Uneven vertical smoker temperature.

  • I am new to snack stick and sausage making and bought a Smoke Hollow 3616 digital electric vertical smoker to be able to use the low temperature drying and smoking features. It’s a simple ad straightforward smoker with heating element, wood chip drawer and water pan on the bottom and temperature probe and controller on top. I started a batch of snack sticks the other night by taking all of the racks out and suspending the snack sticks on dowels in place of the top rack. I put a remote thermometer probe in the center of one of the snack sticks in the center of the group. There were about a dozen snack sticks doubled over three dowels and were not crowded. I had no problems with the drying or smoking cycles and the internal meat temperature came up to 120F or so. I raised the setpoint temperature to the recommended 155F and then to 180F to finish the snack sticks. After an hour or so, the internal meat temperature had only gotten to around 140F so I raised the setpoint to around 200F. I had a remote thermometer in the top damper vent to monitor the temperature inside the smoker and it pretty well agreed with the controller. After another hour, the internal meat temperature had not gotten above 145F, so I hunted around and found my oven temperature thermometer. I hung it off my meat probe so that I could see the air temperature. It stabilized at 160F with the top and bottom of the smoke chamber at 200F. I couldn’t imagine how that could be, but here it was and the snack sticks would never hit 160F internal temperature at the probe without the tops and bottoms overcooking. I’m guessing that the heat was coming up the walls and escaping through the top damper, which could not be closed any further. I pulled the snack sticks out and finished them to 160F in my kitchen oven in just a few minutes after ours of no change in the smoker. They came out fine, but left me with no explanation of why the center of the smoker was colder than the top or bottom. Has any one else experienced such a phenomenon?

  • wgiles I am not that familiar with ur smoker. I would say it is not insulated well if u are seeing that much temp difference. I do know with electric smokers it verys in temp since it’s an on and off thing with the element but it should regulate after a period of time. Ambient temp could be an Influence as well. Consider finishing off in a water bath at 170. Once U get the smoke and color you like. Hope this helps a little

  • The smoker is double wall with a glass door. I don’t know whether there is any insulation between the inner and outer walls or just air space. Wind could be a factor, especially in the flatlands of central Illinois where the wind never stops, just changes direction. I set the smoker up in as sheltered a location as I could, but it has to be outside and, being electric, it has to be near an outlet. Now that I am aware of the issue, it isn’t really a problem. If I see that the meat temperature isn’t rising, I just finish it somewhere else. Once the smoking is done, it really doesn’t matter. I had thought about a water bath, but didn’t have one set up, so I used what was available. Since this is a relatively tall vertical smoker, I had let the snack sticks get pretty long, about 24" doubled over. This works fine in that smoker, but doesn’t fit much of anything else, save the oven. For the next batch, I shortened the snack sticks to about 18" doubled and this is much easier to work with. When I get time, I’ll set the smoker up with several oven thermometers on different racks and see if I can duplicate or change the phenomenon. One thing that I can see is that water is condensing on the glass door panel and running down it as I cook. The water pan never completely dries up even after six hours of continuous use. I don’t see any condensation on the snack stick casings, which would indicate that the glass door panel is colder than they are. I had thought about putting a piece of aluminum foil over the glass door panel to try to reflect some of the heat back in. this may show how things are made to look good, but not necessarily work well.

  • Team Blue Admin Walton's Employee Power User

    wgiles The good thing is that you are able to get them to 140° F in the smoker, that is the key. After that period you can absolutely pull them from the smoker and finish them in an oven but a better idea might be to finish them in water. Parksider changed the way a lot of people do stick and summer sausage here a few years ago when he said he smokes to 130° (or so) pulls them from the smoker and finishes them up in water. He does his in a big pot with an adjutable burner but there are countless ways to do this. I have done it with a sous vide cooker (just know that since the sous vide circulator sucks the water in and heats it before recirculating it that you need to vac seal you meat or risk ruining it) on a stove and in roaster. Get your water to around 170° and you will be done with sticks in about an hour and a half or so.

    I don’t even use bags anymore unless I am using my sous vide circulator (reason above) it took a while but Parksider finally convinced me that it does not leech out the smoke or seasoning flavor from the meat. Queue his celebration dance!

  • Jonathon I have a water bath that I could use for that and I have seen where a roaster has been used. Since I don’t have a vacuum chamber machine, I would prefer not to vacuum bag the sausages or snack sticks and I would still want to use my internal temperature probe.

  • Team Blue Admin Walton's Employee Power User

    wgiles Yeah as long as you have something where you don’t have to worry about the water being sucked into a filter and then heated and put back in you should be fine. My worry with that is that fat and oils will build up and destroy that type of unit. If you dont have a vac sealer but still want to use bags, you can also use good thick zip lock bags. Just leave the top open, push it under water until just the zipper is above it and then zip it closed. It’s not perfect but it does work!

  • Jonathon You’ve given me several ideas to work on, thanks.

  • Power User Canning Team Orange Regular Contributors Veteran Masterbuilt

    Jonathon I have used a water bath in the past in a large pot on the stove and it worked very well and I put a candy thermometer in it to check temp .

  • Team Orange Sous Vide Regular Contributors

    Sous vide 1000% I stayed away from 2.5" casings for summer sausage in the past due to the insane time in the smoker. I now smoke to 130deg and finish naked in the water. may never use 1.5" casings again! Use a elcheapo cooker from amazon and a 40qt storage tote.(didnt want to drop a lot of coin till I was sure it would work) Going to use a cooler next time. Takes a while for the little 1k watt cooker to heat the water.

  • Team Blue Canning

    smokinbubba Use a cheap electric roaster like Grandma used to cook turkey’s in. Works great! 👍

  • Team Orange Sous Vide Regular Contributors

    I don’t know if I can get 7 2.5"x24"(15lbs) bologna logs in one and that’s the normal batch for me. I will try it on small test batches tho.

  • Team Blue Admin Walton's Employee Power User

    smokinbubba I’ve done it in the huge red bologna casings. Works great, it just takes a little longer obviously. I set it just a few degrees above the target temp and prepared for a few hours. Had many people say that was the best thing I made up to that point and I sort of agreed. 130° in the PK gets enough smoke in my mind, not all smokers are going to be the exact same though.

  • Team Blue Canning

    smokinbubba I can get 25# of sausage in mine. $40 at Wally World for the big one.

  • Team Blue Admin Walton's Employee Power User

    wgiles Your dog in your profile is insanely cute by the way!

  • That was his baby picture around 2004. He was a happy dog.

  • smokinbubba Do you vacuum seal the 24" logs before sous vide in the tote? I’m wanting to finish my snack sticks this way but don’t have reasonable capability to vacuum seal long sections of sticks.

  • Team Blue Admin Walton's Employee Power User

    Christopher Beach That’s a matter of choice. IN my opinion, if you cook them up to 130 before you put them in the water then they dont need to be vac sealed. Direct exposure to the water does not water log it or remove the smoke or seasoning flavor. If you pull it before 130 I cant say for sure. Also, if you have a sous vide cooker that has a pump that draws water in, heats it and then shoots it back out you might want to vac seal it to prevent any fats or pieces of casings to clog the filter.

  • Team Orange Sous Vide Regular Contributors

    Christopher Beach I do not. naked for mine

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