To Keep Or Not To Keep The Water Pan Inside The MES During Smoking? This Answers The Question

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by daricksta, Aug 25, 2015.

  1. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    This from page 8 of the MES 30 Gen 1 owner's manual: "Note: Water bowl must always be in place during smoking process, even if there is no water or other liquid in bowl. Bowl will prevent food from dripping onto wood chips."

    So, according to Masterbuilt, the water pan is not essential for heat distribution, not essential for the smoking process, and the smoker won't break if used without the water pan in place. My question to Masterbuilt is this: since the wood chip holder is completely covered, and the wood chip loader extends into this covered area, how exactly will food drip "onto wood chips"? I don't see how it can.

    But what this means is that if you're using an AMNS or an AMNPS, it's a non-issue if you've tented the tray with foil. What might be an issue is that the distribution of heat and smoke might change without the water pan in plan and so some minor adjustments in therm probe placements, meat foiling, and overall cooking times might need to be made. I foil over the empty water pan and use it simply as a drip pan which also serves to protect the wood pellets on my AMNPS.

    But this should answer the question of if it's safe to use the MES without the water pan. I'd say that it is. Whether you use it or not, fill it with juice or water or leave it empty is entirely your choice.
  2. ibbones

    ibbones Meat Mopper

    Not an expert Masterbuilt tech. here but I don't think I have used my water pan for about 1 1/2 years.  I do not even have it in the smoker.  My food drips on the chip box and I am OK with that.  Every so often I roll out my smoker and set it to 275* for 8-10 hours to burn off any nasties and the next day I might scoop out the chard up stuff.  I guess I got too lazy to foil my water pan and put it back in.
    daricksta likes this.
  3. daRicksta, I used my MES30 for several seasons without the water pan in the smoker box. I did this with no adverse effects. It was only after a discussion with the Bear carver about heat distribution that I put the foiled pan back in the smoker. I found that the water pan does help with the heat distribution just as Bear said it would.  Jted
  4. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Ibbones, I sure wish you had weighed in with this about two years or so ago when I first saw this issue raised. You not only gave a definitive answer you also gave great advice on how to clean up whatever mess occurs. Thanks!
  5. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    jted, in all our discussions I don't remember you telling me you removed the water pan for that long a time. But I confess with some things I don't have a great memory.

    I've read Bear say that about heat distribution and that's why I've repeated it, but I couldn't remember if it his opinion or if he was relaying what MB had stated. My point is that it won't harm the MES to leave it out so it becomes a matter of personal choice. I choose to leave the pan in because it helps to protect the AMNPS from grease drips. But you know how I like to experiment. I think when I cold smoke cheese and/or salmon later on I'll remove the water pan. After that, the next time I smoke b-backs I'll try it without the water pan and just tent over the AMNPS with foil and monitor the interior temp on both sides with the ET-733.
  6. Rick,It has been a long time since we had the conversition (Bear) and I don't remember it exactly.. It was one on heat distribution though. When you do your test check those levels a couple of hours into the smoke.

    Ultimately it is the operators choice. In either case I believe it won't hurt the smoker to run it with out the water pan in place.
  7. mummel

    mummel Master of the Pit

    I've used my water pan since day one and keep it foiled for drippings.  Its so easy to clean up, and it protects my AMPS.  In my mind I believe it helps with heat distribution.  I see no reason not to use it but each to their own.

    I wonder however is no water pan = better air circulation for the AMPS?  Thats a question.
  8. walta

    walta Smoke Blower

    My guess is the lawyers wrote this line of the manual.

    If enough fat were to drip directly on the heating unit and the fatty meat was close to the heater. It is possible that a fire could to get started.

    The smoker and the instructions were made to survive a worst case scenario. Think about a 40 inch filled to capacity with goose stuffed with sausage.

    My pan is stainless and when it gets bad the dishwasher does a great job.

  9. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Your guess about the lawyers makes perfect sense. Like mummel, I keep my water pan foiled and inside the smoker to keep grease off my AMNPS.
  10. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I'll answer your question in a couple of weeks or so when I smoke two racks of baby backs. As an experiment I'm going to leave the water pan out and tent over the AMNPS with foil. I'll also need to foil over the wood chip holder housing.
  11. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Since I use the ET-733 I'm always monitoring the temps inside the smoker and the meat. When I smoke the b-backs in a couple of weeks I'll be able to monitor both smoker racks at the same time. I'll report back the results afterwards.
  12. brickguy221

    brickguy221 Smoking Fanatic

    I have the Maverick ET-733 and use it on Tri-Tips, Pork Loins, and such meats, but haven't used it for shelf temp in the MES. Instead, I use this oven thermometer to see what my shelf temperature is...

    I checked it's accuracy with both my old Weber and my new Maverick and it is acurate and matched what they said the temp is.
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2015
  13. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I had a Food Network brand digital therm with a probe that was made by Taylor that I used in my first year with my MES 30. I had calibrated it and all was good. Last year I found out that somehow it was about 5-10 degrees off when I compared it to my new thermocouple instant read therm. But the type you use I see a lot with pro grillers and BBQ pitmasters. I always use the BARBECUE probe on my ET-733 to monitor the rack heat. If I'm smoking ribs I use the FOOD probe to monitor a 2nd rack.

    I've yet to smoke pork loins but I have smoked a tri-tip. It was sooooooo good.
  14. rabbithutch

    rabbithutch Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Good thread and great information.

    When I first got my MES I wondered why the drip pan was oblong. Then it occurred to me that it was to allow air circulation and heat flow. A rectangular pan would block both. I used water in the pan only once. It was a mess to clean up and I saw no useful purpose. Now I keep it foiled and only replace the foil when it gets too dirty. I've thought about filling it with sand and then foiling it, but I'm so clumsy these days that I'm sure I'd wind up with sand all over the insides and have an even worse mess to deal with. I'll save the sand for the mini-WSM.

    I don't mean to hijack the thread, but I have a question about tenting the AMNPS inside the MES. Does tenting interfere with air flow and the amount of smoke produced? I've tried it both ways but didn't control for how wide open the chip loader was or whether or not the elbow was in the exhaust vent or how windy it was on each occasion. I came to no useful conclusion other than that the tent protects the pellets from drippings.

    Who has a definitive answer about how tenting affects air flow and smoke performance in an MES?
  15. dr k

    dr k Master of the Pit

    I believe Bear removes the drip pan and puts down aluminum foil on the bottom of the smoker and punches a hole for the grease drain.  I am going to do this in my 40" GEN 1 because I'm sick of foiling three dimensional parts in the smoker.  Since that is easier I'm going to make a two dimensional aluminum foil heat distribution alternative by using the water pan and my heat deflector as a template in the pic below. 

    This has been creating even temps on my second from the top rack at the corners.

    Since most smokes don't create pools of juice, just drips, I'm going to try the two dimensional version of the pic above.  I'll use my foiled water pan/drip pan for fatties, rendering bacon and a full smoker etc. 

    It's worth a try!

  16. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    "Definitive answer"? I'd say either Bear or Todd Johnson are the best sources for those. I used to tent my AMNPS in the early days but I never bother now. I think the tenting is what caused flameouts with the tray. In my opinion, the AMNPS takes up relatively little space and the tent doesn't need to be that high so in my opinion there should be minimal effect on airflow. As for smoke performance, smoke's going to find air pathways from under and around the tenting so I don't think it would be affected at all.
  17. Dr. I don't know what setup the Bear carver uses now but the picture he sent me had both the heat deflector and water pan that was about the same size as yours in the picture but yours is attached to the pan as far as I can tell. He stated he would move his to the left if needed. Your set up looks good .Let us know how it works out.   Jted
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2015
  18. dr k

    dr k Master of the Pit

    My deflector sits on top of my water pan lip and is moveable.  The pic below shows the cardboard template before I traced it to a cookie sheet and cut it out.

    I didn't want to trap heat off of the right wall so the final design I've been using since June is the deflector below.

  19. Dr. That looks great .Have you done temperature testing. If you have had a chance I would be very interested in your results.    Jted
  20. daricksta

    daricksta Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Actually, I see great pools of grease in the drip pan after smoking ribs, briskets and pork shoulders because those cuts are so fatty. I foil over the drip pan and punch a hole in the back where it leads to the the rear grease tray. Very rarely do I see any grease in that thing.

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