Experimenting with MES40.

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by ahakohda, Feb 28, 2012.

  1. I ordered Auber temperature controller and a hot plate for my summer project and as soon as it comes I will try it out in MES40.

    During smokes I am always puzzled by temperature spikes and falls. I want to see if Auber controller can eliminate it. Also good feature to try is programming your cooking time. So no need to wake up to adjust temperature.

    If it works the way they advertise it I am planning to remove heating element housing with loader from MES. I use AMNPS as smoke source.

    Forgot to add. Highest temperature I ever need is 180F.
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2012
  2. deltadude

    deltadude Master of the Pit OTBS Member


    Temp swings have a variety of causes and may not even be temp swings, instead may be faulty measuring equipment.  The MES is known to not have very accurate digital temp.  Mine is about 15-20º off, so I use a digital Taylor with probe for cabinet temp, a second Taylor for meat temp, and a cheapy analog oven dial inside as a cross check.  What is important is to monitor a couple of things and make notes.  Keep a log of Outside ambient temp, MES readout inside cab temp, Taylor inside cab temp, Meat temp (except for ribs).  During the first hour of the smoke check these every 10 or 15 minutes and jot them down.  You can switch to every 30 minutes or 20 min for the 2nd hour. 3rd hour every 30min.  Basically that first hour you are making sure the MES is doing what it is suppose to do, slowly raise temp of the meat.   Make a note when it hit your set point temp, this is important because different outdoor ambient conditions will affect how fast the MES achieves set point.  Also different loads affects how long it takes to achieve setpoint.  You can compare your notes and understand how your MES works under different conditions.  (Be sure to verify your temp measuring equipment with either boiling water or the ice method).

    Since your in NY this time of year the ambient temp is extremely cold, that plus wind can play havoc on temps especially if you are in the habit of opening the door.  One basic rule is "NO PEEKING", leave that door shut unless you need to foil or do something.   Preheating is especially helpful in the winter.  I will preheat my MES for 2+hours when it is cold 40º and under, 1 hour when 55º and under, at least 30 minutes if warmer than 55º.  Preheating makes the the MES a very stable cooking platform, from my notes on many smokes I had noticed that after 3 hours of smoking recovery was faster.  There is two reasons, 1st after several hours of smoking, everything inside the MES is heated up, including the racks, water, insulation, even the outside metal is warmer.  2nd the meat is now heated up, so instead of the meat being a heat sink as in the beginning of a smoke it is now stable and the inside cabinet gets warmer faster during recovery.  Also rem. that heat always goes to cold, thus at the beginning of a smoke the meat is absorbing a lot of heat, different cuts or types of meat react differently so this can appear as a temp swing, because of the way it reacts with the heat.  (Another reason to allow meat to come to room temp before putting in smoker.)

    Your best bet may be to wait until May or June and see how your MES operates and then decide what changes need to be made.

    My MES being the older model only has a 800 watt element, for Sacramento Area mild temperatures that has been fine, however recovery and getting up to initial set temp can take awhile especially if there is a big load in the smoker.  My plan (dream plan, actual might end up different) is to add a secondary 300watt element so the heating will be 2 stage.  Both stages will be activated initially to bring up to set temp faster, as the temp approaches the set temp the 300 watt element will drop out at 5º prior to set temp, the 800 watt will have no problem with the remaining 5 deg.  If the temp inside drops 10 degrees the secondary element will kick on to assist the primary in getting back to set temp, again will drop out at 5 deg prior to set temp.  I may include a data connection so I can control and monitor it from my PC or a laptop.

    I will be rounding up the parts in May and hopefully have it done in mid June.  I have been holding off on doing this remodel waiting for symptoms of wiring/terminal problems that are common on the older MES, which requires drilling out the rivets and opening the back.  However my MES has worked great since day one, so I haven't fooled with it.  There is no point in holding off longer, it would be preventative to do it before struck with the wiring problems.
  3. My main concerns are spikes when heating element goes ON to reach set temperature. Lets say I want it at 150F. It always overheating to 155 or 158.  And temperature readings are always different between both of my Mavericks and MES internal sensors.

     I am going to use hot plate only because there are no way to connect Auber controller directly to MES. I will need to bypass MES controller and I have no idea how to. So Hot plate is the easiest solution. And I am not even sure how to fit it in MES.

     I appreciate your response. Its always tries and errors for me.
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2012
  4. Not exactly sure what you mean by this. If you mean the temp is around 155-158 when the controller is set at 150, then you can just set the controller to accomodate the difference. i.e., set it for 145 or so. That is what most of us MES owners do. If you more likely mean the temp swings between 150 and 158 (at it's highest) then that is not a bad range and quite acceptable for smoking in my opinion. Those with stick burners, propane, and charcoal smokers probably experience more variations in temp than this and make great BBQ.

    I think it a not so great idea to remove an existing good heating element/controller from the MES and replace them with a hotplate/PID in an attempt to get better smoker performance (which might provide a minimal improvment or not at all). Probably is a good idea to do as a tinker project or if the existing element/controller went bad and the MES was out of warrantly.  Just my opinion.
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2012
  5. whittling chip

    whittling chip Meat Mopper SMF Premier Member

    Thank you very much for taking the time to post the below. I filed that copy in my files for reference.
  6. Not removing heating element. If my experiment is a success I will only remove the box and loader to make some room. Once again I am experimenting with tools for my upcoming summer project. The way representative of Auber explained it to me their devise is very accurate in temperature readings and I want to try and see how it will work inside MES.

    Cause right now its like this. Often I need 175F so I set it to 167F on MES. It can go up to 181 then shuts down and cools off to 166. I am talking about normal smoking process with no door opening and such.

    I want to see if Auber can keep hot plate in plus minus 5F range stable temperature. Plus programming your cooking temperatures is very handy. For example: You can program the temperature to start at 120 °F for X hours of smoking, rise to 132 °F for X hours and finish at 175 °F.
  7. deltadude

    deltadude Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    AHAKOHDA unless your smoking cheese there is nothing you will be smoking that requires +/- 5º accuracy.

    Do your homework, there are several posts in this forum that cover how to wire either a auber digital controller or another brand, and they include wiring diagrams.  YOU DO NOT need a hot plate, simply take the back off open the terminal connector on the back if you have a newer MES 40..  If you take notes as I pointed out you will quickly discover where to set the MES to avoid over heating.  There are benefits to a Auber or other digital controller, however your MES is brand new, you would be disabling one of the primary reasons the MES is a success (it's digital controller),

    I have wanted more control since day one, but found that by learning my equipment I get more than satisfactory performance.  Two exceptions, 1st is recovery or achieving set temp, I would like to speed that up a bit.  But there is a problem with this, by increasing the wattage which increases the heat, in my design I mentioned above adding 300 watts + 800 watts means about 3750 btus instead of 800w or 2700 btus.  To minimize the associated cooking problems with higher heat that is why I am doing staging, compared to the new MES 40 with 1200 watt which is single stage, and thus the entire time the element is on its cooking away with higher btus.  Higher btus is great when you want it, like crisping up chicken, or putting a crust/bark on maybe ribs or at the end of pork butt smoke. Rem I am perfectly happy with 800watt cooking results, I'm not happy with recovery times.  Current MES 40 / 1200w owners are also happy, so I might be worrying about nothing.  However my approach will allow me to try both either staged or run the elements combined, having options is always nice.

    BTW it's your smoker so knock yourself out, and have fun.

  8. The Auber PID should be very easy to connect to your existing element, just make sure you purchase the correct  insturment with the correct output,

    also do you use a water pan or  sand in your water pan?

    I have found that it greatly reduces temperature swings, specially if using water, moist air heats more evenly

    Have fun with your PID you can use them for all kinds of stuff
  9. sound1

    sound1 Smoking Fanatic

    Be careful when adding the hot plate to the unit. You are bypassing the overheat safety switch built into the MES.

    In general the temp swings you are talking about are so short lived that it shouldn't make much difference in your final product.

    Temp overshoot is normal in these things. When the heat is on, the smoke tray is heating up enough to smolder your chips, the metal of the smoke chamber, and the like.  Element off at set temp, the element needs to go from glowing red to ambient, the chip tray needs to cool and so on. Hence the overshoot. A hot plate may be worse because of the ceramic plate involved. You would need to have a Tstat with an anticipator circuit, kind of like your house thermostat, to overcome this overshoot.

    In most of my smokes I do not use water, so to add some thermal mass, I fill the water tray with sand to work as a temp buffer. Once stabilized, with this setup, Temps much more stable, and the unit does not cycle nearly as much which greatly reduces the amount of smoke from the chip tray. The AMNPS takes care of that problem.
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2012
  10. I used MES smoking box 2-3 times total. And at temperatures I smoke it is an obsolete part in my smoker. Hot plate will not be wired with MES controller. It will go directly to Auber controller which is connected to outlet. I thought I made it clear in every post.

    My unit is not brand new by far. I am using it heavily since July 1 2011. Even Todd was amazed about How much smoking we actually doing since we are buying plenty of dust and pellets. And he is always generous and ready to help.

     Plus as I mentioned I am not doing any damage to it. Just experimenting.  I was smoking in this unit almost every week-end literally and I know its behavior now. I mean with AMNPS we already learned that MES smoking box is like an appendix. Its there yes but if you remove it nothing changes.

      I am buying Auber for something else. Not for MES problem. So its just that convenient moment to try something new with MES.

    And I am one of those idiots who always have extra parts left after reassembling stuff so $15 hot plate will actually save MES from distraction.

    As of smoking habits. i prefer MES for low temperature smokes ranging from cold smoked salmon to kielbasas. 80F-180F.  Whatever requires moping or spraying I smoke in charcoal smoker.
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2012
  11. sprky

    sprky Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Man I would love to have temp swings that low I am happy if my swings stay within a 25 degree range, that's why I smoke in a range of say 200-225 with target temp of 215. It appears since you are smoking at such a low temp you are smoking sausage. I am by no means an expert on sausage, so I can't say for 100% certain that the temp swings you are seeing will not affect the final product. 
  12. I guess it does look like I am nitpicking but i am kinda mental about my cooking especially when cooking for other people.
  13. deltadude

    deltadude Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    AHAKOHDA,  there are at least 4 if not more threads on PIDs in this Electric Smoker Forum, which include wiring diagrams auxiliary digital controls for the MES and one for another smoker.  Your best bet would be to study those threads.
  14. I feel dizzy anytime i look at wiring diagrams. There I said it. :)) I am one of those who pays $300 for UDS instead of building one for $100.
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2012
  15. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

     I get it...You have a functional MES40...

    You are going to start a New Build in the future and want to to use a Hot Plate and a PID...

    You want to Test the Hot Plate and PID in the MES because IT is what you have on hand...

    When you are done with the PID Test you may Restore the MES to original or leave the PID and hot plate in and use it as a backup to the New Build...

    Makes perfectly good sense go for it...Good luck with the Test....JJ
    Last edited: Feb 29, 2012
  16. I finalized this experiment today. With mixed results. It is 40F outside with gusty wind.


    It was able to warm up and recover quickly.

    Temperature is steady without ups and downs.


    I was only able to get it up to 158F. Which is not too bad but 12 short of my target temperature. It seems like hot plate's termo shuts off at that point.
  17.  I know you said you get dizzy looking at schematics so I won't draw one for you, but since you are using a digital controller for your heating element (hot plate) all you need of the hotplate is the heating element. You can wire directly to the heating element and not use the  internal thermo. Surely you have a friend who is electrician enough to help you with that.

     I'd like to hear more about what your tests were and their outcome.      


  18. Here is what I did. Even before reading your post I thought what the hell its a cheap hot plate so I gut it and removed wires connected to temperature control knob.

    This morning I staged the final experiment. Temperature outside 31F.  Inside MES40 around 38F. I connected everything and also installed Maverick probe next to Auber probe.  Loader fully closed. Vent fully open. It got up to 170F in around 25 minutes and was holding steady 169-170F without any up and down spikes.

     I then opened and closed the door to imitate amnps instalation and opened loader 1". Temperature dropped to a 155F and it took 10 minutes to recover to 170F. Another amazing thing is that Both temperature readings from Auber and Maverick were almost identical during heating up (plus minus 1-2 degree) and exact same at 170.

    I LOVE IT.

Share This Page