I have a Master Forge Dome Smoker that I just assembled yesterday.The manual doesn't help the newbie (that would be me) re: wood chips, BUT, a very helpful associate at Lowe's suggested using the lava rocks while smoking, because of the flavor they impart. I inquired about putting the wood chips in the water tray. He soaks his chips for a full 24 hours, so he suggested the tray would be a good place for them WITHOUT water in the tray - initially. Add water as needed. Don't let pan dry out completely. Not good for the pan or whatever you are smoking
For the person who questioned if the smoker can REALLY be used as a BBQ grill? Yes. Simply leave out the water pan, let the temp soar, and proceed as you would a regular grill.
Of course, I haven't tried to BBQ yet. In fact, I have yet to clean the smoker. Sought out a fireproof mat to put under the smoker, but the same associate showed me 3X3 foundation blocks and smaller cement-like bricks to border the 3X3's. It looks good, is efficient, fireproof, and the bricks around the edge provide a "grease-slot" of sorts to catch anything rogue off the smoker/grill - or to catch runaway burning embers.
I'm looking forward to the total smoking experience. We don't have a lot of folks who smoke in New England. Grill/BBQ yes, but "smoking meat" is, to most native New Englanders, a "southern" thing. I just happen to love smoked meats, wanted to be able to grill/BBQ year round (yes, even in Maine winters), and felt a smoker/grill combo to be the best way to go.
Reasonable price, too. Now let's see how it smokes!!!!