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Water pan - do you use it?


Joined Sep 2, 2016
I have a Smoke Hollow Pro 44" propane. I've had an understanding that the water pan helps keep the meat from drying out, so I've always used the pan in this and my previous ECB. Run it about half full of water and lined with heavy duty foil to make cleanup easier. When I had the ECB it needed occasional refilling during a cook, but I've never had to do that with the SHP even in longer cooks. Recently I've read a few older posts from people who don't use water, instead keeping sand or pea gravel in it. Some have mentioned sand or pea gravel making a good heat sink, but being a newbie I'm not sure what a heat sink is or what it does.

Do you use water in the pan, sand, or something else... and why? What have you found are the advantages or disadvantages of water or something else in the pan? Also, what is a heat sink and what effect does it have? I've also seen mention that propane creates moisture and eliminates the need for water.

Like a lot of things of course, it'll be a matter of personal preference. I'd like to learn about the options and decide if I should continue with water or try another method.


Last edited:


Epic Pitmaster
OTBS Member
Joined Oct 4, 2012
The water pan doesn't make the meat moist. Proper cooking will take care of that. Water pans were put into smokers to help maintain proper temps. I run all my smokers with a dry pit, no water in the pan. I foil the pan and leave it in as a drip tray. The foil makes for easy clean up. If the weather is really cold filling the pan with sand or gravel can help with temp swings if you are opening and closing the door a lot. In warmer weather the empty pan works just fine.


SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster
Staff member
OTBS Member
★ Lifetime Premier ★
Joined Jun 22, 2009
I'm completely the opposite of Case. I use the water pan in all my smokers.

I even put a pan of water in my offset.

But that is just me.

There is no right or wrong way, try it both ways and see what you think.

Water, sand, lava rock, whatever you put in the pan will help minimize temp swings.

That is what a heat sink does, it helps maintain a steady temp.



Smoking Fanatic
Joined Mar 14, 2013
You're right it does come down to personal preference, and some experimentation is necessary to decide which you prefer.  A heat sink is something that absorbs heat, then with charcoal, the heat sink release its heat as the fire dies.  That way it reduces temp fluctuation, with a gas smoker, the heat sink retains heat when the door is open, and the hot air rushes out.  Water in the pan will also reduce the temp in the cook chamber, gas smokers tend to run hot, so water can be helpful with that.

I use both sand or water in my pan.  When I smoke salmon, I form a pellicle, that's air drying the fish first, I use sand in the pan because moisture would degrade the pelicle.  But today for instance, I'm doing a small cross rib beef roast for four hours, using charcoal.  For the first two hours when the fire is hot, I'll use  water in the pan, then as the fire begins to die, the final two hours I'll have no water in the pan.  Bottom line its a matter of what you're cooking, personal preference, and experimentation, so good luck and good smokin'.

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