Originally Posted by Bearcarver
Yes & Yes.
I cover it with foil to make it easier to clean, and I always keep it in there, because the book tells you too, and the smoker was designed with it in, and changes air flow if it is removed. The water pan in the Gen #1 keeps the heat from the element from hitting the meat too directly.
THIS is why I like to ask you MES questions. I knew the book said to keep the water pan inside but I didn't think it had to do with air flow but it makes perfect sense, designwise. I also didn't think it acts as a kind of heat shield between the heating element and the food.
As for keeping play sand in it and then putting the foil over it, looks like it's up to whatever I want to do. I'm going to try an empty foiled covered pan this weekend and track temp swings, if any. As I said, they haven't been a problem with my unit if I kept the door closed, especially since my MES door doesn't have a window.