Anyone tried adding charcoal to an MES?

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by davenh, Mar 9, 2008.

  1. davenh

    davenh Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    I've seen a few post where it was recommended to add a lit charcoal briquette to create the smoke ring in an electric smoker. Has anyone tried it?

    Seems most feel the flavor and smokiness is superior on charcoal and wood burners. Would it be reasonable to think that small pieces of charcoal to the wood tray in the MES might come closer?

    I must confess that after reading about that I ran out and bought a small bag and a small boneless pork butt to test it out [​IMG]. My girl had her heart set on salmon, so thats in there too. I told her the pork butt was for experimental purposes [​IMG]. (we get to eat that tomorrow).

    More food for thought, will consistently adding charcoal pieces (3/4 of a larger briquette) to the wood tray every half hour or so gives the MES a little boost in BTUs? Seems to be recovering a little better with charcoal shots, smoke seems a little more consistent too. Wondering if there is something to that or just wishful thinking [​IMG].

    Hey..worst case it was a fun try and I get another tasty meal [​IMG].
  2. mossymo

    mossymo Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I have never ttried it, I am interested in hearing your outcome.
  3. illini

    illini Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    Hi Dave
    What happened to the cal-rod deal you bent?....Did it not work out?????

    I have considered doing just what you have done today......Did you prelight them or just add cold?.....What do you think of your outcome of using them?.......anything get over heated inside the chip pan area?

    More info Please!!!!!!!!
  4. davenh

    davenh Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    Hi illini,
    I'm waiting on another heater, got a little overzealous with bending the element. I tried re-bending to shorten it up a little and cracked the sheath. I should learn by now to leave well enough alone [​IMG]. Good news is I have a couple more a little better sized coming into the shop, two weeks on the delivery. After trying this I might hold off putting in the element. I'm thinking there is some added heat coming from the burning charcoal.

    I just put in a handful of charcoal pieces and a few mini chunks of wood and let it go. The heat from the element tray and burning wood get the charcoal going no problem. At least I think so, it keeps taking more so it must be burning down [​IMG]. I don't see any overheating issues, yet anyways. I'll see what happens after I pull the tray out. I'm thinking extra heat could be generated by adding lots of wood, that would mean too much smoke. Where a small handful of charcoal pieces (3/4 stone sized) will just add heat. The controller is cycling on less. Normally, this would mean less smoke, but the burning charcoal keeps the mini chunks going consistently.

    I'll post back more results after I pull out the pork butt [​IMG].

    Disclaimer***Drinking beer may cloud this experiment, so results should be taken lightly****[​IMG][​IMG].
  5. lawdog

    lawdog Smoking Fanatic


    I tried it for the forst time last week. I hadn't been betting any ring in my MES and I added two unlit brickettes to the smoke and came out with this.

    Not real deep so next time I will try 1 more.
    I have also used morton's tender quick insted of salt and it will produce a pretty good ring.

    Good luck
  6. davenh

    davenh Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    Ok are the results....I like charcoal in my MES [​IMG].

    I'm not an expert at smoke rings, but this looks ok to me. It added some nice color. I'm not sure if the charcoal addition imparted extra flavor or not, I will say this stuff taste fantastic [​IMG]. After a few beers while cooking I'm fighting with myself to stay away from it [​IMG][​IMG].

    Illini...the chip tray held up fine. Nothing over heated and it held all the ash from the smoking.

    Here is some q-view.




  7. mossymo

    mossymo Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I must say, looks darn good !!!
  8. ptjd

    ptjd Smoke Blower

    Interesting, I'll have to try that.
  9. illini

    illini Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    Thanks Brian
    That smoke looks good to me[​IMG]

    I will be giving that method a try very soon[​IMG]
  10. morkdach

    morkdach Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    i add unlit charcoal thru out the smoke depending on out side temp.
    there is enough heat off the element to light them i do not gain much over 10deg. but it help generate the tbs.
  11. pitrow

    pitrow Smoking Fanatic

    what kind of charcoal are you using? Lump, briquette? I have some briquettes that have embedded mesquite in it. I may just try that in my next smoke, as I seem to have a problem with keeping the smoke thin and blue.
  12. davenh

    davenh Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    Hi PitRow...I used briquettes. I went to Wally World (Walmart) and picked up a bag of Sam's Choice plain stuff, the bag says it burns clean.

    I put the charcoal (3/4 of a chopped up briquette) in with a couple small chunks of wood, every half hour or so. I don't use chips in my MES. I've been buying chunks and then chopping them into smaller chunks that fit the load tube.

    I'll be doing a few boneless butts for Saturday, so I'll see if the results are the same.
  13. pitrow

    pitrow Smoking Fanatic

    Well I tried it yesterday on a pork loin, and I have to say I'm hooked. I put a whole briquette in with the initial load of wood chips and it worked great. I didn't have nearly the problems I usually do with the smoke getting white and billowy, and the temperature seemed to stay more consistent through out the smoke.

    I only used the one briquette, mostly because it was a small loin and a short smoke. It was one of the briquettes with embedded mesquite and it worked awesome, great smoke ring and flavor on the loin.

    Sorry no pics, I was busy painting over the graffiti on my fence, since the city told me I had 7 days to remove it or face $150/day fine. [​IMG]

    Anyway, I think briquettes will be part of my smoke from now on. Well at least until I upgrade to a stick burner. [​IMG]
  14. desertlites

    desertlites Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I use a 1000 watt element in 1 of my ECB's-hard to hold temp at times-will have to give that a try-graffiti-sheesh-I can hit a spray can from 1000 yards-wouldn't give it a second thought.
  15. richtee

    richtee Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Folks... I bet a couple preburned chunks during the will give you the same thing with perhaps a better flavor. Anyone wanna try this as I don't have a wattburner? :{)
  16. davenh

    davenh Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    Hi Richtee...when you say preburned chunks, same as lump charcoal? I tried to find some lump charcoal locally, but had to settle for a bag of briquettes on short notice.
  17. davenh

    davenh Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    Nice PitRow! I'll be doing 3 butts on Friday, then reheating for Saturday's company. I'll post a second batch of results [​IMG] . Sorry to hear about the graffiti :(.

    Did you just place the whole briquette off to the side of the chip tray, didn't get in the way of the load tube? How long did you smoke the loin?
  18. richtee

    richtee Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Not really, altho close. Preburned chunks are just that. Fire them up <I use a spare grate over my turkey fryer> to the point the flames are dwindling...not quite burnt completely, but all black. NOT to grey of course. Then add to the firepit/bowl/whatever.
  19. pitrow

    pitrow Smoking Fanatic

    I just put a small handful of chips in the loader, and then plunked a briquette on top of it. I don't usually use more than a handful of chips at a time otherwise it smokes too much, so I cut back on the chips a little bit and added the briquette. It all went through the load hole just fine, and I didn't have any problems adding chips after that.

    Let's see, the loin was about 2.75 pounds and I think it was in there for 3.5 or 4 hours. Probably should have been just a touch longer as my thermometer only registered 150 degrees, but I was rushed, so I pulled it, sliced it and nuked it (I know, a sin).

    I hope your butts turn out awesome!
  20. illini

    illini Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    Well yesterday I tried it[​IMG]

    Had 4 brisket flats in the MES 40....Used cowboy lump not briquets....Added twice the volume of lump to wood each time more was needed....That was every 15-30 minutes....Stopped adding when internal of meat was at 150*....Continued until internals reached 190*

    Smoke Ring on the Flats?.....Nada...Zip....None....

    Does this mean only the manufactured briquets will work?....If so what is in the briquets other than what I thought was fillers and binders?

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