Water Pan Use in MES 30?

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by howink, Nov 8, 2012.

  1. Here's one for the experts - I'm tryiing my hand at my first Boston Butt tomorrow.  Last weekend were my first two smokes - a moderately successful chicken (taken out too soon but finished nicely indoors) and some very well received baby backs.  I used Jeff's rub and sauce on both and whoa, were they good!

    So here's my question - I know that the use of water in the digital MES is somewhat controversial, but assuming I either use no water or just a little water in a small loaf pan as Todd recommends when using the AMNPS, should I still put the ;empty water pan in the smoker to disperse heat and catch drippings, or should I leave it out and have one less item to wash afterwards?

    Thanks in advance.  This is a super site and I'm grateful to y'all's expertise and generosity.

  2. roadkill cafe

    roadkill cafe Smoking Fanatic

    Hey HoWink, fill the water pan about 3/4 full with sandbox  sand. You can get a 40-50 bag at Home Depot or Lowe's for just a few bucks. The sandbox sand is screened & clean. This will add the mass which will help in recovery time.
  3. tjohnson

    tjohnson Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Insider OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I never use water in the water pan

    I just foil it to make clean up easier

    Use a disposable foil pan under your pork butt to catch the drippings

    After your done smoking, place the pan in the freezer for about 20 minutes and a layer of fat will solidify on the top

    Scrape off the fat and throw it away

    Pour the juice back into your pulled pork for added moisture and flavor

  4. Ok, while we're on the subject, I have a question too.  I have an MES that I have inherited and I LOVE this thing.  I still call it cheating but it sure does come in handy during the fall/winter/overnight smokes when I have to work the next day.  

    My question is...How do I fit the meat on top shelf, drip pan on second shelf AND put my AMAZEN dust smoker on the bottom shelf with the smoke being able to hit the meat from underneath?  Up until now, I have NOT been using the drip pan and I'm getting great results.

    By the way Todd, I am placing an order tomorrow or Saturday.  What is your opinion on the peach dust that you are now offering?

  5. deltadude

    deltadude Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Please understand that my case for the use of water below is not intended to argue with anyone, before I was given a AWNS as a beta tester for Todd, I was completely happy with the smoked food (mainly ribs & pork butt), coming out of my MES.  In fact it was good enough that people asked me to supply smoked pork butt or ribs for birthday's, wedding rehearsal dinners, graduation parties, etc.  The only problem was having to tend the MES by adding wood chips every 30-45 minutes.  Todd's AWNS and later AWNPS has been a fantastic accessory that works and is a great help to MES owners.  When I started using the AWNS and later the AWNPS, my goal was to get more smoke time with less tending, and to NOT deviate to far from the system/methods I was using to produce great tasting Q, which meant to continue using water in the water pan.  So after using alum foil tents, and several other improvised methods, the best/simple solution that worked is below.

    Regarding water in the water pan, you can follow whatever advice or your own inclination.  However I disagree with the advice to not use water with one exception.  Todd's advice is based on using the AWNPS, thus if you were NOT using any of Todd's smoke accessories, then the use of water in the water pan is fine.   The reason given for NOT using water in the pan with the AWNPS or the AWNS is there is so much water/humidity moisture that it prevents the AWNPS from staying lit. 

    Understand the MES was designed to use with water in the pan.  Also know that water vapor or steam has been found to be very beneficial to smoking meat, moisture helps the meat absorb the smoke flavoring at a great rate.  You can see this in competition BBQ now, even wood fired pits many use a water pan inside their smoker.  I have shared previously, a family friend with a degree in food science who sells smoke enhancing products that apply smoke to meat in industrial quantities, has backed up that moisture is better than no moisture for the reasons mention in smoking meat.  In the MES the water pan is also part of the MES system to keep temperature steady.

    Therefore if you can keep the pellets or sawdust dry and lit, water in the water pan is a better method of smoking meat than without.   (NOTE, the EXCEPTION, everyone has their own preference, some just like things dry, that is their particular taste, but in general according to science and pro BBQ smokers moisture is the better way to go, delivering a better tasting product.)

    While many have complained about moisture/water streaming down their MES windows, I have yet to hear anyone saying the inside bottom of their MES has a pool of water.  I wonder how many will confess that the moisture is primarily at the beginning of their smoke when the metal inside surfaces are cold and as the air heats up and steam is released so does condensation, just like your car wind shield, until the heat is great enough to overcome the condensation.

    NOTE my MES 40 is only 800 watts, most MES 40 are 1200 watts, however water boils at 212º, I run my smoker between 220º - 250º, and so do most of us smoking pork butt or ribs, thus the moisture content inside the MES will be about the same regardless if 800 or 1200 watts.  In fact my lower wattage MES the element has to stay on longer vs the 1200 w which will cycle more to maintain temp so I would guess the 800w would produce even more moisture.

    My solution to keeping the AWNPS pellets dry is:

    This is one of those throw away aluminum roasting pan, you can buy them at most grocery stores or target, etc.  I used what I had laying around, the width was perfect , the length required that I cut it in half  and fold the two pieces together then cut the openings.  (In upper left you can see the seam of the cut.)  There are two 3/4" holes on the back side. 

    I put the AWNPS with well lit pellets and the alum cover on the two horizontal support bars for the heating element (left side of the cabinet).  The lit end is facing the back wall, not sure why this works better but it does.

    The heat from the pellets will reflect off the alum and keep the pellets dry, in fact you will eventually notice the pellets start turning a darker color from that heat as long as they are lit and smoldering.

    I have also pointed out that using this setup I can even use regular wood chips in the AWNPS and they will stay lit and smoke, although only about an hour+.  Which do you think is harder to keep lit, sawdust, pellets or wood chips?  There is a reason Todd sells sawdust and pellets not wood chips.  So if this setup can smoke wood chips and keep pellets or sawdust dry in my MES it should work just fine in anyone's MES and they can use the water pan with water, as designed by Masterbuilt and preferred by experts.
  6. tjohnson

    tjohnson Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Insider OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    You can set the sawdust smoker on the floor of your MES

    Take the bottom drip pan, and turn it 180°, so now the drip hole is towards the front, and slide it back in

    The AMNS will now fit under the rails, and you still have a useable drip pan

    Make Sense?

    Peach sawdust creates very light smoke and smell wonderful.  I've used it on cheese a few times with great results.  Since it's a light smoke, you may need to smoke for a longer period, if you want a more intense smoke flavor

  7. Thanks for the valuable help, Roadkill, TJ and Deltadude.  I look forward to trying both the sand in the water pan technique and the AMNPS cover plus water approach.  Another great excuse for more smoking!  In way of update, I ambled onto my screened in porch at 5 a.m. this morning to pre-heat the smoker, and damn if the thing wouldn't turn on.  It just made a quiet clicking sound from the control panel after being plugged in, but no light, no heat, no error message.  Just a quiet beep when I unplugged it.  At 8 a.m. I called Masterbuilt customer service, and they said I should check the connections at the back of the unit and also at the control panel.  No apparent problems there.  After a quick call back, they said they'd send me a new body as a replacement.  Can't complain about their customer service, and I'm hopeful it will arrive pretty quickly, as they're located in Columbus, Georgia - no more than 100 miles away.  The smoker is only about a week old and worked perfectly the first time.  But I've read of others on the forum who've also had quality control issues.  Very good of them to jump on it like this.  I'll report back when it arrives and can be fired up again.  I may just throw the butt into the oven at 225 for a few hours.  Should be okay even without the smoke.

  8. You got some great advice! I had my MES 40 for some time when mine went kaput. I called Masterbuilt, explained what was going on and they sent me a new element, which did not fix the problem. They then sent me a new body unit and everything works great! My model was 20070211(black body with SS window door) and the new one is completely SS model 20070311. 
  9. cepps322

    cepps322 Newbie

    Hey Fellas,

    I have a 30" MES. I just recently smoked a brisket. I'm having some issues with Bark. When I fill my waterpan 3/4 with water the brisket doesn't get a good bark. I pulled my brisket at 198 and it wasn't that tender, in fact it was kind of tough, almost dried out a bit. It was a 4.8lb Brisket Flat. I did not use the Texas crutch, I pulled at 198 wrapped I foil/blanket and put it in a cooler for 2 hrs before slicing at 160ish internal temp. I just can't seem to get good bark on the brisket. Is it because of the water pan? If I were to use the MES without the water pan (possibly Sand instead) would that make it a dryer atmosphere and create a better bark? Not sure so I figured I'd ask the experts. Everyone always loves my briskets but I'm from the Suburbs of Philadelphia so people here don't get much brisket in general. The issue wasn't as noticeable with the Brisket point I smoked a few weeks ago (I wish the MES could fit a whole brisket)

    I should have snapped a pic. Sorry. Any advice would be great
  10. cepps322

    cepps322 Newbie

    UPDATE:   Tried it again with the Point instead of the flat. Came out tender and juicy but still no bark. I just used Kosher Salt and black pepper. Any help guys?
  11. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    In 7 years of complete success using 3 different MES units, I have never seen a time that putting water in the water pan was a good idea.

    Even without water in the pan, I get condensation on the inside of my window that runs down the door continuously.

    Why in the World would anyone want to add water in the Pan.

    Just cover the Pan with foil & put it in place.

     Just click on "Bear's Step by Steps".

    Last edited: Jul 3, 2016
  12. @bear: doesn't the water (and its pan) help deflect the heat and even it out overall?
  13. @bear: doesn't the water (and its pan) help deflect and even out the heat?
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2016
  14. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    The Empty pan does that---That's why we cover it with foil (easy to clean), and put it in place. I never use mine without the empty pan in place.

    But Water in the Pan is not good in an MES. (IMHO)

    Some people put sand or other things in the pan to help with heat recovery, but I prefer to just not open the door much.

  15. I like to put apple cider vinegar in my water pan.  I do it for all meats that I smoke.  I don't know if it honestly makes a difference but its cheap and makes me happy.   
  16. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    That could be a good idea for some smokers, but not for an MES.

    I used to try Beer, Apple Juice, Water, and other things in the water pan (6 years ago). I got no added flavor to any meat, and all it did was add more humidity to the cabinet that already has too much humidity.

    The glass window in the door of an MES proves there's too much moisture inside when the condensation forms & runs down the inside of the window----And that's without adding anything to the water pan.

    But if it makes anybody happy, enjoy.

  17. Hi Bear, do you still get the condensation in cold weather ? I ask as I am about smoke a pork shoulder today in MN, it is 20 degrees with zero humidity and was wondering if I should put water in the pan for this one

  18. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Doesn't seem as bad as it used to be, but I still get some.

    I got some on Christmas Day when I did my Double Smoked Ham.

    You can see it here at 3 hours in:


    I still haven't added water in 6 years. 

    Last edited: Dec 31, 2016
  19. Thanks !!

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