Anyone else with a Memphis Elite?

Discussion in 'Pellet Smokers' started by tucson bbq fan, Jul 6, 2013.

  1. I got a Memphis Elite for Father's day last month.  I've been trying all sorts of different foods on it.  I've seen a few strange behaviors at high temps - looking to compare notes with anyone who has one.  I'm very happy with the smoking/low temp operation and using the open flame attachment for grilling works fine also.
  2. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Someone may be able to answer your questions.....    Hang on.....     Dave
  3. seenred

    seenred Smoking Guru Group Lead OTBS Member

    Although I use a pellet pit myself, I'm not at all familiar with yours...but I'll give this a bump in case there are other members who have your rig. 

  4. Thanks
  5. Hi Dave -

    I have a Memhis Pro and would love to compare notes.
  6. Great!  How long have you had your Pro?

    I got my Elite for Father's day in June this year, and have been using it a lot trying to get used to it.  I had been smoking on a large Pitts & Spitts horizontal offset wood box smoker for many years before getting the Memphis.

    On the positive side, I really like the convenience and ease of use and fast starting.  Being able to set up a large brisket or pork butt the night before and let it run overnight un-attended is a very big plus.

    I have had several problems that I am trying to work out with customer support.

    1.  Set to 700 degrees to do a pizza on a pizza stone.  First one went great.  Temp dropped a bunch (down to 400) when I opened it up to take out the first pizza, and while waiting for temp to get back up to speed, I ran out of pellets and then, when I got it going again, it ran all the way up to over 800 before I got scared and shut it down.

    2.  If I try to go to a very high heat right away, the pellet burner hopper gets over-filled and won't start, and then, if it does start, I get a very large smoky fire till the excessive pellets get burnt off.  I've found that I need to start it at a low temp (say 200) and get the fire going, then raise the temperature.

    3.  I had set the temp to 500, got it there and did some cooking, then tried to drop the temp down to 180.  Temp "ran away" and went up to over 650, and I got worried and shut it down.  I got them to give me some adjustments over the phone on the gains for ramping the temp up and down, and it seems to not over-run as much now.

    4.  It still does not seem to like to be run at a higher temp, then get reset to a lower temp - it takes an hour to get re-stabilized at the lower temp.

    5.  My biggest gripe is the so called "actual grill temp"  I have discovered that this is not the actual temp, but is "biased towards the set temp" to "smooth out small fluctuations of the oven temp" (Memphis statements.)  The meat temp is not altered.  I ran a bunch of comparison tests and it the meat tem and "actual grill temp" are very close (within 5 degrees or less) at 350.  However, at 180, the actual will say 180-183, while the real temp as measured by the meat probe is 25-50 degrees hotter!  I am complaining to customer support to give me a patch to make this read the real actual temp - there is too big of a difference between what it shows and the real temp.

    6.  I got the open flame insert and have not gotten great results yet.  I start cooking on it when the grill light goes on steady - but it does not seem to be that hot (OF-1, OF-2)  Maybe I need to let it run for a while to heat up more - don't know.

    Have you seen any of these kinds of issues?  If yes, have you been able to resolve any of them?  Are you seeing other problems?

    This sounds like a big list of issues - and I am surprised to have so many with such an expensive system.  ON the other hand, I have cooked a whole bunch of food on it over the past few months - and gotten great results - mainly smoking and some convection oven operations under 400.  I've done some great ribs, briskets, pork butts, beef logs, fatties of all sorts, wings, Cornish game hens, smoked potatoes and yams, mac & cheese, etc.

    - Dave
  7. Hi Dave,

    I have been off the grid for a bit so sorry for the late response.

    I love my grill. Everything I have cooked so far has turned out well. It's a big step up from my Traeger.

    1. The one time I ran out of pellets, the temp did not recover correctly. It went high. If I remember correctly, I was doing a long smoke at 225 when I noticed the temp dropping. I forgot to fill the hopper. After filled it, I recall the temp shooting up to 450 or so so I kind of regulated the temp by opening the lid and went thru a shut down. When I got to 225, I just pulled the plug and started over. This grill does take forever to cool off. I make sure I don't run out anymore.

    2. I have had trouble getting the grill to start randomly regardless of the temp. I finally figured out the problem. One of the reasons the system goes thru the cool down process is the fan is supposed to blow out some of the ash in the fire pot. That feature does not work well for me. For some reason, the ash forms a clump in the fire pot. The clump doesn't let the pellets get close enough to the igniter for ignition. This happens more often in the winter. If my the grill doesn't fire up in the first 5 minutes, it won't and I just have to clear out the fire pot. I haven't noticed any diffenent behavior at higher temps.

    3-4. I have not been successful lowering temps quickly but I never had a runaway problem. The grill holds heat very well and just won't respond quickly enough for the controller. I have also heard people with the Yoder make the same comment. The very thing that makes these grill great at holding steady temps, mass and insulation, just won't let them cool off quickly. I don't know if ther is anything that can be done about that. I once tried to drop the temp from 425 to 350 and after 40 minutes I still wasn't there.

    When I talked to the technician he told me there is minimum rate of pellets that must be added to the fire to keep it from gong out. The heat that is being held by the grill also requires time to bleed off. That time is very dependent on the outside temperature. If the sun is shining on the grill that makes it even worse. I suspect it would work OK in cooler weather. I would be interested in the gain coefficients they gave you.

    5. I have to admit that I really haven't checked into the temp accuracy. Since everything has turned out pretty well, I have just decided that ignorance is bliss and I really don't want to know. Now you got me thinking and maybe I will run a cople of tests.

    I will post more later.

  8. Hi Jim,

    I also love the automation and control and ease of use.  And I have only had one badly cooked dish - and that was during a run-away on pizza where the temp got up over 800 with lots of flame.  I suspect I know what happened - see below.

    I have had your #2 problem also.  I am using lumberjack pellets, which are supposed to be pretty good and low ash.  I now have a habit of cleaning out the fire pot before startup every time.  I've only had mine in the summer.  Another solution I discovered is that some of the ash falls into the fan/air box under the fire pot and there is nowhere for it to go.  I took out my fire pot and discovered the box under the firepot was full of ash - to the point of obscuring the bottom vents of the fire pot. This after only 2.5 months of cooking (but I was using it 3-4 times a week).

    Gain changes:

    I had an ITC with software rev U1.04.  The way to find your software rev is as follows:

    1.  Unplug unit

    2.  Plug it back in and watch screen closely

    3.  You see "Hlnd" for a long time, then "ELE" then (very fast) U1.04 (or some other number)

    in rev 1.04, I changed C21 to 0.6 from 0.2

    They also had me make one other change that I did not record.   I also did not write down the exact sequence to get the machine into parameter changing mode!  If you call them and talk to Greg Fassett in customer service, he can walk you through the changes.

    I was still having problems getting the temp to drop (out of the sun, fan on it, etc.) and so they finally sent me some upgrades to install.  (1) a new temperature probe inside the chamber, (2) a new burn pot - supposedly with slightly larger holes, and (3) a new ITC with rev 4.79 software in it.  I didn't really see any improvement in the temp drop or the actual temp display.

    The Actual Temp display is the most annoying (I have learned how to deal with the rest).  They refuse to change this and basically, they have the software set to bias the display to the set temp, so that the machine appears better at getting to set temp and holding it than it really is!  I think it should just show the actual temp and be done with it. The difference is very significant at low temps. If you want to check yours, here is the test.

    1.  clean out the burn pot.

    2.  clean the flavorizer and cook grates

    3.  clean the grill temperature probe.

    4.  Mount the meat probe in a ball of Al foil and set it so that the probe sticks out of the ball 2 inches and the tip of the probe is 1 inch above the grill.  Position it so the tip of the probe is at the center (left to right and front to back) of the grill.

    5.  with the controller off, press and hold "pellet prime" and "temp Display" simultaneously for several seconds till "bYE" is displayed - then release.  This resets everything.

    6.  wait 5 minutes for the grill temp to stabilize (with everything turned off).

    7.  Turn grill on - write down actual grill temp and actual meat temp as your starting temps.

    8.  Set grill temp to 180 and raise meat temp set until "nOPr" shows on the controller.

    9.  Test 1

      - after 20 minutes, record the actual grill and actual meat temp.  Repeat measurements at 30, 40, 50, & 60 minutes.

    10.  Test 2

      - set grill temp to 350.

      - after 20 minutes, record the actual grill and actual meat temp.  Repeat measurements at 30, 40, 50, & 60 minutes.

    11.  Test 3

      - set grill temp to 180.

      - after 20 minutes, record the actual grill and actual meat temp.  Repeat measurements at 30, 40, 50, & 60 minutes.

    My results are below
    Date8/9/2013  9/6/2013
    ModelElite  Elite
    Serial #1657  1657
    SW VersionU1.04  U4.79
    Notesafter adjusting C21 to 0.6 from 0.2  replaced burn pot, temp probe & ITC
    Grill ReadingsActual Grill  Actual MeatError  Actual Grill  Actual MeatError
    Starting temps89836  85805
    Test 1 - set temp at 180              
    20 minutes        1801755
    30 minutes182226-44  180195-15
    40 minutes180205-25  180189-9
    50 minutes180187-7  180184-4
    60 minutes180200-20  180195-15
    Test 2 - set temp at 350              
    20 minutes        350353-3
    30 minutes3503455  3503482
    40 minutes3503482  3503491
    50 minutes3503482  350352-2
    60 minutes3503482  3503500
    Test 3 - set temp at 350              
    20 minutes        249270-21
    30 minutes214253-39  211252-41
    40 minutes183232-49  184228-44
    50 minutes184215-31  187225-38
    60 minutes180213-33  184219-35
  9. Dave,

    I certainly will run your test. I have checked meat temp with my Thermoworks probe and it has always been within a couple of degrees of the Meat Actual temp. The grill actual is always very stable, in fact too stable, so I suspect mine will behave similar to yours. I have a Maverick thermometer with 2 probes so I will put one bu each of the Memphis probes.

    When I have tried to reduce the temp, even after an hour, my grill actual temp never came down to the set point which is different than yours. I will take a look at the firmware rev when I get a chance.

    A couple of other observations......

    1. I like to wap the heat plate with aluminum foil for easy cleanup. I had been using the wider stuff so that I could completely cover the edges. I made sure I folded the foil tightly against the plate to make sure I didn't block the air flow. However, the force of the flame would actually push the foil down really altering the airflow. I have had much better consistency since I went to the narrow foil and didn't over the front or back sides. The ends seem to get held down well by the brackets that hold the heat plate.

    2. I also found the burn pot fills with ash. I tried installing an air cylinder with a stainless ling going into the space below the burn pot and exiting thru one of the holes. I put a push button valve in-line so I could fire a blast of air to blow out the. I have some more work to do because it actually ends up blowing more ash into the space below the burn pot. I am looking into some way of putting a hinged door on the bottom of the pot. It is a bear taking out the 4 screws on top.

    3. The outer 2 inches of the grill area get much hotter than the center. It makes sense because that's the path the hot air takes. Unfortunately, that really reduces the effective grill area. I also wonder if that may be part of the problem with the temp reading. The grill thermocouple is located right above the space where the aire comes up from the burn pot. My guess is that they had to make some accommodations in their algorithm for that. I wonder what would happen if I could place the grill probe in the middle of the grill. I might just try that. Another thought I had was to put an air deflector plate right below the grill temp probe.

    4. I never take the grill above 450 unless I completely clean it first. I had a pretty nasty fire nice. After 3 or 4 long smokes at 225, I decided to cook somes steaks. The grill is supposed to go up to 650 so what the heck. I changed the foil and cleaned it out fairly well. What I didn't do was empty the ash bins. There were a bunch of clumps in the ash but it wasn't very full.

    I started the grill and everything was fine for about 20 minutes. Then I looked out and saw an error message on the controller and some black smoke coming from the grill. I pulled the plug and opened the lid. Well that was dumb. I just provided an unlimited supply of oxygen. There was a pretty cool mushroom cloud! I finally figured out that it was the grease balls in the ash pans that ignited. Luckily, no damage just a bruised ego.

    5. I also use Lumberjack pellets. Ther is a guy in MN that sells the 40# bags for $12.50 each if you buy 6 at a time. You can't beat that deal. Do you have any idea what causes the clump in the fire pot? It doesn't always happen and I dont ever cook over the direct flame.

    6. I have noticed, there is far less smoke flavor than I had with my Traeger. If I cook anything above 250, there is barely a hint of smoke. Have you experienced the same issue?

    Thanks for all the info.

  10. Hi Jim,

    I tried wrapping the heat plate with Al foil, and I had to keep replacing it - if I used higher heat, etc., so I gave up and just use a paint scrapper to scrap off the droppings after each use.

    If you figure out a way to put a door in the air chamber below the fire pot - please take photos and send to me - that would be a very useful modification.

    I find the back couple of inches to be hotter on mine, not so much on the front couple of inches.  Your thoughts on the heat and the location of the thermocouple make a lot of sense. I suspect if you put in a heat deflector plate, it will actually end up increasing the temperature in the cooking chamber, as the probe will be reading lower temps!  But if we could convince Heartland to mod their algorithm for that kind of mod...

    I have had fires of built up grease on the front inner wall below the heat deflector plate, as well as junk in the center ash/grease trap ( I have 3 on the elite).  I make sure things are clean now before using high heat.

    would you send me the name/contact info on the buy you get your lumberjack pellets from? That is a very good price!

    I also noticed less smoke flavor.  I am currently running some experiments.  ON most smokers, there is a single chimney that the smoke goes out of - it has to collect in the cooking chamber till it gets to that outlet.  On the Elite, there is an exhaust grate all the way along the top/back of the unit.  There is almost no way to get much smoke build-up or density.  I have been experimenting with rolling some Al Foil and putting it in that exhaust grate so that there is a smaller length that is releasing smoke.  I'm also trying the Amazing Pellet Smoker (I just got one last week).

    I only did one short smoke (some steelhead trout) and it seemed to have more smoke in the chamber and I did not notice any controller issues.  I'm going out of town for a week, so won't be doing any more experimenting till I get back.  I'll let you know what I find out.  I don't want to block the exhaust too much - could cause creosote to start forming, but enough to get a better smoke density in the chamber.

    - Dave
  11. Hi Dave,

    I suspect you are correct in that moving the temp prob to the center will make the problem worse. I read on another site that build-up on the temp probe can cause a temp lag so I am going to clean it off before my testing. I'm not convinced yet but I have been wrong before.

    The contact for the pellets is Jason Ross @ . His contact info is on the site. You can also checkout Minneapolis Craigslist and search for BBQ Pellet.

    I have the Amazin Pellet Smoker tube. It works OK but I have to place over one of the ends to keep it from going out. The air movement keeps it gong. The tube creates a lot of ash and it blows around a bit. The tube works fantastic on my gas grill when I can place it directly over a burner.

    I am definitely going to try to block part of the exhaust grate- Great Idea.

    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 10, 2013
  12. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Jim, morning.....  I deleted the off site link....   against policy.... sorry....   Terms of Service

    Last edited: Sep 10, 2013

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