Wood Smoker - Water Pan or Not?

Discussion in 'Wood Smokers' started by torchrider, Mar 16, 2010.

  1. torchrider

    torchrider Fire Starter

    I have a traditional heavy steel horizontal smoker with side fire box. Am I supposed to use a water pan with this type of smoker? My guess is no. Also, I have what appears to be a drain pipe built into the bottom of the smoker. Is this to let grease run out? Photos below.
  2. davidmcg

    davidmcg Meat Mopper

    Water pans in an offset aren't really that necessary. Generally the best thing they do is catch drippings to control what can be a mess, along with being a heat sink to retain heat when the occasional need comes along to open the smoker door. Other need for a water pan would be if the air is dry like in the desert or the mountains. I used to use a water pan, but I now fill my pan with sand and cover with foil. The play sand I think works as a better heat sink and I just add a cup of water to it for humidity before I cover in foil. After I am through smoking I just wad up the foil with all the drippings and toss it, makes clean up real easy.

    But the ultimate decision comes down to what is easier and tastes better to you. Not all of us use the same technique and no 2 smokers are alike. You play around with yours and see what works best for ya.
  3. rbranstner

    rbranstner Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I agree with David I don't see any water pans in offsets but that doesn't mean you couldn't do it.
  4. bbq engineer

    bbq engineer Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Hold on there gents...I have seen water pans in horizontal smokers...in fact, I designed my "Iron Maiden" so I can fill the drip pan with water if I decide to...open the valve and it all drains out. Super temperature stable if I do it that way.

    Torch, If you understand the rationale for the use of a water pan, then you can make a decision that will work for you. The water pan is essentially a giant heat sink. Think about it...It will absorb a lot of heat and then give off steam at 212° F. You usually smoke at 225°-250° F, so this is pretty close to ideal. Some will also say that the water pan gives off steam and makes a moist environment that will not dry out the meat being smoked too.

    Say you take that smoker home and fire it up. It looks pretty small from your pics, as I am judging it next to those bags of mulch. If you flame up a fire in that, you are probably going to be looking for something to damper the heat and provide more control for your temperatures. This is where a pan of water will come in handy.

    Bottom line is this...You have to get this thing fired up and see if you can control it, where the hot spots are, and get acquainted with it's operation. From that you now understand that if you need to, you can drop in a pan of water and effectively alter the way it behaves.

    Keep us posted, and good luck!
  5. davidmcg

    davidmcg Meat Mopper

    I didn't mean to not use a water pan, because I also have an offset and at one time I used water. I just switched to sand with a cup of water or so added to it. The meat in my smoker stays nice in moist. Thing is, every smoker is different and some are sealed better. Sand in my opinion just works as a better heat sink and deflector. Clean up is also much easier. No water to drain off, just pull off the foil, wad up and in the trash it goes.
  6. graybeard

    graybeard Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    I have used a standard broiler pan from a stove on all my SFB smokers. I also add water to them. I basically use as a baffle and they work wonders as far as stabilizing temperatures.

  7. smokin' dick

    smokin' dick Smoking Fanatic

    I use a loaf pan in my cheapo offset to help control the hot spot by the fire box. Fill up with water and set in on the grate, can't cook any meat there anyway unless I'm grilling it. Certainly does help even out the temps in the chamber. Since it is beside the meat and not under it, cleanup is not an issue.
    I agree with BBQ Eng. Fire it up and see how it is works and then address any issues.
  8. jdt

    jdt Smoking Fanatic SMF Premier Member

    To many hardcore offset guys this is a crutch and a sin. Others happily add water boxes or even setups that allow a very slow steady drip onto the dampner/baffle in order to make steam, its really a matter of personal preference

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