is supported by our Pitmaster Club. Also, when you buy with links on our site we may earn a finder’s fee. Click to see how we test and review products.

Masterbuilt 30″ Electric Digital Smokehouse with Top Control Review

Share on:

The Masterbuilt 30″ Electric Digital Smokehouse with Top Control, (also made with the Cabela’s label), is a clever concept, with flawed execution. We get regular emails from people whose MBES are malfunctioning, more than any other grill or smoker. They have a few other electric models and all have some interesting features but Buyer Beware! We bought two of these back to back. The first one died. After testing, we gave the second one to a local fire station where it burst into flames. On July 18, 2013 Masterbulit recalled a simliar model to this due to Fire Hazard:

This Top Control Smoker is a compact front-loading steel cabinet with plastic trim. The exterior is black and the interior is aluminum. Outside dimensions are approximately 19″ x 18″ x 34″ including 2″ for the controller at the top. It weighs about 50 pounds. Rear legs are adjustable but there are no wheels. Internal dimensions are 26.5″ high x 15″ wide 13″ deep for a total of 2.5 cubic feet. Unfortunately the four chrome plated shelf racks are not big enough for large slabs of ribs without cutting or rolling them. A small slab of baby backs can fit if laid corner to corner. It has a 650 watt element.

The hardiness of this unit is the major concern for an otherwise good concept. There is a digital thermostat with a range of 100 to 275°F, a 0-24 hour digital timer with auto shut-off, and a simple control panel on the top that allows you to set the time and temp. The LEDs are a little hard to read in bright light and, alas, after a winter and summer outdoors under a waterproof cover, the thermostat and LEDs on our 2006 model failed. We got emails from several other buyers complaining of the same problem on more recent models. The warranty is for 90 days. We bought a replacement controller for  $33, but calibration was off and the unit ran about 20°F below the set temperature. So we bought a new smoker and after a year it was also about 20°F off with no apparent way to recalibrate. But once it hit a temp, it was very good at holding it so we just dangled a digital probe in the chimney vent and used it to set the controller. Our second Masterbuilt Electric Smoker was used only rarely. It sat outdoors in Chicago under a cover through the winter. After two years the LEDs in the display on the digital controller began failing, making it hard to read the numbers. After three years the controller died. In five years we had two MBES die on us.

You get what you pay for with Masterbuilt, so make sure you order a cover (a Weber kettle cover will work), and consider taking it indoors in winter if you live in a cold climate.

The MBES has an adjustable door latch and door gaskets that make the box very tight. It is well insulated and had a clever wood chip tray for adding wood from the side without opening the door. This keeps temp and moisture in the cooking chamber constant. You can also look into the hole and see how much wood is left inside. Neat. There is a small stainless steel water pan that is easy to clean. The drip pan on the bottom drains to a grease tray located on the rear. This location might make it awkward to get at if you plan to install the unit under a counter. On the other hand, if you leave it in the open, you and your dog will have no trouble getting at it.

There is a damper on the top but no instructions on when to open and when to close it. We recommend you leave it wide open to prevent creosote buildup. You can run cables for a digital thermometer through the vents. An ash removal tray makes cleanup easy, and the fuse is easy to access.

Speaking of the manual, it is a bit lean and many owners point this out. There are some simple recipes, but none for brisket, just exactly the type of heavy clod of meat that electric smokers like this excel at.

When smokers and grills come from the factory there is often oil and other residue from the manufacturing process on the metal parts. To break it in, you should fire it up to a high temp, load in some wood to create smoke, let it burn for a few hours, and then let it cool. Here again, the manual gave no instruction for a break in and seasoning procedures. But sure enough, when we fired up the MBES, it pumped out noxious fumes for 30 minutes and almost certainly would have ruined the first meal. Since we complained to our readers about this matter MB apparently began inserting a flyer on the subject in the box and have now included seasoning instructions in the manual. For more info read Calibrating and Seasoning Your Grill.

Finally, it must be stated that we found their customer service to be poor, and reader comments seem to agree.

  • Model:
    30" Electric Digital Smokehouse with Top Control
  • Item Price:
    $ 230.00
  • Where to buy (buying from this supplier supports this website):
  • Made in USA:
  • Review Method:
    Cooked On It
    We have hands-on experience testing this product. We have also gathered info from the manufacturer, owners and other reliable sources.
  • Primary Function:
  • Fuel:
  • Primary Capacity:
    730 square inches

Published On: 3/29/2013 Last Modified: 2/24/2021

  • Meathead - Founder and publisher of, Meathead is known as the site's Hedonism Evangelist and BBQ Whisperer. He is also the author of the New York Times Best Seller "Meathead, The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling", named one of the "100 Best Cookbooks of All Time" by Southern Living.


High quality websites are expensive to run. If you help us, we’ll pay you back bigtime with an ad-free experience and a lot of freebies!

Millions come to every month for high quality tested recipes, tips on technique, science, mythbusting, product reviews, and inspiration. But it is expensive to run a website with more than 2,000 pages and we don’t have a big corporate partner to subsidize us.

Our most important source of sustenance is people who join our Pitmaster Club. But please don’t think of it as a donation. Members get MANY great benefits. We block all third-party ads, we give members free ebooks, magazines, interviews, webinars, more recipes, a monthly sweepstakes with prizes worth up to $2,000, discounts on products, and best of all a community of like-minded cooks free of flame wars. Click below to see all the benefits, take a free 30 day trial, and help keep this site alive.

Post comments and questions below


1) Please try the search box at the top of every page before you ask for help.

2) Try to post your question to the appropriate page.

3) Tell us everything we need to know to help such as the type of cooker and thermometer. Dial thermometers are often off by as much as 50°F so if you are not using a good digital thermometer we probably can’t help you with time and temp questions. Please read this article about thermometers.

4) If you are a member of the Pitmaster Club, your comments login is probably different.

5) Posts with links in them may not appear immediately.



Click for comments...


These are not ads or paid placements. These are some of our favorite tools and toys.

These are products we have tested, won our top awards, and are highly recommend. Click here to read how we test, about our medals, and what they mean.

Use Our Links To Help Keep Us Alive

A big part of this site is our unbiased equipment and product reviews. We love playing with toys and we have no problem calling them the way we see them. Some companies pay a finder’s fee if a reader clicks a link on and buys a product. It has zero impact on our reviews, zero impact on the price you pay, and the sites never tell us what you bought, but it has a major impact on our ability to keep this site alive! So before you buy, please click our links. Here’s a link that takes you to a page on Amazon that has some of our favorite tools and toys:

Finally, A Great Portable Pellet Smoker

Green Mountain Grills Trek smoker

Green Mountain Grills Trek smoker

Green Mountain’s portable Trek Smoker is one mean tailgating and picnic machine. But it’s also gaining popularity with people who want to add a small, set it and forget it pellet smoker to their backyard arsenal. And with their WiFi capabilities you can control and monitor Trek from your smart phone or laptop.

Click here to read our detailed review and to order

Is This Superb Charcoal Grill A Kamado Killer?

The PK-360, with 360 square inches of cooking space, this rust free, cast aluminum charcoal grill is durable and easy to use. Four-way venting means it’s easy to set up for two zone cooking with more control than single vent Kamado grills. It is beautifully designed, completely portable, and much easier to set up for 2-zone cooking than any round kamado.

Click here to read our detailed review of the PK 360

Click here to order directly and get an exclusive deal

Compact Powerful Sear Machine For Your Next Tailgater

Char-Broil’s Grill2Go x200 is a super-portable, fun little sizzler made of heavy, rust-proof cast aluminum. The lid snaps shut. Grab the handle and you’re off to the party! Char-Broil’s TRU-Infrared design produces searing heat while reducing fuel consumption. A 16 ounce LP gas canister is enough to keep you flipping burgers for hours.

Click here to read our detailed review and to order


Comprehensive Temperature Magnet With 80+ Important Temps temperature magnet
Winner of the National BBQ Association’s product of the year award. This 8.5″ x 11″ magnet contains more that 80 benchmark temperatures for meats (both USDA recommended temps as well as the temps chefs recommend), fats and oils, sugars, sous vide, eggs, collagens, wood combustion, breads, and more. Although it is not certified as all-weather, we have tested it outdoors in Chicago weather and it has not delaminated in three years, but there is minor fading.

Click here to order.

Masterbuilt MPS 340/G ThermoTemp XL Propane Smoker

This is the first propane smoker with a thermostat, making this baby foolproof. Set ThermoTemp’s dial from 175° to 350°F and the thermostat inside will adjust the burner just like an indoor kitchen oven. All you need to do is add wood to the tray above the burner to start smokin’.

Click here to read our detailed review

Our Favorite Backyard Smoker

The amazing Karubecue is the most innovative smoker in the world. The quality of meat from this machine is astonishing. At its crux is a patented firebox that burns logs above the cooking chamber and sucks heat and extremely clean blue smoke into the thermostat controlled oven. It is our favorite smoker, period.
Click here for our review of this superb smoker

Surely you know somebody who loves outdoor cooking who deserves a gift for the holidays, birthday, anniversary, or just for being wonderful. There he is, right in the mirror! Here are our selections of best ideas, all Platinum or Gold Medalists, listed by price.

Click here to see our list of Gold Medal Gifts