|The Water Pan explained for grilling and smoking techniques!|
If you’ve purchased a smoker, you’re likely familiar with the term “water pan”. If, however, you’re more of an LP/Gas Grill person, than this term is likely one that escapes your knowledge.
Water pans are a means of introducing valuable moisture into the cooking environment which has immense value when grilling and smoking. Let me explain each of the pros of learning and using a water pan for your outdoor cooking, no matter the type of equipment you’re cooking on.
A water pan goes above the heat source. If using a charcoal grill or charcoal/wood smoker, this pan would be placed above the coal area. Have an electric unit and you’ll find the pan over the electric heating element. If you want to introduce a water pan on an LP/Gas Grill, this would be placed over the lit burners. Many vertical smokers come with a water pan.
Water Pan Pro #2Water cannot go above the boiling point which is 212°F. Additionally, evaporative cooling also takes place as the water is exposed to heat.
Water Pan Pro #3A water pan can become the number one tool when doing direct heat cooking over an open flame. Why? It acts as a repellent for the flame giving your foods a chance to survive without becoming a blackened, dried out, former piece of food.
Water Pan Pro #4Are you having trouble with hot spots in your equipment? Well, a water pan will even them out. Now, the temperature you desire can essentially be locked in just by using a water pan.
Water Pan Pro #5Humidity that develops from the use of a water pan keeps the surface of the meat moist, which in turn, attracts smoke vapor, which in turn, produces great flavor. The water vapor mixes with the combustible gases which are emitted from the burning material and add to the overall flavor. Yes, water is a passageway to all things flavorful!
What Goes in the Water PanIt’s called a water pan for a reason. It is designed to hold water, specifically hot water to keep the cooker from wasting energy on heating cold water put in the pan. Here’s a tip when you fill the water pan: use a teapot to fill the pan while it’s in place so you don’t take the chance of spilling hot water on surfaces or you. Remember, water evaporates while other liquids don’t evaporate.
Don’t Make the Water Pan a Drip PanHere’s the thing with a drip pan. Due to its location directly over the heat source, when used on vertical units it often serves double duty as a drip pan. Don’t do that! Here’s why. The rendered fat drippings can produce an oil slick on the surface of the water which will prevent water evaporation.
Make Cleaning a SnapHere’s a couple of tips when using a water pan. If your unit comes with a water pan, line it in aluminum foil which will allow you to simply pull the foil off and preserve the condition of the original pan.
If you’re using a unit that has no water pan but want to introduce one, simply purchase a disposable foil pan. You will want to purchase one that is compatible in size to the unit your using, that will fit comfortably over the heat source, and that can hold enough water to prevent you from having to make refill trips every 15 minutes.