Water pan in the MES

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by fyrmnj, Sep 29, 2008.

  1. fyrmnj

    fyrmnj Newbie

    I will be smoking a brisket and turkey legs this week on a MES. I have two questions.

    1. What is the advantage or disadvantage of putting sand in the water pan instead of water?

    2. What kind of chips to use that would be suitable for both?


    "Fireman are always in heat"
  2. ronp

    ronp Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Just an idea.

    1. Since the turkey won't take that long start with a mild wood like apple and when done switch to hickory or mesquite for the brisket.

    2. Personal preference I guess. I think the sand might get messy, whereas with the water I just dump out and start fresh. I also line the water pan with foil.

    Hope this helps,
  3. gobbledot

    gobbledot Meat Mopper

    I use the sand when doing butts and ribs. It is easy clean up if ya line pan with foil also. It seems to help recover temp loss quicker when you have to open the smoker door. this is just my 2 cents worth, I am sure others with more knowledge will chim in soon..
  4. deltadude

    deltadude Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I'm no expert, and I know some like to use sand in the MES water pan, however there are reasons for the water pan. Note, I have not used sand so can not comment on sand.
    • Water acts as a heat sink and will hold temp, plus will make the heating of your smoke chamber more even. If the door is opened and closed quickly when checking or moving stuff around, you won't lose too much heat from your water, and it helps get the inside temp backup to your desired smoking temperature.
    • The heated water will create humidity in the smoke chamber. The moist air when combined with the smoke it will bast your meat both adding flavor and keeping the meat moist, instead of drawing out the meats natural juices.
    • The continual basting effect of a water smoker provided the wood part is right, will result in a deep smoke flavor in the meat. Compared to some wood and charcoal smokers without water, they have to continually bast the meat during the smoke process to keep the meat from drying out. If you had to do the basting in your MES this would add 30 minutes to cook time every time you open the MES door, and it is not necessary since the water does the basting for you. Rem, a rule in using a electric smoker "don't peak"!
    • The water pan makes the heating an indirect source of heat not direct, the water pan acting as a baffle between heat source and meat. Since water boils at 212, the water pan acts a bit like a heat regulator maintaining making it easier to go low n slow around 225 for smoking. I'm not sure you get the same with sand.
    • Another benefit is you can use the water after the smoke to make marinades, sauces, bastes, etc.
    If you live in a cold climate and getting up to temp is difficult during the cold season, then removing the water pan may be an option. Personally I preheat my MES to 270 no water pan, and boil water separately then add water 15 min. prior to adding meat.

    Buy a pottery or glass kiln stone, made from corderite which holds heat, and is often used as a pizza stone. Cover the stone with aluminum foil (corderite absorbs moisture like a sponge), and put on bottom rack of your smoker. Now you have both a water smoker and a reliable heat sink. Cost about $20.

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