Water Or No Water ?

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t-bone tim

Master of the Pit
Original poster
OTBS Member
Feb 24, 2007
N.B. Canada
Well ,I did some looking and my new centro electric is definetly the exact some as the brinkman....now is there a general rule of thumb on when or what type of smoking that the water pan should be used with water ?? I have done some searching some say don't use water,some say the water is just a heat buffer...should I use water with this smoker or not ??
Okay, it's my personal opinion, but something about a waterpan in an electric smoker scares me. I have a brinkmann charcoal smoker so I know the setup somewhat. Personally, I'd try some sand first to see if you get the desired results with temp control. Plus I hear sand actually may help electros maintain temp.
If I may add my humble opinion based on my experience here goes:

Sand in a water pan is a definite no no. Sand is an excellent thermal flywheel and will store heat and give off heat. The problem is that as long as there is a heat source the sand continues to store heat till it reaches its melting point of around 3500F. (I could be wrong on the temp)

Water will store heat till it boils at 212F, depending on where you live. And since water will regulate temps that are within our target range for Q it is an ideal temperature buffer. It also reacts much more quickly to input/output than sand.

Sand can be used, but better results are attained with water.

Sir Monty ,what effects good or bad does the water have on the meat itself ??
The water has no effect on the meat. Its only purpose is to moderate the temperature in the smoker. The tenderness comes from a slow cook and the moistness comes from the marbling, or fat, in the meat. The bark formed with your rub and mop help contain the natural juices. Hope this helps!

I have found the water pan in our electric smoker at work really does nothing at all. If the walls of your smoker are insulated it should hold a fairly constant temp regardless if you use a water pan or not.
And here is my opinion.
Thousands of man hours go into the design of MOST of what we buy. If the manufacturer says to use it, use it. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the design of some things can't be improved upon. That's how we've gotten here today. But these smokers with water pans have been around for decades. If there is a better way, Brinkman would have ditched the water pan by now.
Don't use sand. Too many nasties can live and breed in sand.
No offense, but this is a blanket statement. Most off the shelf smokers aren't insulated and are built as cheaply as possible. They use cheap thermostats, regulators, thermocouples, etc, etc.
The water pan is a great safety feature and should be used, unless you have the time to stand over a thermometer. And most of the water smokers I've seen do not have enough vents to do what the water pan naturally does.
One side effect the water pan can have on smoking is preventing grease fires. Most are big enough to catch the grease that comes off the meat during the smoking process. When a lot of grease hits the hot charcoal or whatever the heat source is or pools up in the firebox on a vertical it can start a grease fire just like a grill.

This actually happen to me this weekend! I was not using the water pan because it was warm out (40 degrees). I had 2 briskets, a hunk of chuck roast and 3 fatties in my ECB and it flared up with just a hand full of glowing coals and a small chunk of hickory.

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