MES with Cold Smoker Attachment -- Am I doing it wrong? Ways to not smell like smoke?

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geostriata

Meat Mopper
Original poster
May 18, 2021
236
126
California
The MES was my introduction to smoking, and it made me hate smoking meat. I bought the MES cold-smoker attachment to make it better, and that didn't really help matters. Sausages with liquid smoke invariably tasted better than sausages with real smoke :(

A lot of responses to the MES cold smoker problems seems to involve around proper technique:
  1. Don't use wet chips
  2. Have good smoke flow, baffles fully open.
Granted, I made both of those mistakes, but even resolving them, I'm not thrilled with the results. Are there any recommendations beside the mailbox mod to further improve smoke generation, or is that about it? There are two reasons I'm trying to make the vanilla MES cold smoker work:
  1. Space limitations
  2. Not smelling like smoke (My family is really sensitive to smoke. So one thing I've managed to do with the cold smoker is turn it on and leave before it starts generating smoke, and return after the smoking is done to finish my cook. If I open the door or mess with anything while smoking, that means undressing in the garage and making a mad smoke-dash-of-shame to the shower to try to not bring the smoke in, lol...).
So my question is: "Has anyone managed to get the MES cold smoker working well for them? If so, how?" I've been thinking of approaches like adding a fan to move air and/or a dimmer switch to reduce power to attachment and/or sticking a AMNPS tube in the attachment somehow and having it light through the attachment power, etc...

Any thoughts? Also if there's tips on not smelling like smoke, that's also appreciated, haha.
 
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My wife seems to find the "Campfire" smell of burnt wood that permeates my clothing when I been smoking food somehow sexy, so no tips on how not to smell like smoke ;).
I know! I tried! The argument that "many wives find it sexy" didn't work this time! :P

I did wonder if actually the smoke smelled less good on me because of the cold smoker attachment... Alas, it may be too late regardless -- I may have irrevocably spoiled the appreciation of ambient smoke smell through improper use of the MES cold smoker attachment.
 
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I've been thinking of approaches like adding a fan to move air and/or a dimmer switch to reduce power to attachment and/or sticking a AMNPS tube in the attachment somehow and having it light through the attachment power, etc...
Seems like a lot to do when you could've simply attached a mailbox or similar metal box directly to your MES and used a tray or tube. You'd use no more space than the cold smoker attachment,no moving parts or electricity involved and would get 10+ hours of smoke.
 
Seems like a lot to do when you could've simply attached a mailbox or similar metal box directly to your MES and used a tray or tube. You'd use no more space than the cold smoker attachment,no moving parts or electricity involved and would get 10+ hours of smoke.
My starting point with smoking was the MES and the cold smoker attachment (I bought both at once). Putting a tray/tube in my existing metal box is exactly what I'm considering. I just don't see why I need to replace my existing metal box with a mailbox that takes up way more space. (I do see a benefit in having a long tube to that box, but I don't have the space for that either).

I also prefer electricity for it's reliability and for its ease of automation (e.g., set up a smoke delay or on/off via cycle timer), so I don't see it as a downside.
 
The MES was my introduction to smoking, and it made me hate smoking meat. I bought the MES cold-smoker attachment to make it better, and that didn't really help matters. Sausages with liquid smoke invariably tasted better than sausages with real smoke :(

A lot of responses to the MES cold smoker problems seems to involve around proper technique:
  1. Don't use wet chips
  2. Have good smoke flow, baffles fully open.
Granted, I made both of those mistakes, but even resolving them, I'm not thrilled with the results. Are there any recommendations beside the mailbox mod to further improve smoke generation, or is that about it? There are two reasons I'm trying to make the vanilla MES cold smoker work:
  1. Space limitations
  2. Not smelling like smoke (My family is really sensitive to smoke. So one thing I've managed to do with the cold smoker is turn it on and leave before it starts generating smoke, and return after the smoking is done to finish my cook. If I open the door or mess with anything while smoking, that means undressing in the garage and making a mad smoke-dash-of-shame to the shower to try to not bring the smoke in, lol...).
So my question is: "Has anyone managed to get the MES cold smoker working well for them? If so, how?" I've been thinking of approaches like adding a fan to move air and/or a dimmer switch to reduce power to attachment and/or sticking a AMNPS tube in the attachment somehow and having it light through the attachment power, etc...

Any thoughts? Also if there's tips on not smelling like smoke, that's also appreciated, haha.
What temperature are you running your smoker while generating? And what is the reason for coming out of the gate with a lot of smoke? You must like it, but hate it at the same time, it seems?
 
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I'm confused.... So how do you take smoked meat in the house ?? Are you the only one that eats it... OUTSIDE ???
Yes. I bring the meat into the garage and dry it there. After a few hours to days, the meat stops spreading the smoke smell as much and I can bring it inside. Briskets are less bad because I only smoke them in the beginning of the cook.
 
What temperature are you running your smoker while generating? And what is the reason for coming out of the gate with a lot of smoke? You must like it, but hate it at the same time, it seems?
Not sure what you mean by "coming out of the gate with a lot of smoke." I certainly wasn't trying to make extra smoke -- I just tried to smoke whatever meat properly with the right amount of smoke.

So I've had great smoked meat, and I love it. I haven't been able to create great smoked meat yet.

In terms of specifics, since I'm focused on snack sticks to start, I only use my smoker between 100F and 150F. Warmup phase (~2 hrs) has no smoke, then an hour or two of smoke ~135, and then finish ~150F until IT is reached with no smoke. So my process (when I try to smoke) is:
  1. Set temp to 105F, hang links and load up the smoke generator with small hickory chips (keep off, no more than 1/3 full).
  2. Move to 125F for two hours
  3. Move to 135F and turn on smoke generator for 1-2 hrs depending on cook
  4. Move to 150F for finish, turn off smoke generator
  5. Wait for IT of 146, then pull the sticks out of the MES.
Result: The version of snack sticks without using smoke at all tastes better. I must be doing something wrong.
 
Turn off the attachment when it's smoking for lighter smoke. Or get a 15 amp 120vac variable router controller to plug it into. I use a 6" PVC coupling with a $14 sealed 4-D battery upside down camping tent fan as a draft on low. I use the mailbox mod with the cold smoking fan. You say dry it in the garage for hours or days. Your taking about in the fridge in the garage for days?
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Turn off the attachment when it's smoking for lighter smoke. Or get a 15 amp 120vac variable router controller to plug it into. I use a 6" PVC coupling with a $14 sealed 4-D battery upside down camping tent fan as a draft on low. I use the mailbox mod with the cold smoking fan. You say dry it in the garage for hours or days. Your taking about in the fridge in the garage for days?
View attachment 692777

Awesome, thanks so much! I was considering a cycle timer, but didn't know if anyone else had success with that route. I'll also get the router controller and try that. Should be a useful tool to have even if I don't use it here on a permanent basis.

I do already have a fan on low within the main smoker (to help equalize temp) -- Do you think that'd be enough to generate a sufficient mild draft as well? It'd push air up through the baffles, which I think would create suction pulling in smoke from the attachment as well. Otherwise, I can certainly add another fan to the metal box.

As for the garage. It's an insulated garage, so it's usually 60-70F 65% RH. After cooking to IT 146, I "bloom" hang there for 2-4hrs before moving to the dry chamber at 55F 75% RH. That's a big part of why I'm working on this chamber. The longer I keep my sausages hanging, the better texture/taste they seem to get, but as soon as they go in the fridge in a paper bag, it stops or slows down dramatically. So I think hanging them for longer at 55F at higher humidity and then gradually lower humidity (a few degrees below AW to minimize delta between sausage and relative) will make a big difference. I need to get these under 0.85Aw since they're higher PH.
 
Awesome, thanks so much! I was considering a cycle timer, but didn't know if anyone else had success with that route. I'll also get the router controller and try that. Should be a useful tool to have even if I don't use it here on a permanent basis.

I do already have a fan on low within the main smoker (to help equalize temp) -- Do you think that'd be enough to generate a sufficient mild draft as well? It'd push air up through the baffles, which I think would create suction pulling in smoke from the attachment as well. Otherwise, I can certainly add another fan to the metal box.

As for the garage. It's an insulated garage, so it's usually 60-70F 65% RH. After cooking to IT 146, I "bloom" hang there for 2-4hrs before moving to the dry chamber at 55F 75% RH. That's a big part of why I'm working on this chamber. The longer I keep my sausages hanging, the better texture/taste they seem to get, but as soon as they go in the fridge in a paper bag, it stops or slows down dramatically. So I think hanging them for longer at 55F at higher humidity and then gradually lower humidity (a few degrees below AW to minimize delta between sausage and relative) will make a big difference. I need to get these under 0.85Aw since they're higher PH.
Ok room temp stable is .85 aw or 4.6 Ph FDA. Otherwise you have a fiduciary duty of telling others about your practice before serving to them especially in an environment potentially exposed to vermin (garage.) You couldn't sell it because the local county health department would have an establishment instantly shut down. If you're not using cure #2 then in the fridge it goes to dry until .85 Otherwise moderators and admins should be chiming in on food safety room temp mellowing/drying with only cure #1.

The vacuum cleaners of yesteryear had a rug beater and a fan blowing dirt into the dirt bag and out the joints and broke the fan pushing blades. Now the motor is at the end of the plumbing and sucks all the joints together for a sealed efficient solution into the dirt cup . Same with a cold smoker. Put the fan at the top vent and let it draw the smoke out of your smoker.
 
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Ok room temp stable is .85 aw or 4.6 Ph FDA. Otherwise you have a fiduciary duty of telling others about your practice before serving to them especially in an environment potentially exposed to vermin (garage.) You couldn't sell it because the local county health department would have an establishment instantly shut down. If you're not using cure #2 then in the fridge it goes to dry until .85 Otherwise moderators and admins should be chiming in on food safety room temp mellowing/drying with only cure #1.

If I actually saw the garage you're thinking of, possibly with sausages dangling above a car and CO "quick smoke" as they pull out each weekday, then I'd probably say the same thing.

That's not my garage.

My garage is an insulated living space with an independent HVAC system with all sorts of air quality, sterilization, and sanitization systems available for me (fortunately, there's a lot of carry-over between beer fermentation and sausage making).
 
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Woot! Finally got it! I believe I got TBS for the first time in my MES-30 without having to mod it oy buy a mailbox!

So it's really hard to capture on camera (I think my phone averages it out), but I can smell it and it's still smoking after several hours!

Here's how I did it:
1. Tube attachment with coarse-ground the pellets with a coffee burr grinder. This makes them more combustible (I'm sure soaking/drying is even better, but I was just testing the idea).
2. Baffles fully open, and open the ash tray under the attachment about a third (for air current).
3. Turn on the attachment (mine had the router reduction set to minimum). I do think it's optional if you dehydrate the pellets, or maybe totally optional as I did note smoke without it being on. Maybe also this creates a bit of a convection current.
4. I just added a bit of alcohol gel to the top and ignited it with a campfire lighter (as I wanted to avoid smelling like smoke). But you could also ignite the tube the normal way and set it in there. Rest the tube against the metal pole sticking out (taking a cue from u-bolt approach)
5. Close the attachment lid.

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It's been smoking now for about two hours now. So I think this approach is working!

The other benefit (I believe) is that if you want the smoke to go out, just close the ash tray and I believe you'll starve it of oxygen. Come back an hour or so later, and when you open the door, I think you won't smell like smoke. (of course, you could also fill the tube with the right amount, but I'm not that good yet).

Anyways, thanks to all on this thread who helped!

Now to clean my smoker a bit of all the bad smoke from earlier failed attempts at smoking...
 
Have you considered a new wife?
Hahaha, so we talked about this question in the past. She was like: "There must be someone out there who has tips for avoiding smelling like smoke."

We then found a reddit post where basically everyone is like: "Your wife is wrong. Smoke is sexy. Find a new wife that appreciates it." So then I was like: "Well, the guys on SMF might be a little more tolerant. Let's see..." (and you guys are)

She was like: "Let me know when they tell you to get a new wife." So I just let her know right now :)

To be honest, when we lived in a city, I drove her up the walls because of neighbors making noise. She could sleep, but I couldn't with the slightest noise -- I was just sensitive to it, and it felt suffocating to not be able to get out of it. Now the situation is reversed, except I can actually do something to make it easier on her. So that's alright with me, and I'll do what I can :)
 
Ok, so this post is for posterity. I'll just start by saying everyone on this thread is right and I was wrong for even considering some sort of hybrid/alternative. The coarse-grind pellets are so amazingly good that it's silly to try anything else to be honest.

I have my maze set up in the main chamber and the tube set up in the attachment with the ash tray slightly ajar. I set up the maze for a 12hr smoke and the tube for a 2 hour smoke. My recipe calls for a long smoke with a period of more intense smoke: simple. Light the maze, then the tube at the right time. Or if my recipe calls for 14hrs of smoke: also simple. Maze in main chamber, tube in attachment. Light the maze, then the tube after 12 hours. Brilliant.

I even have an approach for the smoke smell now, involving a small amount of alcohol gel and a MAP torch for a few seconds before I dash inside and change my shirt. No significant smoke smell on me registered now (and also, no sexiness haha...).

The attachment is still good for adding additional heat/convection current, but that's it. I'm 100% tube/maze with pellet dust from now on (like many of you here). My only wish is that I could fit the maze in the attachment for an even lighter smoke over a longer period of time... oh wait, that's the mailbox mod. :)
 
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