Originally Posted by JKeith
New to smoking and have bought a MES 30 inch digital electric. Used it for the second time yesterday smoking some summer sausage that I had made. After that experience I have a couple of questions:
1. I set the temp at 170 degrees but noticed that it would heat to about 178, then the heat element would shut off and stay off until the temp dropped to around 162, then it would heat up again...so, wasn't able to hold a steady 170 degree temp. Is this normal? When a recipe says to smoke at 170 degrees are you really smoking at an average temp of 170 but it is constantly fluctuating +/- 8 degrees or so during the process?
2. I took the advice of many of you and purchased a second thermometer...A Maverick ET model. The Maverick registers about 7 degrees cooler than the one built into the smoker. Should I assume that the Maverick is more accurate than the one that is built into the smoker? The food probe that comes with the smoker registered about 5 degrees cooler than the Maverick...again, is the advice to trust the external thermometer or the one built into the smoker?
3. I was smoking 5 summer sausages (20 inch in length) and wonder if that is too many to smoke at one time in the 30 inch smoker. The entire process took 13 hours to reach an IT of 156. 10 of those hours was smoking at 170. Air temp was in the 60's. Didn't expect it to take that long, but the results look good. Also do you test the IT of each sausage or just have one as your temp test. I ended up putting an instant read thermometer in each one at the end but it did cause juice to escape from the holes made by the thermometer. So, do you need to test each one or is one good enough. Maybe I'm sounding paranoid...just don't want to make anyone sick by undercooking something. Like I said, I'm new to all this.
Thanks for the input!!!!
Hi there and welcome!
Johnmeyer gave some really good info.
I'm an MES40 owner. You are running into the same things every MES owner runs into.
1. The MES will fluctuate over and under. I was getting as bad as 25 degrees when checking with my Maverick. Basically the MES will give you an average rather than a steady temp.
2. If you've tested your Maverick then it will be the truth. The MES probes are notorious for being off, just search around and see.
3. The time sounds right for the temp you have set. I just did 8 pounds of pork belly (cut into two 4 pound halves) at a smoker temp 165F and it took roughly 12 hours to hit an IT (Internal Temp) of 145F.
Some things to consider going forward:
1. The MES is physically constructed quite well BUT has some limitations. Just know these limitations are pretty much standard for electric smokers that are in the same class as the MES (google and check it out)
2. The MES controller behavior and Probe temp accuracy are things you cannot really change and are a very common issue with the MES. Again this is similar to other electric smokers. You can get around the probe accuracy with the Maverick dual probe thermometer.
3. As johnmeyer mentioned the MES has a design issue when it comes to smoking at lower temps (under like 200F I believe). The element will not get hot enough for long enough to smoke your wood/pellets. The solution everyone goes to is to use the A-Maze-N Pellet Smoker (AMNPS). This thing is awesome. Also most people make the Mailbox Modification in addition to the using the AMNPS, they simply go hand in hand. With this setup you can smoke at any temps or cold smoke with the MES not even being turned on! This is a fairly painless solution and produces excellent results so you will likely wind up going this route like everyone else.
4. The only fix you will have for the MES controller overshooting and droping under with temps is to rewire the MES so power goes directly to the heating element (including the safety temp switch in the wiring) and by using a 3rd party PID controller to control the temp. This actually isn't too complicated. If you do this though the onboard smoking mechanism is no longer viable as the element will only be cut on for short periods of time to maintain the heat in the smoker once the temp is hit. Again the mailbox mod and AMNPS makes this a non issue.
5. Finally, there is no air stirring in the MES so no matter what you will not have even temps throughout the smoker. This is just a fact of life and the reason why ovens using a stirring fan. You basically just have to live with this or try and create some heat deflecting situations inside the smoker.
I'm going to mod my MES with a convection oven fan very soon to resolve this issue but have found that as long as you don't load more than 1.5 racks worth of meat you can get consistent enough temps without stirring air
Again, this is the nature of an electric smoker and many non electric smokers (with even temps and air stirring) so don't get down, simply work with reality and learn how to make it work with you :)
Anyhow I hope this info helps :)