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Water Pan and Water Level

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    Water Pan and Water Level

    I just listened to the Harry Soo video and learned that he uses a dry water pan. The Amazing Ribs website has a section on the WSM and it suggests filling the pan to within a half inch of the top. I have been using a WSM for about five years and have always filled the pan with water because I seasoned and cooked following Amazing Ribs from the beginning.

    However I have a couple of questions I have been thinking about recently.

    Why fill the water pan so full. I think I could do ribs which is tops a six hour cook and have only 8-16 ounces of in the pan. My water pan is pretty much as full when I finish which suggests there is not a ton of evaporation. Clean-up would be so much easier because it is a total PIA with a full pan not to mention figuring out how to separate the fat.

    On the other hand, if you run a dry pan and then spritz after the bark has set, how does that work. If you have to open the lid three times per hour to spritz the meat, you are creating a lot of temperature fluctuation which I didn't think was a good thing. I have always tried not to open the lid until the end of the cook to check for doneness.

    #2
    I don't spritz or put water in the water pan, and the ribs turn out just fine. To me, the water pan is just a nice heat deflector.

    Comment


    • smokin fool
      smokin fool commented
      Editing a comment
      Agreed.
      Having done ribs and other cooks with/without a water pan I've stopped using one altogether now for the majority of my cooks.
      Water pans do have they're place, I should have used one on my turkey cook last weekend not an aluminum pan.

    • Mojo0209
      Mojo0209 commented
      Editing a comment
      Agree

    #3
    I’ve done numerous rib cooks over the years both with and without water pans. I truly believe they make no difference at all. I don’t spritz either because all it’s doing is cooling off the meat imo and, again, I can’t taste a difference. The only time I can is when people spray them with a lot of apple cider vinegar. Then the ribs taste like....vinegar. Maybe try doing neither and see what you think? Might save you a lot of trouble.

    Comment


    • MTurney
      MTurney commented
      Editing a comment
      I should clarify. I just meant I can’t tell a difference in the final product, however many others can.

    #4
    I have no knowledge of WSM but....the more water in the pan means heat will be more evenly distributed in the chamber, which in the small space of a WSM or barrel cooker is kind of a meh thing in my mind.

    Maybe someone with more knowledge will swing by.

    Comment


      #5
      I use mine mostly as a deflector and a heat sink.

      Comment


        #6
        I can absolutely see a difference between water in the pan and no water. When my water pan runs dry, the temp at the top grate jumps 30-40 degrees really quickly. Remember, the water is a heat sink. It absorbs a bunch of heat from the fire and then slowly releases it.

        This cover will help a lot if you are concerned with clean up :-)

        Comment


        • Razor
          Razor commented
          Editing a comment
          I have one but never used it with water in the pan. Does the water still get out?

        • ecowper
          ecowper commented
          Editing a comment
          I love it cracked open like a lid on a pan :-)

        • Razor
          Razor commented
          Editing a comment
          Maybe I’ll place the extra Harbor Freight magnets I have in a position to keep an air gap. 😂

          https://www.harborfreight.com/4-piec...set-98502.html

        #7
        Not having a WSM, but having had an old bullet smoker with water pan MANY years ago, I would think that the water pan serves as a heat deflector, and as ecowper says, as a heat sink. It buffers and stabilizes the temperature.

        But that seems it would only work to a point. If you are smoking at 225F, you aren't too much above the boiling point of water, so I can see that sort of working. If you want to push up towards 300 or so, that is where I would think having water in the pan will cause you to struggle to reach temp, since the temp of steam is right at 212F. We know the water can never be hotter than boiling, so it seems it would just be a big "cold spot" in the smoker if you are trying to get to higher temperatures.

        Comment


        • ecowper
          ecowper commented
          Editing a comment
          Just right .... the WSM with water in the pan runs well between 225 and 275. to get to 325-350 (for turkey, for example), you need to run it without water

        • Andrrr
          Andrrr commented
          Editing a comment
          I’ll say it again

          “Not having a WSM”....yet

        #8
        I have been running a WSM for years, and only in the last couple have I run it without the water pan. Like ecowper mentions and jfmorris brings up, now I use it situationally. I use it for long cooks like brisket and butts, I don't use it for ribs and turkey.

        Comment


        • HawkerXP
          HawkerXP commented
          Editing a comment
          ...

        #9
        Thanks for all the good comments. It's true that amount of water is a huge heat sink and it may modulate temperature spikes. I had always assumed that the water served to keep the meat from drying out but as I said above the water level almost doesn't change during a cook. After hearing you guys I am not sure which way to go. I am not worried about temperature so much as I am using a Viper fan and Fireboard controller. Maybe the best accessories I have added to my system.

        What about a partial fill of the water pan? Has anyone tried that?

        Thanks again, there is a tremendous breadth of knowledge on this site.

        Comment


        • TripleB
          TripleB commented
          Editing a comment
          I took Harry’s class in Riverside about 2 years ago. All he cooks on in competition (and he has won a boat load of comps) is WSM’s. Harry’s knowledge of WSM’s is far above this website (sorry guys). He only spritzes after the bark is set and the temp comes back quickly in the WSM. Give Harry the benefit of the doubt and try it out.

        #10
        By the way ecowper, thanks for the lid tip. I didn't know about that and will definitely look into it.

        Comment


          #11
          I made blasphemy ribs the other day for the first time and used a full water pan just for temp control. It was windy out and I was afraid of temp variants with cut up baby backs.

          I use the pan with water in it for long cooks, briskets and butts. I line mine with heavy duty foil and place a cheap Harbor Freight hanger magnet in it to keep the foil from floating. By the end of the cook most of what’s left is fat. I just dig out the magnet, then take the aluminum foil out carefully, and pitch it. What’s left cleans up pretty easily in the sink.
          Last edited by Razor; October 13, 2020, 08:07 PM.

          Comment


            #12
            When I use the fan on long cooks - I have a cyber q - I still fill the water pan. I think it is more out of habit than anything. On my wsm, level declines quite a bit on long cooks. I used to refill it, but I don't anymore. I figure by the time the water level gets really low, the cook is almost over. Never tried a partial fill.

            I think it is Myron Mixon that is a big proponent of water pans - his newer smokers come with a built in water pan. I don't know if you can get a definitive answer; the best approach maty be to try different methods and see what works for you. Not a great answer lol.
            Last edited by klflowers; October 14, 2020, 04:02 PM. Reason: Myron Mixon smokers have te built in water pans. Clarified I use the fan on long cooks.

            Comment


              #13
              I have been cooking on my WSM for 5 years and have always used the water pan. This is probably more out of habit than anything. If I smoke during the winter I usually will not fill the pan...this helps stabilize my temps. As others have suggested I would just experiment to see what works for you...good luck.

              Comment


                #14
                So from my experience, it serves as a heat sink and helps keep temps steady. I think the big trick is knowing how much water to put in the pan. Remember, you can always add hot water but it's a big pain to take water out.

                My experience with that is when I did a brisket a little while ago and I basically filled the water pan in my 18' WSM. That's a deep water pan and it was a struggle to keep the temp at the grate at 225. All of that water was just soaking up that heat. I ended up taking the brisket off and emptying about half of the water out and the temps stayed around 260 with ease for the rest of the cook (16 hours on the smoker total).

                So for me, the water pan helps keep temps steady by acting as a heat sink and adds moisture to the cooker. I think the trick is just knowing how much water to keep in the pan to keep your temps where you want and if your goal is to keep things moist or not.

                Comment


                • FireMan
                  FireMan commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Excellent approach.

                #15
                Originally posted by zupanj View Post
                Thanks for all the good comments. It's true that amount of water is a huge heat sink and it may modulate temperature spikes. I had always assumed that the water served to keep the meat from drying out but as I said above the water level almost doesn't change during a cook. After hearing you guys I am not sure which way to go. I am not worried about temperature so much as I am using a Viper fan and Fireboard controller. Maybe the best accessories I have added to my system.

                What about a partial fill of the water pan? Has anyone tried that?

                Thanks again, there is a tremendous breadth of knowledge on this site.
                For ribs I fill the water pan about half full. For long cooks (pork butt and brisket) I have it pretty full. Same with turkey. I have never experimented by using without water though.

                I also recently added a Viper fan but with the UltraQ controller. It has worked great.

                Comment


                • jitsntricks
                  jitsntricks commented
                  Editing a comment
                  To be honest, I'd probably go without water when cooking a turkey. To get the skin nice a crispy or even bite through you don't want that extra moisture around.

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