Smoke Hollow & PID Control

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by katherinego, Nov 2, 2015.

  1. Hi all, I am new here so go easy on me. ;). I have the Smoke hollow electric & have just built a PID controller to use with it.

    I was thinking of inserting the temp probe about halfway up the side, a little above the handle to get an accurate reading near the middle of the box. The probe is about 6 inches long. Does that sound like a good plan to you?



  2. old sarge

    old sarge Master of the Pit

    KatherineGo -

    I think you are going to need to experiment a little and move it around some while doing some actual cooking.  I would suggest a rack of ribs. Smoke at whatever temperature you are comfortable with.  For baby back I use 225 (I have a cookshack). They are typically finished to my family's in 5 hours.

     When you do yours, note the weight of the meat, the ambient temperature, the rub you are using, the cooking temperature, and the shelf in use.  Also write down the start time and finish time. On your next smoke, repeat but with the probe in a different location.  Keep a diary.  If your results are to your liking, you may want to leave the probe at the preferred location and do some smokes with the meat on a rack lower and then higher than the probe. 

    I am not sure this makes any sense.  But experiment. When you get the results you like, lock it down.  As an aside, look at the probe placement in your oven. Guessing it is at the top.  On my cookshack (digital) and my brother's smokin-it (analog) the stock/factory probe is above the wood box, close to the heating element.

    Hope this helps.
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2015
  3. Catherine,

    I would like to add my thoughts to the already great advice you got from Old Sarge...

    The actual location where you place the probe (within reason) does not matter nearly as as much as placing it in the same location each time. It is OK to have an offset between the actual temperature of the smoker and the probe temperature displayed/measured by the PID. One can adjust the PID to correct for the offset or one can just mentally adjust for the difference. You can measure the actual temperature in the smoker at various locations using another thermometer to determine the differential with what the probe measures. The differential you measure will vary depending on where you measure (since smokers don't have uniform temperatures within) but you should get a good idea of the average differential.

    I might mention that users of the MES smoker (such as myself) usually take in to account the differential between the temperature the MES display shows and the actual temperature in the box. My MES runs about 20 degrees F cooler than what the display shows so I set it 20 degrees higher than what I want. PIDs are more flexible, because you can program them to compensate for the differential and display closer to the actual temperature.

    Just my thoughts...
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2015
  4. Thanks for the suggestions! I will try to document my procedures.

    I wanted to get smoking today so I removed the stock thermometer probe from the door and drilled out the hole big enough for the PID probe. It is about 2/3rds up from the element. I have a pork but & some pork belly in there now. Hoping for some good eats!

  5. old sarge

    old sarge Master of the Pit

    Keep us posted on the results.  And good luck.
  6. The pork but and belly that I made last week came out delicious! No leftovers!

  7. old sarge

    old sarge Master of the Pit

    No leftovers is good. 
  8. You go girl!

    Could you show us pics of your PID from all sides? I'm thinking about making one for my MES and soaking up all the ideas I can.
  9. old sarge

    old sarge Master of the Pit

    Here is a video for the controller Katherine used. Found it by googling the nomenclature of the controller in the photo.

  10. Sure, I can get that for your tomorrow rabbithutch.

  11. Video shows the TA4, mine is the TD4. Difference is that the TD4 has a manual mode & the TA4 does not.

    If you get on of them know that the wiring diagram is wrong.... the polarity for the DC out to the SSR is reversed.

  12. My results so far have been great tasting, but today's cook was pretty frustrating.

    I started off with pre-heating the smoker to 230.

    Two pork buts, about 13.5 lbs total.

    Ambient temp was 43°. Meat temp was 43°.

    Water tray full of boiling water.

    Lit the chip tray with matches.

    Closed the door and left. 1 hour later temp is stalled at 210° and not climbing.

    I go find my roll of reflectix & wrap the box. Temp starts coming up again.

    It takes another 30 minutes to get to 230° and by that time I need to add water + chips because the element is on 100%.

    While I'm in there I probe with my thermapen. Meat is 100-120°.

    Now it takes another 1.5 hours to get back to temp.... and again it is time for more water + chips + spray.

    On the 3rd cycle I wrapped and put it in the oven at 250°. Meat was 140-150°.

    I know I need to keep the door closed, but I don't remember having such a long recovery time.

    My last cook was one pork but and a pork belly, almost the same weight as what I had today.

    I picked up some bigger foil pans for chips and water.

    Is opening every 1.5 hours too much?

    Still waiting for it to come out of the oven, will let you know how it is.


  13. old sarge

    old sarge Master of the Pit

    Katherine - thanks for clearing up the PID link. 

    I am just guessing here on what the problem might be.

    1. Assuming your heating element has a temperature sensor, it may need cleaning

    2.  In checking the on line manual for the Smoke Hollow Electric, it states to use warm water, not boiling.  The heat from the pan of boiling water may have skewed the temp probe into a false reading.

    3.  Have you smoked/cooked in 43 degree weather before?  The colder temp could exacerbate temp loss so wrapping the box with insulation is a smart move.

    4.  While my smoker is a cookshack, I never use a water pan.  Better bark without adding moisture. And I use wood chunks at the beginning of a smoke and never open the door till the food is done, or nearly done. So in answer to you question about opening the door every 1.5 hours being too much, I would say yes but if it is necessary based upon the way your smoker works then there is no alternative. I was going to suggest trying a solid chunk of wood rather than chips for a longer smoke/less door opening but the SH manual says no. 

    Here is a link to a product that a lot of owners of the Masterbuilt smoker use for producing lots of lazy thin blue smoke.  This eliminates their need to constantly add wood chips.  Contact the company and see if it would work on your smoker. There are some owners of Smokin-it electric smokers who are using it as well as some Cookshack owners. But mostly Masterbuilt.

    Using the search feature at the top of the page yielded this. 

    I hope some of this is helpful.


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