Many smoker enthusiasts claim that offset smokers create the best flavor of all the styles you can choose. More importantly, this type has a large capacity so that you can cook bigger pieces of meat at one time.
Plus, the dual chamber design allows you to add more fuel easily. Where should you place a water pan in an offset smoker? I will walk you through the best options so you can have the tastiest cuts.
The best place to put a water pan in your offset smoker is directly above the coals by adding an extra rack directly above the flames. This will create the most steam to keep your meat incredibly moist. Use a full tray of water to help generate enough radiant heat beneath your meat.
Best Places To Put Water Pan In Offset Smoker
Choosing the perfect location for the water pan in your smoker is like selecting the ideal cut of meat. You will still get good results without the optimal conditions, but it’s better when you do it right.
The list below offers 3 options for where to place your water pan and details on when and why that placement works.
1- Typical Offset Smoker Water Pan
It would be best to put a water pan as close to directly over the coals as possible, but not on them.
In small to medium-sized smokers, the water pan is between the drip pan and the heat source. However, this works best in vertical smokers or large horizontal smokers with multiple racks.
The best way to accomplish this placement is to add an extra rack. By setting a rack closer to the flames or coals, you can use the pan for its intended purpose without taking space away from your usual meat cooking racks.
Using Your Water Pan To Control The Temperature
Smoking requires temperature control, which can be difficult depending on your heat source. The nice thing about water is that it has a maximum temperature.
When water goes above its boiling temperature of 212°F or 100°C, it becomes steam. As the moisture evaporates, it takes heat with it making this an incredibly effective heat regulation tool.
Essentially, within your cooker, steam from the water pan performs the same function as a swamp cooler does in a home.
Water is a fantastic way to store and remove heat. As long as the outside air isn’t overly moist, this process will continue unimpeded as long as you keep that water pan full.
However, you may notice it’s less effective at cooling in damp environments or on rainy days. The simple, sensible solution is to avoid smoking meat when it’s raining since fire and rain are a bad combo anyway.
Get More Even Heat
Both the pan itself and the water inside are going to act as a heat sink. However, the steam also aids in creating an even heat along with good moisture for your meat.
Because the steam is cooking the meat along with the smoke, it temperature regulates the heating process.
2- Setting The Pan Beside The Firebox In Horizontal Offset Smoker
Do you have a large horizontal offset smoker? If so, then I recommend placing your water pan closest to the firebox.
Not only is this the most straightforward position to refill, but it also creates the best heat sink.
The trouble with larger offset smokers is that there’s no way the water pan will sit over the majority of the fire. This means picking the best position to prevent the meat from cooking unevenly.
The smoke and steam will still provide relatively even heat. However, you will want to turn and rotate your meat.
Why Having Moisture Matters
No one likes dry meat. Jerky is one thing, but a tough, shoe-leather-like cut of meat isn’t something anyone wants to pull out of a smoker.
More importantly, there’s no reason you should have dry meat in a good smoker.
By filling the air inside your smoker with water, you prevent more moisture in the air. There is a limit to how saturated air can become.
Using a water pan to create steam adds moisture to cooking meat, which allows the flavor of the smoke to permeate deeply.
However, it also prevents evaporation of the water within those cuts, or at least minimizes it.
3- Water Pan Directly Under or Beside Meat
Sometimes, in smaller smokers, you don’t have a lot of options. You may need to place your water pan directly under your meat or right next to it.
This happens when you only have a single smaller rack, or there’s no way to add or adjust the lower rack. Although these are not the best positions for a water pan, you still get most of the benefits of using one.
Try not to press the pan against the meat you are smoking if they have to sit directly beside each other. Even a few millimeters of separation is enough.
Meanwhile, when you have to place the water n a rack directly below the meat, it’s going to catch drippings, so you should change the water more often.
Water Pan vs Dripping Pan: Do You Need Both?
A water pan and a drip pan can be the same thing or two different pans. While it’s always a good idea to use a water pan, additional drip pans will depend on the setup of your smoker.
A water pan has water inside, and it belongs directly over the heat source.
Meanwhile, a dripping pan exists only to catch the fat dripping from the meat and keep it out of the fire. Fat burns well and can flare-up.
Moreover, burnt fat can alter the flavor of your food. You can use both, but a single water-filled pan will do double duty when there is no room.
Remember to change the water more often if it’s also catching meat runoff.
Helpful Tips To Know Water Pan Placement In Offset Smoker
It’s essential to use a water pan in your offset smoker to keep the meat moist. Experimenting with the best placement for your particular smoker is an intelligent way to get the best result every time.
Here are a few more helpful tips to know about water pan placement in an offset smoker.
- If you are using a reverse flow offset smoker, you cannot have a water pan. Because the heat source isn’t in the same chamber as the food, a water pan is useless for this style.
- Even if you use a very fatty cut of meat like a good brisket, you should always use a water pan in an offset smoker. Doing this will help preserve the flavor and moisture in the meat far better than a pan-less smoker.
- Moisture from the water pan in your smoker traps the smoke on the surface of your meat, which in turn gives it a deeper flavor.
You can smoke meat without a water pan, but it’s hard to beat the incredible moisture and flavor you’ll get using this simple, clever trick.
Most of the time you should put your water pan on a grate as close to the heat source as possible because that allows the pan to do its job.
A water pan offers three simple benefits. First, it regulates heat by acting as a heat sink. Second, it evens out the heat within the smoker, so the meat above it cooks evenly, and third, it helps keep that meat moist.
Smoked meat isn’t as good when it’s tough, like shoe leather. Proper pan placement will depend on the style of your smoker, but it’s always a good idea to include water in the cooking process.