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Do you cook on foil, in disposible pans, or directly on grates?


Joined Nov 6, 2016
As a newbie, I'm seeing photos of different smoking styles. Can you help me understand when it's best to use foil or a pan vs. directly on the grate? I know using a disposable pan would catch all the melted fat and make clean up easier. Is there any other benefit?


Legendary Pitmaster
OTBS Member
Joined Aug 31, 2014
It depends on what I'm doing personally. If I'm looking for bark no pan or wrapping, my wife is not a bark fan so I pan to keep it moist and save the drippings to defat and add to the meat generally. It's a lot about. Trying different methods and combining it to get what you like.


Epic Pitmaster
OTBS Member
★ Lifetime Premier ★
Joined Jun 25, 2014
I like a pan with a rack, to hold the meat off the bottom.Makes easy clean up and the meat stays in the smoke



SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster
Staff member
OTBS Member
★ Lifetime Premier ★
Joined Jun 22, 2009
If I am smoking a lean piece of meat, I always smoke it in a pan with some kind of broth.

I also do poultry that way.

If I'm doing a butt or packer brisket I put them on the grate.

Chicken wings & ribs go on the grate.

Everybody has their own way of doing things & the best way is to experiment & see what works best for you.



Smoking Guru
OTBS Member
Joined Sep 25, 2007
Steamer pans have saved my Marriage, I don't use the wife's stuff any more.

Here's what I do with a few photos, I use steamer pans, don't use aluminum pans much anymore, I prefer the sturdiness of the steamer pans, foil pans need two hands and sometimes bottom support or they can fold on you.  They can also tear on the bottom if not careful. I am constantly moving them around (one hand sliding on grates and stuff). Cleanup is a bit more labor intensive compared to foil pans so  I spray or wipe the outside of the pan with cooking oil for easier cleanup. You can also go as far as wrapping the bottom of the pan in foil but that's wasteful and another mess to deal with.

I prep everything in the pans and marinate in the pans.

Some things are cooked out of the pan and placed back in the pan, depending on what I'm cooking.

Ribs "Foiling Stage"



Drip pans.


Plus they are excellent for shredding and there's no worry of poking or cutting a hole in the foil pan.



Legendary Pitmaster
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
Joined Sep 7, 2013
As a newbie, I'm seeing photos of different smoking styles. Can you help me understand when it's best to use foil or a pan vs. directly on the grate? I know using a disposable pan would catch all the melted fat and make clean up easier. Is there any other benefit?
I do both, but there's always a pan somewhere in my smoker (unless I forget, then that's on me).  Does the pan inhibit smoke flavor?  Probably just a tad, but not enough to worry about.  Bottom line; I don't like gooey messes in my outdoor cooking equipment.  In the WSM, a round smoker, I use 15" paella pans.  They are round and have handles.  I use them EVERYWHERE (smoker, grill, oven, baking bread, stovetop, camping, etc) for just about ANYTHING from drip pans to pizzas.  A 13" round cookie cooling rack fits nicely inside the paella pan for allowing nice circulation.  If you pre-heat them properly then spray with oil, they are essentially non-stick.  I do still use the disposable aluminum roasters at times to avoid cleaning the paella pans.  Thirty 9x13 pans are cheap at Costco, like $5-$6.   


joe black

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
Joined Jan 25, 2015
85% on the grate and 15% in a pan. That may change a little bit after reading Richie's post above about the paella pans and the cake racks. I use Bradford racks for meatloaf, salmon or other things that can fall apart, but they are still placed directly on the grate. The only thing that I use foil for is a stall or braising CSR's in a pan.


Meat Mopper
SMF Premier Member
Joined Jun 13, 2015
I am a big pan guy I like to  smoke on grates then

Brisket = Smoke then pan with a tight foil with Beef Cosamine or French Onion Soup

Ribs - Apple Juice or Dr Pepper Cherry

Chuck  - Always  Dr Pepper Cherry

Pork Shoulder or Butt - Dr Pepper Apple Juice or Pineapple Juice

Depending on what I am smoking I either un pan and or put in a cooler to rest !!!


Legendary Pitmaster
OTBS Member
★ Lifetime Premier ★
Joined Jun 20, 2013
I'm pretty much a no-pan guy. I'll use a foil pan when i foil butts or ribs but everything else goes on the grill.

If I'm doing something small I just use grills with screening attached to the top.

About the only thing I use pans for is as a drip pan to keep things clean. I spray the grills with Pam, give them a quick scrub afterward and straight into the dishwasher.


fbi van outside

Smoke Blower
Joined Dec 30, 2014
I either go directly on the grate or use pink butcher paper. I was using foil for a very long time but then tried butcher paper after watching a video documentary. 3 briskets were cooked, 1 on grate, 1 with foil and 1 with pink butcher paper. All 3 briskets came out great but the texture of the meat and including the bark were all different. I found the pink butcher paper to be the best of both worlds and haven't stopped using it.

Google "Aaron Franklin" if you want to know more. Still looking for the peach butcher paper.  You can see the results from my first time using the butcher paper:


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