Newbie to Smoking

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by david32809, Nov 27, 2015.

  1. I just purchased my first smoker which is the Masterbuilt Sportsman Elite 40 inch this morning from BPS for Black Friday.  Great price I must add.  Surprisingly they had plenty and a lot of people were there buying them.  Orlando, FL should be smelling good from today until after Christmas with all of these smokers being purchased.  Enough of that. 

    The reason for this is I am now in the middle of seasoning the new smoker as I type.  I have noticed that there seems to be about a total of 30 degrees fluctuation at the highest seating at 275 deg.  I have a calibrated Fluke thermometer and with the smoker set at 275 my highest reading was 292 and the lowest was 260 so the avg is actually 275.  But the smoker showed 289 for the high and 269 for the low avg 279.  So I guess can't ask for too much more accurate than this except for if the thermostat had a closer cycle range.

    The out side of the smoker as far as the right, left, top, back and the front door as far as the silver part is cool to the touch.  Very well insulated.  But the front glass will burn the Hell out of you.  This smoker seems to loose a lot of heat through the glass. Maybe that is where the large temp cycle comes into play to make up for the heat loss through the glass.

    I will check the temperature range at different temp settings to try and get an accurate idea on how far the thermostat fluctuates.

    Ok so I have read somewhere on the forums here and noticed that most use foil on certain parts inside to help with the clean up.  This seems like a great idea.  So I line the water pan, the large drip pan underneath everything.  But should I also place foil on the drip reflector?

    I am going to try and smoke a couple of slabs of Pork Loin Back Ribs tomorrow.

    If there are any tips that anyone is will to share I will be all ears since I am very new to smoking meat.  I have used a propane grill for the past 25 years so I know a little something about outdoor cooking.  But using a smoker is going to be a learning curve.

    Anyway wish me luck in this new adventure.
  2. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Welcome and Congrats on the smoker. The sensor for the electronics is close to the heat source go by the Fluke. A 1200W coil takes time to cool and heat, so swings are going to happen. Bearcarver has a procedure to help, but the system evens out as the meat gets hot and it's your choice to play around or let it ride. The glass loses heat, personally I would rather not have it but it's a marketing feature that attracts newbies.

    Below is a brief intro on Ribs and some recipes...JJ

    Smoked Ribs as easy as 3-2-1

    A full rack of Spare Ribs will take about 6 hours at 225*F...The 3-2-1 smoked rib recipe is a good way to smoke ribs and tends to turn out perfect ribs every time whether you are using the meatier Full rack spare rib or the Saint Louis cut. Baby Back ribs use a 2-2-1 method. The ribs are smoked at 225 - 250 degrees for best results...
    The 3 stands for the 3 hours that you initially smoke the ribs with nothing but your favorite rub on them and some smoke with your favorite hardwood such as hickory, apple, pecan, etc. After the 3 hours you remove the ribs and quickly double wrap them in heavy duty foil.. just before you seal them up add some Foiling Juice or Apple Juice and close the foil leaving some room around the ribs for the steam to be able to flow around the meat and the juice to braise the meat which Flavors/Tenderizes it.

    The ribs cook in the smoker wrapped for 2 hours undisturbed. There is no need for Smoke at this point... After 2 hours remove the ribs from the smoker, unwrap, saving any juices in the foil, and place back into the smoker for the final 1 hour, with smoke if you wish.This firms them up, creates a nice Bark and finishes the cooking process. You can add a glaze or sauce at this point if you like. The meat will be pretty close to fall off the bone and be extremely juicy, tender and flavorful...JJ

    Foiling Juice / Sweet Pulled Pork Finishing Sauce

    Foiling Juice

    For each Rack of Ribs Combine:

    1T Pork Rub, yours

    1/2 Stick Butter

    1/2C Cane Syrup... Dark Corn Syrup...or Honey

    1/4C Apple Cider...or Juice

    1T Molasses

    Optional: 2T Apple Cider Vinegar. Add 2T Mustard and 1/4C Ketchup to make it more of a KC Glaze.

    Simmer until a syrupy consistency.

    Allow to cool for 5 minutes, pour over foiled Ribs and

    run your 2 hour phase of 3-2-1. For the last phase return

    the ribs to the smoker BUT reserve any Juice remaining

    in the Foil. Simmer the Juice over med/low heat to reduce to a saucy thickness. Glaze the Ribs for presentation or service.

    Mild Bubba Q Rub  (All Purpose)

    1/2C Sugar in the Raw (Turbinado)

    2T Sweet Paprika (Hungarian)

    1T Kosher Salt

    1T Chili Powder* (contains some Cumin and Oregano) Ancho Chile is same without cumin, oregano etc.

    1T Granulated Garlic

    1T Granulated Onion

    1tsp Black Pepper, more if you like

    1/2tsp Grnd Allspice

    For more heat add Cayenne or Chipotle Pwd to taste, start with 1/2tsp and go from there. Makes about 1 Cup

    Apply your desired amount of Rub to the meat, wrap in plastic and rest in the refrigerator over night.or longer. The day of the smoke, pull the meat out, add more Rub and go into your pre-heated Smoker...

    Note*...Some Chili Powders can be pretty Hot. McCormick and Spice Island are Mild...

    KC Bubba Q Juice

    2C Ketchup

    1/2C Brown Mustard (Gulden's)

    1/4C Apple Cider Vinegar

    1/2C Molasses

    2C Dark Brn Sugar

    1T Tomato Paste

    1T Your Rub

    1-2tsp Liquid Smoke

    1tsp Worcestershire Sauce

    Combine all and warm over low heat just until it starts to bubble. Simmer about 5 minutes, stirring very frequently, to combine flavors and to thicken slightly.

    Use or pour into a sterile jar and refrigerate for up to 4 weeks.

    Makes 3 1/2 Cups.
  3. joe black

    joe black Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Welcome from SC, David. This is a great site with lots of folks who are always eager to share their ideas and tips. All you have to do is ask and keep reading. I love loin back ribs. I never cook any other type of ribs. I smoke mine at 260-275* for about 3 hours until I get a fairly good bend and then sauce/glaze them for about 30 minutes. After a rest of about 30 minutes, slice and serve. They have a great flavor and a slight tug to the bite. I never foil my ribs, as I think it makes them mushy and overdone.

    Good luck on your ribs and keep on smokin', Joe
  4. Thanks for the reply's so far.

    As you can see I've been a member for a while so I've have done some research and reading articles from this forum.  I also am a subscriber to Jeff's weekly newsletter so I have been stockpiling his recipes for a while to try.  But all information given is a benefit. 

    So during the seasoning process of the smoker the temp seemed to hang a steady temp for the most part.  Still stayed within 260 to 290 degrees +/- 15 degrees of the set temp of 275 but avg right at the set temp.  So set temp of 230 should hold +/- 12 degrees or closer.  I'll find out tomorrow.

    Also with about less than an hour left, I introduced the proper amount wood chips 1/2 cup or what the dispenser will actually hold (Apple flavor) into smoker chamber.  The chips were dry.  Started to see a little smoke so I opened the damper on the side of the smoker, when I did a fire started in the bottom back right corner where the wood chip pan is located.  The burner was on the heating cycle at this time.  I immediately closed the damper shut and after a few minutes the fire finally when out.  But the while the fire was burning the smoke was not the blue thin type more of a whitish kind.  The smoke had a heavy wood burning smell instead of the sweet smell of Apple wood.  It was hard to see the smoke as it just became dark and my lighting was not that great.  The temp spiked to 300 degrees, but as soon as the fire went out, temp came down and stabilized. But at first I was concerned about ruining the meat cooking at high temps with flare ups. 

    After fire went out I reopened the side vent and could see real thin bluish smoke coming out.  Temp was stabilized at this time.  It probably took about 3 minutes or so for the fire to go out.  Seemed like a long time though.  Never opened the door just let it burn it self out.  It took about 25 minutes for the smoker to quite smoking from the time the wood was introduced into the chip pan, to flare up and finally ash.  I never added anymore wood to the smoker after this.  The seasoning was for approx. 4 hours total time.  It took a few tries to learn the remote. 

    Do you think at lower temps the chips wont catch fire or is this something that I should expect every time I add the chips during the smoking time?

    The water pan seems a little small.  Do you normally have to refill the pan during the smoking time? 

    Would putting a larger water pan, that could also catch the drippings / grease, on the lower shelf help with not having to keep refilling the factory water pan?  It sure would help with the clean up of the smoker when finished.

    Any way like I said earlier I have a lot to learn.  I'm going to train my self in keeping a journal/log, so I can see what works and doesn't. Does anyone have any pointers on what should be kept in the journal/log.  Or already have one that is willing to share.

    Happy Smoking! David
  5. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I've heard about fires starting in the wood chip holder with some of the MES 40's. I've got a MES 30 Generation 1 and have never had any fire problems at all. If your smoker has a side vent it's what's called a Generation 2 model and those are different from the Gen 1.

    The chips should start smoking after the heating element comes on no matter what the set point is. As far as the thick smoke you saw during the seasoning process--that's what that process is for. You're burning off factory oils and such so that when you do smoke food for the first time all that stuff will be gone. Not sure why you need to put wood chips in the smoker during the seasoning process but that's what MB recommends. I also added wood chips when I seasoned my smoker.

    Don't use any water at all but keep the water pan in place. Water just serves to steam the meat. The MES is so well-insulated you won't have any problems with dry meat unless you overcook it. I'e had my smoker for over 3 years and know this to be true. But you want to keep the water pan in place because it assists with proper dispersion of heat and smoke throughout the inside of the smoker. What many of us do is foil over the water pan which turns it into another drip pan. Some people fill it with clean playground sand to turn it into a heat sink. But don't use water or any added liquids in the MES. If you want meat that's more moist you can pour a little bit of a juice mixture into foil before you foil meat like pork ribs and beef brisket. That also serves to steam the meat a bit but you offset that by finishing up the smoke with the meat unfoiled.

    I also recommend putting foil over surfaces that are bound to get dripped on or designed to catch drips. Makes for much easier cleanup afterwards.

    I personally don't keep a log--too much work. I can remember the important stuff I did that either worked or didn't work. I advise you do a search here for Bearcarver's Step By Steps for just about anything you want to smoke. They're comprehensive and will give you tips and help you learn techniques. Most of what I do I've learned here, in other reading, and from my own trial and error. I make it point to learn something new every time I smoke.

    Good luck!
  6. Again Thanks for the Reply's. 

    I tried to a couple of cooks over the weekend with ribs and chicken thighs.  The ribs came out ok 2 slabs but I think it was me not keeping an accurate time of how long they have been in there and constantly battling/adjusting the temperature.  The chicken thighs were almost a disaster. I cooked 8 thighs 3 medium size and 5 small.  The medium ones were not quite done all the way threw them away and the small ones were done but the meat seemed to be a little rubbery and the skin was mushy.  I know most of this was probably due the temperature not holding a steady temp and my inexperience.  I know time will prevail in better smoke.

    This smoker seems to not want to hold a constant temperature.  Major swings in temperature +/- set point.  Again the outside conditions were optimal here in FL compared to up north or out west.  Temps for this past weekend during my cooking time was avg about 78 degrees wind 10 to 15 mph Saturday (ribs) and 73 degrees wind 5 to 10 mph on Sunday (chicken thighs).  I was monitoring the chamber temperature with a calibrated Fluke thermometer with a thermocouple wire probe.

    First started the smoker and put chips in set the smoker at 230.  After about 10-15 minutes the wood chips caught fire and filled the chamber with white smoke (no food at this time just heating up the smoker).  15 minutes later no more white smoke just a little smoke.  Chips probably burned up.  Checked the chips through the port where you introduce them and saw black pieces so not quite burned to ashes.  Left it alone to stable.  Then started checking the temps with the Fluke.  Here is what I was finding that the thermostat is way off.  When the element was on the temperature would climb (not to set point) far below then as soon as the element cycled off the temp started to drop off fast and fell quite a bit.  My temp findings are below.  After each adjustment I would monitor it for a couple of temp cycles to try and get an accurate temp.  I did not monitor the temperature range on the actual display only my smoker but used the set point on the smoker to see how off it actually was.  The meat probe pretty much read exactly what the smoker digital temp was showing.

    Not sure if I should put the probe from my Fluke inside some type of metal holder that will hold the heat constant and not worry about how much the temp fluctuates during the heating cycles.  Maybe this way I can get an accurate temp reading of what the smoke chamber temp is actually.  Just some random thoughts.  How does everyone monitor your temp?

    Initial start was at 11:00 temp set at 230 vent open all the way. Chamber maxed out at 254 possible due to chips catching fire.  Closed vent all the way except where wire probe came out of vent.  Let everything settle down for 30 minutes then started the monitoring.

    Saturday 11-28-15

    With Food and water in water pan.

    12:30 Food went on

    Set 230 ranged 188 to 210 at 12:15

    Set 240 ranged 188 to 218 at 1:00

    Set 250 ranged 204 to 240 at 1:45

    Set 240 ranged 204 to 243 at 3:15

    Set 245 ranged 216 to 254 at 4:10

    Set 245 ranged 212 to 258 at 5:20

    Set 245 ranged 214 to 247 at 5:45 

    6:00 Food came off

    Ribs were paced on the 3rd and 4th rack from the top.  Thermometer probe placed on 4th shelf from top.

    Sunday 11-29-15

    With Food and water in water pan.

    Set 230 ranged 192 to 218 at 4:00

    Set 245 ranged 204 to 228 at 4:20

    Set 250 ranged 187 to 224 at 4:50

    Food on at 5:00

    Set 250 ranged 195 to 223 at 5:45

    Set 265 ranged 216 to 258 at 7:00

    Food removed at 7:20

    Chicken thighs were placed on 2nd rack from top.  Thermometer probe placed on 2nd rack from top.  Grease/catch pan placed on 3rd rack.

    I hope this makes sense.  I was getting frustrated trying to monitor all of the temps and hoping that food will be done and not Over Done.

    Probably no cooking during this week but will play around and try to figure out why such a huge temp swing in temps and that the smoker is not really even getting up to the set point or past it. 

    Any feed back would be greatly appreciated.
  7. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Many guys here make it a point to test the interior smoker temps from different rack, front-to-back, and side-to-side spots to determine hot and cold spots. I did some of that with my MES 30. It can drive you nuts since there are can be quite a few "microclimates" in an MES and the 40--inch is worse than the 30-in.

    I simplified things for myself. Since the MES 30 temp sensor is on the rear right side I clip one of my ET-733 them probes to the 2nd rack on the rear left side. I place the other probe in meat if I'm smoking a roast or a beef brisket. If I'm smoking ribs I clip the other probe to the 3rd rack on the far right side. I then monitor temp changes with my ET-733 receiver. When I'm at the smoker I compare the controller temp display with the display on the ET-733 transmitter. I've done many smokes with this setup so I know what temp ranges to expect when I punch in my set point on the controller. If my set point is 235° my main concern is that the temp on the left side not get up to 250° nor down to 220° for very long and that's where I set my ET-733 alarms. If the temp goes up to 250 I lower the set point. If it descends down near 220 I bump it up again. I never bother with recording what the temps are at regular intervals. When I'm a the computer or watching TV I have the receiver with me and look regularly at the display screen.

    With my MES, the only times the temps on the ET-733 display screen have soared were on two occasions: the day I'd failed to clean the hi temp sensor switch and the temp went up to 295°. All I needed to do was clean it and the problem never reoccurred. The second occasion happened a few weeks ago when the temp soared to 275°. It turned out some molten glob of grease from one of the racks of ribs I was smoking fell onto the probe on the rack below it. It fell right onto the probe end and was so hot it resulted in that high temp. I didn't know what to think since the other probe showed the temp to be where I wanted it to be. I looked around inside and was fearing the worst until I saw that probe. When I removed that glob the temp went back down to normal.

    Remember that during heating cycles the temp will spike above your set point and fall below it. That settles down after 2-3 cycles. During those cycles the MES controller display temp will be higher than your Fluke temp display. Overall, the temp display differences don't bother me. My primary temp concern is the IT of the meat I'm smoking and I get that from the inserted probe. When I smoke pork ribs I don't use either temp probe so for them I monitor the smoker temp but I go by total time cooked, the look and color of the bark and meat, the amount of meat shrink (from the bones) and the bend test to determine when the ribs are done.

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