Converting a MES 30 Elite Analog to full time snack stick machine

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by dward51, Apr 11, 2017.

  1. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Ok, I've been pondering this for a while. 

    Some time back I picked up a huge, as it 7 1/2' tall McCall proofer/warmer that I intended to convert to a mega snack stick and smoked sausage making machine.  I liked this particular unit as it was inexpensive (like $85 with the auction fee and taxes), all stainless inside and out, the heating element was at the top of the unit, air is pulled from the top of the cabinet and forced across a finned heating element by 2 fans and then flows down a channel on one side of the cabinet with louvers to evenly distributed the heated air around the interior of the cabinet.  Should have even heating and no danger of a grease fire as there is no way for the drippings to hit the element.  Only problem is where to put it.  The dang thing is too tall to go under my garage door so storing it there and rolling it out to use is not an option and I'm out of room on the covered porch (plus the wife said it's too big so that was the end of the put it on the porch campaign).  So it has been sitting in storage since I bought it.

    Then I recently saw the MES 30 Elite Analog that N4YNU added extra racks to in this thread:

    Photo of his rack mod.  He has done other mods to the heating element and smoke stack since but this gives you the idea I'm working with.  This is my goal in adding more racks.

    I already own a Auber Instrument PID "in a box" controller that I bought to run the element in my e-WSM mod.  The e-WSM does a great job on sticks and smoked sausage, I just need more real estate.  I was looking at modding the e-WSM and adding racks but by the time I bought the racks and had the frame I wanted welded up I was looking at a $100+ mod.  So the $170 MES 30 Elite Analog was starting to look attractive.  Here is my PID controller. It will be plug and play with the MES 30.

    So this weekend I was checking out the "going out of business" sale at the local Gander Mountain.  They had the MES 30 Elite Analog for 20% off which brought the price down to $132.  I bought one.  Here is the stock unit with no mods after simply running wide open for about 2 hours to burn off any shipping oil.  It held 375* no problems in 70* ambient heat (temp by Thermapen - the dial thermo in door is off by 25* over 250 - shocker).  Since I'm looking at cold smoking, snack sticks and smoked sausage, I only need to get to the 170-180* range so I think I'm covered.

    All that open space up top is just screaming "please add more cooking racks to me!"  The mod will add 3 more and I also ordered 2 more racks for the open rack space at the bottom (total of 8 racks when done).  That little white light you see at the top right of the interior is the only smoke exhaust port.  I'm also going to add a real adjustable smoke stack on the top and use this opening as a temp sensor probe inlet (will plug with a drilled and slit silicone plug).

    Air inlet looks a little on the small side also,  I may end up opening it up later.

    So this is the stock from he box unit.  Here is a list of the mods I'm considering....

    1) add 5 more food racks and do the mod N4YNU posted here:

    2) add a real smoke stack - adjustable model from a Lowes Master Forge gas smoker, again like N4YNU did here, but I'm going to put a wide baffle about an inch below the bottom of the stack,  I want to spread the in flow to the stack out over a larger area and more from the sides of the smoker to combat the natural tendency for the air to flow straight up and out the stack:

    3) place a cut section from a stainless steel "hotel pan false bottom" for steaming above the heating element.  Purpose will be to more evenly distribute heat and smoke over a larger area via it's size (as a metal radiating surface) and via the holes in it. If I pull the rack for the smoke box and water pan, I should be able to find and cut a hotel pan false bottom unit to slide on the mounts for the existing rack above the heating element.

    4) close off whimpy 3/4" exhaust port on back of smoker with a slit and drilled silicone plug (use for temp probe wire inlet)

    5) use Auber "plug & play" PID controller to regulate 1,500 watt element and control temps

    6) use AMZNPS tray for smoke source, may require opening up larger air inlet on the bottom (larger hole or more smaller holes).  I also intend on building a heat shield to sit slightly above the pellet tray and shield it from the heating element.

    7) depending on results of pellet tray and smoke stack mods, I may raise the heating element like N4YNU did in this post:

    8) may add insulating door gasket to stem leakage of smoke and better seal unit.

    9) may drill out the top rivets and pull the top off so I can slide in rock wool insulation and insulate the body.  As is, the unit is a double wall, uninsulated (dead air space) shell.  It looks like after drilling rivets for the top I can slide in sections of rock wool.  Same for the door, drill rivets and insulate.

    So the part collecting begins.....
  2. crankybuzzard

    crankybuzzard Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    That's a great idea! I see sticks, cheese, fish, and all sorts of other smaller items going into that one.

    As you know, the Auber controllers are hard to beat. Looking forward to seeing where this ends up!
  3. Dward - I'm really interested in that idea of sliding in the insulation.

    Please let us know in detail how that works out.

    Would be a great improvement for the Analogs.

    Your plan for a baffle shelf under the vent sounds great.

    Also, link below is a very neat professional way to nipple through the double wall airspace for your vent.

    Much nicer than flanging a nipple w shears or whatever ---

  4. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Thanks for that link.  I can see that working great with the smoke stack mod by using it to flange from the inside and sleeve the opening into the smoke stack keeping the air flow out of the now hollow shell between the inner and outer body.  With a 1" height, it should extend above the outer body and into the stack. I'm also thinking of using rivet nuts instead of self tapping screws to mount the new rack supports. 

    As to the insulation, I will probably run it a couple of times "as is" with just the dead air space between the inner and outer shells before I make that decision.  But on the other hand, I need to decide before I put in more permanent fixtures like the rivet nuts.  I can unscrew everything currently on either the inner or outer shell to give the insulation a clean path to slide in and reinstall everything much neater afterwards.  I would probably convert the existing screw holes to rivet nuts as well as that eliminates the chance of a screw stripping out of the thin metal body.

    It looks like if I drill the rivets out of the top outer section and lift it off, I can just slide in panels of rock wool insulation down between the wall sections and then cap it with a panel on top before reinstalling the top with new rivets.  I have not seen an assembly diagram showing how the unit is put together, but that is how it looks to me.  Guess I'll have to drill it out and see what I have to work with.
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2017
  5. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    May I suggest..   exhaust vents on the side walls near the top of the smoker body..   maybe 4 each 1" ports...   that will do 2 things...   distribute the exhaust to all sections of the smoker body for uniformity...  and prevent condensate from dripping back inside on the meats....

    Think about air inlets at the base of the walls of the smoker body also...   maybe 2 each 1" ports, on opposite sides... 

    Think about having the AMNPS inside a mailbox mod type install...   maybe have the smoke enter in the center of the floor of the smoker body through aluminum duct work...  

    Having the AMNPS inside a heated smoker can alter the burning rate and make uniform smoke a small problem...   also, they may burst into flame if they get too warm...  

    I love the idea of all the room you will have...  wish I had it in my MES 30...  Sausage, sticks, bacon, hocks....   no end to what you will be able to get done....

    Have you seen the pasteurization tables I have posted...  you can get "safe to eat" sticks without cooking to 165 deg. F by following the table of "time and temp"..

    I cook my sticks at 145 ish for 24 hours..    they get to 130-135 for a few hours and then they are safe to eat...  no melting fat, no fat out.. 

    great texture... on pic to enlarge...

    Last edited: Apr 12, 2017
  6. dr k

    dr k Master of the Pit

    I like this chart. Thermoworks discussed a log 7 bacteria reduction with holding temp/duration for poultry. With instant pasturization at 165*f. Probably because it was poultry whether the meat was intact or not? Crispy skin aside it was like holding a chxn breast at 155*f for 9 min. To get the same log 7 bacteria reduction when the breast instantly hits 165*f. I have no problem with breast meat with a slight pink hue having the same pasturizing results as cooking to 165*f without having so much intracellular fluid cooked out of the protein sheaths, allowing them to form strings (stringy over cooked poultry.)
  7. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Dr. K....  here's a poultry pasteurization table....


    ...................... Time

    °F (°C).............. 12% fat

    136 (57.8)......... 81.4 min

    137 (58.3)........ 65.5 min

    138 (58.9)........ 52.9 min

    139 (59.4)........ 43 min

    140 (60.0)........ 35 min

    141 (60.6)........ 28.7 min

    142 (61.1)........ 23.7 min

    143 (61.7)........ 19.8 min

    144 (62.2)........ 16.6 min

    145 (62.8)........ 13.8 min

    146 (63.3)........ 11.5 min

    148 (64.4)........ 7.7 min

    150 (65.6)........ 4.9 min

    152 (66.7)........ 2.8 min

    154 (67.8)........ 1.6 min

    156 (68.9)........ 1 min

    158 (70.0)........ 40.9 sec

    160 (71.1)........ 26.9 sec

    162 (72.2)........ 17.7 sec

    164 (73.3)........ 11.7 sec

    166 (74.4)........ 0 sec

    Table C.2: Pasteurization times for a 7D reduction in Salmonella for chicken and turkey (FSIS, 2005).
  8. dr k

    dr k Master of the Pit

    Thanks Dave! Did you put all your tables in a forum?
  9. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I can't remember...    but I will do one now....   Great idea......
  10. Dward - So, few months later, did you have success end up "Sliding" the insulation in?

    If so, I may want to do the same in my Analog.   Marc
  11. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Well, interesting you should ask.  Between work and some medical issues, I have not completed the project.  However I have fully dissasembled the MES Elite Analog (and I mean fully) and will be posting a complete threat on this project soon.  Taking a ton of photos about what I had to drill out, what I'm changing and why as I want to post a complete how to for anyone who wants to do the same or needs to take theirs apart for some other mod.

    One thing that surprised me was the screws that hold the factory food grate side racks in the shell were basically stripped at the base.  They go in and hold, but just spin when you want to back them out.  Of course some pressure with a screwdriver under the head while spinning the screw will make them bite and back out, but half of the side rack screws were like this.  So I'm upgrading to stainless rivet nuts, but at one point I just considered using stainless rivets as I doubt I will ever need to pull the inner liner out again. Also all the factory rivets were aluminum on steel.  I'm probably going with stainless on the rebuild.
  12. Dward - Totally understand the stripped out spinning.

    Good work you do, VERY smart Guy compared to average.

    I would not screw w rivet nuts for shelves.

    Just upsize one size screws.

    Otherwise, Adult beverage  talking now, .....

    Just upsize your new sheet metal screws by one size.

    I really don't think anything fancier is needed no way.

    Just one upsize, and a gentle hand installing.

    If you go w Stainless,to Stainless connection..... just first Google "stainless fastener Galling".

    My experience, we did MANY stainless studs on a MANY window house in TX for hurricane plywood panels.

    Started w stainless nuts, to hold the ply onto the studs,  thought it was obvious, then had many major galling trouble.

    Changed to ? silicon bronze" ? nuts by memory to solve the Galling trouble.

    WORLD of difference, NO galling.

    Very common solution, or.....

    "Never Seize" jar lube, and hand, NOT fast spinning assembly is your friend.

    Need to keep the mating joint very COOL.  SLOW assembly, by hand if Stainless to Stainless.

    Google the above.

    Again, you think stuff out way better than average, ..... Good work you do, VERY smart Guy compared to average.

    Last edited: Jun 4, 2017
  13. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Well, I'm getting a little ahead of myself, but the MES Elite Analog 30" is a shell within a shell construction with no insulation inside.  The inner liner is screwed to "U" channel that is tack welded against the outer shell.  The screws were not stripping the inner liner which is very thin.  They were spinning in the "U" channel. My thought is drill out the holes in the "U" channel a little larger and put in some 8-32 rivet nuts.  Interestingly enough the MES door latch is screwed into rivet nuts.  One nice thing about the "U" channel is it will help keep the roxul insulation in place as I can tuck it in the channel and cut smaller sections.  One thought I had before I took it all the way apart was if I can pull the top cap, can I just slide insulation panels down between the inner liner and outer shell.  Nope!!!  So the complete breakdown was in order.

    I'll go deeper into this in the final built thread, but here are some photos of the "U" channel and the inner and outer liner when separated (there is also a upper inner liner not in the photo).  Yeah, I just demolished a brand new smoker that has never even been seasoned [​IMG]     Ahhhhh, but this pheonix will rise from the parts pile to become something even better!  Might as well hit that rust while I got it apart also (this smoker has never seen the weather, that is from the factory).  This will live under a 10' deep covered smoking porch with a 13' ceiling so I'm not especially worried about galvanic corrosion between dissimilar metals or pitting of the stainless.  I was just thinking that stainless would hold up better inside the smoker long term as there is some moisture in the air flow of smoked meats (especially if a water pan is used). Other than that, it should be dry.

    Last edited: Jun 4, 2017
  14. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Woo Hoo!!!!!!!!!!!

    Had a day to myself for once with nothing on the calendar.  Finally got the MES Elite 30 insulated with Roxul rock wool insulation all the way around.  It was 90'ish today and about 110% humidity, so I brought the smoker body inside and took over the kitchen for a day.

    I still have to drill out the rivets on the door so I can insulate it and I'm done (ok, I need a little black BBQ paint touch up around the 2 1/8" air inlet also).  All stainless hardware and instead of using sheet metal screws the interior lining is held in place by stainless rivet nuts under the lining (no danger of stripping a screw in the fairly thin metal of the inner frame).  One thing I notices is the 5x8" pellet tray fits jam up against the lower rods if you put it on the smoker floor.  Since I'm building this mainly for cold smokes and smoking snack sticks or sausage, I'm thinking about moving the pellet tray to a rack on the bottom space (where the water pan and chip tray rack are in the stock design), and building a sheet aluminum side less box to protect the pellets from the direct heat of the elements and deflect any drips (which is sort of rare with cased sticks and sausage unless you overheat and get fat out).  Generally 175* is the top temp so I think that will be fine.   Plan "B" is a mailbox mod with an external pellet tray chamber.  I can still run this thing "stock" for a hot smoke if I want to.  I will post some temp numbers with the insulation in the full mod thread later.

    8 racks and a stainless smokestack!!!!!

    These are some teaser photos, but I will post a full "how to" with a ton of photos of the inner construction of the MES 30 Elite and all my mods later.

  15. Looking fantastic !!

    Continuing to follow this thread.

    At some point, please give link to stainless stack,... and it looks like you may have used the Aircraft Spruce type flange for it?

  16. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    No, I did not use the flange. 

    I cut some 26 gauge aluminum sheet that I had to 3/4" wide by 8" long and bent it into a circle. Closed the circle with a single rivet.  I also used 3, 3/4" spacers that the bolts for the smoke stack mount through to keep from crushing the inner liner to the outer body.  My thought is the aluminum ring is sandwiched between the two halves, and a little bit larger than the opening.  I drilled 2 1/8" holes and the stack is 2 1/4" inner diameter so I have the insulation pushed back away from the opening a tad by the ring which is also in about 2 3/8 in diameter.  Figured the smoke will seal any gaps eventually and it's not going to hurt the insulation, nor is the heat (hell it's rock wool).  The aluminum ring is there basically as a guide path for the smoke into the chimney and the 3/4" spacers are the support braces.

    You can see it a little better in this view.  I did clean up the insulation under the ring before I sealed the top half back on.

  17. That looks fine to me.  Marc
  18. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Door is insulated, doing a dry run "burn in" to test the insulation and get any oil or residue off the interior metal (I did wipe it down first).  Next will be seasoning and a test smoke with pellet tray.  Ran it at 225* for 30 minutes, no fluctuation of the temp and I was not using the PID yet, just the analog dial.  Exterior temp of the housing ranged from 105* to 114* on top and around the bottom near the element.  Of course it is only 1" of rock wool compacted into a 3/4" space so it's not going to be room temp on the outside. This was with the top vent full open.

    Just cranked the element control to full on and closed the top vent.  It does not shut 100%, but say 90% so this will give max heat.  Let's see how this goes (still a dry chamber, no chips, pellets, water, no nothing).
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2017
  19. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

  20. Report on max temp hit after on for at least 45 minutes all on highest.

    Direct sun?, cloudy, shade, any rain, wind, etc.

    And approx outdoor temp.

    You know the drill.

    My uninsulated analog 1500 seems to max at about 300 even after few hours - no breeze, partial sun, Texas heat.

    This will be very interesting.

    My SWAG is 340 max.

    So if you ever did chicken w skin, would be very advantageous.

    Last edited: Jun 19, 2017

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