clay flower pot base in WSM vs water?

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by littleman, Jul 24, 2013.

  1. I am new to smoking and got a 18 1/2 WSM. I cooked a 5 lb pork butt using water in the pan and was very happy with the result. I have been reading vague references to using a clay base instead of water in the water pan. I may try it this weekend. What diameter would be ideal? Any concerns of lead or other impurities in the clay? Would doubling up on the bases make sense or is one enough? Thanks
  2. mdboatbum

    mdboatbum Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    The clay pot does essentially the same thing as the water pan, it just dampens the temp swings. It also doesn't evaporate nor does it need cleaning if you foil it. 2 pots would hold more heat so I think it would be a good idea.
    Couple things to remember, you want to make sure the clay pots are completely supported on the bottom and you might soak them overnight in water. These 2 things will extend the life of your pots before they eventually break. And yes, they WILL break.
  3. millerspal

    millerspal Newbie

    So it isn't a clay pot per se, but it is the base of the clay pot? (It looks like a clay pie pan?)
  4. I switch back and forth between water and a flower pot saucer depending on what I'm smoking and the time of the year. In the winter i usually use the flower pot saucer because it makes it easier to get the heat up. The one fault of the WSM is that a cold wind will pull the heat right out of the smoker.

    During warmer times of the year I use the saucer when doing bigger cuts of meat, like butts and briskets, that I am smoking "hot and fast" it makes it easier to get to and hold higher temps and conserves fuel.

    But when I'm doing something like ABT's or country ribs that I want to smoke at 225 I use water in the pan. I sometimes get bitter smoke when using the saucer and trying to smoke at 225, it requires me to almost completely shut down the lower vents and I have found one must be partially open for best results.

    A clear advantage of the saucer is easier cleanup.
  5. millerspal

    millerspal Newbie

    Gotchya. My wife got me a pressure washer so I find myself wanting to blast the water pan clean. Although, unless it's secured that water pan will shoot across the yarn like a missile, lol. (Learned that one the hard way). I will have to wait until it is cold for the clay pot usage.
  6. noboundaries

    noboundaries Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Water in the water pan will increase smoke retention on the meat.  It has been proven so.  Water also act as a heat sink, as does anything else you put in the water pan like clay, sand, lava rocks, bricks, etc.  A heat sink will help stabilize temps but not everything will help keep temps low.  The physical properties of water helps keep temps low.  Anything else will help keep temps low initially, but will eventually heat up making lowering temps difficult. 

    For fuel efficiency and responsive temp control I dry smoke 95% of the time in my WSM with nothing in the water pan.  I got to where I could control the temp range plus or minus 5F using all four vents.  I use a drip pan to keep things out of the water pan that could burn and make yucky smoke.  The water pan is just a heat deflector to me.  I found that by matching the top vent to the lower vents I could control temps quite nicely.  My formerly leaky WSM liked to run about 260-270F, but by closing the lower vents down to about 1/8" and the top vent to the same, I could hold 225F-240F quite nicely.

    I've recently installed the Nomex gasket kit on my WSM to stop all the leaks. It did exactly that.  Like wow.  I'm controlling temps nowadays with the top vent and a BBQ Guru which turns the WSM into a set and forget at any temp desired.        

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