Using A Water Pan For Temperature Control

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by bill scott, Jun 10, 2014.

  1. bill scott

    bill scott Fire Starter

    I've had my Smokin-It, Big Daddy for about a year now and it continues to cook up some great meat dishes, but today I am trying something new. While the Big Daddy is a great smoker, with its 1500 watt element and analog heat controller, it continues to be a chore to maintain a steady temperature +/- 6 degrees and I would like to have a bit more accuracy if possible. Right now I have it set to 225 and it goes up and down from 219 to 231 as the heating element cycles on and off. Finding the exact place to position the dial is a hit and miss proposition every time.

    Recently, I have been reading about controlling smoker temperature using a water pan, and I wold like to know more about it. I remember once when I starting using my Masterbuilt smoker, I called support when the temp wouldn't go above 160 degrees or so and they told me I had too much water in the water pan. At the time that information really didn't compute with me, but while trying to solve my temperature accuracy problem with the Big Daddy, I ran across a statement that putting a pan of water inside the smoker will help to keep the temp steady at around 225 degrees. It's a interesting prospect that I would like to more more about, but I have pretty much exhausted my research on the Internet. Are there any experts out there that have dealt with using water to control temperature in an electric smoker?
  2. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Hi Bill,

    I never use water in my pan, because I don't want the extra humidity.

    It can be a Heat sinc, but sand in the water pan can be even better. It holds heat to avoid spikes, and also gets the heat back up after opening the door, if need be. The sand doesn't add humidity to the smoker like water does.

    I don't use either, because I don't open my door often, and I don't get the heat spikes with my MES 40.

    Don't know if this helps you any.

    bill scott likes this.
  3. If you're running +/- 6* in an electric you're doing well that's not bad at all I'm not sure how much more it would improve by adding water. You are always going to get swings that is the nature of electric heat. As Bear said above, I use sand in my water bowl and I am happy with 5* swings above or below set point.
    bill scott likes this.
  4. bill scott

    bill scott Fire Starter

    I'm inclined to agree with both of  you. On my next round I'll try the sand.

    Whatever I did, the Boston Butt  smells delicious. I learned something else today. The brine solution I used smells like ripe olives. It must be the molasses. I can't wait to taste the meat. I refrigerated it in brine for 12 hours, cooked it in the smoker to 150 degrees, double wrapped it in foil and finished it off in the oven at 200. Gonna let it set for a half hour or so, reduce the oven to warm, put it back in to keep it warm, and pull it in about an hour and a half.
  5. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    +/- 6 degrees ????????? You are way too anal...... the oven in your kitchen isn't that good..... You need to drink more adult beverages while smoking stuff and quit watching the thermometer...... HAHAHAHAHAHA ..... and sand is a better temp controller than water.... water can screw up a good hunk of smoked meat....
  6. bill scott

    bill scott Fire Starter

    Thanks, Dave for reminding me.
    I confess, you're right. That kind of thinking can lead to some pretty serious compulsive obsessive disorders you know? Actually, I wasn't thinking so much about getting an accurate temperature set, as I was complaining as to how long it took to set the correct position of the temperature control knob in the beginning. The dial says 225, but it might be 200 to 250 or anywhere in between. It's not so bad however. Up and down the steps a dozen times or so is good exercise.

    Dave, I can remember the days when we used to just throw another log on the pile every time the fire started to go out, then grab the can of charcoal lighter fluid and incinerate our eyebrows. Now that was"real man's" temperature control, not this whiney crap about where to set the stupid dial.

    Can't remember when the food ever tasting any better than that. Of course I was probably drunk so who cared about taste anyway? One time after consuming a 'fee too martinees', I was so hungry I incinerated a whole chicken for about five minutes over a blazing campfire and ate it raw. I was up all night and most of the next morning regretting that one.

    Does abstinence from alcohol lead to anal retentiveness? I'm pretty sure it can help prevent salmonella food poisoning, and forgetting where you last saw the smoker. I need to look that one up. 

  7. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    YEP !!!!!! Thinking back a few years, I NEVER, EVER, used a thermometer.... for the fire or the food..... If memory serves me correctly, that stuff was pretty darn good.... From a cheap cast iron hibachi from China, my Totem Smoker, my back yard fire pit or the propane grill.... never did a thermometer come into play..... Thank goodness for this forum.... Now I have more stuff to worry about when smoking great food.... I do think the quality is more consistent using a therm, and food borne pathogens won't do me in......
  8. bill scott

    bill scott Fire Starter

    Yep. I used to cook some succulent ribs, flashed over a hot bed of mesquite, that at one time melted my new cast aluminum grill. Bottom fell right out and started a grass fire on my lawn. I think I still carry pieces of those ribs in my molars today, but boy they were good.

    In the sixties, the best part of our BBQ outings was giving a small hatchet to a newcomer, and telling him to go chop a limb off a mesquite tree in a vacant lot next door. Then we would burst out in laughter after he made his first swing and ended up with his arm in a sling for the rest of the day.

    I appear to be on the downside of a learning curve these days. I'm not sure whether it is bad meat or back cooking. I've got the cooking part down right, but I still suffer from being seasonally challenged. I can't figure out what I like. I think my obsession with perfection may be the cause. I'm sure I have eaten roadkill at some point in my life that came out better than what I am cooking today. My ribs are good, but I'm getting bored with the same old same old.

    There's just the two of us, my wife and I, and in the meat department, she only consumes pork or fish. So I end up cooking 10 pounds of something she won't eat, and after a few days I have the happiest dogs in the state. Yesterday I cooked a perfect Boston Butt. Pulled it apart like a champ, but the flavor wasn't there. I brined it for 12 hours in a solution of water, salt and molasses. The little taste the meat had after cooking was not  good. Had to use Baby Rays Barbeque sauce to get it down. I never have like barbeque sauce of any kind, but it was impossible to eat without it.

    I'm looking for a world-class course on seasoning. Do you know of any?
  9. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Today's pigs have NO flavor.... same with chickens...... Bride will brine with chicken stock and a ton of spices to try and cram some flavor into pork and poultry.... works fairly well.....

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