There are so many types of different meat smokers on the market, but electric smokers are by far the most convenient. The most popular model is the Masterbuilt Electric Smoker. Not only is the MES made in America, it only costs a few hundred dollars on Amazon. I wanted to find out everything there was to know about the Masterbuilt—so I put it to the test.
Masterbuilt 30″ Specifications
|Size||19.88 X 20.47x 33.26 inches|
|Rack Dimensions||15x 10 inches|
|Vertical space between racks||5 inches|
What’s In The Box?
- MES Smoker Body
- Digital Control Panel
- 1 x Water Bowl
- Wood Chip Tray
- Drip Pan
- 4 x Cooking Racks
- Wood Chip Loader
- Grease Trap
- 2 x Adjustable Legs
- 2 x Leg Boots
- Air Vent
- Hardware Pack
Masterbuilt 30″ Cooking Capacity
|Chickens||3 large or 6 small chickens|
|Turkey||2 small turkeys|
|Pork Butt (Shoulder)||4|
|Brisket||1 large packer brisket cut in half and placed on separate racks|
Are Electric Smokers Any Good?
Electric smokers aren’t so much about producing the perfect smoked meat. Electrics are all about convenience. Charcoal and wood smokers may produce better flavored meat (as the critics constantly point out), but electrics allow you to smoke meat on days you wouldn’t normally have time to smoke meat. Charcoal grills are time-consuming and require constant babysitting, whereas electric smoker are as easy to use as a conventional oven. This is where many people miss the point of electrics. No matter what the critics say, electric smokers can still produce delicious smoked meat.
Own A Variety Of Smokers – One For Every Occasion
If you’re a barbecue enthusiast, it’s good to have a variety of pits—one for every occasion. An electric smoker is a fantastic addition to your smoker lineup alongside charcoal smokers and pellet grills, etc. If you live a busy life, you’re not always going to have time to fire up your charcoal or wood smoker. This is the main reason I love electric smokers.
Electrics vs Charcoal and Wood
Charcoal and wood smokers are fantastic, but it’s not always suitable to fire up your charcoal or wood pit. Some days, you just can’t be bothered managing a fire—especially if the weather isn’t ideal for outdoor cooking.
The Safest Smoker For Overnight Cooks
My favorite thing about an electric smoker is the ability to do overnight cooks. Charcoal smokers are dangerous to leave unattended, but electrics are the safest smoker on the market. Some pitmasters will leave a charcoal smoker unattended overnight, but I don’t think it’s worth the risk.
Electrics – The Best Winter Smokers
Managing charcoal smokers in winter can be difficult. Not only will you burn through a ton of extra fuel, temperatures may constantly fluctuate in changing conditions. None of this is a problem with an electric smoker. Electrics such as the MES are as easy to use as a conventional oven. You can come over and work, put some meat into your electric, fill the wood chip tray, and turn it on. It’s that simple.
Different MES Models
How To Use The Masterbuilt Electric Smoker
The Masterbuilt 30″ is it easy to use as a conventional oven. All you need to do is fill the wood chip tray with your favorite flavored smoking chips, fill the water pan, and place your meat on the rack.
The Wood Chip Tray
If you are doing long cooks, you may have to re-load the wood chip tray a few times—but this is simple. The MES has an external wood chip tray that you can refill, so you don’t have to open the main door of the smoker.
Is Masterbuilt The Best?
The Masterbuild 30″ isn’t the best smoker on the market. There are definitely a number of better electric smokers on the market—but expect to pay hundreds of dollars. The reason the MES is so popular is that it can get the job done at an affordable price.
How Often Do You Add Wood Chips?
Although the Masterbuilt is called a set-and-forget smoker, you still have to add wood chips every hour— especially on long cooks. Unlike a pellet grill where you can filler 20 lb hopper with wood, the Masterbuilt chip trays only hold a small amount and need to be refilled regularly.
Cooking Area – How Much Can You Cook?
The MES 30” doesn’t have an enormous amount of cooking area, but with some creativity, you can cook a lot of meat. If you’re smoking ribs, you might need to cut the racks in half. This isn’t a problem, because you have three shelves to spread them out. You can smoke 2 or 3 large chickens, (4 chickens if they’re spatchcocked). For larger cuts such as brisket, you may struggle to fit large roasts it into the 30” unless you cut the meat in half. If you have a large brisket, separate the point from the flat and cook them on separate racks.You could comfortably fit about 4 smaller to medium-sized pork butts in a MES 30″ and 2 small turkeys, but I wouldn’t recommend a large bird because it won’t fit.
Temperature Differences Between Racks
As with most smokers, the temperature isn’t always even on all parts of the grill. Usually, the top rack will be about 10 to 20 degrees cooler than the bottom rack. I always place my thermometer probe into my electric to measure the difference. This isn’t a huge issue, but it’s worth keeping in mind. You can either rotate your meat, or just cook the meat on the cooler rack for a little longer.
The Masterbuilt Cons- What’s Wrong With The MES?
For the price, Masterbuilt Electric smokers are great value. However, they aren’t the perfect smokers. When you’re only paying a few hundred dollars, don’t expect high-quality components. If you want quality, see the electric smokers at the bottom of this article or check out this post.
Digital Controller – Cheap And Nasty
One of the biggest criticisms I have of Masterbuilt Electric smokers is the cheap, plastic digital controllers. If you want quality components—look elsewhere. Keep in mind, you’re only spending a few hundred dollars on this smoker, so you shouldn’t expect the digital controller to last forever. However, you will still get to smoke a lot of meat over many years.
The MES Thermometer – Is It Accurate?
I doesn’t matter what smoker you own, never trust the temperature readings on an in-built thermometer. Even if you have an expensive smoker, I would recommend using your own thermometer because factory thermometers are notoriously inaccurate. The Masterbuilt thermometer is no different. Just ignore the temperature readings on the MES because they are wildly inaccurate. For years, I have used the TP20, the number one selling makes the motor on Amazon. It only cost me about $50, and it’s accurate, extremely durable and easy to use.
Insulation and Temperature Stability
Even though it appears the MES has thin aluminium walls, the smoker is well insulated and maintains stable temperatures.
Not Hot Enough- Temperature Range
The MES 30″ has a temperature range between 100° F and 275° F. This range is perfect for low and slow smoking, such as ribs, brisket, pork butts, etc. However, the chicken and turkey, you will not get a nice crispy skin with a maximum temperature of 275° F. When you smoke chicken or turkey at 275° F, the skin ends up a little soft and rubbery. In order to get a crispy skin, you need to smoke in the 300° F range. The easy fix to this problem is to finish the chicken or turkey in a conventional oven. This may sound like a pain, but it’s not really. You get that beautiful smoke flavor from the first part of the cook, and you can crisp out the skin for the last 30 minutes.
Electrics Smokers Produce No Smoke Ring
Unfortunately, you don’t get a nice smoke ring on an electric smoker, which isn’t an enormous problem because it doesn’t add any flavor. The smoke ring results from a series of chemical reactions that occur on the surface of the meat. You can read more about the smoke ring here.
Smoking Tubes – Extra Smoke In The MES
Smoking tubes are one of the best electric smoker hacks and have been a real game-changer for electric owners. One of the biggest criticisms of electric smokers is the lack of smoke flavor when compared to other smokers, such as charcoal smokers, pellet grills, etc.
A smoking tube will double the smoke output. I will give you 12 hours of smoke. A smoking tube holds wood pellets, and will smolder for hours. All you need to do is place it at the bottom of your electric smoker, and do everything else as normal. So your wood chips are dry, smoke at your no more temperature, etc.
The Perfect Smoker for Beginners
The Masterbuilt Electric Smoker is ideal for the beginner. If you want to dip your toes into the world of meat smoking, then a Masterbuilt is a great way to start. Fire management and temperature control are the biggest headaches when you’re starting out smoking meat. A Masterbuilt will allow you to focus more on the meat and the techniques of smoking ribs, brisket, etc. And, once you feel competent, you can upgrade to a charcoal smoker or an offset, and you will already master the basics. Your electric smoker will never go to waste, because there will always be a day where you don’t have time to fire up your charcoal grill, or perhaps the weather isn’t suitable.
Electrics Can Be Boring
Another complaint you hear is that electric smokers just aren’t fun. If you smoked on a charcoal grill or an offset smoker, you would know that it’s a labor of love. Part of the fun is managing a fire, it’s making wood, trying to get a nice smoke etc. Electrics are as exciting to use as a conventional oven. However, the purpose of electrics is convenience.
MES vs The Competition
Masterbuilt is probably the most popular because of its price. However, there are other great smokers on the market, and not all of them are overly expensive. If you want something with a better build quality, and something that may last longer, then consider some of the following electric smokers.
The closest smoker to the Masterbuilt would have to be the Landmann smoker. You can get a Landmann for a few hundred dollars, which puts them in the same price range as a MES. These smokers can hold quite a lot of meat, more than most Masterbuilt models. You can check out this smoker here on Amazon.
Smokin-It range from about $400 through to just under $1,000 with their range of electric smokers. These smokers are well insulated steel box, and hold temperatures really well. Check them out on their website here.
Even though the Masterbuilt is the most affordable electric on the market, it’s not the cheapest. Old Smokey has been around for a while, and you can get one on Amazon for about $100. Old Smokey is an electric drum smoker that’s been around since the 1950s. It doesn’t produce the best smoked meat, but the Old Smokey is good for the price.
Cookshack produces quality electric smokers made in the USA. These smokers are well insulated with double stainless steel walls and they make a variety of different models. Cookshack smokers are expensive, and in the $1,000 range.
Smoking Tex is a good mid-range electric smoker, and a well insulated with five cooking racks which can hold a lot of meat. You can get a smoking tax for around $400-$500, right up to $1700 and beyond. These smokers are made in China, which is why they’re a little cheaper than some of the other good electrics on the market. Check out Smokin Tex here.
My Favorite Meat Smoking Tools
Thanks for checking out this article. I hope you learned a few things. Here are some of my favorite tools I use when smoking brisket that may be useful to you. These are affiliate links, so if you decide to purchase any of these products, I’ll earn a commission. But in all honesty, these are the tools I recommend to my family and friends who are just starting out.
Meat Thermometer: There are dozens of fancy thermometers on the market, but I still use my trusty TP20. For around $50, I have a high-quality meat thermometer with two probes, and can track the temperature of my smoker with one probe, and my meat with the other probe. The ThermoPro TP20 is an Amazon Best Seller because it’s the easiest thermometer to operate, is durable, highly accurate, and comes with pre-programmed meat settings.
Instant Read Thermometer: Arguably, the second most important tool you need is a fast and accurate instant-read thermometer. These tools play an important role in the latter stages of the cook when the meat needs regular checking in multiple areas. I use the ThermoPro TP19 because it can do everything a ThermaPen can do, but for a fraction of the cost. You can check out the TP19 on Amazon here.
Butcher Paper: Wrapping brisket in butcher paper has become a huge trend in barbeque thanks to Aaron Franklin. Wrapping your brisket in paper will give you a nice brisket bark. However, you can’t just use any old paper, it has to be unwaxed, food grade paper. You can find it on Amazon here.
Advanced Thermometer and Automatic Temperature Controller: Once you’re ready to take things seriously, the FireBoard 2 Drive is a six-channel Bluetooth/Wi-Fi thermometer that can monitor up to 6 pieces of meat, control and graph your cook sessions on your smartphone, and attaches to an an automatic blower that will convert your charcoal smoker to a set-and-forget. This is one of the most advanced meat thermometers on the market. You can check it out on the FireBoard website here.