Originally Posted by Bearcarver
I preheat between a half hour & an hour too.
As for the Pellets, I keep them in air tight plastic Half Gallon Jugs, so they never need heating to Dry. I light them outside of the smoker when I turn the smoker on, so they have time to get going good before I put the Amazing in the smoker. I have some for 5 years that still light & keep smoking like the new ones.
As for Water in the Pan---I haven't put water in my Water Pan for the last 6 years. There are more reasons to NOT put water in than there are to put water in.
I never use the water pan, either. If I do, the moisture kills the the pellet burn. Things gotta be really dry at this elevation.
And I have to pre-dry the pellets here. At 5300', the air is just too thin for reliable burning without taking every possible step. If I dry them in my oven, I then put them in sealed jars, and they're ready to go. If I'm doing a cold smoke, I really need the pre-dried pellets from the jars. If I'm smoking at a high temperature, then the draft through the smoker is better, for one thing, and I also have the opportunity to use the pre-heating smoker to get the pellets really dry. So that works great.
If I end up using the AMNPS inside of the smoker once I have the little stirring fan installed, I suspect it'll make them burn too fast by keeping the air moving. So then I'll probably be looking for a way to slow the things down!
Of course, with the AMNPS in a mailbox, any stirring inside of the smoker won't have any effect on the burn. So then I'll be back to finding ways to make them burn reliably again, most likely. ;)
But it's all a lot of fun to tinker with.
Meanwhile, I smoked a batch of Pecans the other night, and everything worked dandy. I ran it set to 225, and it was about 25 to 30 degrees outside. With the modifications I've made to the smoker, the pellets burned just right, and the nuts came out dandy. Hopefully the "improvements" I plan to make will actually make things work better. But there's always the distinct possibility that it'll all cause unintended problems. Still, it's fun.
My wife wants me to smoke a couple more pork butts because we just ate the last of the frozen pulled pork from the last time. What we don't eat immediately, I vacuum seal in bags holding enough to make a good meal for two. Then it's fast to heat up, and makes for a tasty "fast food" treat. If I get some modifications done before I do the butts, then I'll have to learn as I go again because it'll change things. Right now, I've got the procedure down to a sure-thing. But where's the challenge if it always works right?
Originally Posted by daRicksta
So that's been my problem. I play around with adjusting the temps to offset the upswing when I should be waiting for it to stabilize, which it typically does, more or less, 3 hours into the smoke.
The thing I find is that the dynamics of it all change during the course of any smoke because the meat is warming up and drying out. So the amount of "damping" that the meat provides to the system is ever-changing. At first, I've got a large mass of cold, wet meat. And as the meat warms up and dries out, the "load" that it puts on the system decreases. So things are never tuned ideally over the whole smoke. Usually, I just don't worry about it, and let the MES do its thing, and the meat comes out fine.
The modifications I intend to make will be trying to create a system where the temperature is more even throughout the whole smoker, and held to a closer tolerance with respect to time, too.
But assuming I'm successful in getting the system to hold a more constant and steady temperature, and keep things even throughout the whole smoker, what will be interesting will be to see if that improves the end product. It seems like it should, but I'm also sure it'll require a learning curve for me because I think the food will cook faster.
The instructions for our convection oven say that if you use the convection mode, you either need to shorten the cook time or use a lower temperature. With a smoker, I kind of like long cooking times because they give more time to apply the smoke. And I worry that having the air actively circulated may make the surfaces of the meats dry out faster. Maybe that will make the smoke fail to penetrate or "stick" as well.
For doing jerky, I think it'll be great. For doing something like poultry, maybe it'll let me get crisper skin. But for something like a Boston Butt, maybe it'll be a disadvantage. I'm sure it's going to take some trial and error to get used to it.
The advertising hype I was reading for some of the commercial smoking ovens really made a big point of how they managed the air movement within the smoker to get consistent cooking times and smoke application throughout the whole chamber. The really stressed that everything would be done at the same time, cooked to the same IT, and smoked the same. And the ways they achieved this always used fancy fan-forced circulation, often with sets of dampers that were motorized to create back and forth air flows at different times in different areas to really try to keep the heat and smoke evenly applied everywhere in the large volumes of these big commercial smokers.
I think with our smaller smokers, it's less of an issue, but it's still a consideration, particularly when doing multiple items placed throughout the smoker. If I'm just cooking one Butt, or a turkey, etc., then it's not much of a worry. But if I do multiple little birds, or butts, or fill the thing up with jerky, then it really does become important to have the same conditions everywhere in the smoker.
I've removed all of the factory "guts" of my MES 40 except for the actual heating element and the support rods and that cross piece down there. Instead, I've got something similar to what a lot of you folks have, designed to move most of the heated air over towards the middle of the chamber which also directs the airflow towards the AMNPS's position. This has given me much more reliable burning of the pellets. And It also seems to give me better consistency throughout the chamber.
It's entirely passive, using only the convection draft through the smoker, though. So it really doesn't do much for me during cold smoking when there is no "draft". So I've used a computer fan, running on a lower voltage, inside of the smoker to stir the smoke around when doing cheese and butter. And that's worked well. But I do look forward to being able to have active stirring even when doing hot smokes.
Originally Posted by daRicksta
Thanks, Sigmo. My shoulder problem is either just old age arthritis or it's a rotator cuff thing. I find out early next month. At least I don't have the flu.
I hate the flu! Then again, don't we all! :)
I have a bit of that shoulder thing myself. But so far, it hasn't caused me enough grief to go in for the MRI that was suggested. I suspect that time will come, however! I hope you get good news, or at least you end up with a diagnosis that suggests a good, solid fix for it.