Finally Used my MES 30", Now I Have Some Questions

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by weathertom, Jul 9, 2012.

  1. I got an MES 20070411, and finally had a chance to use it last week. I planned to do a pork butt, but the butcher was out, so I did a beef chuck roast, which gave us some very nice "pulled" beef. Since it was my first time using any smoker, nevermind this particular model, it was definitely a learning experience and there are a few things I'd do differently, but overall I was happy with the results. However, based on the experience on thing I did was to just order an AMNPS to assist in smoke creation. My MES actually did a nice job of creating smoke, but having to reload the tray every hour can get a bit tedious, so I like the idea of the AMNPS to augment and simplify things. I have a couple of quick questions, since I'm planning a party in two weeks and will be doing several racks of ribs along with a couple of pork butts.

    For those that have an MES 30, where do you place the AMNPS for best results?

    Do you completely omit using a water pan if using the AMNPS (some of what I've read online suggests using one can have a detrimental impact on the performance of the AMNPS)?

    As far as water pans are concerned, how necessary are they in reality with an MES? I used it for my first experience last week, and it honestly didn't appear to do much with respect to keeping things more moist (the meat didn't dry out, but in hindsight I'm thinking I should have mopped and not trusted things I'd read suggesting the water pan can help eliminate the need for that).

    Related to the previous question, how should one go about trying to mop things inside the MES? The owners manual, which is terrible and says very little, does make a point to discourage mopping since it says too much heat will escape the unit (which make sense to me given its design, and the fact that there isn't an actual fire or stored heat anywhere, other than in the walls of the unit). So, if you do successfully mop (or spray) things in an MES, what's the best way to do so (or should it just be avoided)?

    Thanks for whatever help anyone can offer.
  2. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Last edited: Jul 9, 2012
    cesarschoice likes this.
  3. JJ,

    Thanks for all the thoughts, I really appreciate it. I love the idea regarding putting sand or something similar in the water pan to store some of the heat, that's a great idea if I do wind up trying to open the door to mop or spray. So, by a drip pan, you're referring to something in addition to the water pan? Do you mean just a small tray type pan that the meat would essentially sit right on, with a rack somehow fitted in between?

    Thanks again. This is a learning process, but I don't mind that at all.

  4. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Tom, I frequently place a disposable aluminum pan on the bottom rack and the meat on racks above. That's not to say you can't place meat directly in the pan, I have done that with Pork Butts. You won't get any smoke to the bottom of the meat unless you put a roasting rack in the pan to support the meat off the pan. Chose a pan size that leaves a few inches of space all around the pan...JJ
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2012
  5. Thanks JJ, it will definitely take some experimentation, but that's ok. One thing I'll definitely need to play around with as I do more stuff is if/when/how long to foil during smoking (and figuring out the whole resting period for things that need it). In the past, before I had a smoker, I did ribs on my gas grill via indirect heat and wood chips in smoker boxes. I never used any foil in the cooking process, and loved the results (usually took about 4 hours). Yet, on here most of the suggestions I've seen suggest a 3-2-1 (no foil, foil, no foil) method for ribs when done in a smoker. I'm not opposed to the idea of using foil, but if I can be lazy, not do so, and get comparable results, that would be my preference for most things, even though they'll take longer that way [​IMG]
  6. deltadude

    deltadude Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Chef Jimmy gave you excellent answers.  I just want to touch on one thing.  First I do not have a MES 30 mine is an older MES 40 which only has 800 watt element, which happens to be the same as the current MES 30.  Ok the one thing is use of the water pan.  I have been using the AMNS and now the AMNPS, the AMNS since they came out and the AMNPS since April.  I have NO problem using the water pan with water and either the AMNS or the AMNPS, I place  them under the water pan on left side on the rails with an aluminum cover.   My reason in pointing this out is, IMHO there is a specific purpose Masterbuilt included the water pan and to not use it could result in the MES not achieving it's fullest potential as a smoker.  First in "general" water pans in smokers have become more popular than not among competition BBQ/smokers.  Even in $20k stick burners, pros are using water pans to help have a moist heat.  If you bother to read up on how smoke transfers it's flavor to meat, moisture is an important part of the process, that is how with just a few wood chips a good smoky flavor can  be imparted to meat in the MES thanks to moist heat and a water pan.   I know many have stopped using the water pan in the MES because the suggestions by Todd include not using the water pan, but so far in my MES I have no problem, using both the AMNPS and water pan.  I will say that the 1200 watt MES 40, extra heat/btus could cause more steam that might interfere with an open AWNPS, however if the AWNPS is0 covered the heat from the pellet combustion will reflect and keep the pellets dry.  My cover does NOT sit flat on the top, it is elevated about 1" above the sides of the AWNPS.

    My cover, click on for larger image, this one was thrown together, I will be making a nicer one soon.

    [​IMG]   [​IMG]
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2012
  7. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Deltadude, I like the pan over the AMNPS, very cool idea and can't wait to see your new design. Admittedly I have not used water very frequently based on the frequent posts of MES owners that don't bother with it. I have gotten consistent great results without it including plenty of smokey flavor but if using water will improve things further it is worth a further look. You have much more experience with the MES. Can you lay out the benefits you have found with using water. Thanks...JJ
  8. Thanks Deltadude, especially for including the photos of your cover. That is a really slick and simple way of doing things, and once my AMNPS arrives I'll likely try to fabricate something similar. I did use the water pan for the beef chuck I did last week, and it certainly did cause any issues with respect to the built-in wood chips smoking or the unit maintaining temperature. I just wanted teh AMNPS so that I won't need to keep loading chips as often.

    Now I'm even more excited to try various things out for my party in two weeks, although I doubt I'll be able to wait that long before experimenting with some things. Thanks again guys. 
  9. Deltadude, just curious, is there a slot cut open on the other end of your tray/cover as well? Or, is the opening on that one end (and the bottom) enough airflow to keep things smoking?
  10. I have the 1200 watt element in my MES and have found the water pan to be an issue.  It creates so much steam it was condensing on the door and and running down.  I no longer use it and have not seen a difference in the end result.  The water pans in the stick and charcol smokers are there primarily to help with heat regulation.  This is not a issue with electric smokers.
  11. Great advice from all. I have the MES 40 with the 1200 watt element.

    One piece of advice I would give is to cover the water pan and the bottom flat piece with some heavy duty aluminum foil. This will add in clean up!

    While I don't use the included water pan with liquid, I do use aluminum foil drip pans with Chef Jimmy's Au Jus beneath the large cuts of meat (pork butt, brisket etc) and a foil tray under chicken etc mostly to catch the drippings and make easier clean up. 

    I've yet to do unfoiled ribs but they are on the to do list. I don't foil pork butts and I've only done one brisket so far (which I foiled). I sprayed/spritzed the first few butts and the brisket in the first couple hours of smoking but no longer spritz butts at all. Now I just try to keep the door closed as much as possible to cut down on the smoking time. 

    If you are foiling the meat, you don't have to continue adding smoke because the smoke won't penetrate the foil. I've even finished off some butts in the oven and crock pot. 

    Good luck!
  12. deltadude

    deltadude Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    The opposite end "not shown" in the photo, does NOT have a large slot, it has two round holes about 1" in diameter.  The cover is made from one of those store bought disposable alum pans, the pan was cut in half then one half put over the other half to get the right size, edges folded over to keep the pieces together.  To help keep the halves together is why there are holes instead of a slot cutting which cuts out the bottom of that end, thus weakening the structure.  I usually have 2 or 3 of those deep pans around, so I only used what I had on hand, and was lucky it was the correct size length-wise.

    BTW, while I strongly encourage MES owners to use the water pan as designed, one of the great things about smoking and BBQ is, "there is no right way"!  The only thing "right" has to be the end product, does it taste, and look like good tasting Q?
  13. deltadude

    deltadude Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    It is hard for me to know what to recommend for a 1200 watt MES, also my MES doesn't have a window.  However you say you don't need a water pan because electric smokers regulate heat well.  Unfortunately if you read through this forum for a year, you will read about the struggles of various electric smokers regulating heat, the MES just tends to do it better.  Also since my MES 40 only has 800 watt element and your MES 40 has a 1200 watt element, that sounds on the surface like a significant difference that could affect steam, however there is one thing common that levels the difference, temperature.  I am going to assume you set your MES for 225-250 deg, and so do I, mostly 225º and it fluctuates from 215º - 235º.  Water boils at 212º, so if your MES is regulating temp properly we should have about the same amount of moisture.   BTW my inside cabinet though well seasoned from years of use, has from day one signs of light moisture running down the inside surfaces. 

    Note I have been a MES 40 owner for 6 years, and a member of SMF the same amount of time, so I have read about the problems associated with both the older and newer MES40 & MES30 models.  Even my older 40 with 800 watts unit, owners were using a heat shield set on top wood chip / heat element assembly, because they were worried about the excessive heat affecting Q on the bottom cook shelf.  I use such a heat shield, (mine is an old alum cookie sheet, it double walled with a insulation core sandwiched between layers, in addition I foil it with two wraps of alum foil), I prefer it's light weight vs a much heavier tile.  Lots of new MES40 owners use some kind of heat shield for the same reason,  without a water pan that excessive heat is going directly to the Q on your bottom shelf, making that Q the heat sink instead of a water pan between the Q on the bottom shelf and the heat element.  If you are doing a smoke with say 8 racks of ribs, 2 racks on each of the 4 shelves you would have to rotate those racks a lot to keep the cooking even (if not using a water pan).  With a water pan I only rotate that bottom shelf once during a smoke.

    Last since I only have the older 800 watt model, again it is hard for me to speculate about the differences, it would be nice if one of the guys who have both new & older MES 40's sitting next to each other could make the comparison.  Also there is NO right way or wrong way, the end result is all that matters.
  14. I keep the water pan in and wrap it with foil, but do no put water in it.  When i used water in the water pan, as you said, i had water running down on all side of the as well as the door.  There is a shield on the door and water would collect on it there.  I just figure that all that moisture is not good for the smoker, and see no advantage in the results of the meat smoked.  We are wanting to smoke...not steam the meat.  

    From what i have seen on the site, most of the people put a shield of sorts on top of the smoke box mostly to shield the tempature sensure since it sets just above the element. It will also tend to shield the meat from the direct heat of the element when it is on.  I too do that and it helps with a more steady control of the heating.  I tend to do run the temps around 225 - 250 for cooking.

    As to regulating the heat....I have read and am aware of the issues that electric smokers have, but that is a different issue than what can be experienced with stick and charcoal smokers.  Their temps can climb dramaticly and quickly.  The water pans in those help to regulat and control those issues.  Just as you don't need a water pan in your oven, you really don't need one in the electric smokers...IMHO. 

    The water pans in the MES...i suspect...are not there because of cooking research by MB, but the result of market research of what is the consumers think should be there and what they see other smoker manufactures doing. 
  15. Thanks for the additional info/responses, I appreciate it. My AMNPS just arrived today, so I can't wait to try it out. I think my plan for the party we're having next week will be to foil the butts, but not foil the ribs. I never foiled ribs when I did them via indirect heat and smoker box/pouches on my gas grill, so don't know why I'd need to do so on the smoker. Plus, my personal preference is to not have things completely falling off the bone (which would worry me a bit if I did foil, since I wonder how tricky it would be to get the ribs back out of the foil and onto the racks again without things falling apart). I think I'd prefer to do the butts unfoiled as well (out of laziness :)), but this time around I am leaning that way mainly to speed the process, since I have no idea how long they would take unfoiled since I haven't done one before, and don't want to not have things ready in time for our guests. We'll see how it goes, should be a lot of fun no matter what.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2012

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