MES big load temps & recovery discussion

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by deltadude, Jul 25, 2009.

  1. deltadude

    deltadude Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    This thread is a spin off from Illini's "MES Man Cave"

    I started this new thread to NOT "walk on", Illini's great Man Cave thread by starting a new topic in his thread.

    Illii and I had the same experience with our MES cooking ribs on the 4th of July. Illini did 6 racks and I did 8 racks or ribs, both of us complained that it took 3 hours to get to the MES set temp of 225.

    I know from reading other MES owner posts, their experience with big loads in a MES, some have complained or expressed that the MES took 3+ hours to get to desired cooking temp.

    End of comments from Man Cave thread...
  2. deltadude

    deltadude Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Possibly your stems are getting some cabinet metal temp? For the 8 racks, I used a remote probe poked thru one of the ends of ribs on the right side 2nd shelf down, yes 2/3 of the probe was exposed. The remote digital read almost the same temp as the MES controller. I'm only guessing about your about your stem thermo. though based on an experience last year where a probe stuck thru a potato, had the tip against the inside cabinet wall, and the cabinet was a lot hotter than the MES controller read out, like 70+ deg.

    I also observed that recovery after 4 or 5 hours of smoking is very fast compared to recovery after 1 hour of smoking.

    Thus I now preheat the smoker for over an hour, believing that all the metal cabinet/metal racks/pan/ etc, completely heated will help get the MES to cooking temp faster after you load your meat. However on the 4th it took 3 hours anyway. I used the top 3 shelves with 3 ribs per shelf using rib-racks to stand on sides, and 2 laying flat on one shelf. I think from memory I put the two flat ribs on the bottom 3rd shelf, (can't rem for sure). If I did, that may explain why the MES took so long to get up to temp with those 2 flat ribs blocking the heat. However the MES sensor is near that shelf so I don't know.

    re: the 8 racks of ribs for the 4th. As I said it took 3 hours to get to temp of 225. However I had the controller set to 270 to make sure the heat element stayed on till internal cabinet temp reached 225 (measured by the remote probe). I opened the hatch to check for pull back about 30 min to 45 min. after reaching 225. To my surprise some of the racks had almost 1/2" of pull back (I prefer about 1/4 to 3/8" then foil). So obviously the contineous heat was cooking the ribs. BUT AT WHAT TEMP?

    On Monday I did a 8.5 lb pork shoulder/butt, after 1 hour preheat, I started the smoke about 3 am with outdoor ambient at about 65-70 F. The MES was at temp 230 in about 30 minutes.

    Load is definetly a factor in the MES coming up to set temp, I have done 8 and 10 racks of ribs before and temp always took a 2+ hours to come to temp.

    Another question is what temp should the MES be set at when your waiting for the MES to reach your desired cook temp. If I'm there to tend the MES I will set the temp to 270 and reduce to the usual desired temps of 220, 225, 230, etc, when the digital control or an remote probe shows the internal temp has achieve my desired cooking temp. The thought here is to keep the element continously on until cooking temp is achieved. However this may be a problem on items that don't need long cooks or on a big load, actually over cooking whatever is being smoked.

    What are other MES owners especially 40" doing for temp control, in the time from initial cook start and when internal cabinet temp finally achieves your desired cooking temp?
  3. pignit

    pignit Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I've had problems with my MES since the day I bought it regarding temps. I've replaced the unit from the store... had a unit factory tested and sent to my house.... tried a different controller. Although the MES smokes fine, it certainly doesn't have the wattage it needs to bring itself up to set temp of 225 + with a load of cool meat in it. I've never had a problem getting my smokes up to 140 internal in less than 4 hours but I've had smokes that it took 4 hours for the unit to read 235 degrees. That is with an internal probe. The internal therm that comes with the unit seems to be a little different but it is in a different location. I've always checked my temp from the middle of the second rack down. I've come to the conclusion that the unit is built with enough wattage to get the job done but would be so much better if it had the power to get to temp and above within 30 minutes. I've not done any chicken in mine but I'm sure it isn't going to get to 275 with a couple of birds in it. Not sure what the answer here is. I just think it's underpowered but it has just enough power to get the job done.
  4. ronp

    ronp Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    All I know is I am happy with mine. It does a great job.I have not had any issues but I haven't paid that much attention to tfhe details. The food always comes out great. May take longer to get up to temp, but that is ok here. I like mine and turn out some great food.
  5. davenh

    davenh Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    Sounds like my complaints way back I did actually add another heater to my 40". Worked ok. Put it on a dimmer and timer switch. They sell a finned tubular heater that would do the job if it bugs you enough to drill a few more holes and do some wiring :). Especially in the cooler weather, the MES needs a few more BTU's IMO.

    Maybe add a 1000W heater and control it with the mes controller. Then put the MES heater on a dimmer switch. That way you don't worry about the smoke cycling off. Set the dimmer just so your wood is smoking ok and the other larger heater does the temp control.
  6. deltadude

    deltadude Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Ronp, you already know I'm a happy MES owner/user. The purpose of this thread is hopefully MES owners explain how they deal with the MES not coming up to temp within an hour or so after starting their smoke.

    If the MES takes 3 hours to get to 225 with a full load, what temp are you really smoking at for the first 3 hours? Should you be adding time to the cook then? I pointed out that I use 270 until the temp gets to say 225 then dial it down. But with the 8 rack of ribs cook, after 3 hours and finally achieving 225, I opened the smoker 30-45 min. later to check pull back and there were at least 2 racks with 1/2" pull back.

    So hopefully MES owners can put their heads together here and figure out what is really happening during ramp up to temp and what techniques should be used to achieve optimum results.
  7. ronp

    ronp Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I would pre heat to 275' with a full water pan, and go from there. Then load the meat. That's just me.
  8. deltadude

    deltadude Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Ronp, I do the same, except I set it to 270, with boiling hot water added to the pan a min or two before loading the cooker. Plus I leave it set at 270 until the internal temp gets to whatever my desired cooking temp is.

    But in my 8 ribs example where the internal temp took 3 hours to get to 225 with the MES set to 270, then 30-45 minutes later I check for pull back and 2 racks have 1/2" pull back, it is obvious that in spite of the MES temp readout, the remote digital probe read out, and a cheap oven thermometer inside all reading the same temperatures, that the meat was getting cooked.

    So for sake of discussion we will call the time from initial start up until desired set point achieved "Ramp Phase", and "Ramp Temperature" is the actual cooking temp during "Ramp Phase".

    So here are some questions:
    1) Should the MES be set to a higher temperature to keep element on during the Ramp Phase? Or should the the MES be set to the desired cooking temp even during Ramp Phase?

    2) What do you think is happening during the "Ramp Phase"?
    • Meat is being cooked at a fast enough rate and high enough temp, even though the MES takes 2 or 3 hours to get to desired set point?
    • Meat is not being cooked at the desired cooking temp during Ramp Phase, thus cooking times need to be extended?

    3) The only thing that matters is the meat temperature, thus using a remote digital probe is essential to knowing that the meat is cooking properly and especially when done?

    4) What should the best practices be for heavy loads in the MES to achieve the shortest Ramp Phase?
  9. illini

    illini Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    More to chew on!

    You have seen pics of my setup so you may be interested in some results of the usage.
    I do PP butts seven at a time. Four in the 40" and three in the 30". I use the stem thermometers as my shelf temp indication. This requires the 30" mes controller to be set at 240F and the 40" mes controller to be set at 225F to keep the stems at a range of 220-250F on BOTH units. Pre warm-up and all other steps are the same for both. The butts all end up with the same results in quality and look so you can not tell which butt came from which smoker. The recovery time, after putting in the butts, is very different the 40" being much slower by about 2-1/2 to 3 hours.

    All that being said which unit has the longer time getting the meat internal temps to 200F. THE 30" BY 30 to 90 minutes.

    Got to make you wonder does'nt it! The short story is even though the 40" appears to be struggling it gets the job done faster than the 30" which does not appear to be struggling.

    And thats the way it is in the land of MES at my place.
  10. scubadoo97

    scubadoo97 Smoking Fanatic

    Illini, very interesting observations. Not at all what I would have expected between the two smokers.
  11. illini

    illini Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    Surprises me too!
    One factor I did not mention is that I put the larger cuts in the 40" and the smaller ones go in the 30" because of the difference in space between the shelves. This may be a factor but you would assume it to be the reverse of the observed results. Maybe the smaller cuts tend to be on the tuff side.[​IMG]
  12. deltadude

    deltadude Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    The comparison of the 30" and 40" with similar loads is interesting.

    How fast do the MES 30" and 40" hit your set temp, with smallish loads?
  13. cruizer

    cruizer Smoking Fanatic SMF Premier Member

    I smoke a load of almonds first to get up to temp. Then add the meat. [​IMG]
  14. deltadude

    deltadude Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    That is very Green of you [​IMG]

    Actually a good idea, Sat. the farmers market is like 6 or 7 blocks, fresh bags of nuts there every time. Will have to get some and do the smoked nuts during preheat.
  15. tknotek

    tknotek Newbie

    I have the MES from sams with the window. Smokes great but same temp prob as all of you. Once i put meat in takes for ever to get back up to temp. I did 5 slabs of spares last week, took at least 2 hours to get back over 200 but at that point as was also pulling 145 to 150 out of the ribs then by 4 - 4 1/2 hours i was pulling high 160's. I pulled ribs out at 170 and they were great but in the future will probably wait till 175 or better.
  16. daddio

    daddio Meat Mopper

    good topic here i did six slabs saturday ,and have done more i don't seem to have a recovery problem with mine and it's the 40" ss model.i do preheat about an hour and use hot water to start,and after that it's no problem,i do not run an extension cord at all,cause there is a plug right by where i use, it this maybe a factor, i know that was discussed recently in another thread. i always punch an extra hour on my timer for the warm up and run it at 270 degrees. and no problems with mine.
  17. pantherfan83

    pantherfan83 Smoking Fanatic

    See my answers or follow-up questions in red below:

    I believe some people have put bricks wrapped in foil in their MES to hold heat. I haven't tried that. I don't know where they put them?? If anyone that has tried this, please weigh in.
  18. pitrow

    pitrow Smoking Fanatic

    ok, it's been quite a while since I've done physics, but this seems like it might be an answer, and it even holds with Illini's experience.

    Given that temperature change is proportional to temperature difference (the greater the difference, the quicker the change), and that if you have a limited amount of heat energy available, most of the energy will go into the coldest object.

    So, if you have a case like ours where you put a large chunk of cold meat into a hot environment, and a minimal heating element, most, if not all, of the energy from that heating element will get drawn into the meat and not be able to heat up the surrounding air much. As the meat heats up and gets closer to the ambient temperature of the smoker, then it will take in less of a percentage of the heat being put out by the element, and that allows the ambient temperature to rise also.

    This seems to make sense with Illini's experience, where the 40" takes longer to recover, but the meat finishes faster than in the 30". In this case the 40" has more volume of meat to try to heat up so it takes longer lower on the curve and the meat is absorbing more heat compared to the 30"

    Also, the reason we don't notice this effect in a standard oven is that a standard oven has a much more powerful heating element that would put out more energy than the meat we put in could absorb quickly enough, so the excess then goes to heating the air inside the oven.

    I don't know if I explained that well enough to be understood, but it sorta makes sense to me.
  19. deltadude

    deltadude Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Thanks PitRow for this answer it explains alot. From my HVAC background heat always goes to cold, funny I overlooked the basic physics of this, maybe why I dropped out of most science classes. It explains that even though my 40" MES took 3 hours to get to desired 225, the 8 racks of ribs had 2 racks with 1/2" pullback, I checked for pullback 30-40 minutes after MES reached set temp. Thus setting the MES to 270 to help the MES rapidly get to set temp of 225, may actually be defeating, since a huge percentage of that 270 heat is going directly into the meat, rather than 225 heat. It would be interesting to know what the percentage of heat during the ramp phase is actually going to the meat. This also explains why recover after meat gets closer to desired set temp doesn't take very long.

    You have to credit the makers of the MES for not making the MES with heat elements to get higher than 275, based on the principle above it makes the MES very idiot proof. If the MES could reach 350 then it wouldn't be low n slow, it would be oven roasting.

    So my idea of 2nd heating element or 2 stage, to help get the MES to desired set temp would be defeating, as all the addition heat would go into the meat during the ramp phase and dry the meat out. Instead a logic circuit with dual probe input (cabinet temp, and meat temp) that measure the meat surface temp and balances the internal cabinet temp (when heat element should be on), would be a better choice. A 3rd probe deep inside of meat to measure doneness temp.
    So when the meat surface reaches the desired cooking temp + say 5 deg the heat element would be cycled off, until set temp less 5 deg, giving a 10 degree spread but still keeping the meat in the right cooking zone.

    Again thanks for your post PitRow
  20. davenh

    davenh Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    I'm not sure I'm buying it.

    Seems the 30 would still have the advantage of cooking the meat faster. The meat gets all the heat it can absorb because the unit has recovered to setpoint and supplying more energy (heat) for the meat to absorb.

    In the 40 the chamber temp is lower for a longer time and struggling to keep up with the load (meat, chamber). I'm not seeing how there is more available energy in this case for the meat to absorb.

    If the ambient temperature surrounding the meat is higher it should cook faster...unless you are talking about radiant heat. But I don't think that applies here.

    Maybe like Illini said...different butts :) Or maybe the internal temp sensor reading isn't very linear during the warm up phase in the 40, it is mounted on the wall.

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