Water serves a few purposes. One to regulate the temperature of the air inside the smoker. Two it increases the humidity to speed up the temperature recovery after the door has been opened and will help in the formation of the smoke ring also.
The process of the smoke ring formation is a whole other thread and is documented here. But moisture is a part of that formation along with a chemical process.
Sand will work ta hep regulate the temperature just fine, however, if the humidity is low I like water ta hep keep the humidity up in the cabinet as I beleive it keeps the meat from loosin some moisture. Also the juices seem ta drop inta the pan an then boil off inta the vapor as well. Just my two coppers worth. Yall can try it an see which works better fer ya. Best way ta find out.
I personally don't use water I just foil the pan and let it go. If you use sand you want to watch that it doesn't harden in your pan. I read somewhere in another forum where they had trouble like that. I also read where they crumble up foil into balls and put them in the water for heat sink also and then cover with another piece of foil hiding the foil balls underneath.
Of course you are basically grilling if you use no water or sand. Sand keeps your temps more constant than water will. Temps will be higher also. You probably will want to spritz the meat more to add more moisture if using sand, but it is great to use when temps are cold outside as it will get you higher temps. Put foil over the top of the sand and you shouldn't have any issues with the sand hardening.
There must be a good reason why so many types of smokers have water pans. How many smokers come with sand pans or suggest using sand as an alternative to water? Sand only adds a heat sink to help maintain a constant temperature. Water adds a heat sink and also provides steam to restrict somewhat the upper temperature limits. Water pans also increase the humidity inside of the smoker to help reduce mositure withdrawal from the meat you are smoking. Fellow smokers also love that magical 225F that water pans help to maintain.
I agree totally with Oillogger. Using a water pan keeps the food basted in moisture as opposed to a true dry smoke. I ususally put apple juice or even wine in the water to add a little basting flavor. It's really like spritzing without having to open the smoker.
My other thought was the problem with GOSM smokers isn't the upper temperature limits, it's the lower limits. Without mods it's hard to get a GOSM down real low (try jerky for example). So why would you put sand in there unless you wanted to smoke at 400 degrees? Doesn't make sense to me.
I don't disagree with what your saying about water. I have not used water for over 4 years and it seems I turn out good food. Just as someone who likes to use water. I always figured one would use what method they feel most comfortable with. This is one subject that could be debated til the end time. As for a flare up when opening the door never had one, then again I am sure we all have some sort of grease sliding down the side of are smokers but no one is worried about flare up from that. As for useing a water pan with water making jerky. Your theory is that it will sustain temps easier and add moisture to help your meat from drying out. Isn't the idea of jerky to take the moisture out?
StfRon theres alot of good info here. Play with it and see what you think works best for you. Heck I have even heard of useing fire place bricks for heat sinks.
Yes! My point was that GOSM smokers don't go as low temp as I would like to make jerky. In my experience it's tough to get my GOSM down to 140 or 150 where I like to make jerky. My Traeger can do that in its sleep! Nothing to do with water or the water pan.
I have tried putting wines, different marinades and such in the water.....really didn't notice any difference at all.
Water pan does add some moisture, but very little.
Justsmoke2, I don't think you have to use water, but something between the heat and the meat to act as a sink. Lava rocks, sand, bricks, etc. Whatever works to avoid the grilling effect is want you want to achieve.
Yes, but try using water during the winter time and you won't even get to 225º at times or atleast have problems maintaining it easily. With sand you will. Also since sand does not evaporate, you do not have the temp variations water gives. Thus more constant temps from sand. Water does provide some moisture, but very little. A good spritzing bottle will give you more. Shoot in Florida with our high humidity, you don't even need to use water.
If using sand because ya need the BTU's- like here in MI in Jan- you can cover the sand with some foil to 1) prevent aforementioned flame-up and 2) keep sand from becoming nassssty and be able to be reused for a looooong time.
ive never used sand, sounds like it would work against flareups. witch ive had when using an empty pan. as for the pan, i use beer or water with an apple and onion in it basicly anithing i might put on meat can go in the pan with great results... try a turkey with apple, celery,onion,and bacon in the pan. ugh makes me want to get one today..lol