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MES 30 modification... I think it's the final mod....

daveomak

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I've had this smoker for about a year....  Little things cropped up that made me alter the original design....

Hot spots in the smoker.... Temperature spikes... Uneven smoke and flash overs...  Not being able to cold smoke.... 

I'm probably forgetting a few...

Now don't get me wrong about this smoker.... It is a great smoker and a very good bargain for what you get....  Stainless steel smoker.... Insulated...  Electronic control.... and it works well, as received from the factory....

Given the opportunity to get a refund and purchase another smoker, I would still buy a MES... Maybe the MES 40.... but I am glad I don't have to make that decision....  This smoker is great....   Now it is even better because I have had the opportunity to make it perfect.....(In my warped mind, it is perfect)

The first BIG deal is Todd's AMNPS and his recipes for the perfect pellets for smoking food.....  

I have made many smoke generators and Todd's far surpasses anything I made...  ((that almost got stuck in my throat)..

With Todd's smoker, I knew the chip pan and chip tray were obsolete so out they came.... I think there were 3 screws and

2 bolts... save these pieces in the event you want to put it back to factory...

Light the smoke gen and forget it....

It will smoke at any temperature..... For up to 10+ hours....  No adding chips... Such a deal... A BIG deal.....

With a continuous supply of perfect smoke, only thing left to do is adjust the smoker temperature.... more on that in a minute.... 



Since all the chip stuff was removed, I now needed to make an adjustable air intake.... 

A lid from a can.... 3/4" hole.... Sheet metal screw, washers and spring for tension...  Done.....



Full open....  Nice adjustment if needed.....



Addressing the offset exhaust opening....

This pan has a 4"-5" hole in the center.... 

It is lowered about 1"-2" from the ceiling in the smoker for air flow.....

Now the heat and smoke exit thru the center of the smoker ceiling.... (more or less)



To eliminate the temperature fluctuations....

A 1500 watt dimmer switch was added to control the heat output of the heating element.... 

Now the heating element stays ON all the time..... You can adjust the heat output of the element by turning the

dimmer just as you adjust the light output of a light bulb, or turning the knob on a gar burner on your stove...

This also solved the problem of the hot spot, along with the chip stuff removal....

The temp measurements inside the smoker are consistent....  NO fluctuations in any heating zone.....

The meat location may cause some differences but that is the way it goes.....You can mark the dimmer to approximate temps

for future reference... An extermal temp probe should still be used for finite temp monitoring..... All the electronics

are still functional... Temp setting still shuts of the element when needed, I did not disable that aspect of the

controller.... It is a necessary and perfect application to this smoker.... The dimmers main purpose is to

regulate the heating element so it gives out a "mild heat" instead of "WIDE OPEN and OFF".... everything else is the

same as factory.....



I'm not making any promises... I "think" these mods are the last I will make to the MES 30.....

As far as I know, "It don't get any better than this".... 

Thanks for looking.... I lay awake at night thinking of this stuff.....  Dave
 
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whittling chip

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Thanks for posting. I would like to see how I might be able to incorporate your suggestions with my MES40. Do you happen to have another photo showing the last photo from a different angle? I'm trying to visualize what you did but I'm having a hard time seeing it im my mind. Maybe a zoom-out view from above, maybe.

Thanks again,

WC
 

daveomak

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Thanks for posting. I would like to see how I might be able to incorporate your suggestions with my MES40. Do you happen to have another photo showing the last photo from a different angle? I'm trying to visualize what you did but I'm having a hard time seeing it im my mind. Maybe a zoom-out view from above, maybe.

Thanks again,

WC
http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/gallery/album/view/id/9195/user_id/40430

WC, evening....  Above is a folder I retreived from my profile.... It explains the steps I went thru installing the dimmer switch....  If you have any questions, please PM me or post in this thread.... I am more that happy to help you or anyone out....  Check my profile for other stuff I have done.... 

If you click on the individual pictures, there is an explanation of what you are seeing and what I did...  If the explanations aren't clear in the explanation...  let me know...  I will help you or anyone out....  

Glad to help......

  Dave
 
 

chef jimmyj

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That looks like about all you can do. Well maybe some kind of permanent Tent over the AMNPS. Kind of like a peaked roof House, open on the ends and bottom that sits on the rails. You simply slide the lit AMNPS into it's House and let 'er rip. I wish my Dad was alive, he was in HVAC and had the equipment to bend one up from a piece of 8" wide Sheet Metal in a matter of minutes...JJ
 
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deltadude

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DaveOmak, you did a great job in taking photos and sharing your mods, that takes a lot of work, thought, and boldness to make some of these mods.  Plus sharing them with the MES community is wonderful.

Your centering the exhaust seems pretty cool, have you used multiple external probes to provide before and after readings to see if the fix makes a difference?

Are you using a water pan?  It seems the pellets would get moist?  I haven't bought a AMNPS yet to try pellets, so I don't have a clue how much the water pan effects pellets.

However,

I'm not sure I am buying into the temp flux solution being a dimmer switch?  I'm thinking of ovens, why don't they do the same thing, a constant "on" solution?  The reason is heat builds up, so to control the heat they use on/off temp sensing and control.  During the initial stage of smoking, depending on the amount of preheating done, both the meat and the cooker cabinet and components are absorbing heat, and hour or two into the smoke the cabinet and it's components are hardly absorbing heat, plus the meat changes during cooking process on the amount of heat it can readily absorb.  Thus heat is building up in the air space, so at what point do you calibrate your dimmer switch?  At the beginning middle or end?  In other words you are using a temp probe to tell you what the current inside temp is and have approx marks on your dimmer, then making finer adjustments as you go, which means you have to tend the cooking.  What happens if your smoker is outside, and the ambient drops significantly, or if you have to open the door a couple of times in the same hour?  Then you have to keep adjusting the dimmer.  It seems it is easier to set the digital control walk away and forget it.

Fortunately smoking meat has a high tolerance for variation in cooking temps.  Meaning you can be 20-25º +/- and as long as you sample the temp of the meat the danger of over or under cooking is pretty slim.  My MES inside temp sensor is off about 15-20º high, so I simply adjust my MES controller temp down 15º when the meat temp cross 200º using external probe for meat temp.

Again your work is important, because it does show clearly a path that others can consider to improve the operation of their MES.
 
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daveomak

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DaveOmak, you did a great job in taking photos and sharing your mods, that takes a lot of work, thought, and boldness to make some of these mods.  Plus sharing them with the MES community is wonderful.

Your centering the exhaust seems pretty cool, have you used multiple external probes to provide before and after readings to see if the fix makes a difference?

No, I'm judging by the way the meat etc cooks... I used to get overcooked stuff at the right rear corner and raw in the left front....   Now that doesn't happen.... Close enough for me..

Are you using a water pan?  It seems the pellets would get moist?  I haven't bought a AMNPS yet to try pellets, so I don't have a clue how much the water pan effects pellets.

On my 2 runs with this set up, the pellets did get dripped on.... Had to relight twice...  thinking about a foil tent, as others have used on the past, or an external compartment as JJ suggested and Pops built on his smokehouse.....  the MES 30 is small, to the point, there are limited options in the interior.... Water pan, No... I think it interferes with the heat distribution, no facts just thoughts.... 

However,

I'm not sure I am buying into the temp flux solution being a dimmer switch?  I'm thinking of ovens, why don't they do the same thing, a constant "on" solution?  The reason is heat builds up, so to control the heat they use on/off temp sensing and control.  During the initial stage of smoking, depending on the amount of preheating done, both the meat and the cooker cabinet and components are absorbing heat, and hour or two into the smoke the cabinet and it's components are hardly absorbing heat, plus the meat changes during cooking process on the amount of heat it can readily absorb.  Thus heat is building up in the air space, so at what point do you calibrate your dimmer switch?  At the beginning middle or end?  In other words you are using a temp probe to tell you what the current inside temp is and have approx marks on your dimmer, then making finer adjustments as you go, which means you have to tend the cooking.  What happens if your smoker is outside, and the ambient drops significantly, or if you have to open the door a couple of times in the same hour?  Then you have to keep adjusting the dimmer.  It seems it is easier to set the digital control walk away and forget it.

About the dimmer.... It works better than I imagined... During warm up and drying the outside of the meat, to accept smoke, I set the dimmer to approximate 125 deg....  due to the thermal mass of the smoker, the temp slowly rises while the BTU's are being absorbed by the smoker and the meat... I've checked the element temp on occasion and it is at about 300.... It has such small thermal mass that the temp rise takes quite awhile...  Don't forget there is ambient air entering and leaving the smoker continually, and with the exhaust wide open to remove moisture, temp rise is very slow and forgiving.....  Then when it is time to raise the temp to cook the meat, say to 140 IT, I adjust the dimmer to approximate smoker temp of 180 or 225(for non cured products to keep to the 40-140 rule).....  The added benefit that I did not figure on is the smoker temp rises very slowly again.... You know like bumping the smoker temp every hour 10-20 degrees...

 

The dimmer switch is not calibrated... I marked it for approximate temps... ambient temps cause those marks to be approximate.... I don't figure it is a problem.... and I use an external temp probe for meat and smoker actual temps...

You are talking about "set it and forget it" ease of application with the MES..... well, the electronics still are functional....  The MES will still turn on and off like normal... I did not disable the thermostat temp control.... I set the maximum temperature I desire on the original control panel.... In the event I can't check the smoker every 1/2 hour or hour, as the case may be, the electronics takes over and "idiot proofs" me not being there, and the heat is turned off... 

The part of this exercise I really, really like is, the heating element is never on full blast.... It is a subtle heat, like adjusting the fire on your stick burner, or your gas cook top stove... or the accelerator pedal in your car.....  

Fortunately smoking meat has a high tolerance for variation in cooking temps.  Meaning you can be 20-25º +/- and as long as you sample the temp of the meat the danger of over or under cooking is pretty slim.  My MES inside temp sensor is off about 15-20º high, so I simply adjust my MES controller temp down 15º when the meat temp cross 200º using external probe for meat temp.

The really amazing thing  have I found out about the MES, the internal smoker temp, that is displayed on the electronic display, is totally accurate.... I have known that for about a year since I first started this mod project...   When the smoker and meat attain equilibrium at final temp.... the exhaust temp and display temp are within 5 degrees.... MES internal temp readings are not wrong, or not calibrated.... that is displaying the temp difference at that location in the smoker.... I noticed the temp differences when I first got my MES and adjusted for it... Just the nature of the beast.....  Look at any smoker and there are temp variations, even in the best designed reverse flow that is designed to have even temps....   

Again your work is important, because it does show clearly a path that others can consider to improve the operation of their MES.  Thank you for that "attaboy"
 

daveomak

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If you are so inclined, please reread the original thread.... It is difficult to write a review on a first draft....I made some additions in response to questions I received.....

The mods are reversible back to factory... The primary reason for the dimmer was to reduce the heat output of the heating element and eliminate the

"WIDE OPEN and OFF" heat generated... 

Dave 
 

chef jimmyj

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Morning Dave, The AMNPS House I am talking about would sit on the Rails Inside the MES. A single sheet of metal as wide as the length of the AMNPS bent in the shape of a House. Picture a 1" Flange  on both sides of the base to rest on the Rails and provide an area to slide the AMNPS on to. Two 4" tall vertical walls topped by a peaked roof that adds no more than additional 2" of Height. So a 6" wide, 8" long, 6" tall House, open on both ends. The AMNPS can draw air from the open bottom and the smoke flows out the ends. Any meat drippings fall on the Roof and run down the outside of the walls and into the drip pan in the base of the MES. The House can be covered in foil or simply pulled out and wiped off. Sorry I don't have a line drawing program...JJ 
 

daveomak

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JJ, Afternoon....  Yeah, I think something like that would work.... 

I'm thinking a C shaped piece of metal.... hanging over the AMNPS like a lean-to shed... 

The "C" dimensions would be --- bottom leg = 5 1/2" ----- Up leg = 4" --- Top leg = 6 1/2" ---  Length of the "C" = 9" ----    The opening of the shed toward the air inlet....

Maybe even some holes drilled in the bottom leg of the "C".....  

It would sit on the rails and be totally removable....    I'll sleep on that for a few days.....  Dave
 

deltadude

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The really amazing thing  have I found out about the MES, the internal smoker temp, that is displayed on the electronic display, is totally accurate.... I have known that for about a year since I first started this mod project...   When the smoker and meat attain equilibrium at final temp.... the exhaust temp and display temp are within 5 degrees.... MES internal temp readings are not wrong, or not calibrated.... that is displaying the temp difference at that location in the smoker....
I use a Taylor remote probe (soon to be a Maverick) to monitor internal cabinet temp, plus as a cross check a analog oven dial type (cheapie).  I know that my MES is displaying about 15-20º too hot.  Yes it could be the spot on the left back inside wall is just hot there or it is the sensor is inaccurate.  I think it is inaccurate, based on using two different taylors and the analog near the MES sensor.

Does that mean other MES owners are inaccurate?  NO, I am only referring to mine.

I really appreciate dave your thoughtful and considerable comments and observations.  I did not know that your MES controller was still wired into the circuit, that is indeed a exceptional mod.  I will definitely add it to the MES HOT MOD list.   Note I am usually reluctant to add mods that remove parts from the MES, however since you left the MES controller active which provides a safety element, your mod is most certainly a welcome addition to the Mod List.
 

rocor98

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Hi Dave great mods ...

I am involved with similar mods .. Difference being ..movining the air intake to the left side and a slanted shelter over the element with the heat output diretcted to the middle of the unit .. AMNPS will be my smoke also ..

I have not touched the element ..

Question. You have no shield between the grease pan and the element ..do you avoid grease? .. Do you feel no restriction will allow bulk of heat to be above the element? .. Does your dimmer cause full heat to only be on at start up ? .. As I intend to use a shield to deflect heat output the the center ..thus restricting immediate upward heat draft do you think I need a shield below the element to avoid any chance of a flare up? ...

I have no MES experience as I have only lost the snow this week .. I have tools to measure the exaust speeds etc .. And as the unit has not even had a burn in I am just asking in order to skip a few testing steps .. I wasted $19.00 and shipping fees on a large damper .. Should have gone with the can Doh!

Ross

Have not been well so moving slowly .. Will report success or failure with pics in the next few weeks .. And some draft speed data .. Need to burn in with OEM configureation to get baselines first ...

I bought the unit in January .. Been reading on here and while planning you fine folks have me hooked on sausage making .. Can't wait to get smoking ..
 

chef jimmyj

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JJ, Afternoon....  Yeah, I think something like that would work.... 

I'm thinking a C shaped piece of metal.... hanging over the AMNPS like a lean-to shed... 

The "C" dimensions would be --- bottom leg = 5 1/2" ----- Up leg = 4" --- Top leg = 6 1/2" ---  Length of the "C" = 9" ----    The opening of the shed toward the air inlet....

Maybe even some holes drilled in the bottom leg of the "C".....  

It would sit on the rails and be totally removable....    I'll sleep on that for a few days.....  Dave
I can see where that would only require 2 bends and No Geometry to calculate the angle of the roof peak and roof width to get a 6" wide house overall...I used to be good at figuring this stuff 30 years ago. But I got your affliction too...CRS!...JJ
 
 

daveomak

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rocor, morning, and thanks for the questions.......

rocor98 asks....

Question. You have no shield between the grease pan and the element ..do you avoid grease? .. I put a grease drip pan under things that I think will drip excessively... Most often, I dry meats, I will smoke, so they have a pellicle formed on the outer surface and moisture release is minimal....  Except for the corned beef I made into strami last week, It must have had a 25% pump put in it.... that thing leaked forever and smoke never did penetrate very much.... and put the fire out in the AMNPS.... the steam coming out of the exhaust was condensing and dripping like rain on the wire rack above the MES... conditions like I just described, I should have had the inlet damper wide open and the moisture would have escaped faster, maybe, and things would have turned out better...  I don't like smoking pumped meats.... not smart enough to figure out how to handle them in the MES.... In a stick burner they would probably do fine with the massive air flow and "BTU" supplied...

Do you feel no restriction will allow bulk of heat to be above the element? .. My thoughts are, allowing the air inlet to circulate the heat from the element and "mix" the heat with the smoke without obstruction does a good job.... mind you this is test 1 & 2 observations.... the previous year of observing stuff has led me to this conclusion, operating in the "factory built mode"....  I am assuming heat rises, but then there is radiated heat that is going in all directions... the drip pan in the bottom of the smoker is lined with foil and does radiate heat back up...

 

 Does your dimmer cause full heat to only be on at start up ?    The dimmer can be turned to a higher or lower heat output at any time....  just like a light bulb can be adjusted...  If you put a chip pan on the elements, like the pans in a "Big Chief" smoker, the heat can be cranked to high, chips start to smolder, then the heat can be turned down again and allow the smoldering process to continue, or the element can be adjusted, (with practice I would assume) to a temp setting that would allow smoldering with minimum heat applied....  The infinite amount of heat adjustment, of the element, has many applications yet to be discovered....

I do use the heat on high when preheating the smoker to 275 for an hour or two and drying chips or pellets.... and sanitizing the racks etc.... 

.. As I intend to use a shield to deflect heat output the the center ..thus restricting immediate upward heat draft do you think I need a shield below the element to avoid any chance of a flare up? ...  You might consider a heat deflector under the element... Reason is, capturing the heat at the element will add more heat in that area of the smoker as the original design does.... MES has a heat deflector under the chip pan, built in, and I would assume it is there to reduce heat build up in that area...
 
 

rocor98

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Thanks for the reply Dave ...

My taking air to the left side was to avoid the posted problems some people had with AMNPS being effected by hot air at higher tempted above 200 .. Your design with no upward restriction must also keep the bottom of the box cooler thus allowing the AMNPS to do it's job ...

I will try to report how the left side air effects the draft and if it allowed for the cross your central secondary roof exit provides

I bought the carbide hole cutter and the BBQgaru pipe and plug. ( again before I saw your older post on the secondary roof ). ..but as I say in my personal notes .. I seem to have more money than brains ::-). A $5.00 heavy tinfoil tray was a lot cheaper than my SS pipe and carbide hole saw .....

Anyway thanks again I hope to be up and testing within the month and better than that getting my first Q's under my belt .. I live in a very remote part of Canada ..to US standards so I order supplies on line .. My 12 gauge power cord arrived today .. So I think I am not waiting on anything now ....

Thanks to you and all the form members .. Great info to be found here

Ross
 

anderwm

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Just because you guys brought it up...

A "dimmer" is how a PID controller works for a heating element as well.  When you only have on and off, your temperature looks like a sine wave with your setpoint in the center.  What Dave is doing with his dimmer is reducing the magnitude of that wave, so the tolerance is tighter.  I[font=arial, helvetica, sans-serif]f the controller has access to the dimmer, then it can essentially set the element for any amount of watts instead of just 0 or 800.  In this case you wind up with a very stable temperature.[/font]

[color= rgb(24, 24, 24)]The reason that all smokers don't come with a dimmer/PID is that the electronics to pull it off at the high current of the element can be a little pricey for these wal-mart / value smokers.  It works by detecting the zero crossing of the power grid and turning the element off and on rapidly at the zero crossings to get some percentage of the full power.[/color]
 

daveomak

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anderwm, morning and thank you for that explanation....  I will reread it a few more times to try and get a handle on it....  

All I knew, when pondering this modification, was the full ON then OFF at 800 watts did not make sense to me... the dimmer made sense......  With the dimmer I would guess the element is probably operating at 400 watts once everything gets to equilibrium....   Thanks again ....   Dave
 

anderwm

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It depends on the outside conditions and stuff like that...probably once you get used to it you can get very close to an equilibrium for any given conditions.  It's like setting a faucet to keep the water level constant in a bucket with a hole in it.  After a little tweaking you will get it very close, but if somebody comes and puts another hole in it (the wind picks up or outside temp drops) you can be off.  The PID keeps the temp at the setpoint no matter what changes.
 

kwats4

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I just saw this link and thought I would see all the mods. I have had a MES30 for about a month now. When I saw what you did for the temp difference in the top and bottom I put a aluminum tray with a hole cut in the middle in the top and placed another probe in to check for temp changes and boy did it make a huge difference. the 2 probes plus the temp probe for the unit it self all came into alot better range after. before it was 20-25*the temp probe from the mes is on the front bottom rack in front of the water pan and the temp probe from my exsternal is on the top middle under the new hood. with the vent opened fully the temp stayed within 2*. Now I just opened the chip chute up for draft for the AMNPS and waited 15 mins and now the temps the range are the SAME!! The tray on the bottom also covers up the amnps, so no relighting needed. Trays $2.50
 

daveomak

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Kwats, morning....  Cool... glad my mods helped you out....  there is so much worthwhile info on this site that folks are willing to share.... 

I started modifying my MES from pointers others had posted here ...  Thanks to them, for the direction they lead me, to come up with these mods... 

Let us know how your mods made a difference in your menus.... pics of course would be appreciated...  gotta have pics....  Dave
 

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