MES Mechanical Design and Build Issues

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by johnmeyer, Jan 28, 2016.

  1. johnmeyer

    johnmeyer Smoking Fanatic

    I have three reasons for this post:
    • Missing screw;
    • Possible heating element design flaw;
    • My mod for better air when using the AMNPS in my 30" MES.
    First, has anyone else noticed a missing screw in that holds the back of the chip tray assembly to the support rails (see pic):

    I noticed this empty hole and just now put a screw and lock washer in there. Do any of you also have an empty hole here, and is it intentional, or was it a build flaw?

    The second issue is what appears to be a really bad design of how the heating element interacts with the chip tray. This photo illustrates the problem:

    Note that on the left side the heating coil is above the rail where the chip holder slides in, thus ensuring that the chip tray will directly contact the coil. However, on the right side, the coil goes underneath the rail, therefore ensuring that the tray cannot touch the coils. I have seen various posts on this subject, with one recent one describing how to cut the right side of the tray so it no longer rests on the support and instead contacts the coils directly. It would seem to me that the correct design would have the tray either contact the coils for the entire width (left to right in this picture) or else have a slight gap, as happens on the right.

    I have definitely noticed the chips burn faster on the left side than on the right. I suppose that this asymmetry could be intentional, in order to even out the "on/off" nature of the chip heating.

    Finally, since I am focusing on the chip tray area, many people advise that, when using the AMNPS in the MES 30, you put that 5x5 tray on the rails on the far left of the above picture and then pull the chip tray out slightly to allow more air to enter from the three small holes in the chip loader. Some people also advise to pull the chip loader out slightly in order to let in more air. A few people even talked about drilling out the holes in the loader to make them bigger. I don't like doing mods that are impossible to undo, so my "solution" was to replace the chip loader, when using the AMNPS, with the remains of my failed attempt at my own cold smoker attachment. As you can see from this picture, I have more holes and they are larger, thus letting in much more air. I have a version of this same modification that uses the center hole to hold a vent cover like the one at the bottom of a Weber kettle grill that you can rotate to partially cover the holes and continuously regulate airflow. I haven't found the need to put that back on, and this seems to provide plenty of air to the AMNPS.

    The crinkled end fits into the chip loader hole.

    Any comments, suggestions, or insights are most welcome!
  2. dr k

    dr k Master of the Pit

    I have two MES 40 Gen 1's from different production batches because I had to wait a month for the replacement to come over on the boat from China.  I fixed the damaged one I originally got on Amazon after MB sent me the replacement.  Both smokers are missing the same rivet or bolt.  I noticed it when I was waiting for the new smoker to arrive and found both were missing the rivet so I just let it be.  The heating elements on both were touching/laying on the parallel wire supports.  The new smoker chip tray kinda sags lower on the right side.  The tray wasn't square when it was assembled.  

    I do put a couple briquettes in the chip tray for a smoke ring when I heat up the smoker.  Other than that all other combustibles I prefer on the outside of the smoker.  No fires with the AMNPS being too close to the heating element.  No drips putting out the AMNPS or creating a grease fire.  I never want to open the smoker to screw with the AMNPS ever again so I did the minimalist mailbox mod.  Less than $20.00 shown in the pic below.  It's permanently attached to the stand so it's not going anywhere.  The whole mod is under NASCAR Mailbox Mod.

  3. johnmeyer

    johnmeyer Smoking Fanatic

    So, just so I am clear, your only source of smoke, other than occasionally putting a briquette into the MES chip tray, is the AMNPS which you put into the mailbox mod?

    As far as the other advantages of using the mailbox mod when doing hot smoking, since the AMNPS is capable of burning for the length of even a pulled pork smoke, is there any other hassle you avoid other than the drip issue? I've considred doing the mailbox mod. In fact that tin can and duct elbow in my picture above was my $0.10 attempt at an external smoking attachment. I fueled it with a single lit briquette, filling up the can with chips, but I couldn't control it very well, so I gave up.

    I thought the main advantage of the mailbox mod was for cold smoking, to condense the creosote before it enters the smoker. Creosote seems like a much bigger issue in a cold smoke when there is no heat to carry it away, and it therefore can condense on the food. When using the AMNPS for a hot smoke, I didn't see much of an advantage to the mailbox mod compared to putting the 5x5 directly onto the rails in the MES, now that Masterbuilt has included those rails. In earlier MES versions, I've seen posts where people complained that it was hard to find a good location to put the AMNPS.

    The dripping you mention definitely is an issue, but so far, a sheet of aluminum foil on the lowest food tray seems to solve that problem. I guess if I used all four trays and loaded them all with food, this would no longer solve the problem, but I've never smoked that much food all at once.

    I'm just asking because I'm still learning ...
  4. dr k

    dr k Master of the Pit

    Even when the AMNPS has performed flawlessly and your not ready to foil a pork Butt to push through the stall yet and you decide that your done applying smoke and you just need to get the AMNPS out of the chamber your product is smoking in, that's one too many times to open the door to let out heat and baby step the Mes back to the temp it was at without over shooting it and having long heating cycles.  Bearcarver has a thread on resetting your smoker lower after you open it so it shuts down and coasts up to your desired temp and then you reset the smoker in one or two steps to get back to the original temp without going way too high and waiting for the  temp to come down.  Mr T 59874 explained the cold smoking advantage of getting the smoke generator outside the heated cooking chamber like you said. 

    I tested my mailbox mod for smoke generation and air flow for six hours the other day and averaged 180*F in the smoker and did a reverse seared steak at the end.  The temp outside was in the mid 30's.  After six hours of smoking the window was clear as crystal.  Even without the flex hose most mailbox mods have the mailbox was condensing/drying the smoke being out in the cool air, from resin and creosote before getting to the food.  Like Mr T explained hot smoking is different than cold smoking.  When hot smoking some people like a strong smoke flavor and others not so much.  I want to get a dryer, cleaner smoke whether hot or cold smoking.  Many hours of quality smoke for presevation, color and flavor.  Like MR T has mentioned I have seen refrigerator mods that have drainage tile going 25 ft. half under ground from the smoke end to the refrigerator.  Looks like I need to get an aluminum flex hose for cold smoking.

  5. miatawnt2b

    miatawnt2b Fire Starter

    My MES30 is missing the same screw. I Noticed teh heating element issue as well, but I don't use the chip tray. I have a setup very similar to your cold smoke attachment made out of an elbow, a qt paint can and a soldering iron.
  6. Hi John, Take a look at the riverrat damper. It uses the can idea and has a damper attached. It looks like you could manage the draft a little better with it than yours.  Just a thought. Jted
  7. johnmeyer

    johnmeyer Smoking Fanatic

    I'm using the AMNPS now for low-temp smokes, like the 160 degrees I use for hot-smoked salmon. If I start doing a LOT of cold smoking, I think I'll just quit trying to be so clever and build a variation of the mailbox mod. Everyone seems to think that works well. I see if I can find the damper you are talking about and see what it does, although as I mentioned in my above post, the center hole in the can was originally used to hole a circular damper that looks just like the damper in the bottom of a traditional Weber kettle charcoal grill.
  8. John , You are right those who use the mail box mod are very happy with it.  I have posted a shot of my RiverRat damper. It is easy to make up and the original post by RiverR

     can be searched.     Jted
  9. johnmeyer

    johnmeyer Smoking Fanatic

    Yup, that's pretty much exactly what mine looks like. As I said, it was removed in that picture I posted.

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