the pellets or wood chunks smoldering, it still may not be nearly enough to achieve the concentrations necessary to get that reaction.
But the "smoke ring" isn't really a good indicator of anything other than the fact that the meat was cooked in an atmosphere rich in those particular products of combustion. It doesn't, in itself, give the meat any flavor, and it doesn't indicate whether or not the meat will have good flavor, either. So it's just a visual thing only. I don't worry about it at all because it doesn't affect the flavor or aroma of the finished meat. But I do know that people are often conditioned to look for it. You see the judges on those TV shows commenting on the "nice smoke ring" when judging the appearance of the meat.
They should do a smoked meat contest where only electric smokers are allowed! Or have a blindfolded contest where the judges only rate the meat on its flavor, aroma, texture, etc. No peeking!