Smoke Vault Manual Say NEVER Smoke Dry - Why?

Discussion in 'Propane Smokers' started by endo129, Dec 21, 2015.

  1. endo129

    endo129 Fire Starter

    My new SmokeVault say in the manual to NEVER leave the water pan empty, and never let it dry out during a smoke.

    The water pan is new to me (even more so than smoking) and I know some of you still do not use the water pan in your SV. So my question is Why does it say to NEVER leave it empty?

  2. bbqpit77

    bbqpit77 Fire Starter

    just remember that all the juices from the meat will drop to the pan, burning hot and making really bad smell. I have 2  SV 24" and never used empty, also it will help a lot to keep your temp at the same range. Enjoy your amazing smoker, i love mine. Some people dont like using water pans, at least i do.
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2015
  3. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Probably because the smoker was designed by Engineering students that had never smoked any meat... They probably built the smoker based on numerical data...
    hoity toit likes this.
  4. slysmoke

    slysmoke Smoke Blower

    I thought I saw a warning like that somewhere, but it was followed up by stating the pan could warp etc due to the heat not being absorbed by the water, hence another reason lots of folks fill their pan with sand.
  5. foamheart

    foamheart Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Lets discuss water pans. Is your smoke vault an analog type smoker? Analog type smokers run a large delta "T", thats the high to low to achieve an average. An analog set at medium may modulate from 250 to 175 to achieve a 210 degree temperature. but going to extreme highs it can cause breaking and cracking of the skin especially with fowl. Also some don't come with vents. Why? because the smoker is engineered to only smoke untill the oxygen is depleted and then smother the embers causing smoke. If you re-open the case and re-introduce oxygen they will rekindle and smoke again. Its one of the reasons why with any electric smoker you should keep the doors closed as much as possible.

    Some of the smokers are actually called Smoking, roasting, steaming and frying units. depending upon the set up. Seriously frying, its printed in the user manual. I doubt you'll see that though.

    The water is to keep the meat moist, but my personal believe is to maintain humidity in the chamber so you do not all the fuel to flash. Dry smoker, dry chips, high temp, lots of oxygen equals flash. Flash go boom boom and shoots flames, not good. It can and does occurr, but when set up and maintained most smokers shouldn't see this. But I can shoot the reloader out the side of my MES30/40.

    I use dry chips, wetting the chips IMHO is only to prolong the smolder till the meat has had a chance to heat up a little. Warm meat accepts the smoke better than cold meat. I can see no other explaination. But thats not the water pan.
  6. I have been reading that cold meat accepts smoke better than warm or hot. Is that a fact?
  7. foamheart

    foamheart Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Not in my opinion. I can warm smoke bacon and in 6 hours and do what takes over two days in the cold.

    I don't dispute their ideas about the ability to permeate thru the inter-bacon layers, but if I am getting the smoke flavor I want in 6 hours of warm smoking, why cold smoke for days? I believe that the heat causes the meat to become less dense (expanding the meat) allowing greater penetration. But its just my assumption, although I believe a scientist might tend to agree.

    <shrugs> Like every other thing here, always multiple beliefs for each question.

    My suggestion is, try it both ways, see what you like.
  8. My common sense agrees with that. Thanks
  9. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

  10. bill1

    bill1 Smoke Blower

    My two cents is that cooking (raising a hunk of meat from a low temperature to a high temperature) is largely a time*temperature product, since it's about energy transfer.  Driving smoke-flavor molecules into meat is a diffusion process, and with such low diffusion rates for the large molecules that make up smoke flavoring, the variable time plays a larger role than temperature in the process.  So to get to a similar degree of "doneness" you'll always get the most smoke flavor by going ever lower in temp and slower in time.   

    Back to water pans.  Now what about 77's comment that fats and oils dripping into a water pan result in bad odors?  I'm not understanding why that would be so?  I'm currently in the process of adding an "umbrella" to my water pan to divert dripping oils away from the water pan.  I'm concerned that otherwise the oil layer formed on top of the heavier water greatly reduces the moisture/humidity level that the water pan adds.  
  11. endo129

    endo129 Fire Starter

    I always did it dry on my gas grill and was achieving some good even great results. Now on my SV I have used water and my only butt came out pretty good, not great (but that's a product of learning a new tool). I can learn to love the water.

    However, how does everyone dispose of this at the end? It was dark the one time I did it. Are the drippings, paired with the water, thin enough to just go down the drain without worrying about congieling in the pipes? I tend to treat it the same way I do any grease that I dispose of but maybe I'm being overly cautious. That's why I like the idea of just using it to catch the drippings; the water/dripping combo throws me in terms of disposal.
  12. bill1

    bill1 Smoke Blower

    If you have plans (gravy, etc) for the drippings, some folks like to catch it in a separate pan on top of the water pan, others use a turkey baster to suck up the fats/oils floating on top of the water.  But it sounds like you just want to dispose of it all. In principle, the drain should be fine.  It's food-grade stuff so it's not like you'd be dumping smog-entrenched motor oil with heavy-metal additives down the drain. On the other hand, toilet drains are larger diameter than sink drains so you're a little less likely to clog up one of those. I would do about 3 flushes per pan (dilution is the solution, even though water and oil don't dilute that well!) and then follow with another 3 flushes to clean the gunk from the commode bowl.  (Best to do this after the missus has gone to bed.)  At least I've done it that way in the past. Then clean the pan with soap and water in the kitchen sink.  

    However lately I just save up half-gallon and larger milk and juice jugs and pour the pan contents into those after things have cooled a bit.  Then dispose of them in the municipal trash.  I'm always somewhat surprised that even when things cool completely, there's not a lot of solids formed, which somewhat exonerates my wild drain-dumping days.  .    

    I'll be curious what others have to say.  Esp from those who have worked in restaurants with large quantities of fats/oils to dispose.  
  13. Never! Never pour your water pan down the drain might look like there's not much that might not be much fat but there could be a lot of gelatin (as I found out when I poured my down the drain) the gelatin did what gelatin does and it clogged the drain .⚡️
  14. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Last edited: Mar 12, 2016
  15. Concerning water pans. slap your Dady Barbque, A 28 time grand champion winer with many first place wins, compeats using a WSM compeating with pit-masters smoking on $15,000 rigs. He says never use a water pan.
    Jeff says in every recipe, "if you have a water pan use it" I trust both for different reasons, but wonder about the water pan. I currently have it filled with sand in both of my smokers and turn out good food with less clean up not to mention no issues with getting rid of water pan liquids.
    I foil my pans and change the foil after each smoke. On the other hand I have turned out some good food using the water pan in the past, especially pork ribs on a chepo gas smoker that produces a bacon like flavor because of the gas and steam mix.
    So far the only advantage of not using the water pan seems to be the fast clean up ????
  16. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    I have lava rocks on the bottom of my water pan, then cover them with water. IMHO water in the pan makes for a better finished product.

  17. Only difference I can tell is in clean up.
  18. bill1

    bill1 Smoke Blower

    Lava rocks sticking up out of the water could help wick the water to the boiling surface and give some added humidity.  What's the idea in putting them in the bottom Al?  
  19. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    I think using lava rocks in the bottom of the pan keeps the water steaming better. The rocks say hot & in turn keep the water steaming. Usually I just cover them with maybe 1/2" of water. When all the water boils out the lava rocks act as a heat sink.

  20. johnmeyer

    johnmeyer Smoking Fanatic

    Being an engineer, I did a lot of research, both here and elsewhere, to find results of actual tests, and also to discover the science of water and smoke. Based on everything I've read, and on a few experiments I did myself, I came to the following conclusions. I should add that I have a MES 30, and I was interested in what I should do with a smoking chamber that is sealed much tighter than most other types of smokers.

    Moisture on the surface of the meat attracts and absorbs smoke particles. I never read anything that contradicts this. However, how does the moisture get there? It can get there in a number of ways:

    1. Condensation. If you put your meat into a warm moist environment, and the meat is cold from the fridge, water will condense on the surface, just like you've seen all your life when you have a cold beverage in your hand on a warm damp evening. This explains, I think, the statement you reference that you get more smoke onto cold meat. Some people think it keeps the internal moisture in the meat, but Cooks Illustrated magazine ran some tests which completely debunked that theory (they cooked meats dry, and also braised them in liquid, weighing them before and after, and the moisture lost was identical). The main thing that determines moisture loss is the final internal temperature.

    2. Sweating. As meat heats up, the moisture from the meat is forced to the surface, and the meat sweats. This surface moisture attracts smoke. As a separate, but related process, that water evaporates. This cools the meat and, with a big chunk of meat, like a pork butt, the temperature coming in from the relatively low 225 degree smoker (typical temp) eventually matches the heat carried away by the evaporation, and you get the dreaded "stall" where the internal temperature ceases to rise for 3-6 hours.

    3. Mopping. Many people mop or spray their meat every hour or two. This adds flavor (the mop is usually some sort of sugar-based liquid, with a little booze thrown in, just to make the meat "happy"), but it also provide surface moisture to attract more smoke. This explains why it helps build up bark.

    So, moisture from the water pan can add to the moisture on the surface of the meat for the first hour or two, when the meat is cold, and the moisture condenses on the surface of the meat. After that, I haven't seen anything that leads me to believe that moisture from the pan does anything for the meat, either by increasing smoke absorption, or by helping retain internal moisture.

    In some smokers, the water in the pan helps stabilize the temperature inside the smoker, because water has a large heat capacity and therefore takes a long time to change its temperature. With smokers that have thermostats, like most electric smokers, this feature isn't needed at all.

    So my initial conclusion, with my MES, was that I only needed enough water to last for a few hours. So for many months I was adding 1-2 cups of boiling water in the pan at the time I added the meat. Since the water was already hot, it immediately filled the smoker with moisture, and I got condensation on the cold meat. By the time the meat got warm (70-80 degrees) the water had mostly evaporated. Someone in this forum suggested this method.

    However, I then realized that I could simply spray a mop on the meat and get the same thing. Since the water pan is a pain to fill, drain, and clean, and since the condensation from the water pan would drip down the MES door and leak out the bottom, I eventually nixed the water in the pan. Since the smoker has a thermostat, I didn't bother to fill the pan with sand.

    So I am no using water at the moment.

    But, I may go back to it, or do the sand trick because I have found that I am getting a lot of radiated heat from the heating element, and that when I do smoked almonds one tray will burn and the other will be fine. The heat distribution inside the smoker doesn't account for this, and I think I need the thermal mass of either sand or water to protect the food from the direct heat of the heating coil.

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