Originally Posted by N4YNU
I started with a Brinkman too hehehe
I start my AMNPS outside the smoker and let it get going well before I put in the box, the one time it was finicky was when I was doing 12 large chicken breasts, I do believe it was humidity but I opened the stack one notch and no more issues, and I am only 188 ft above sea level so altitude issues I think I am free from LOL
And I added the Smoke Stack which solved my air flow issue in reality as I can open it and induce a draft with very little heat, like the AMNPS, now if I just run the AMNPS, I open the Stack Damper all the way and get a very good draft, this is why I was planning to do that MOD when I bought this, although I liked the small exhaust vent it had, I also realized it would hamper drying as it was not in my opinion large enough to allow the needed air flow to dry well, and as well not enough to provide adequate air for the AMNPS as I had gathered that from reading so many posts.
And though it seems like so many seek the smoke ring, out of all the beautiful rings I have produced from my CharGrill on meats, I have never had a single person comment on the ring, only the flavor of the meat, I have never paid attention to it either, as you said, it has no effect on flavor and is just a result of certain cooking fuel uses, so I too agree with you when I say it makes no difference, it would be like judging meat on the color of the BBQ sauce rather than taste, juiciness and tenderness, I too agree that judges have no sense at all using that as a determination of a winning cooked meat, it is rather stupid if you ask me.
And as far as the charcoal, I would not use it to achieve the purposeless ring, I would use it to achieve what I had read in the article, that small chunks mixed with the pellets are ignited and burn hotter that the pellets as they smolder, thereby allowing the burning process over all to be improved, and many are saying it is solving their pellets going out issues, I will surely try it if I need to, but only once I have had the issue and the Smoke Stack damper adjustment took care of that :)
My next mod will be that of a temperature control other than the type that is on the controller, it works fine but the issue here is the stat for the controller is in the nose of the controller, not where it should be in my opinion which would be higher in the box.
So I will be looking for a T-Stat with a remote bulb, and one as you pointed out would be settable to a temp as low as possible, not sure if they have one that goes down as far as 100 hehehe, but again I am like you, the lower the better, this way I will have a temp dial, again, I do not want electronics, the temp dial and remote bulb for the stat will allow me two things I currently do not have, a relative temp setting I can dial in consistently, and better temp control mid box instead of being governed by a probe that is in the very bottom of the box.
And yes, what fun would it be without Modifying stuff, I have lived modifying everything, engines in cars, motorcycles, small engines, various controllers in various electronic and electro-mechanical applications, not to mention my boat LOL.
All that said, got 10 lbs of chicken today and going to throw some smoke at em !
We have managed to miss the farm meat buying expedition for 2 weeks now, hopefully me and the wife can get on the same page this coming week for some eye of round for Jerky and maybe a couple of full briskets, can't wait !
I do think the elevation plays into this. At near sea level, humidity may not be as much of an issue as it seems to be where I'm at.
I posted a rather long diatribe about some considerations when choosing the position of the sensor for your temperature controller in an oven or one of our smokers in another thread. I should just link to that rather than repost it here because I worry that I'm derailing the OP's thread with some of this. In fact, I was going to start a completely new thread with pictures and thoughts about some modifications to my particular MES, and then we could discuss a lot of these issues in that thread.
But I'll make at least one more "thread hijacking" post to this thread, and hope the OP doesn't mind. :)
Just to keep things confusing, that other thread, and the similar discussions we're having there was here:
Originally Posted by daRicksta
Just re-read the MES 30 owners manual. It says uh uh--no charcoal briquettes or heat pellets. Some guys will put a whole charcoal briquette under the heating element to get that smoke ring. Like you, I wouldn't even mix the wood pellets with crushed briquettes.
MB also recommends the damper be fully closed for most smoking, open only for high moisture smoking of jerky or fish. But this seems counterintuitive to me. If there are airflow or oxygen problems inside the smoker keeping that top vent closed would likely exacerbate them to my unscientific way of thinking. I smoke with the top vent wide open but there can still be problems with the pellets snuffing out.
I think that if you used the MES (at least those similar to my MES40) the way the manufacturer intended, keeping the top vent closed for smoking might well be a very good idea.
Their plan is that the heating element heats the wood chips and makes them smolder intermittently, every time the heating element kicks on.
With the vent closed, very little air would enter or exit the system. So even though you're not heating by burning fuel, you'd probably end up with a fairly low oxygen environment. But that's OK because you're not counting on the chips actually burning to maintain the smoke. You're using the heating element to heat them to a high enough temperature where they decompose and emit smoke regardless. And perhaps, you even get a high quality smoke because you aren't letting them really burn due to the low oxygen!
And at the same time, because you're not allowing air to move through the smoker, you don't need as much smoke (it's got no place to go except onto your food or other surfaces in the smoker). And likewise, the heater doesn't need to work very hard, so it saves power.
But I still think people had problems with the chips not giving off enough smoke because the heater wasn't on enough of the time. So the AMNPS and variations on it became popular.
But using them is really a lot different thing because you cannot keep them burning without some oxygen available.
Since I use the AMNPS, I, too, keep my top vent open. I even add a section of duct to it to make it draw better, or resort to a fan to really get air moving through the unit! :)
But if I was using the system the way it was designed, I might well do better with the top vent totally closed.
Originally Posted by daRicksta
Can you post a photo of how you rig up that fan? I can't picture how it would work inside a smoker with all the heat, smoke and moisture going on. Every time I cold smoke the pellets go out for the reason you described so eloquently. I never pre-dry the pellets I use because I've had the same problem with new pellets straight out of the plastic bag. But I gotta come up with something because even when I thought I got the pellet tray fired up it goes out within 30 minutes or the pellets might stay lit because the interior temp is too high for cold smoking. Then that's a 2nd problem I need to deal with.
Fully agree with everything you wrote about smoke rings. I don't care about one but I don't mind getting into a discussion about how they're produced. And yep, you're also right about the crushed charcoal and wood chunks not producing enough gases to achieve a smoke ring. It gets me when those TV judges or someone who I think doesn't know real barbecue (like Guy Fieri) gushes over smoke rings in beef briskets or pork ribs.
Hey--we had a pro/am BBQ competition in my town last year. There were guys using offset barrel smoker stick burners AND electric smokers. And Weber charcoal grills as well! The electric smoker ribs and briskets turned out very, very good. I read an article a year or so ago AND NOW CAN'T FIND that Q from an electric smoker is better than the Q put out by many BBQ restaurants. In the case of Dickey's BBQ Pit and other chain BBQ places (and one local place that went out of business) I know that to be a fact. I'll take the ribs and briskets that come out of my MES 30 over those faux BBQ offerings. My goal is to someday chow down at one of the famous and fabled pit or stick burner places just for the experience of enjoying world class Q. Until then, my MES--with some qualifications--does just fine.
Also fully agree with everytig
Here's the main thing. I put the fan on the outside of the smoker, blowing into the intake like this:
That's the "extreme mode" where it's covering the entire inlet opening and blasting a LOT of air through the unit. That works pretty good for getting jerky to dry!
I mounted some little neodymium magnets to the corners of the fan so I can just stick it where ever I want. It really moves too much air, so I have to keep it way off to the edge of the opening. But a guy on that other thread suggested getting a variable speed fan setup and posted a link to the one he uses. It really would be great to be able to run the fan at an extremely slow speed. But just putting a baffle in front of it would block most of it, too. So there could be a lot of ways to get just the right amount of air flow.
I originally came up with this when I couldn't get my Jerky to dry in a reasonable time. The temperature I was at was 150 to 160, and it just wouldn't draw much even with the top vent all the way open, so I slapped this baby on there, and the jerky dried in a couple of hours.
But I also used it the other night to make some cold-smoked butter. I really needed something to blow the air through the unit because there was NO draft because I had the smoker turned completely off to keep the temperature low.
It actually worked too well. I think I made the pellets burn too hot and fast, and the quality of the smoke was not good. I'm thinking that you want the pellets burning cool and slow to get good TBS. When they burn too well and too hot, you get more of the creosote type smoke. Not as blue. More to the white, nasty side of things. So I should have throttled things back.
But I was going to start a thread about that whole process, too, so I don't want to clutter this thread with all of that, either.
Here's how I finally attached the little magnets to the corners of the fan:
I added some wire to the thing to give me a lot of slack between where I have the smoker and the nearest electrical outlet into which I plug the "wall wart" for it.
I took out the whole chip tray and it's associated metalwork from inside of my MES, and put some crude ductwork and deflectors inside to try to get things to work better. And I think it succeeded beyond my dreams. That's why I got the "too good" burn of the pellets this last time.
I took out all of the original metalwork and added a duct leading from the inlet past the heating element, and then aimed right at where I put the AMNPS. There are some other heat shields and drip guards in place, too. All of it made of disposable steam-tray covers for temporary experimentation.
The idea was to get the incoming air to blow right at the AMNPS. But then, since I was cold smoking butter, I stuck the fan partway blowing into the intake:
Those are strong little magnets, so I just let it hang down low, partway blowing into the inlet. Pardon the crude flashlight illumination used in the photo.
But even when only partially blowing into the inlet, it was still a bit too much, I fear.
Not that it went bad. I thought it was doing well. It burned about 3/4 of a row of pellets in about 3 hours. So that seemed good. But man, that butter is SMOKY!
But I also did this:
This might be kind of hard to see. But I cut each cube of butter into four smaller pieces to give them more surface area, because people said they had a hard time getting any smoke penetration into butter. I figured why not just increase the surface area to collect smoke?
Then, as if that wasn't enough, and since it was a cold smoke (no heat applied at all), I got another computer fan, that had a bracket attached to it that I'd made to blow on some hard drives in an old computer, and set it into the rack above the butter to blow down gently onto the butter, hoping to force smoke to go down into that deep pan so it wouldn't miss out on anything.
It's a 12 Volt fan, but operating off of a 5 Volt supply, so it ran nice and slow, but it really did keep the smoke stirred up and even-looking, and forced it to flow down in and around the butter pieces. Perfect!
But I think I could've used little or no augmentation of the air coming into the system and aimed at the AMNPS. It looked like a nice amount of smoke, but man, baby, that's some smoky butter!
And, I could have just given it an hour, and it might have been fine.
I took the butter out of the smoker, pressed the four pieces of each stick back together, then vacuum sealed them all as individual "sticks" of butter.
They sat in the fridge for 3 days, and then I couldn't stand it and pulled one of them out and let it get up to room temp. Then I kneaded it in the vacuum bag and really got it all mixed together really well. Then I smooshed it all against one corner, clipped off that corner of the bag, and dispensed it out into a little container as if I was using a cake frosting piping bag.
I had my wife try some, and she actually loved it! And she usually thinks I use too much smoke on everything. So I don't know.
I just think that I may have gotten too high of a burning temperature on the pellets and shifted things toward thick white smoke with that creosote flavor. But I need to let it mellow longer and try it on some different things before I pass judgement.
I guess the main point was that with a fan, you can easily have way too much of a good thing! So I need to do a better job of blocking all but just the right amount of airflow when I use a fan.
Once again, the slow fan inside was only able to be used because this was a completely cold smoke, with the heat turned all the way off.
Originally Posted by N4YNU
Yes I have the analog version, I choose that because of the rack mod I was going to do to it, and because I do not want the electronics when I would get a wireless probe set up anyway ..............
And no, the Smoke Stack was easy, and only cost 11.99 shipped to my door, but I did the stack Mod for the added ventilation for drying, I liked the fixed exhaust regarding smoking, and the bottom of mine is the same except mine does not have the chip heater and chute, it has a chip tray and a water tray on the bottom rack just above the heating element, there was no issue but to remove the chip tray and sit the AMNPS there, I ground notches in the AMNPS only so it would sit on the rails and be in the same place every time, just for consistency's sake, and then just turning the rack around and putting in backwards moved the AMNPS off of the "S" bend in the element so that frequent cycling of the element does not burn up my pellets so fast.
The rack Mod was the best, seeing I have 8 racks now which is nice, let alone that equates in over 1200 sq inches of cooking surface, it has already proved nice for doing large amounts of chicken, can't wait for the family get together, I will be able to cook 40 burgers and 40 dogs with some sausages with ease :)
And I can get 6 quarters per rack in there as well, so it is going to be very nice for larger cooks, or as we traditionally do, once a month we go to the farm for fresh meats and we cook them, bag them and freeze them in portions, so now I can make all the burgers (we break up smoked burgers and use for spaghetti, manwiches etc), the roast and the chops in one cook, it will be sort of amazing hehehe, will just let the burger rest while I brine the chops and the roast then throw them all in the smoker, we are supposed to hit the farm this week, we have missed the last 2 weeks due to real life getting in our way, but we still got chops and burgers left anyway, so no rush.
Also, this is why I have a drip shield, because I have my AMNPS position just beside the air intake in the bottom of the smoker, maybe thats why my AMNPS is not going out, and also I do not want any drips at all on my AMNPS because it can create airborne ash to get on the food, the draft is low in these boxes when smoking and if on the side of the box it would seem to me it would be low oxygen anyway as the air would tend to rise up and create little convection back down the sides which in my opinion would not be a good spot for pellets that do need air to burn, I am actually going to remove the bottom rack and put a regular rack there, so this way I can position the AMNPS directly over the intake air port, but I found even with pans under the drippy stuff that splatter always finds its way to the bottom.
I too find that when high temp cooking the pellets are short lived, but I am getting a little over 2 1/2 hours out of mine at 300+, but then, like I said, I have moved my AMNPS off of the "S" portion of the element so it is not subject to all of that direct intense heat, before I made the adjustment on the position, it was burning my pellets up fast !
I am not sure what you have the AMNPS sitting on, but if it is not a open grate so air has access to the entire bottom of the AMNPS Tray, that may be your issue, in that case I have seen people here that raise the AMNPS Tray up with bolts so it has nothing obstructing the air from reaching the bottom of the tray.
If you have the hole dead center of the box in the bottom, then your should be the same, but if you open your chute as most do then that will reduce the air coming in that port which also acts as a drip drain as well, so in that case I would leave the chute closed and try and get the AMNPS close to the center where the air will be coming in, otherwise maybe find a way to move the AMNPS to a place where it could pick up some of the air from the chute if you do open it, if you are not going to use the feeder, then maybe seal it off inside, and drill holes in the top of the chip burner box, set your AMNPS there and leave the feeder tube open or partially open, this way you will have the fresh air drawn in the chute applied to the base of the AMNPS and you should be golden :)
I am too looking forward to finally doing some Jerky and a Brisket too, hopefully to the farm this Wed for meats, going to get the Brisket from Sams :)
Interesting! So you have your AMNPS right over the heating element. I can see how that would keep the pellets dry, for one thing. Induce an upward air current under the AMNPS, for another. And being on the side with the air vent, assure better oxygen to them.
On the other hand, it might lead to much faster burning of the pellets, especially when operating at higher temperatures which require the heater to be on more of the time.
You can see above how I ducted the incoming air right toward the AMNPS even through it sits over to the left. And that duct will be heated a bit by the heating element which may help to warm and dry the incoming air during hot smoking operations.
But a lesson I may have learned is this:
Although you don't want the pellets to go out. You also don't really want them burning too well, either, because they make the best tasting smoke when they're on that verge of going out.
I read a Wikipedia article about smoking, and it said that if the combustion temperature of the smoking wood is too high, it will make the good tasting stuff, but then the high temperatures will break those molecules down into bad-tasting stuff. So you really want your smoke generator to burn the wood at a low temperature. And to that end, my fan blowing into the duct aimed right at the AMNPS may have been going too darned far!
I really would like to experiment with combustion conditions and see if I can control things so the pellets don't go out, but also produce only good-tasting smoke.
I think we may need continuous infra-red temperature measurement and a controller to operate a damper or fan to keep the pellets burning, but just not too darned well! ;)
More of the "modify everything" philosophy at work!