If you are going from a fire burner to electric, think of a stove in the kitchen. A gas stove heats water quickly where an electric takes its time. It’s the same with the smoker. Electric is a more precise temp. but it has to really work to recover lost heat. A charcoal or gas recovers fast but it fluctuates (OMG, spellchecker says I spelled that right).
This means with an electric it is very important that you leave the door closed. I read somewhere it takes 15 mins. to recover from opening the door although I doubt that long it does take time. lets say 10 mins. when you expect a 12 hour smoke and open the door once an hour that's a 2 hour adder. Whereas with a fire burner you have to tend the fire, which means you are allowing the moisture to dispensate.
Electric, keep the door shut and it doesn't require the moisture like moping, spritzing, injections. In over 30 years of being around electrics I can't remember a smoke ring. Push/pull, I can live without the smoke ring, and I can sleep all night not needing to tend the fire.
Water pan........Suggest you either remove the water pan, I use mine for a drip pan. You can foil line it and fill it with sand building a heat sink, in regards to the heat loss.
Now we move to the disputed subject of vent position. If you have a vent:
If you throw it full open, it will dry your food some, which is desired with brine or cured smoking. But..... if smoking a normal piece of meat/fish/fowl I use the vent to regulate the smoke. When full open you are working the heater maintaining temp. and you are burning excessive chips/pellets to smoke. When the vent is regulated or partly closed depending upon the adjustment, it is better using the smoke while more easily holding your temperature.
You can invest in a good aux. smoke generator and not use chips, it is fine either way you decide. If you want to use chips as designed, you need to regulate it. Your call, you must decide how you want to run your smoker. I have done both ways, I have even smoked for years in a totally closed smoker which when done right does fine. It’s about mastering what you want to do.
IT (internal Temp) this is how everything is gauged. I assume you know about it since I am sure you have researched your subject here first. If you have a good remote response thermometer and you are smoking, you can go to bed. It will tell you when the food is done.
Lastly, if using chips, I think the general consensus is don't soak them. The only reason I can see for soaking them is allow the food to preheat before it starts smoking. Why? Good Question. Because from what I have seen here somewhere, maybe Jeff E-Message or a book.... Well from 100 to 140, food is really susceptible to smoke, above and below it has diminished effects. 100 to 140 is when the food is the happiest, other than that you are just pouring the smoke out the vent. Its all your call. Some like a lot of smoke. This is NOT a fire burner, its not meant to be operated as one.
All the other smoking rules I believe are still in effect. LOL....
Let’s see.... Slow recovery keep the door closed, smoke sweet spot 100 to 140 IT, no smoke ring, no moisture needed, learn what you want for your vent adjustment. Add a RF thermometer and sleep all night. It’s really easy to use.
I always forget something and surely someone will come along and give you their opposite opinions. That's smoking, its mastering how you want to do it.
For a while I suggest you take notes, that way it’s easier to learn a new smoker and different techniques. Have patience, it’s hard to mess up as I am sure you already know.
Most of all just enjoy the smoke! It is supposed to be a stress free environment. A day when you smoke is always a beautiful day.
1. You don't need water, would would be the purpose in preheating chips? If the heat is not on now, it will come back on during the cook. The heating element is on near constantly when starting up the unit. If you leave the door closed it will smoke.
2. punching holes would serve no purpose, you want smoke not flame anyway.
3. As above, you need to learn to master your pit. There are a gazillion things you can do, or none. Its about how you want to smoke. If you want to foil by all means do so, I have used electrics over 30 years and the only time I can ever remember something dry, was because I over cooked it.
4. Remember this is not a pit, its not a fire burner. You must operate an electric like an electric or you can do conversions to make it more in line with a fire burner. Again, its how you want to smoke.
No smoke ring
No water needed
No hourly fire tending
Keep the door closed
Use the vent to regulate
Apply smoke from 100 to 140 IT (Sweet spot)
Make sure and check calibrate you smokers temperature
Hope it helps...... I don't know exactly which Model, but I have heard some had to get replacement chip holder because of insuffuent conductivity to cause smoke, but if you have smoke, its probably not your.
Good luck, and I hope something above helps with your process.