Water Pans: What Are They And Why You Smoke With Them

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  May 27, 2022

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A water pan is an essential piece of equipment for smoking meats. It helps to keep the meat moist and tender by evaporating water, which keeps the temperature low and prevents the meat from drying out. It also catches any juices that drip from the meat, so they can be used for basting or making sauces.

How does a water pan stabilize temperature?

A water pan stabilizes the temperature in a smoker by evaporating water. As the water vapor rises, it cools the air inside the smoker. That’s because the water vapor cannot rise above boiling temperature, which is 212°F, or 100°C, well below the 225°F most people smoke at.

This process helps to keep the temperature low, gives you more temperature control, and prevents the meat from drying out.

Do wood chips go in the water pan?

No, wood chips should not go in the water pan. They will soak up water and won’t smoke as well. Instead, put the wood chips in a smoking box, usually below the water pan near the heat source.

What can I put in my water pan?

You can use water, beer, cider, wine, fruit juices, or any other liquid that won’t affect the flavor of the meat. Some people even put sand in the bottom of their water pan to help conduct heat and prevent scorching.

Just remember, whatever you put in your water pan will become concentrated as it evaporates, so don’t use too much or it could affect the flavor of your meat.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.