More often than not, I like to use a water pan when firing up my ceramic smokers. A water pan helps to add an extra layer of protection from the heat and provides a moist atmosphere for your meats. When the smoker temperature gets above 212, the water will start to boil, producing steam. This steam will help keep your meats moist during the cooking process.
When do I like using a water pan?
- Ribs – ribs are a thin piece of meat and having the water pans helps protect from any unintended temperature spike.
- Hot and Fast – If I am running a large cut of meat hot and fast like a brisket, I definitely want the water pan for the moisture and heat protection
- Overnight cooks – When going low and slow overnight, the water pan helps keep things moist and prevents some of the outer bark from getting too crunchy
When do I not like using a water pan?
- Chicken – for chicken, I want to get a crispy skin so I want the continuous dry heat from the smoker.
- Smoked Salmon – again I want a drier heat from the smoker for best results
Setting up a water pan
Setting up a water pan in your smoker is super easy. Depending on your smoker size, you can use a disposable aluminum 1/2 pan or full pan.
- get your charcoal lighted and wood chunks on
- place your heat deflectors in the smoker
- put your water on top of the heat deflectors
- add water
- place grill grates on top
- stabilize the smokers temperature
View the video below for a detailed example.
Folks have asked if I put any flavoring like beer or apple juice/cider in the water pan. My answer is no, just water. I have tried some of the other options and have not noticed any real difference in flavor of the meat. So I just keep it simple and use water.