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when to use water in drip pan or not?

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
icon_rolleyes.gifI have a MES, when would I not use water in the drip pan? I though you should always use some kind of fluid in it to help to keep from dry out the meat? Our when should I use it?
Thanks
Richard V
post #2 of 8
First, I don't have an electric, so take this for what it's worth, but here are a few things to think about:
1.) Water in the drip pan won't make the meat more moist. It may aid in steaming the outside, but adding liquid to the meat it will not.
2.) You really don't want anything making contact with your heating element. So if it's directly underneath the meat, then you really want some sort of pan in there at all times; though, you don't need to always put something in there. Anything you put in there will act as a heat sink, which is sometimes helpful to reduce temperature variation.
post #3 of 8
ALLWAYS have the pan installed. It prevents grease from dripping on the heating element and catching fire.

Having anything in the pan is up to you. I generally don't.
post #4 of 8
So far I have used water in the pan for everything except jerky. I use it for steam and a heat sink. When you make jerky you want to dry your meat. So no water is needed.
post #5 of 8
I dont have an electric unit but I always have the tray installed in the smoker. One reason is the dispursement of heat and another is for the drippings. But I always have water in my pan with both of my gassers.
post #6 of 8
Using the water pan with either water or another liquid is essential in the MES. First the water pan works as a heat sink to stabilize internal temp. 2nd the design of the MES prior to the latest models (with increased element wattage) you are not suppose to open the hatch (because recovery would take so long, but with new models that problem may be solved), so the moisture from the water pan helps keep the meat from drying out (in a non-water pan wood/briquette/gas smoker you would need to spritz your meat to keep it from drying out).

There is a serious danger of fire if you are not using the water pan in the MES, there is a post with pics on SMF where the guy didn't use a water pan with water and dripping grease got into the wood chips and exploded into a grease fire.

Some have used sand in the pan, but honestly if they don't have some thing to catch grease above the pan, what does uses after use of burned grease start to smell like?

Could you smoke without the pan, sure if you are careful and understand the dangers and compensate. In fact on some butts I am going to take the water pan out during the last hour to get more of a crisp bark as an experiment (there will be a drip tray on the lowest shelf).
post #7 of 8
I use sand in my water pan. It helps achieve higher and more consistent temps, especially during colder times of the year.
post #8 of 8
I've looked into this pretty heavy and there actually is a science behind the water pan in a smoker. Especially in the MES. Number one... it is a heat sink as has been stated and in the MES or actually any electric... the heat sink helps to restore the smoking temp. when there is a temperature drop so your smokin your meat at a safe temp. The second thing... there is a certain amount of humidity that is needed in a smoker to aid in the absorbtion of the smoke.

This science was very important in the days when they used smoking as a preservative, and less now with our methods of smoking... but humidity levels play a huge roll in smoke absorbtion. Meat already has moisture... the cooking process is pushing this moisture out of the meat so your not actually adding any moisture to the meat by using a water pan although mimimal, any flavors that are in the pan in the way of seasoning, juices... etc. can have an effect on the flavor of the meat by combining with the smoke absorbtion.

Having a water pan in your smoker when making jerky isn't going to keep the jerky from drying out. It can keep the humidity level in the smoker at a level that lets the meat dry from the inside because your outside isn't dried out to a point that won't release the internal moisture. I have also used lava rock in my water pan for jerky but have learned that the moisture doesn't effect the jerky the way you would think it would. If your meat is getting a dry crust going then you probably need more moisture... if your finding moisture droplets on the inside of your smoker... you have too much moisture and this can sour your meat.
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