Notes on Masterbuilt smoker

Russell Bateman
December 2015
last update:

I got this smoker for Christmas, 2015. I had been without a smoker since my "bullet" (or R2D2) smoker electric element burned out a few years ago. I wanted something a little nicer, easier to use and to maintain. After buying it for $150, I discovered that it had gone up at Amazon by about $20 immediately and I began seeing it elsewhere up in the $200+ range.

Masterbuilt 30" Digital Smoker, model 20070910, serial AK111528
Purchased from Amazon

$150 smoker
$ 16 cover                       (pleases my wife's sense of aesthetics)
$ 56 stand                       (lifts unit to a workable height for old or lazy men)
$ 12 basket to keep wood chips   (from Home Depot, very handy)
$234                             (free shipping because Amazon Prime member)

$  6 Bag of pecan wood chips     (from Home Depot; you only use a cup at a time)

These photos taken before first use (obviously). The last one is after it had begun smoking its first load, though the smoke isn't too visible. Click any image to see it bigger.

Starting instructions and notes
  1. Remove cover.
  2. Press ON.
  3. You must set temperature, hours and minutes for the smoker to run!
  4. Press SET TEMP.
  5. Press +/- to set maximum temperature.
  6. Press SET TEMP.
  8. Press SET TIME.
  9. Press +/- to set number of hours to run.
  11. Press SET TIME.
  12. Press +/- to set number of minutes to run.
  13. Press SET TIME.
  14. Only now will the smoker begin to run!
  15. Always install the wood-chip loader device even if not using.
  16. Always install the water pan device even if not filling with any liquid.
  17. Smoke away!
  18. Press OFF and adjust meat as you like.
  19. Allow to cool.
  20. Wipe down door seal with a damp cloth.
  21. Replace cover.


Don't fill the water pan to the brim because it will fill with drippings from the meat and overflow. I suggest half-way only.

Resist the temptation to open the smoker to see what's going on inside. You'll lose a good ten minutes if you open it for even the time to pull meat out and put it back in.

As noted in accounts elsewhere on this page, it's a good idea to wrap the meat in foil at the end of the smoke proper, then continue running the smoker to finish it off.

A note on setting the time...

Unless you're going to leave it unattended and are afraid of burning, set the time insanely high—hours longer than you plan to smoke. This way, the smoker doesn't turn off on you letting you come out to check on it only to find it turned off and cold.

My rub recipe

Here's my recipe for pork. I might change it up a bit for beef ribs or brisket, but I haven't done enough of that to have an opinion and it's not bad—maybe a little sugary—for that.

I don't measure anything, just dump likely quantities into an old, large-gauge spice bottle with sprinkle cap and shake.

In this table, relative quantities are given. For example, "lots and lots" might be a cup, whereas lots would be one-half cup and little one tablespoon to a quarter cup.

quantity ingredient
lots and lots brown sugar
lots kosher salt
lots mustard powder
little onion powder
lots chili powder
little fresh-ground black powder
little Cayenne pepper*

* Don't shy away from the Cayenne pepper: this is a rub. It's not like your mouth is going to wade through it. Most of the rub will fall away in smoking having done its job. The Cayenne really picks the meat up and makes it shine. My advice is, if you're squeamish, to add it in very small, then greater and greater quantities until it begins to annoy you, then back off—there's your relative amount.

Don't reuse the rub falling off the meat as an ingredient for your sauce. First, it's probably got too high a percentage of sugar. Second, it's microbiologically unsuitable (read: it has potentially developing pathogens).

Barbecue sauce

Yes, I use a garden-variety, store-bought sauce, but sparingly myself. I don't slather a lot on and I don't apply it in the smoker (which doesn't need help getting filthy dirty).

A short rant on dried out meat...

You know you go to those places where everything's dried out and you ask for it wet which means to those cretins who know nothing about barbecue that they put lots of sauce on before serving.

That's when I stop going to such a place (unless it belongs to a dear and cherished friend.)

Stop smoking, especially small cuts like ribs, before they start to dry out. Wrap them tight and finish off slowly.

First trial: pulled pork and back ribs (November, 2015)

I bought a 3.3lb Boston butt and a rack of baby backs to try first. I also bought some smaller pecan wood chips from Home Depot; they were out of apple. I rubbed both in plastic wrap overnight in the refrigerator.

2½ hours at 225° (keeping the vent at the top as closed as it would go)

I used only a cup of small wood chips because the loader only holds that much and the instructions cautioned not to use more than that at a time. (In my old bullet smoker, I used to heap large quantities of chips in which made a mess, used them up fast and didn't add much to it. Of course, the bullet smoker leaked smoke from all over and the chips were quickly exhausted. Not so this unit.)

We ate the rack pretty much right away, but I had to finish the shoulder roast in the oven for a couple of hours at 300° before pulling it.

The rack could have been a little more "fall off the bone," though it was delicious.

The perennial problem with finishing anything in the oven is that, just as cooking bacon, the house will smell for days. Masterbuilt suggests in their literature using the smoker itself, without additional chips, to finish off a foil-wrapped cut of meat after smoking.

Second trial: four racks of baby-back ribs (early December, 2015)

Rubbed as before. See recipe somewhere above.

I smoked the four racks for a couple of hours. What you're looking for here is not to dry them out: fill the water bowl, watch the time and temperature.

The first trial taught me to try to finish any meat inside the smoker itself. This is what I did this time. While eating the meat inside the house still brought some smoke odor inside, it quickly dissipated and the house did not smell as if I'd smoked anything.

So I wrapped the ribs in foil and left them for another hour. I inserted the probe of an electronic thermometer dangled through the smoke vent at the top to keep watch on the process. The ribs, wrapped, got up into the 190° range. The meat was beginning to separate from the bone, but only just. I discovered that the smoker had shut down earlier than I planned.

We chowed down, but could have waited just a bit longer, however, the ribs were better than the first trial. I learned to double the time setting for the smoker as long as I'm actually watching it myself. This is a note I placed above.

Third trial: beef brisket (31 December 2015)

I bought a brisket from Costco and cut it in half because I don't need the whole thing at once. I sealed the two halves with a food seal-a-meal. Later, I selected one of the halves, it had a bit of flap and a good fat cap. It weighed just under 5 pounds.

Rub as already noted. However, someone from Texas told me that you really only need salt and pepper. He also recommended injection of beef broth and to wrap the brisket by the time it crosses over 150°. Others said to spritz with apple-cider vinegar. Still another said to add charcoal briquets to the wood chips.

So, these are my plans:

Smoking a brisket
for New Year's Eve.

  1. Rub.
  2. Water and apple-cider vinegar in water pan.
  3. Add three charcoal briquets to wood pan before the chips.
  4. Inject roast with beef broth.
  5. Roast on center rack.
  6. Configure smoker for temperature (250°) and time (12 hours).
  7. Inject with beef broth.
  8. Spritz periodically with apple-cider vinegar.
  9. When reaches 150°, wrap in foil and return to smoker.
  10. When brisket reaches close to 200°, pull it from smoker.
  11. Leaving in foil wrap, wrap the whole thing again in a big towel and hold in a cooler where it will continue to sweat.*

* I might not have time or inclination to do this step.

Note on "smoke ring." The reason one does not get much of a smoke ring when smoking electrically is that this ring comes from carbon monoxide in a traditional, fire-based approach. With electric smoking, you get a lot less to no ring at all, but you nevertheless do get good smoke flavor.


I was unhappy because it was too dry. It was not as dry as other brisket I havfe eaten, but I'm used to ordering my brisket—from Five Star, Bam-Bam's or R&R—"wet enough that you have to send a lifeguard in after me."

Fourth trial: mixed meats (20 March 2016)

For Julene's birthday, I'm smoking: