Smoke Generation Questions

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by stephan28, Jun 10, 2017.

  1. stephan28

    stephan28 Fire Starter

    Ok, I'm new to the whole electric smoker world so please excuse my lack of knowledge. I am eager to learn. I picked up a Gen 1 MES 30 part # 20071814 for Ace hardware on special. It looked like a great way to enter this learning process.

    I completely understand that it is a PITA to add wood chips every 30 minutes to an hour. I've seen several posts about the A-maze-N pellet smoker (APS), the Masterbuilt Cold Smoker(MCs), and the "mailbox" mods. I also understand that the MCS generates heat so it makes sense to place that further away on a cold smoke.

    I guess what I am confused the most about is why do the mailbox mod if the APS fits in the MES? Does the APS have to be outside the MES for a cold smoke? Does it generate that much heat smoldering?

    It just seems to me that the least complicated solution is to just place a APS inside the MES.

    Can someone elaborate on the pros and cons to each set up and why they are done?

    The biggest reason I got the MES is to do cold/low temp smoking for salmon, cheese and jerky. My other "smoker/cooker" runs in the 275 degree range and won't go low enough for these items.

    Thanks in advance!
  2. GaryHibbert

    GaryHibbert Smoking Guru OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Morning Stephan. Congrats on the MES 30 Gen 1 purchase. It's a great smoker-- I've been using one for a few years now, along with an AMNPS and a mailbox mod.

    I started out putting my AMNPS inside the MES since Todd designed the AMNPS to fit the space beside the chip tray in the MES30 gen 1. The reason I added the mailbox mod was that I simply could not depend on the AMNPS to stay lit inside the MES. I was constantly relighting it. Big PITA. Once I added the mailbox mod, I no longer had that problem. At DaveOmak's suggestion, I added legs to the AMNPS--just through bolted 4 carriage bolts about 3 inches long. This raised the AMNPS allowing better air circulation and made keeping the AMNPS burning perfectly just plain foolproof.

    While the AMNPS puts out very little heat, placing the AMNPS in the mailbox adds zero heat to the MES making it perfect for both cold and hot smoking.

    Now I have to say that a lot of people have absolutely no problem with the AMNPS inside the MES, I just found the mailbox mod to be the best solution for me. As an added bonus I can open the mod anytime I like to check whether or not more pellets will need to be added--without losing any temp inside the MES.

    Hope this helps.

  3. stephan28

    stephan28 Fire Starter

    Gary, thank you for the information, I really appreciate it. I think I'll probably try the AMNPS on the lower left side of the smoker the first couple of times to see how it fares and make a determination if I'll need to go down the mailbox mod route. I probably will just because I like to tinker with things.

    If just using the AMNPS I've read that you leave the chip holder/dispenser out of the side of the MES for better airflow. Is that correct? I think I also read that you remove the chip burner pot as well and the top vent should be at least half way open. I've also read about folks microwaving their pellets for a short time prior to use. The legs for the AMNPS is a great idea.

  4. GaryHibbert

    GaryHibbert Smoking Guru OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Stephan if you're using the AMNPS inside the MES, then yes you pull the chip tray out a couple of inches and the chip loader out about the same. These are just rough estimates for distance. Play with them and you'll find the sweet spot.

    On a MES the top vent should ALWAYS be wide open. That prevents stake smoke from accumulating in the smoker and leaving a bad taste on the food.

    As for nuking the pellets, some do some don't--I do because it works so well for me. I nuke mine for 2 mins on high, stir the pellets around and nuke them for another 2 mins. This dries them out and prewarms them so they burn great. I've found that anything longer than 2 mins tends to fill the nuke with smoke. LOL After you light the pellets blow on them til you have a good red cherry (like the end of a cigar) and let them burn for 10 mins. Blow out the flames and put the AMNPS in the MES or mailbox.

  5. stephan28

    stephan28 Fire Starter

    Alright, after much deliberation between the AMNPS and the Masterbuilt Cold Smoker I went with the AMNPS. I ordered it as a combo with the pellets and I ordered the mats as well directly from the A-Maze-N website.

    I like supporting small businesses when I can especially when they have innovative ideas.

    I figure I can try it out inside the MES and if it doesn't work out then I'll devise a remote mod of sorts.

    I have to admit the Masterbuilt Cold Smoker seemed like a decent option. It apparently has issues with clogs, peeling paint and it seems that many folks end up doing a remote mod as well.

    Crossing my fingers that the AMNPS works well and that I made the right choice.
  6. cmayna

    cmayna Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Stephan28, Welcome to SMF.  A very good site to learn a bunch of meat smoking tricks.  

    I have a MES40 Gen 1 which is dedicated to fish (90% Salmon).  I use AMAZEN's pellets with their tube smoker in a mailbox mod.  Yes, it another contraption to deal with but I like the ability to change my wood flavor from Alder to Apple midway during the smoke without having to open the door, letting the temps go crazy.  And yes, in case the pellets go out, another reason to have the pellets residing in an attached enclosure.  There are tons of threads regarding the mailbox mod.  Here's just one of my many Salmon smoking threads showing the mailbox mod, etc.

    Infact today, I'm doing a bunch of Salmon collars and belly pieces in my MES.

  7. stephan28

    stephan28 Fire Starter

    Thanks for the input! I'm really looking forward to learning how to cold smoke some salmon. Any websites or links that are especially helpful would be greatly appreciated! Here's to a new adventure!
  8. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Try putting the AMNPS inside your smoker before you bother building something you might not need.

    I've been using my AMNPS since before they were even on the market, about 8 years ago, and it works fine inside All of my MES Units. (two Gen #1 units and one Gen #2.5)

  9. stephan28

    stephan28 Fire Starter


    That's the plan! I'm going to give it a try inside the MES before I determine I need an exterior mod. I have a Gen 1 from Ace with the rounded controller on top and the bars on the bottom to the left of the heater box. Kinda a version 1.5 in a way.

    Another user recommended that I should pull the chip tray out an inch or so and the same with the chip loader and the vent should be wide open when using the AMNPS. Is this the case whether cold smoking or hot smoking or is it all trial and error depending on elevation, outside temperature etc?

    Your thoughts?

  10. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Yes to the top vent being wide open, except when windy (half open), or when preheating (closed), or holding after done smoking, or storing (closed).

    For 5 years, When I was using my Gen #1, I never had to pull my dumper or drawer out at all, so if I were you, I would see what it does first, and if you have trouble keeping the AMNPS smoking, then try it. Like with the Mailbox, I don't like to do things that may not be necessary.

  11. stephan28

    stephan28 Fire Starter

    Good plan! Thank you!
  12. cmayna

    cmayna Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Another reason why I'm using the mailbox mod is because I flipped my heating element over to center it in the chamber, getting pretty close to where the pellet tube would typically reside.  Another reason for the mailbox is when cold smoking the pellet tube is away from the chamber.  No chance of any substantial heat from the pellets melting my butter  [​IMG]
  13. Need to produce enough smoke for a walk in Smokehouse, any suggestions?
  14. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I would go with a AMNTS (Amazing Tube Smoker).

    They put out a lot of Great Smoke. (Too much for a small smoker)

    If that's not enough, I'd get a second Tube.

    That would be plenty, even for a good size Walk-in.

  15. I'm agreeing with tube produces a fair amount of smoke, too much for my little 30" smoker and almost too much for my XL40".

  16. Rings Я Us

    Rings Я Us Master of the Pit Group Lead

    Is there reasoning behind some people's mailbox mod having greater length of pipe to cooker? Some better filtered and a more "PURE" smoke delivery? (As opposed to being in the cooker or using a short span of pipe)
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2017
  17. redoctobyr

    redoctobyr Smoke Blower

    I've read that it can help the smoke be "cleaner", like maybe less creosote. It also lets the smoke cool a bit, good if your cold smoking, trying to keep the smoker near ambient temperature. I used flexible dryer hose, figuring I could stretch it, if I wanted more length, or just keep it short if that wasn't needed.
  18. Rings Я Us

    Rings Я Us Master of the Pit Group Lead

    How will that stay clean so soot isn't built up ? A toilet brush with soapy water. 🤓
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2017
  19. I think the theory is more of the soot and crappy stuff adheres to the inside the tube/stack/hose before it gets to the cook chamber

  20. dr k

    dr k Master of the Pit

    Yes.  Creosote condenses as high as 250*F.  So short pipe is fine for hot smoking because the smoke that touches the mailbox instantly attracts the heavier bitter undesirable volatiles out of the smoke before going one foot to the smoker.  So longer pipe is great for cold smoking, because your cheese etc. is the coolest thing coming out of the fridge or room temperature, and through thermoforesis where particulates gravitate to cooler surfaces in a warmer environment, smoke jumps all over the cooler surfaces faster and for a longer period of time than hot smoking. So with hot smoking, after your food surface heats up your getting less smoke attraction than cold smoking with both having the same length of pipe for the same duration.  Unless you spritz the hot smoked meat for the evaporative cooling effect, attracting smoke.  This debunks the myth that after so much time in the hot smoker that food cooks and can't attract smoke.  Smoke doesn't penetrate deeply into meat so you can spritz to cool the surface of meat to the point that the bark attracts so much smoke that it's inedible.  In the Fall, Winter and Spring with the mailbox sticking out of the side of the smoker with no pipe extensions the mailbox inside surface condenses heavier incompletely burned volatiles in smoke that no pipe is needed but to connect to the smoker and still have black condensation dripping from the mailbox.  Mr T has great cold smoking tips.  Put a bag of ice on your mailbox and/or piping, not in with the food your smoking.  Also, don't cold smoke in an insulated box like the Mes.  Do the exact opposite and use your grill in the shade to absorb heat not contain it in an insulated box that cuts your cold smoking time in half before cheese starts sweating at 80*F or so.  I've mentioned this many times that I'm not using my Mes as intended for smoke generation so for safety reasons, not warranty, I produce smoke away from the proximity of heat (heating element) and more fuel (grease drippings) = fire.  Some people say that mailboxes are only for mail but it's way more time installing a mailbox for it's intended purpose than a mailbox mod for a smoker.  With hot smoking with a mailbox mod on a long pipe, you may loose flavor you may like compared to having just enough pipe to connect to the smoker.  Keep it simple and go from there $20.00.  In the pic below I use my deck stairs to lay the aluminum flex pipe on between my mailbox mod and grill for a natural convection just from the heat from the smoke. 

    Cold smoking

    Hot smoking


    There is no right or wrong.  It's what you like.  When it comes to safety I believe there are right and wrong ways to generate smoke from the disasters I've read about So this is my preferred smoking style with the Mes.

    -Kurt      . 
    redoctobyr likes this.

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