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New to electric smoking and have several questions

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
(Posted this in the newbie area and was recommended to post in this area to see if anyone could answer a couple of my questions?)

Greetings! I am first time poster and just getting into the smoking world. I researched a lot of different smokers and decided to get a Masterbuilt Electric smoker (30"). I know some will say that electric smokers are not the best, but I thought it was the best thing for me to start out and learn from here.

I smoked my first set of ribs over the weekend. Tried them 2 different ways. Temp 225 (realized needed to keep my top vent closed to get to this temp – don’t have a bottom vent) for 5.5 hours. Tried ½ normal. Tried ½ 3-2-1 method. I thought the 3-2-1 method was just a little too much b/c you couldn’t even pick up a rib bone with any meat on it. Meat was good, but like to actually eat the meat off the bone. The normal way turned out great results.

I am still in the process of reading up on smoking techniques and tips but did have a couple of high level questions I thought I would post to this forum to get me started. I also understand that you have to smoke a lot to learn and get the hang of it…but learning can sometimes cost a lot of money! I appreciate any responses from the Pro’s!

Questions:
  • With an electric smoker, is it ok to also throw in some charcoal with the wood? I have read places (and I know people argue over this) that you need charcoal to get the smoke ring and the bark on the outside of meat. Is this true? Is there any benefit to throwing in a piece of charcoal when I load the wood when needed?
  • Is it ok to use charcoal in an electric smoker?
  • When reading about how long to smoke pieces of meat, I will read things like spare ribs at 225 for 6 hours. Does this mean adding wood the entire time to generate smoke for the entire 6 hours? I read somewhere that people will only add wood until the meat reaches a certain temp and then only cook with heat. Do you recommend to use wood the entire time (refilling the wood throughout the entire cooking processes when is runs low)?
  • On an electric smoker, do you recommend to keep the top vent open, closed, or somewhere in the middle? On my first smoke, I tried to keep it ¼ open, but soon realized that my temp wasn’t were I wanted it and had to almost close it to get up to 225. Will too much smoke make the meat taste bad?
  • My smoker has an electrical control box on the top of it. The box controls the time to cook for and the temperature of the smoker. Should I trust the temperature it states, or get a temperature probe for the inside of the smoker?
Thanks in advance.


Mark
post #2 of 10
Welcome to SMF. I'm sure you will get other opinions soon.
post #3 of 10
Questions:
  • With an electric smoker, is it ok to also throw in some charcoal with the wood? I have read places (and I know people argue over this) that you need charcoal to get the smoke ring and the bark on the outside of meat. Is this true? Is there any benefit to throwing in a piece of charcoal when I load the wood when needed?
I find no benefit to throwing charcoal in there. It will not increase the bark as this comes from your rub but may give your meat a smoke ring. If you have to have a smoke ring get some Morton's insta cure, rub on meat for a short period of time, rinse it off, then smoke it.
  • Is it ok to use charcoal in an electric smoker?
Yes, I have done this in a attempt to achieve the glorious smoke ring. Does not help flavor.
  • When reading about how long to smoke pieces of meat, I will read things like spare ribs at 225 for 6 hours. Does this mean adding wood the entire time to generate smoke for the entire 6 hours? I read somewhere that people will only add wood until the meat reaches a certain temp and then only cook with heat. Do you recommend to use wood the entire time (refilling the wood throughout the entire cooking processes when is runs low)?
I always keep wood on the entire time. Thoughts vary on this.
  • On an electric smoker, do you recommend to keep the top vent open, closed, or somewhere in the middle? On my first smoke, I tried to keep it ¼ open, but soon realized that my temp wasn’t were I wanted it and had to almost close it to get up to 225. Will too much smoke make the meat taste bad?
Don't go off your electronic gauge. Get some probes and place them on different spots within your smoker to determine actual temps. I have read Masterbuilts are the hottest low and right. Yes, to much smoke can make the meat taste but but I believe it would be difficult to do this with the masterbuilt. Masterbuilt user may have to chime in here.
  • My smoker has an electrical control box on the top of it. The box controls the time to cook for and the temperature of the smoker. Should I trust the temperature it states, or get a temperature probe for the inside of the smoker?
Read answer above. If you probe it and it matches your display then your are probably okay.

I don't have a masterbuilt but a similar unit called a cookshack. Keep working on the ribs and you will figure a method that works for you. Also, remember the size/weight of the ribs you just did and the times. You may want to adjust one of the times slightly based on your preference. Before to long you will just be able to tell when they are done.
post #4 of 10
Put 5 smokers in a room, you'll get 10 opinions... icon_mrgreen.gif
so here's mine.

I throw some charcoal in (4 to 8 lumps/briquettes) because it helps stabilize the temp quicker when I'm opening to door a lot to spritz/mop & deal with multiple food items at once. It also reduces the cycling of the electric element.
I'm not into presentation much, so I dont pay much attention to whether or not I have a good smoke ring, so I cant really comment on that other that to say I usually notice one.

Too much smoke and your food will taste like #$@!. It is also the easiest mistake to make. I find that for long slow smokes, I add chunks for the first half of the cooking. For shorter times with higher temps, I add chunks right up to the end.
My advice: less is better until you get a feel for how much smoke taste you like.

If you have a lot of smoke, keep it open! Once I get to a very TBS, I close it down to half, and if I dont have any wood in then I close it 9/10.
Remember, closing the vent results in too much smoke and a disgusting creosote flavor to your food.

Depends how ***l you are. If "close enough" is good enough, then use the controls that came with the smoker. Mine wasnt very accurate at all (see this thread: http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/for...023#post304023 ) and I like precision, so I built a PID and have several remote temp probes as well.
I'd say start out with what you have, upgrade if you want to - I'd classify that as a "want", not a "need."

Buy a temp probe. Thats a need, not a want. Use it to check the temps in your smoker, and COOK TO TEMP, NOT TO TIME!
post #5 of 10
been a watt burner for years.
i run a charcoal pan with coal and wood chips.
i run a water pan 80% of the time.
i own several thermometers this is a must for me.
i use this year round & food is great.
you just have to try it your way icon_smile.gif
my vent is open and all the time
i run wood smoke till food reachs 140° or there abouts.
post #6 of 10
Welcome to SMF.. Your choice of a MES is backed by many other SMF members.

Browse the electric smoker forum, and do searches, either using the forum search tool or google. All of your questions have been covered extensively.
You will find some thread that really get deep into these topics.

For example, the vent should always be run 100% open for proper combustion and venting of the wood chips, if drafting is a problem there are other solutions instead of restricting the vent. Where was your MES located when the smoking was being done? Most of us are using the MES outside and in most areas the outdoor ambient is currently very low, making it hard for the MES to achieve the desired set temp. I just did a monster turkey on Monday with outdoor ambients of 38 to 32 deg and the MES set at 270, the MES controller never read above 198 even after 5 hours. However I had another thermometer probe in the cabinet reading 240-250. When smoking with the MES in normal outdoor ambients 65+ deg my MES digital sensor has been very accurate.

Anyhoo there is a ton of info if you do a bit of searching.
post #7 of 10
Mark, here's my answers to your questions.
post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thanks to all for your responses. I have a pork butt going on tomorrow and a brisket on Saturday.

I live in San Diego, so my outside temps are not as low as some others on this forum (people are wearing winter coats today and it is low 60's!. I am from Indiana & Va, so I know what cold weather is really like!). During my first smoke, it was around 65 ourside and I had problems getting my temp (per the built in digital display) above 200 with the vent open. I have purchased a dual internal and meat temp probe so I will see what the real temperature is inside the smoker.

Thanks again for all your responses. I have learned a ton from reading 10ish response via this forum. Already have recipes planned I read on here over the last 2 days.

Mark
post #9 of 10
San Diego, I lived there for 3 years, so you really shouldn't have a problem getting to set temps. I know that during the first 2 or 3 uses of my MES I had to do a controller hard reset. For whatever reason the controller stalled at 170-180 and it was June and July, so no ambient issues.

(Hard Reset,
• while the MES is running, turn it off via the controller on/off switch.
• unplug the MES from electric outlet. Allow about 20-30 sec.
• re-plug the MES electric cord into outlet.
• Switch on the MES, and setup up Temp then Timer.)

Also are you using a extension cord. This is a no/no unless it is the proper gage. I plug directly into outlet, some say 15' 12ga is ok.

Good luck with your new MES, now just go out to Coronado Isl. and catch some Yellowtail, and smoke em, yum. When I lived down there I did a lot of fishing, and while I don't eat Bonita, smoked till dry is Great, must use a brine though.
post #10 of 10
[quote=mschwartz26;398010]Thanks to all for your responses. I have a pork butt going on tomorrow and a brisket on Saturday.

I live in San Diego, so my outside temps are not as low as some others on this forum (people are wearing winter coats today and it is low 60's!. I am from Indiana & Va, so I know what cold weather is really like!). During my first smoke, it was around 65 ourside and I had problems getting my temp (per the built in digital display) above 200 with the vent open. I have purchased a dual internal and meat temp probe so I will see what the real temperature is inside the smoker.

Thanks again for all your responses. I have learned a ton from reading 10ish response via this forum. Already have recipes planned I read on here over the last 2 days.


Welcome - I live in Fallbrook and Rancho Camando lives in Oceanside so if we can help in some way let us know
Glad to have you with us
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