Water pan?

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by berkshire slp, Nov 6, 2009.

  1. berkshire slp

    berkshire slp Newbie

    Hello! I'm new to the smoking world and have a 2-week old Brinkmann electric. I do have a question about the water pan: is it possible, desireable, idiotic, nearly fatal, etc. to use the electric smoker with a dry water pan? Just wondering what would happen, both to the unit and the food, other than it obviously being less moist.
  2. alx

    alx Master of the Pit OTBS Member

  3. smokeguy

    smokeguy Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    You can use it dry but most of the time you might not want to (smoking jerky you might want a "dry" heat going on though for example).
    Besides keeping the air/meat moister (some debate on this) one of the biggest advantages is that it keeps the heat more constant by acting like a heat-sink so you don't get the big up/down temperature swings when the element goes on/off or when you open the door.

    Some folks also use sand in theirs for the same reason.
  4. mr mac

    mr mac Smoking Fanatic SMF Premier Member

    I really doubt that you'll hurt the smoker in any way at all. The meat...maybe. The water pan does help control the heat but it also provides for a humid cooking environment. Some contend that the smoke actually latches on to the water vapors helping it to get into the meat that much more efficiently. Still, other contend that the water is nothing more than a wet heat sink that helps the unit recover from an open door.

    I like to think that the moist air does in fact allow the meat to stay moist and prevent drying. Without it, our electric units are nothing more than outdoor ovens that we can toss wood chips into. For that matter, we could use an old electric or natural gas oven just as easy but it would still be dry inside.

    Just my 2 cents worth.

  5. mr mac

    mr mac Smoking Fanatic SMF Premier Member

    Great mids think alike! [​IMG]
  6. mballi3011

    mballi3011 Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I really don't think that it would hurt your smoker but if you don't want to smoke with the water pan then take it out of the smoker. But the reason it's in there may be a consern it's there for a reason and maybe we aren't finding it but to think a minute it has to add moisture to the smoke or it wouldn't be in there.
  7. raceyb

    raceyb Smoking Fanatic

    Is this a repeat post? I could have sworn I was the first to respond to this thread, in fact I know i was....

    I guess I hit preview post.... I'll try to answer it again. There are two cooking methods, direct and indirect heat. The water pan deflects heat and creates an ideal indirect method of cooking as it adds moisture. It also helps to stabilize the heat in your smoker. If you remove the water pan, you now have direct heat, as well as fat dripping onto your heating element.

    If you don't need the moisture or hassle of the water pan due to brining, injecting or just attempting to increase the heat in the smoker, fill the pan with sterile play sand and cover it with foil. the sand absorbs heat to a point and acts like a heat sink, providing you with indirect heat.

    I use sand in my smoker's pan and my BBQ still comes out moist. I generally mist my meat with a mixture or apple juice and water and don't need the hassle of filling the water pan or it's moisture.
  8. chainsaw

    chainsaw Smoking Fanatic

    One benefit I had was using boiling water in the pan when it was chilly outside helped bring up the temp quicker. It does catch a lot of drippings as well.
  9. Yes - it's important to have something to catch the grease - water or sand - so there are no unexpected fires. I have tried both ways with my GOSM and the water pan gives me better (moister) results.

    Also chainsaw has a great point - hot water really helps in getting the smoker to a stable temp.
  10. gnubee

    gnubee Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I use mine with boiling water at the start, I found out the hard way that starting with the water cold from the tap takes at least an extra 1/2 hour to get up to temp.

    Another problem I ran into was when without really thinking it through first I attempted to shift my smoker over about a foot to appease my wife. She needed the room for making her salad and it seems my smoker was in her way. I jostled the smoker a bit during the move, forgetting about the water pan. Of course it slopped water out of the pan and onto the fire. The resulting stinky grey smoke poured out of the vent. This of course ruined the meat and eventually put the fire out. Thus my rule of never moving the smoker once it is lit was born.

    I tried sand, but didn't like it, no reason, just didn't like it.

    I fill the pan about 3/4 full and it lasts through the entire smoke, a long brisket smoke would probably require that you replenish the water at least once during the smoke.

    I have tried a smoke without water and didn't like the dried out crunchy bark that resulted, plus I had a harder time keeping the temps even.
  11. beer-b-q

    beer-b-q Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Having water in the water pan also helps keep the meat moist so it will create a better smoke ring.
  12. raceyb

    raceyb Smoking Fanatic

    yep, and a full smoker or misting meat with an apple juice/water mix will add enough moisture to the smoker as well.

    I'm against water because of start up times and the need to refill. A standard pan in a vertical smoker will not last long enough to do a brisket, let alone a rack of ribs.

    I have my bowl filled 2/3 with sand, i cover with foil. When smoke is done, I remove and replace foil, all drippings are taken care of, water pan is still clean. [​IMG]

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