Originally Posted by TallBM
I'm not sure I"m going to start unhooking the sensor just yet. I did have the idea of wiring it into a probe but I don't know enough about the existing system to know if the controller would read a probe the same way it does it's current sensor. If that were the case I could buy a 6ft replacement probe, wire it up and then I could have a probe that measures heat wherever I put it. So if It's at the top rack, bottom rack, upper left corner, etc. etc. The unit would reflect the temp where I needed it to be measured.
Sounds like a great idea in theory but again that is a lot of speculation, research, and one potentially damaged unit leaving me without a smoker and a hole in my wallet :)
I do the mailbox mod so no fans blowing into the unit for me but if you do it please report back with your findings.
It dawned on me about 10 minutes ago that instead of using a piece of wood over the sensor I could use a wine cork.
I could much more easily modify a wine cork than a piece of wood and all I need to do is drink more wine to get more corks to carve/cut up and work with :D
I won't get to do any of this until the weekend though and not until after I make my first attempt at Ground Formed Bacon which I plan to do this weekend.
Man this is all exciting stuff. So many firsts for me and so many little projects :D
The problem with insulating the temperature sensor is that, ultimately, it will not achieve what you want (a different calibration of the sensor). All it will do is alter the speed of response of the sensor. It'll just slow the response down. And you don't really want that. Slowing the sensor down will result in larger temperature swings because the heater will stay on for longer periods and stay off for longer periods. You really do want the sensor to respond rather quickly to get a "smoother" more even temperature (over time) in the smoker.
Originally Posted by Dr K
I have a Mes 40" gen 1 and I use a deflector between the sensor and the heating element so the heat doesn't go up the back wall past the sensor out the top vent. I raise my empty water pan and it is an obstacle to even out heat on the second to the top rack. The water pan can be placed at any level. It's a vertical smoker with 4 to six racks and whatever rack the Mes sensor is closest to should be the closest to the Mes controller temp. But most likely not and then you have the other racks the sensor is no where near. But people go by calibrated air probe placed next to the food. I use the deflector in the pic below and elevate the water pan for even heating on the top two racks.
Fold in half and put in the corner above the heating element
I'm happy with my results but may raise the water pan to the second from the top level and experiment.
That's more like it.
As many of the posts have pointed out, even if the sensor is accurate, you'll get hot and cold spots in the smoker if the heat isn't evenly distributed.
Having the sensor positioned directly over the heating element has good and bad aspects.
The good is that it speeds the response of the system, resulting in more rapid cycling of the heating element, giving a more even temperature in the unit. It's also something of a safety thing, too, because it assures that no part of the smoker is likely to be too hot. When we block the sensor's ability to "see" the heat, we get higher temperatures and perhaps larger swings in temperature.
The bad is that the sensor "sees" the heat coming right off of the heating element, so it overestimates the temperature in the rest of the smoker. And this is the goal of people installing baffles and such to prevent the sensor from being in the direct path of the heated air rising up from the heating element. Again, there are pros and cons to anything we do, so it's just good to think about it and be careful to get what you really want.
Originally Posted by Bearcarver
Generally speaking the biggest problem with the Gen #1 was the fact that the heating element is on the right side, and so is the top vent.
So the heat would come from the right half of the smoker & run straight up the right side & out the top vent on the right.
That would make the right side hotter than the left. I solved this years ago, by putting a piece of metal (Heat deflector) on the right side, just above the water pan in it's normal position. This would push the heat from the right to as far to the left as I wanted, by a simple adjustment to that heat deflector. I did this for 4 years, until I got my New Gen #2.5 MES.
The water pan had little to do with this---It was the fact that both the heating element & the top vent were on the right.
I told Masterbuilt about this problem years ago & they moved their top vent to the left side---Problem Solved !!!
Yeah. This gets to the problem, too!
Ideally, we'd have much better mixing of the air inside the smoker so the smoke and temperature would stay very even throughout the whole volume.
But these are inexpensive devices, and there's only so much they can do. And as folks have pointed out, the way you load the food into them, any baffles we put in, etc., all change the dynamics. Every time you smoke something, the way you load the food in changes it all.
I've read a bit about commercial smokers, and the various manufacturers often talk a LOT about their systems for directing the heat and smoke to try to get very even cooking and smoking. Often, things are fan-forced, and even have moving baffles that shift the direction of airflow constantly to get even cooking and smoking over the entire volume of the smoker so that the products are cooked and smoked evenly.
But those smokers cost a LOT, I'm sure.
Without active stirring of the air in the smoker, you just have to try your best to baffle things and load the food to get the heat and smoke to be as even as possible. I tend to use disposable foil steam-pan covers and the like as baffles that I can put in place and move around depending on the sizes and shapes of the foods I'm smoking to always try to even things out.
I just got a used fan for a convection oven that I will likely try to "kludge" into my MES 40 at some point. I will likely set up a controller to cycle it on and off so it's not blasting the air around inside of the smoker too badly, yet keeps things stirred a little better. That's going to take some experimenting. Keep in mind that this fan will only stir the air within the smoker. It's not going to force air into or out of the smoker. I'll either stay with convection for that, or add some different kind of fan setup if I decide that needs to be forced.
First things first, I guess!
Fancy laboratory drying ovens and incubators, and fancy commercial smokers seem to all employ some kind of active stirring of the air. And if I was going to build my own smoker, I would use a design based on a lot of those ovens I've seen that use the side walls as air plenums, with perforations that force the air to flow horizontally across the chamber from one side over to the other (one side sucking, the other blowing, with the heater in the air path, but hidden). But for now, I just want to see if I can make my existing little MES work a bit better.
Once I figure out what I'm going to do, and actually make some progress and have something to report, I'll make a thread about it.
Part of the modifications will ultimately be to use a different system entirely to control the heater based on more accurate temperature sensors.
But again, the first step I want to try is just actively stirring the air in the smoker to try to get more even heat and smoke.
This is an interesting thread, and touches on a lot of things we all seem to run up against with these smokers.