Temp Fluctuation on MES 30 inch

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by jkeith, Mar 1, 2017.

  1. jkeith

    jkeith Newbie

    New to smoking and have bought a MES 30 inch digital electric.  Used it for the second time yesterday smoking some summer sausage that I had made.  After that experience I have a couple of questions:

    1.  I set the temp at 170 degrees but noticed that it would heat to about 178, then the heat element would shut off and stay off until the temp dropped to around 162, then it would heat up again...so, wasn't able to hold a steady 170 degree temp.  Is this normal?  When a recipe says to smoke at 170 degrees are you really smoking at an average temp of 170 but it is constantly fluctuating +/- 8 degrees or so during the process?

    2.  I took the advice of many of you and purchased a second thermometer...A Maverick ET model.  The Maverick registers about 7 degrees cooler than the one built into the smoker.  Should I assume that the Maverick is more accurate than the one that is built into the smoker?  The food probe that comes with the smoker registered about 5 degrees cooler than the Maverick...again, is the advice to trust the external thermometer or the one built into the smoker?

    3.  I was smoking 5 summer sausages (20 inch in length) and wonder if that is too many to smoke at one time in the 30 inch smoker.  The entire process took 13 hours to reach an IT of 156.  10 of those hours was smoking at 170.  Air temp was in the 60's.  Didn't expect it to take that long, but the results look good.  Also do you test the IT of each sausage or just have one as your temp test.  I ended up putting an instant read thermometer in each one at the end but it did cause juice to escape from the holes made by the thermometer.  So, do you need to test each one or is one good enough. Maybe I'm sounding paranoid...just don't want to make anyone sick by undercooking something.  Like I said, I'm new to all this.

    Thanks for the input!!!!
  2. johnmeyer

    johnmeyer Smoking Fanatic

    Several quick answers.

    All ovens cycle on and off because it is very difficult to build a power controller that gradually diminishes the energy being sent to the heating element. Thus, the oven temperature will fluctuate around the set point.

    The MES intentionally makes the hysteresis larger (that is the fancy word that describes the difference in temperature between when the heat turns off to when it turns back on again). This is done so that the chips get heated for a long enough time that they "catch" and begin to smoulder.

    You are smoking at a fairly low temperature. The MES may, or may not, be able to produce consistent smoke at this temperature. This is one of the major flaws in the MES design, because the same mechanism that is providing the cooking heat is also producing the smoke. MES sells an external smoke generator, designed to provide smoke for "cold smoking," but which also lets you do smokes at lower temperatures (i.e., anything under the ubiquitous 225 degrees F that is so common). You might want to first do some smokes at 225F and then progress to lower temperatures until you start having problems. Before I got the AMNPS (the usual solution to this problem) I tried several salmon smokes, where the recipe called for starting at 160F. I never got the result I was looking for. Now that I have my AMNPS (and more recently, my own external "mailbox mod"), I get a much better result.

    The Maverick should be tested in boiling and freezing water (i.e., do your own calibration), but in general, you want to rely on its reading, and not the built-in thermometer(s) in the MES which are notoriously wrong.

    What I do is to set the MES to some temperature, and then after half an hour or so, make a change to the setting, up or down, so that I get a reading on the Maverick that matches what my recipe calls for.

    So, the MES works really well when you set it to 225-275F, but not as well when you start using settings below 180F.
  3. Hi JKieth
    The element is either on or off with the mes hence the temp fluctuations. 8* isn't too bad mine usually starts out coasting closer to 30* over my set temp and then starts to narrow down as the smoker and meat get saturated with heat. The colder it is outside the bigger the fluctuation. I pick the middle of the fluctuation as where I determine my set point and use my maverick for true temp the mes therms are usually way off. You should test the maverick probe in boiling water to see how accurate it is (just the end of the probe they are not waterproof also check what temp water boils at for the elevation where you live). Move the maverick probe to different spots up down front back and side to side to find out where your hot spots are. Mine varied by 30 * inside the cabinet but there are solutions to even the Temps out once you know where the highs and lows are. With your sausage your fine with 5 in there they just need enough room around them for airflow. With summer sausage I would test each one for temp but not something like snack sticks. Also with sausage know your actual cabinet temp. If you are above 180 the fat will start to render and affect your results. 10 hrs or longer is normal for SS. If you want to shorten your time you can smoke till you get the color your after and finish in a water bath but you need to keep the water moving and temp around 160. For me the mes works fine below 180* but needs mods to do so like external smoke source and as previously posted. Mine gets used almost exclusively for sausage or cold smoking.
  4. tallbm

    tallbm Master of the Pit

    Hi there and welcome!

    Johnmeyer gave some really good info.

    I'm an MES40 owner.  You are running into the same things every MES owner runs into.

    1. The MES will fluctuate over and under. I was getting as bad as 25 degrees when checking with my Maverick.  Basically the MES will give you an average rather than a steady temp.

    2. If you've tested your Maverick then it will be the truth.  The MES probes are notorious for being off, just search around and see.

    3. The time sounds right for the temp you have set.  I just did 8 pounds of pork belly (cut into two 4 pound halves) at a smoker temp 165F and it took roughly 12 hours to hit an IT (Internal Temp) of 145F. 

    Some things to consider going forward:

    1. The MES is physically constructed quite well BUT has some limitations.  Just know these limitations are pretty much standard for electric smokers that are in the same class as the MES (google and check it out)

    2. The MES controller behavior and Probe temp accuracy are things you cannot really change and are a very common issue with the MES.  Again this is similar to other electric smokers.  You can get around the probe accuracy with the Maverick dual probe thermometer.

    3.  As johnmeyer mentioned the MES has a design issue when it comes to smoking at lower temps (under like 200F I believe).  The element will not get hot enough for long enough to smoke your wood/pellets.  The solution everyone goes to is to use the A-Maze-N Pellet Smoker (AMNPS).  This thing is awesome.  Also most people make the Mailbox Modification in addition to the using the AMNPS, they simply go hand in hand.  With this setup you can smoke at any temps or cold smoke with the MES not even being turned on!  This is a fairly painless solution and produces excellent results so you will likely wind up going this route like everyone else.

    4. The only fix you will have for the MES controller overshooting and droping under with temps is to rewire the MES so power goes directly to the heating element (including the safety temp switch in the wiring) and by using a 3rd party PID controller to control the temp.  This actually isn't too complicated.  If you do this though the onboard smoking mechanism is no longer viable as the element will only be cut on for short periods of time to maintain the heat in the smoker once the temp is hit.  Again the mailbox mod and AMNPS makes this a non issue.

    5. Finally, there is no air stirring in the MES so no matter what you will not have even temps throughout the smoker.  This is just a fact of life and the reason why ovens using a stirring fan.  You basically just have to live with this or try and create some heat deflecting situations inside the smoker. 

    I'm going to mod my MES with a convection oven fan very soon to resolve this issue but have found that as long as you don't load more than 1.5 racks worth of meat you can get consistent enough temps without stirring air

    Again, this is the nature of an electric smoker and many non electric smokers (with even temps and air stirring) so don't get down, simply work with reality and learn how to make it work with you :)

    Anyhow I hope this info helps :)
  5. jkeith

    jkeith Newbie

    A lot of good info fellas....thanks for the responses!!!!

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