Looking for advice

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Original poster
Jul 27, 2007
I am in the market for a smoker and I am a newbie so I am looking for some advice. Canadian Tire has a couple of smokers on sale. The first is a smoker/grill that uses charcoal. Click here to see it. The second is a charcoal smoker with a water pan. Click here to see it. Both are basicly entry level smokers and not to large so easy to start with. My question - what is the difference between the two? What does the water pan do to the final product vs using just charcoal?



ps if you are asked for a postal code you can use N2L 3C5 to access the Canadian Tire site.
ok, i figured out a way to see them. different animals you got there. i have never used a vertical, so i cannot comment on it. i use an offset though, so i can give my opinion on that one. it looks like a nice one to start on. you build your fire in the firebox to the side, and place the food in the big part. you can use charcoal to get your fire started, and use wood splits, or chunks, to get your smoke.

i have never used a water pan, so i don't know what to tell you there, either. it seems the water pan is to provide moisture to keep the meat from drying out. i spray my meat every hour or so to keep it moist.
Rene, unable to view the smokers, but -
The water pan is claimed to make what you smoke "moister".
Reality is the water pan simply serves as a buffer between the hot fire below it and what you are smoking. (Low & Slow you know) Some folks don't use any liquid in the water pan, instead filling it with sand, which works fine also.
The route to "moister" meat is not through the water pan, it is correct smoking technique. Over cooked meat will be dry. Cooking to temperature using a remote digital thermometer with probe to place in the meat is the ticket.
I have used a Brinkmann ECB, which has a water pan, for years. I also have a GOSM 3005C which has a water pan. Both produce excellent Q used properly.
The smoker doesn't make the Q, it's the operator.
IMO, Mike is exactly right. The water pan serves as a buffer and helps regulate the heat. Water boils mostly around 212*F (I live at altitude so it's a little less here), and for low and slow cooking, your pit temp is in the 200-250 range. I've noticed when my water level gets low, the temps spike even though the gas setting is the same (GOSM). I've cooked on off sets with no water at all and had wonderful, juicy briskets and ribs. I've also cooked with the GOSM and full water pans and had dry meat because I over cooked it. So I don't think having moisture in the air keeps the meat moist. Others may have more to say on this.

i couldn't see the pics either. you have a weber kettle right ? if so, you can put your coals/chips/etc to the opposite side of your meat & top vent w/ a small water pan (or not use 1) on the grate abovethe coals- i've seen countless shows where people smoke that way on a weber. you can experiment with smoking in this manner until you find out what kind of smoker you want to buy. questions are- do you have the time to tend fire. or is gas cheaper for you. i'm guessing if yer in canada gas may be a better option as once yer addicted like us- you WILL be smoking in winter. just a couple thoughts.
I do have a Weber kettle BBQ and my first try turned out fine except I just could not regulate the air intake all that well. As for living in Canada I am for charcoal all the way. I much prefer charcoal to gas or propane.
The water pan acts as a heat sink to keep the temps a bit more even. It also collects drippings from your food. I use sand in my pan and it seems to work better than when I used water. If you use water in a pan, make sure it is hot when you put it in the pan. You don't want to have to lift your water temp along with your smoke chamber. Hope this helps.
Newbie here.
Longtime Engineer by trade. 1st time poster and short time smoker. Currently learning the in's and out's of a $299 Masterbuilt Stainless Steel Electric smoker from Sam's club. This smoker has a temperature controller that makes it very easy to maintain a temperature (provided you are not peeking).

In an Electric smoker, a pan of water may be a requirement. I know that electric ovens are dryer than gas ovens. Wood fuel (and charcoal) would also have a certain amount of water within it which may help to account for the overall preference of charcoal etc. I can say from an Engineering perspective that a pan of water would assist with temperature control of any fire based smoker.

We all know from our science classes that water boils at 212F (sea level). What we may not remember, is that it takes a significant amount of energy (heat) to convert the water into steam. A large pan of water would definately help to keep the temperature within an oven stable at slightly higher than 212F. If the oven temperature were exactly 212 the energy (heat) would be absorbed by the water rather slowly. The extra heat we see for a typical recipe (225F) provides enough energy to covert the water to steam. In this case the water provides a large heat sink of sorts, helping to maintain the oven temperature.

This effect is very much the same as the ~150F plateu we see with meats as the fat and connective tissue is being rendered into liquid. This rendering takes energy, and results directly in the temperature slowdown we have all seen. A glass of Ice water is very simlar in this respect. The temperature of the water will remain almost exactly at 32F until all of the ice has melted (rendered). This is what makes a full glass of ice & water ideal for calibrating cold thermometers. The same would be true for a boiling pot of water. If the thermometer is held off of the container walls, you can be very sure that the temperature of the water would be very close to boiling.

With all of this being said, hopefully you can see how the water is very good at helping to keep temperature under control.

A fire based smoker without a pan of water would be much more sensitive with respect to keeping the temperatures steady. I could probably say that it requires much more fiddling by the operator to keep a wood fired smoker's temperature steady.

I cannot say one way or another if the extra water vapor helps to keep the meat moist or not. It would certainly seem to be the case although I have not tried to run my smoker dry yet. It may also help the smoke attach itself or be absorbed into the meat (definitely not a chemist here).

Hopefully this will help someone, one way or another.
wow... that was a lot of reading.... read my sig line... it's a pit. i put wood in it. i put meat on it, it cooks- freakin' amazing that way... remember einstein's therory of relativity boiled down is 3 letters & a number.... it's just cooking. it takes, time, patience, & practice.ya can factor in anything & everything but when ya boil it down... sit by yer pit w/ a cold beer & watch the fire....
Wow great response iqak and welcome. I'm right next door to you in Elk Grove. I have my doubts about the water pan keeping meat more moist, but it definately helps keep the heat more even, which is good when you have each shelf filled up with grub...
Thanks for all the responses. I purchased the barrel smoker and I am planning a pulled pork feast for this weekend. I am so looking forward to it.

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