If you’re like me, you’re always looking for ways to up your grilling game. One question that often comes up is whether or not pellet smokers need a water pan. Well, grab your aprons and get ready to learn because we’re diving into the smoky world of pellet grilling!
As long as your pellet smoker is well insulated, you don’t need to put a water pan in with your meat. Water pans are added to smokers to help the temperature stay consistent and prevent flare-ups. Because pellet smokers do this on their own, the water pan is unnecessary.
Of course, if you still want to add a water pan, you can! Read on to learn more about putting a water pan in your pellet smoker and when it is versus when it is not a good idea.
Jump to Section
What Does a Water Pan Do In Your Smoker?
In different types of smokers, namely charcoal smokers, you will hear that a water pan is a necessity. And in some of these cases, it is!
A water pan performs a few necessary tasks when placed inside a traditional smoker.
1. It Keeps the Temperature Steady
In charcoal smokers, it is difficult to maintain a steady temperature throughout the entire smoker. Adding a water pan helps to keep the temperature steady and allows you to cook your meat in that 200°F-225°F hot spot. It also helps to absorb flare-ups that may occur.
2. The Water Acts as a Drip Pan
When placing a water pan in your smoker, it also becomes a drip pan as you will put it below the meat but above the heat source. The water pan will collect any grease drips from the meat instead of letting them drip onto the charcoal and cause a flare-up.
3. Enhances the Flavor
Placing a water pan in your smoker adds more moisture to the smoker environment, which can help the air in your smoker circulate more evenly. This helps to spread the smoky flavor into all ends of your meat, even if only part of it is over the heat!
4. Lengthens the Stall
This last one can be a bit of a negative, depending on your smoking style. While adding a water pan has lots of benefits when smoking meats, it also keeps the temperature lower in the smoker. This can lengthen the stall and increase your overall cooking time.
Should You Add a Water Pan to Your Pellet Smoker?
Now that you have an idea of some of the pros and cons of adding a water pan, you may be wondering if it’s a good idea to add one to your pellet smoker.
In general, we don’t recommend adding a water pan to your pellet smoker. This is because it is simply not needed (the grill cooks evenly on its own and doesn’t flare up) and will only increase your smoke time.
Remember that the pellet smoker holds temperature well on its own and doesn’t suffer from flare-ups like a charcoal smoker. Additionally, in most pellet smokers, there is already a cover over the firepot, so you don’t need to worry about grease dripping into the flame.
Not to mention that pellet smokers use wood pellets instead of wood chips or charcoal which already add a delicious smoky flavor that doesn’t need as much monitoring as other smokers.
But this doesn’t mean that you can’t add a water pan to your pellet smoker. If you truly believe that the water pan is the way to go, add it, just know that your meat will need to smoke for just a bit longer.
When Should You Use a Water Pan with a Pellet Smoker?
Although it isn’t necessary in almost any instance, there may be a few times that you do want to consider adding a water pan to your pellet smoker. They are as follows.
1. Long Smokes of Tough Meat
When you are smoking those especially tough cuts, like Boston butt or brisket, and you plan to smoke them as low and slow as possible, it can be a good idea to put a water pan in your pellet smoker.
This is because the water pan will help keep the environment moist for the 10-12 hours your meat will be in the smoker. It is especially ideal when you are planning to leave your pellet smoker unattended.
2. If Your Pellet Smoker isn’t Consistent
Pellet smokers are some of the most temperature-consistent smokers on the market. Though we have heard rumors that sometimes aging Traeger smokers have difficulty maintaining temperature. If you have an aging smoker, we definitely recommend getting a new one, but in the meantime, you can put in a water pan to help with consistency.
3. If You Want to
As mentioned above, adding a water pan is always up to you whether or not you use a pellet smoker. If you want to see how your meat turns out when using a water pan, go for it.
Where Should You Place a Water Pan in a Pellet Smoker?
In non-pellet smokers, the water pan goes beneath the meat. This isn’t the case when you decide to add water to a pellet smoker because there typically isn’t room there for a water pan.
Instead, place the water pan off to the side as far from the meat as possible. With smaller pellet smokers that don’t have room for a water pan off to the side, it’s better to skip it entirely.
Can You Use a Water Pan as a Drip Pan?
Some people do indeed use a water pan to collect drippings in their smoker. It’s important to note, however, that the drippings collected in a water pan won’t be usable like those collected in a drip pan.
A drip pan does not contain water, and its sole purpose is to collect the drippings of the meat so they can be used in a sauce or other side dish(or to keep it from getting on the fuel). The drippings that have dripped into the water will not be usable in other dishes.
Like with water pans, there is no need to use a drip pan with a pellet smoker because the pellets are already protected from the drippings coming off the meat. Additionally, most pellet smokers already have a drip tray or bucket to collect the tasty drippings. Most brands also have liners for their built-in drip trays if you want to use them with your smoker.
If you want to use a drip pan for collecting drippings for a sauce, and your pellet smoker isn’t outfitted, you can do so, but it is recommended to get one designed for your specific pellet smoker. So if you have a Traeger pellet smoker, you’ll want to purchase the drip pan for your make and model.