Struggling with Smoking Hobby

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by jaellman, Feb 21, 2015.

  1. jaellman

    jaellman Fire Starter

    I'm struggling hard these days with smoking...  I love the food, but stress out ALL day when trying to pull off some smoked dinners for family and friends.  Let me give you some background:

    My first smoker, on a whim, was a Char-Broil $99 special on sale, charcoal & side burner.  It was terrible to try to maintain temp and/or keep running (or I was inexperienced, maybe both..).  I ended up spending well over 3x what I bought the thing for trying to seal it up and keep it at temp.  Ultimately, I abandoned it and converted it into a Charcoal grill (works perfect for that!).

    Christmas came, and I had been promising people a full smoked Ham, so I ran off to local camping/outdoor store and bought myself a Cajun Injector (30") electric smoker.  First 2-3 smokes went as expected, no issues.  Within the first 3 months I started having temperature problems.  The device said one temp on the display, the chamber was 18-22 degree's less.  Obviously, this became a struggle trying to determine time & temp for smoking.  Finally after one year the device completely stopped, luckily I bought the insurance plan.  They sent me a check for the full amount, I chalked it up as a bad device and moved along.

    My next purchase was stainless MES 40 w/ Window (Model #20070311  - I think it's a Gen 1 from what I've read) in December 2014.  Beautiful device, but after my first few smokes I realized someone wasn't right.  Temps flucuate all over the place and barely get to set point on the display.  I have spent the last 3 months trying to figure out how to keep the temps correct.  Bricks, fire bricks, water pans, empty smoker, nothing seems to keep this machine at anywhere near consistent temps, even after HOURS waiting for the machine to stabilize.

    I darn near ruined an 8lb Brisket on a long smoke...  Ended up pulling it and finishing it off in the oven...  Which I declared a failure.  That's when I decided I needed to get to the bottom of this.

    Today, I decided to run some tests on a Boston Butt.  Started the device at 225 and placed my Thermoworks probe right beside the internal temp probe.  I found my problem, this MES40 claims to be almost 20 degree's hotter then it actually is.   The MES40 says 225 and my thermometer (tested both Ice Bath and boil test) claims 190 degree's.

    My question is simple...  Do I just have bad luck or am I expecting too much from these machines?  or, is it inexperience, as I mentioned above...

    Grandma will be here for Pulled Pork in 10 minutes, my Boston Butt which has been on the smoker at 250' for the last 12 hours is only at 175 degree's.  Obviously, something is wrong...  Just trying to determine what.

    As I'm sure you guys know...  Nothing worse then saying "ummm, the food I've been cooking for 12 hours isn't done yet...  Please wait..."
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2015
  2. old sarge

    old sarge Master of the Pit ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Your food may have hit the dreaded stall. Happens to every one on large pieces of meat. It will get to the final temp eventually. I have gone as long as 16 hours to reach 190 internal on a butt. Very frustrating. Take notes on weight, ambient temp and smoker temp and the start time. Never open the door because of the heat dump. Patience and no peeking till you reach your desired IT.

    As for your other dilemnas I can only state that smokers are quirky even among the same brand. I have a Cookshack and while I have no problems there is the occasional post or PM describing some disappointment in performance from another user. Smokin-it the same way, maybe 1 out of a hundred users has failure or assumed failure and others are all ok. Either Masterbuilt can solve the problem or you need to adjust and go with the flow. The final option is get a higher end smoker which is always more expensive. I wish you success and hope you get your smoker issue resolved.
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2015
  3. c farmer

    c farmer Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    The MES temp probes are off. Mine is off 20-30 degrees. I use my mav and adjust the temps by that.

    Just know that the mes temp is off and go with it.
  4. jaellman

    jaellman Fire Starter

    So you just assume you can never get the cabinet up to 275 degree's and stick with nothing higher then 250?

    If my actual temp was higher then what the controller said I think I could do this.  However, with the cabinet being lower then display says it means my max temp is about 255 degree's.
  5. c farmer

    c farmer Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I use mine mainly for sausage and cured meat. So I use only low temps.
  6. foamheart

    foamheart Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Sorry to here about your problems

    You can call the manufacturer. They do service what they sell. It maybe a faulty probe or a control panel which they will normally supply without a hassle.

    Tech support 800 489 1581.

    As with any purchase, if it doesn't work either take it back to where you bought it or call the manufacturer for assistance. There is no adjustment to zero in the temperture, its make in China. LOL... its got 6 sides and it heats.

    I hope you get it all figured out to your satisfaction.
  7. jaellman

    jaellman Fire Starter

    I emailed customer service shortly before posting this and was waiting for a response.  I planned to call during the week if I do not hear back.
  8. brewski

    brewski Newbie

    Hi there, that is a long time to have a roast in there but 175 is a good number in my book! What temp did u pull it at? Are you opening the smoker? My theory is like ronco ...set it and forget it! Haha (except for adding wood of course), don't give up the guys here are very knowledgeable and will hook you up!Thumbs Up
  9. bluewhisper

    bluewhisper Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Meanwhile, stall for time. Hi Grandma! Hey, let's try your old recipe for making bread...
  10. Boston Butt was in the stall, hope it turned out OK,  Maybe, you will get your problem solved

    I'm an RF guy so I really don;t have any, except for extream weather

  11. jaellman

    jaellman Fire Starter

    I foiled & popped the butt into the oven for 45minutes at 350degree's to get the internal temp to 190 then pulled.

    The meat was good, as are most the results I get, however I feel like pulling from the smoker into the oven as sort of a fail.
  12. foamheart

    foamheart Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Seriously how big was your butt? Personally I don't foil, I don't smoke high, I just rub it and stick it in the smoker. I figure on a 10 lb. butt 20 to 24 hours. Now, I smoke at 220. Its what smoking is all about. Stress free, when its done then we'll eat it. I blame the farmers for not spending more time training the pigs how to tell time. They have to estimate when they are supposed to get done. And you know, just like humans you get some pretty big dofusses. Those are the ones that break the time rules. My last butt blew me away, actually surprized me. Dofusse! 10 lb'er, it cooked perfectly done at 220 in only 13 hours. Now there was a pig that couldn't tel;l time.

    What I am saying is, those butts are like women, if you think you have them figured out, they will change just to screw with your head. Never try to cook one on the clock.
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2015
  13. jaellman

    jaellman Fire Starter

    It was only a 4# Boston Butt w/ Bone in, went small.  As you can tell, I've been trying smaller smokes until I can figure out how to resolve the issues I've been having.
  14. old sarge

    old sarge Master of the Pit ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Sounds like you will have to up the temp on the MES just to get what you want and verify with the Thermoworks.  I would also call Masterbuilt, explain the problem and ask for a proper and permanent solution. Not an iffy or just live with it solution but a proper solution.  I understand they are very responsive with sending out parts and such. You could also return it to the store from where you got it and demand a full refund, and shop for another brand of smoker. 
  15. timberjet

    timberjet Master of the Pit

    Never ever count on a Butt to be done in a certain time frame. ever. You will get your Butt kicked! Better to smoke a day ahead and reheat or have a plan B in there. They have extra racks for that. Some chicken is a good backup or some Bratwurst or something that you know will be done in a couple of hours. That way if your pork behaves at least you have all your bases covered anyway. It sounds to me like you are stressing too much. Smoking should be fun. Just know that the temp is how ever many degrees off and trust your tested digital. It's not that big of a deal. Relax. Always figure 2 hours per pound with a 2 hour rest for Butt's. I don't know where the 1 to 1.5 hour per pound thing got started, probably alton brown or something but it is just not right in the real world.
  16. timberjet

    timberjet Master of the Pit

    You like your Boston Butt at 175?
  17. waterinholebrew

    waterinholebrew Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I agree with most the feedback you've gotten here, just gonna throw in my 2 cents for what it's worth.... Like has been said, meat can be stubborned & it'll get ya flustered when ya have folks waiting to eat... Then your stressed & it puts a bit of a damper on the time ya should be enjoying with your fam & friends !

    What I started doing cause again, meat is stubborned.... For example, for the Super Bowl everyone wanted pulled pork sliders... So I got an 8 lb butt & put it on Saturday morning, a day before the get together.... The butt took 16 hrs to smoke, now I've had some that have taken less time... Each piece of meat is different ! Point being, all I had to do Sunday early afternoon was warm it up & dinner served ! No stress & no fuss, cause I've been there when folks wanna eat & the meat IT is not moving ! Try doing your smoke a day ahead & ya won't be stressed.... Kick back, watch the TBS flow & toss back a few cold ones ! Again, just my 2 pennies !
  18. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Like Justin I smoke my pulled pork the day or a couple days before the main event. Honestly I feel that pulled pork is better a few days later when its warmed up.
  19. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Never just email any customer service department when they have a phone number to call. You can't imagine all the emails that go into a queue and typically CSRs work that queue when they have the time. Some companies will instruct CSRs to choose a particular day to go through the emails. Much of what you'll receive as a response is a "canned response" which is a copy/paste job from their Knowledge Base or standard replies. It's more effective to talk to a live person.

    Talk to a live CSR and before the end of the call they'll have ordered you a new controller if your MES is still under warranty. Yes, you do have a Gen 1 MES 40 but it's a customized model designed to be sold by retailers. It's supposed to be a pretty good smoker with the built-in (but worthless) meat probe, six cooking racks (I think), 1200 watt heating element (make sure yours is 1200 watts and not 800 watts or that could be the source of your temp problems), the window and the remote control. I recently found out some custom MES 40 units have the 800 watt heating element which was designed for the 30 inch. Have no idea why unless some retailers wanted the 800 watt to keep the smoker price down.

    Anyway,  that's my advice.
  20. jaellman

    jaellman Fire Starter

    No time this weekend to make a phone call, I thought I'd try email first as it was much quicker then calling and waiting on hold.

    I will have some time tomorrow (Monday) to make the call and see if I can get the issues resolved.

    Today, just to confirm what I had thought I ran the smoker dry & with only three bricks covered in foil & it's still showing a major temperature difference even after 3 hours to stabilize.

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