Too Much Smoke?

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by daricksta, May 6, 2013.

  1. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I own the MES 30 and just love it to pieces. However, most of what I smoke seems to have a harsh aftertaste (to me, anyway). Is there such a thing as too much smoke? I use the A-MAZE-N Pellet Smoker--which I also love to pieces--but I usually have it smoking during the entire length of whatever I'm cooking. If I'm cooking a brisket or a couple of racks of pork ribs for 5-6 hours then that's how long I'll have the AMNPS going.

    Is this the correct way to do it or should I not have the pellet smoker going any more than 2-3 hours in a six-hour BBQ? Also, there is a difference of opinion as to whether the inside of the MES should be cleaned after every smoke. One group says to leave the interior alone because that's what makes the smoker "seasoned". Another group says its the grimy smoke buildup that creates harsh flavors along with creosote and that's what makes the food taste bad. I don't buy the creosote buildup claim but I'm on the fence as to whether the smoky residue buildup if helpful or hurtful. Presently, I don't clean the interior unless there are bits of dried meat and sauce clinging to the walls or there are grease/sauce drips on any of the trays or housings.

    I would love opinions on what might be causing the harsh aftertaste to what I smoke. I think I even tasted it on the cheddar and mozzarella cheeses I cold smoked last year. Thanks.
  2. rabbithutch

    rabbithutch Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Todd Johnson should chime in here pretty soon. He's the man when it comes to all questions A-MAZN!

    I've never used so many pellets that I'm getting smoke during the whole time I'm cooking (MES40). From what I've read here and other places, meats will not continue to absorb the flavors of smoke after an hour or so. It has something to do with the outer portion of the tissue reaching a certain temperature where it can no longer take in more smoke. From my experience, this is the case; but it would not fit an explanation that you are using pellets for too long. It is my understanding that creosote build-up - which is what most folks refer to as a harsh smoke taste - comes from not getting TBS (thin blue smoke). You don't want or need a lot of smoke. It should not be white (or black) in color but a thin blue color that is hard to capture on a camera.

    My 2¢ worth (and not worth all of that).
  3. seenred

    seenred Smoking Guru Group Lead OTBS Member

    The harsh aftertaste sure sounds like creosote on the food, but you shouldn't be getting much buildup of creosote if you are exclusively using the AMNPS.  

    As a rule, I never cleaned the inside of my MES, for the reasons you mentioned.  But if your getting food that has a bad aftetaste, its hard not to conclude there is some creosote buildup in there.

    What is the color and density of the smoke that you get during a cook?  Is it TBS or thick and billowy white or black?

    Hmm...Have you used wood chips or chunks in the past in this rig?  Do the inside walls have a thick, black resin-like substance on them?  If so, try running the smoker as hot as you can get it, empty, for a couple hours.  During that empty run, if you see smoke coming out the exhaust, its the creosote burning out of there. 

    Maybe some other MES owners will weigh in with some better ideas...Hope you get it ironed out.

    Good luck!

    Last edited: May 6, 2013
  4. mr t 59874

    mr t 59874 Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

  5. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member


    I get white smoke every time but it isn't "thin blue smoke" so obviously I'm doing something wrong. I did use wood chips when I first got the smoker--which would be 2-3 times--otherwise it's been all wood pellets. I bet I've used too much of both. I think I'm only going to go for 2-3 hours of smoke. But how do you get thin blue smoke? What comes out of the top vent isn't really thin but at the same time it's not at all like the thicker white smoke that rises out of the heat vents on my Weber charcoal kettle grill.

    I'm not sure what resin would look like, but the interior of the smoker is coated with a darkish, slick coating that easily rubs off with paper towels. It's the same stuff that coats the grates. I cleaned some of it off yesterday because I figured it'll just reappear after the next smoke. Again, I don't clean my MES 30 except to take off sauce, rub, and charred meat sticking to the walls or dripped on trays or the heating unit housing. Now, the water tray had thick black stuff on the bottom of it and the sides that in some places I had to scrub off and even then it didn't come off altogether. Is that creosote? It wasn't black inside the tray because I had filled it with water.

    Again, how do you get thin blue smoke? I also don't think I've got creosote buildup--but here's the thing: the ribs had that harsh aftertaste (which I've gotten from everything I've smoked) but yesterday when I warmed up the ribs in my countertop convection oven there was no harsh aftertaste at all. In fact, the smoky flavor was less, too. I thought it interesting that overnight the flavor had mellowed out.
  6. mr t 59874

    mr t 59874 Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    daRicksta,  I am not familiar with your smoker, but it appears to me that you are obsessed on obtaining TBS which to me can sometimes be a tragedy.  If your product is bitter, it is simply over smoked, learn to work with your smoker. 

    Start by using a very small amount of wood of you choosing and then make it work for you.  Don't worry about the color or the length of time it burns, but do keep notes so when your product is done, it can be tested and adjustments made from there. 

    Smoking should be fun and if you want it can also be an adventure, it's up to you.

  7. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Mr T: Thanks for the link to your article. I've put it in my Favorites and will read it when I get the time. It should answer my questions.
  8. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Mr T: One more thing: I'm not the one obsessed with thin blue smoke. If you read the replies to my question the respondents brought up thin blue smoke and I'm responding to them. Even Todd Johnson/A-MAZE-N has talked to me and others about thin blue smoke from his AMNPS.

    Before I posted my question I thought I might be oversmoking and the replies I've received convince me I'm on the right track. Despite owning the MES 30 for a little over a year I've only used it about 6 times so I still have a lot to learn. It's a great unit and I'm glad I bought it.
  9. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    What wood pellets are you using as different woods will produce different intensities of smoke flavour. If you are using something like Mesquite, Walnut or Hickory then it can be easy to over smoke. Oak is a good all rounder or you could try one of the milder fruit woods such as Apple or Pear. Also make sure that you know where the pellets have come from. You must use good quality food grade pellets and not use industrial heating pellets as you have no idea which woods they contain or whether they have any binding agents.

    If you are using good pellets already then I would try smoking for the first 4 hours** and then covering in foil for the remainder of the cooking time, as most of the flavour will be imparted by then.

    ** There is much debate on here as to whether you get any more significant flavour imparted after 4 hours. I am not going to open that chestnut again here, but needless to say any additional flavour you lose from covering after the first 4 hours will probably not be worth writing home about - especially if your problem is bitterness.
  10. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Wade, I was using both oak and apple wood pellets but I've gotten the same result with hickory wood chips. The oak pellets came from Todd Johnson and the apple wood pellets came from whoever Fred Meyer supermarkets sell. I never use heating pellets but my understanding is that cooking pellets vary in quality. Todd's pellets are top quality.

    I'll try your method of smoke for the first 4 hours and then covering in foil. I forget the name of the guy who set up this site and the forums but he also suggests the 3-2-1 or 2-2-1 methods for baby back ribs--or maybe any pork ribs: 2-3 hours of smoke, covered in foil for 2 hours and then uncovered for the final hour. I also tried that and can't remember if I got the harsh aftertaste or not.
  11. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    It's been my experience that the AMNPS will not put out heavy enough smoke to give you a bitter taste, unless you light both ends.

    The Amzen Tube smoker can put out too heavy a smoke for small smokers.

    It's also my experience that if you keep the smoke light, it doesn't matter how long you smoke it---The more the merrier!!!

  12. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Yes - sounds like you are using good pellets. The only other option is to apply it for less time. Let us know how you get on.
  13. mr t 59874

    mr t 59874 Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Gotcha on being obsessed.  Todd puts out a very good product, but I can put out any color of smoke I want with it, which is good.  When making adjustments, make only one at a time and again, record it.  You will not learn this in one season so be prepared to spend some time on it, learn your smoker and it will soon be perfected.

      It seems that I learn something new every time I smoke, or maybe I'm relearning what I forgot,  [​IMG]  but I do use my notes a lot.

    Have fun,

  14. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Bearcarver, this time I did light the AMNPS but it went out a couple of times and I wound up re-lighting it in only one direction. All the other times it was just one direction. I'm going to try reducing the amount of wood pellets I use along with the smoke time. Except for the applewood pellets, all pellets came from Todd.
  15. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Mr. T: You and so many other people here are so much more efficient than I am. I forget the Q-View with just about all my smokes and I never make notes but I can generally remember what I did each time--including the time I set a hot AMNPS on a plastic resin table and melted a hole in the table top.

    I think the next time I smoke and it works I will keep notes. Your advice is good: I will reduce the smoke time but keep the amount of pellets the same. The time after that I'll reduce the pellets if I still haven't gotten the results I'm looking for. I also think I tend to use too many pellets like I probably use too many charcoal briquettes in my Weber even though I typically get the results I want from grilling.
  16. This is an older thread, but has some of my questions.

    I finallly found my propane torch that I haven't seen in 5 years or so, but wasn't going to buy another one to light my new AMTPS. I knew it was hidden somewheres.

    So, I loaded the Tube with a mix of about 60/40 cherry to hickory (to keep the cherry burning, so I read) and hit it with the torch for the first time. Got a decent flame, let it burn ~ 10-12 minutes and it settled.

    Put a rack of mozz, sharp cheddar, colby jack and mont jack (about 7-8 lbs total ) in the MS-XL propane in at an outdoor temp of around 48 deg.

    Here's the deal- it wasn't particularly windy today or anything like that, but this thing was smoking like a 5 alarm fire! The tube was about 3/4 or more full and gave me around a 3 hour smoke, so that seems about right. But at times this thing had smoke pouring out like when I light my offset in a stiff offshore breeze at the beach.

    Reading here I had all (1)the vents open for good airflow, to prevent stale smoke, and the bottom where the burner is, is an open hole as well. Was I getting too much draft?

    It was really rolling, and while the cheese will be allowed to age and mellow, I'd like to know what the heck you all think happened here. For a smoke generator I have fallen in love with this thing after only one use. How do I regulate it better, what did I do wrong?

  17. demosthenes9

    demosthenes9 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    If your tube smoker was putting out that much smoke, yeah, it sounds like it was getting too much air.
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2014
  18. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Good point !!

    I get way too much smoke for my MES 40 from my Tube smokers.

    So I only use my AMNPS, and never have trouble with it, unless I try 100% Cherry.

    I guess a lot of those results would be that for some reason my MES 40 gets good air flow (better than most), even without doing anything with the chip dumper or chip drawer.

    The only thing I ever did was drill a 3/8" hole at the bottom left, below the bars (above the floor). I was going to put an air hose down there, but I never did, because it works fine. I'm wondering if that 3/8" hole does anything. Maybe I should plug it to see if there's a difference??

  19. demosthenes9

    demosthenes9 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Don't know.   Wouldn't think that a little 3.8th's hole would make that much of a difference, but I guess it could.     With my Smoke Hollow 44, I put the AMNTS at the bottom of the chamber, to the side of the water pan.  This puts it just above the damper and between the damper and the propane burner.   I have to be careful that I don't put it right where the smoker has a thermal updraft.  If it goes there, man, a full 12 in tube will burn out in under 2 hrs and the smoke will be white and heavy.   If I move the tube over just a couple of inches, sweet thin blue smoke for hours and hours.

    It's kind of funny that I ran into the same kind of problems with my propane smoker that many have with the MES and an Amazen Smoker, that is, getting the right placement with it and having the "perfect" air flow to it.
  20. I'll have to try moving it around. Most of what I had read was concerned with the thing flaming out. Not staying lit, so I intentionally removed the 9 in. cast iron pan I put my chunks in on top of the crappy chip pan that comes with the MSXL. Putting that back on top out to "damper" that flow somewhat. Should have thought of that right away, Duh.

    It's only got the one vent, in the back side wall, so I didn't want to close that up and keep the smoke from clearing out either, I guess sliding it halfway will slow the airflow also, or would that simply speed it up? Same air through a narrow passage = more speed?

    Gonna take a little use to get this just right, anyone else using a tube (12) in a MSXL with better luck?

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