MES 40 Newbie fail

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by topless stang, Mar 24, 2012.

  1. topless stang

    topless stang Newbie

    After reading the many posts and looking at the pics of all the wonderful Q u folks have posted I thought I'd give it a go myself. I picked up a MES 40 from SAMs a little while back and tried to smoke some baby backs using the 2-2-1 method. My first go didn't turn out so well. I had virtually no smoke ring and it took longer than 5 hours to smoke. The ribs were also not fall of the bone tender. I have made better/more tender ribs in the oven! But I digress....I put it out my mind and vowed I would try again later.

    Fast forward a few months to the arrival of my AMNPS! I figured this would solve my smoke ring issue at the very least....last night I burned the oil off, wrapped up some freshly rubbed ribs and put them in the fridge for smoking today. I started at 2pm. Got a nice flame going on the AMNPS. I let that work for a few minutes and blew it out. I then had all the smoke I could ever wish for, so I put it on the on rails of my MES. I set the temp to 225 and went in to get the ribs ready. After the MES got up to temp I added 2 racks of baby backs(eac rack was cut in half). At this point is was 2:50, so I set my timer for 2 hours. I returned at 5:10pm to take them out. I spritzed on some room temp apple juice using a spray bottle and wrapped them up in heavy duty foil. I placed them in the smoker bone side up at 5:30pm. I came back and took them out at 7:30pm. I took them out of the foil, slathered on some sauce and put them back in for the final hour...except the final hour came and went. After the final hour passed they were holding at mid to high 130 degrees. I waited another 15 minutes and no change. I had to up the temp to 275 to get them to finish and I was able to take them out at 9:30pm once they hit 170. Even though I removed the membrane it still seemed like it was still there. They were tough and still didn't have that elusive smoke ring!! Throughout the entire process the AMNPS kicked out plenty of smoke. Based on other posts I read I had the chip drawer open slightly, the chip 'dumper' pulled out slightly and the vent opened all of the way. So I am puzzled as to why I still had no smoke ring, not to mention the ribs were tough and took 7 hours to fully cook. I would love some insight by the gurus here so I may be able to smoke picture worthy meats.

    Sorry for the long post, I just wanted to put as much info out as possible. Please......HELP!!!!
  2. pineywoods

    pineywoods Smoking Guru Staff Member Administrator Group Lead SMF Premier Member

    My first thought is to double check the smoker temperature with another thermometer you know is accurate. Are you adding some kind of liquid when you foil the ribs?
  3. Youi will not get a smoke ring using an MES, whether you use the chip tray or an AMNPS. Search this forum on this subject and you will read all about it. In short, a smoke ring is for looks (good looks) but it does not have an effect on taste. If you are not happy with your results, read up some more on how to smoke ribs and see what you should change in your method. Trying to get a smoke ring is not the answer though. Once you get it figured out, you will be very happy with the MES/AMNPS setup. It is a very popular setup with members in the electric smoker forum.
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2012
  4. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Way to many TV Chefs talk about Smoke Ring. So everybody sets this as some goal. Reality is Smoke Ring, simply put, comes from a reaction between Meat and the Nitrogen generated by burning Wood and to a lesser extent Gas. It contributes nothing much to Smokey flavor and in reality can be Faked by soaking the Ribs in a cure #1 solution, contains Nitrogen, for a hour before smoking. If 5 hours in, after foiling, you are only seeing 130*F IT, your smoker is not at 225*F. This is the only reason I can think of, other than opening the door every 10 minutes, that could cause this under cooking issue...JJ
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2012
  5. topless stang

    topless stang Newbie

    Thanks for the suggestions and information. My wife thinks the cut of meat was mostly the culprit, but I wasn't as convinced as she was. Counting the thermo that is n the MES I used a total of three different ones. I did add some apple juice to the foil step, but I only added it via a squirt bottle, I didn't add a lot. Should I have added more during this step? I only opened the door to remove or add the ribs. I read a while back that it's hard to maintain temps if you keep opening and closing the door. I also read that you should add 15-20 mins to ur cooking time for each time u open the door with a MES. Is that true too? I'm not defeated yet, Im still learning and trying to lock in a good method and get the basics down so I can try my hand at other cuts of meat and other dishes ( can't wait to attempt to smoke a fattie!). I just can't pin point what I'm doing wrong....maybe I should buy another thermo?? The new wireless one I got tested fairly accurate when I opened it yesterday. I got 99 degrees Celsius and 210 Fahrenheit when testing with boiling water. I know that's not exactly correct, but I'd say it's still fairly accurate. When you folks smoke bbrs what method works best for you? Is 2-2-1 the way to go? When you do it does it ever take closer to 7 total hours? I cut my 2 slabs into 4 total pieces..should I have left them intact? Any info is appreciated!
  6.  What they are trying to tell you is your MES is not as warm as it says it is. You need a thermo on the rack the meat is on. You can run the probe of the therm through a chunk of potato for a holder so it's just above the rack (not touching it). You are probably colder than what is indicated by 20 deg. or so. If so, set it at 245 and see what results you get. 

     A couple of ounces of juice when foiling is probably enough. I don't cook BBs, I only cook spares pretty much untrimmed so it's a large chunk of meat and I may put up to 1/2 cup of apple juice in mine.

     I have an MES with AMNPS and it's a great combo. You will figure it out and you will probably love it.

  7. topless stang

    topless stang Newbie

    Thanks Steve. I used the MES thermo in a potato on the top rack to give me my standing temp. I used a separate wireless thermo in the ribs. I only put that in during the last phase of cooking since that was the only time I was checking temps. I'll try to get a reading of just the standing temp tomorrow using the MES thermo and my other wireless thermo. If its off by that much it could explain a lot. That would stink for me as I've had it for almost a year, but I've only used it twice...However, I might have had the probe touching the rack and I could have been getting false readings. I've seen great pics of what people here can do with the same setup I have and that's what's so frustrating lol. Once I get the hang of things I'm sure I'll love it.
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2012
  8. deltadude

    deltadude Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Topless Stang, 1st congrats on you MES, I'm sorry you are having problems however reading through your posts, there are some things that can help. 

    1st I recommend preheating your MES to 270º for about an hour and if its cold outside even more, I know that most MES40 owners with 1200 watt elements believe it isn't necessary, and I only have a 800watt in my older MES 40, but I challenge them to take notes, and watch how fast the recovery is after several hours of cooking vs when you first start.  So topless this will help you achieve your set point temp faster.

    Note, remove the membrane! some call it sliver skin, others call it a pain in the b...

    2nd, while the 321 or 221 or 111111 or 10-4 hut hut hut might sound cool, and really the 321 or 221 is a good rule of thumb, it is misleading, especially during the 1st stage of cooking.  The reason is not all cuts of meat are the same and neither are the cookers different people are using.  In the 1st stage you are looking for "pull back", which is how much on the rib tip does the meat pull back from the tip... The following pic is an extreme example of "pull back" depending on the method these ribs were cooked they are probably over cooked.


    Ideally depending on baby back or spare ribs, you want about 3/8" "pull back", if you are already at 1/2" pull back after 2 hours then the meat is cooking real fast, and that is possible sometimes.  So when you have 1/4-3/8" pull back then you foil and add your liquid.  My preference for liquid is apple juice and some of my rub, applying with a squirt bottle is fine, that is how I do it, for one slap of ribs a 1/4 cup of liquid is fine.  I foil two racks together others may only do 1 rack.

    Since your learning you take some time to read this page on different tests for donenes.

    After about 1 1/2 to 2 hours open a packet and tear off the smallest rib on the end, this to me is an easy way to tell how done it is.  Ideally it should not fall off it should tear off but not real easy, since it is the smallest with least meat the larger ribs will tear harder.  rem, you still have another hour to cook with sauce if you are going to do that.  If you intend to finish the sauce on the grill ( I do(, then only give the ribs a light coat of sauce and re-seal, until you are ready to sauce on grill.  Remember if you sauce on the grill that means your turning the ribs 2 or 3 times for about 30 min or more, so the ribs can't be fall off the bone or they would just fall apart on the grill.  If you have over cooked your ribs and they are falling apart, then just sauce them in the foil and let them sit in sealed foil with the heat off but door of cooker closed.

    Yes opening and closing the hatch will affect cooking time.

    Did you use an extension cord?  If you decide to use an extension cord 12 ga is better, I have a 50' 12 ga cord and no problems. When I first got my smoker I tried a cheap 14 ga 50' and the smoker wouldn't come up to temp, after 3 or 4 hours struggling I moved the smoker to plug directly into the wall and it worked fine.

    My series of MES had problems with the controller locking up, so a reset is necessary.  To do a proper reset, 1st turn off the MES with the digital controller off button, unplug the MES electrical connection, wait a couple of seconds and plug the MES back into it's electric source, turn on the MES digital control and reset the temp/time. 

    The more food you smoke at one time the longer things take.  It is important to have a back up remote temp probe monitoring the inside cabinet temp, I stick the probe into a 1/2 potato and put it on the middle shelf. 

    Baby Backs are very forgiving and easier than spare ribs, consider learning on baby back, or do both you will quickly learn the difference.
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2012
    jd2220 likes this.
  9. Its a never ending process of learning.
  10. gersus

    gersus Smoking Fanatic

    That was a great explanation delta dude. Mentioning use of an extension cord was a great idea. It can definitely make a difference.
    I have a MES 30. I smoke baby backs using the 2-2-1 method at 225 without any trouble. Hang in there, you'll get it figured out. It's worth it trust me, there isn't much better than smoked BB's!
  11. Lots of good info on this site. Not to sound too kung fooish, but q is more of a journey than a destination. Keep at it. Also fwiw testing a thermometer in boiling water is not always accurate as water boils at different temps at different pressures. Atmospheric pressure varies. Ice water is more accurate. Anyway your 210 deg could be spot on. Just my 2 cents

    Smoke on!
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2012
  12. I have a MES 30". I have smoked ribs in this smoker 3 times and each time i had a nice smoke ring and smoked flavor. I heat the smoker at 250 and keep the temp there. All through out the cooking process you need to KEEP THE VENT CLOSED!! Once it reaches 250 i add a full chip loader of hickory chips. Smoke the ribs for 3 hours adding chips every hour. Foil the ribs for 2 hours (at 250). Unfoil the ribs and cook for one more hour. 3-2-1 method obviously. You cannot depend on a meat temp with ribs. You will not get an accurate temp because the bones are too close together.
  13. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Sorry but keeping the vent closed is NOT a good idea. You can end up with stale smoke and bitter tasting meat. KEEP THE VENT OPEN, but with a few exceptions... I'm not in the minority here...JJ  
  14. gersus

    gersus Smoking Fanatic

  15. atomic dog

    atomic dog Fire Starter

    I cook exclusively with the vent wide open.  Closing it at all gives my chickens a stale forest fire taste.  I also never use water. 

    To recap:  Vent open.  No water in water pan (just lined with foil to catch drippings), I never go lower than 230 degrees.  I cook most stuff around 235 until the last 45 minutes to hour.

    Try this.  Buy a cheap store chicken.  Make a brine with 1/4 cup salt, and 1/4 cup sugar.  Add tiny pinch of allspice and ground clove (really tiny) and a bay leaf.  Add a good 2 quarts of water and the brine should taste a little less salty than sea water with a hint of sweet (adjust until you get there). Let chicken sit covered in brine for 24 hours.  Rinse chicken under faucet and put chicken on second rack.  Put a normal handful of chips in basket.  Cook at 235 for 3.25 hours.  Finish at 275 for another 45 to hour, and let rest a good 15 minutes after removing.  Add a small amount of chips every 45 min to hour.  I use only add very small amount of chips while cooking - imagine like 8 or 10 small chips.  I get plenty of smoke flavor doing my chickens this way and everybody loves them.  (note: being brined the blood of the chicken stays red so don't think it is uncooked.  Use a meat thermometer to ease your mind)
  16. topless stang

    topless stang Newbie

    WOW...What a wealth of Info...I'm going to pour over all of this now and try to smoke again this weekend.  Thanks!!
    I always pull the membrane off.  I cooked two rack and cut them both in half prior to putting them in the smoker.  I did use an extension cord, but I have to check the size when I get home.  However the thermos both were reporting respectable temps.  I also had slight pull back on my ribs at the end, but no pullback in the middle.  They also were really stiff and didn't move when I picked them up with my tongs.  

    This place offers a wealth of info and people always willing to help out and share info.  Thanks again to everyone else who posted a response.  
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2012
  17. deltadude

    deltadude Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    BigSaintsFan, well all I can say is he is doing something using a couple of methods that almost everyone disagrees with and supposedly getting good results... I'm happy for you.

    There are so many posts on keeping the MES vent wide open and then closing it but still leaving it slightly open for either the AMNS or AMNPS, including the mfg instructions.

    If you add a full tray of chips you will get BLACK smoke, which gives off a creosote flavor, that will ruin any Q in your smoker.

    BSF is accurate about depending on the MES meat or even cabinet temp, it helps to have either remote temp probe to monitor either meat temp or cabinet temp or both.
  18. topless stang

    topless stang Newbie

    One potential issue already identified....the extension cord I was using is 50' 16AWG. I'll pick up a much thicker one this weekend, but my plan it to go directly into the wall this coming weekend and smoke half a rack to get the process down completely. I'll update the post with my findings.
  19. ronrude

    ronrude Meat Mopper

    A 12ga cord is the same gauge as most home wiring.  That also means 12ga is as heavy as you need to go.  10ga will be overkill if you can ever find one.

    I did 3 racks on my 40 saturday and came out great.  My first 221.  Keep trying.  I learned things on this post too.
  20. I use a 25 foot 12 gauge extension cord without any problem.

    That is, the element gets hot enough to maintain the temperatures inside the smoker based upon the controller setting. I do use a separate thermometer (Maverick ET-732)  to montitor the temps inside the box and set the desired temp on the controller accordingly.
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2012

Share This Page