In 1981 Weber introduced the first Smokey Mountain. It was the brainchild of a man called Erich Schlosser who cobbled together the prototype WSM from two kettle lids and various other parts lying about in the R&D department at Weber HQ. The result was Frankenstien’s monster meets R2D2. While the very first Smokey Mountain may have looked a little primitive, it was enough for Weber to put it into production and, little did they know, one of the most iconic smokers in history was born.
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Weber is customer-driven and knows that to be the best, you must pay attention to the consumer’s demands and needs. Over the years they have adapted the Weber Smokey Mountain into the fantastic smoker you see today. They increased the range to offer a smaller size, added a temperature gauge to the lid and then, after customers called for one, they added a silicone grommet. This ensured a grill thermometer such as the iGrill, could be used. One thing that hasn’t changed since the ’80s is the incredible build quality, something Weber never compromises on.
The WSM is from the water pan family of smokers. A water pan is a secret weapon in temperature management. It helps create the perfect environment for low and slow cooks. Water also hydrates the smoker and will help to keep your meats moist. You don’t always have to use the water pan and in some situations, you might be better off without it. So let’s take a look at using the Weber Smokey Mountain without the water pan.
Using Weber Smokey Mountain Without Water Pan
The water pan in your Smokey Mountain makes things simple for beginners. It helps with temperature stability which is quite tricky to get the hang of when you are just starting out. As you become a more skilled pitster, using your WSM without the water pan may become more common.
Removing the water from your pan is also known as dry smoking, and it allows you to reach much higher temperatures. It also removes moisture and helps you to achieve crisper skin on your meat.
You should be aware that removing the water pan means you have to monitor your temperature more. The Weber Smokey Mountain has 4 intake vents and an exhaust vent, learning how to use these will make managing your temperature on dry smokes easier. It might be worth doing a couple of practice smokes without the water pan so you can learn how to use the vents in the best way.
Is Weber Smokey Mountain Water Pan Necessary?
The water pan isn’t necessary. Its job is to help make the process of smoking and maintaining temperature easier. As you become a more confident smoker you may find you use the water pan less. A water pan also blocks direct heat as it is situation under the meat, on top of your heat source. The is great for preventing flare-ups.
Can You Smoke Without Water Pan?
Yes. Smoking without the water pan requires a little more experience and time. You may overshoot your temperature, so you need to keep a close eye on how things are heating up. In some cases, smoking without a water pan is better, such as a hot and quick smoke for chicken wings or a crisp-skinned whole chicken.
Should I Put A Pan Of Water In My Smoker?
Placing a water pan in your smoker can help prevent flare-ups and which can ruin a smoke. If you have never used a WSM before then using the water pan for your first smoke is a great idea. You don’t have to put water in the pan though, you can replace it with beer, wine and water with herbs. Some people find this adds flavor to the smoke, others report they taste no difference.
A great tip is to make sure you put boiled water in your pan. This can speed up the start up process as your water won’t need to come to the boil. With cold water you would be heating the water first and then the water would be heating the smoker. This method will also help save some of your fuel.
WSM No Water Pan Flavor Difference
Using a water pan gives your meat a more smokey flavor and the moisture can help you to achieve the smoke ring that pitmasters lust after. If you smoke without the water pan you may find that you get a less intense smoke flavor. You could balance this out by spritzing your meats with beer, wine or water during the cooking process. It will create a sticky coating on the meat and encourage the smoke to penetrate and create the smoke ring.
When To Use WSM Water Pan
If you are a beginner smoker then use the WSM water pan every time you cook at a low temperature (below 250 degrees). Even if you are a seasoned smoker, use the water pan anytime you want to cook at a steady, maintained heat for a long period of time. A water pan is great regardless of the type of meat you are smoking. From ribs to Boston butt to brisket, a water pan will help add a better smoke flavor to your meats.
When Not To Use WSM Water Pan
For smokes that require a higher temperature, the hot and fast method, don’t use your water pan. If you require crisp skin then use a dry pan. If you are a seasoned smoker then you can use your WSM without the smoker for any style of smoke you do, just remember to check the temperature regularly to ensure you don’t overshoot and ruin your smokes.
You also shouldn’t use your water pan if you are grilling. Searing a steak needs a high hot and direct heat source, so take out the water pan and get grilling!
Weber Smokey Mountain is the most beginner-friendly smoker on the market. It’s versatile and offers outstanding performance regardless of your barbecuing level.
This article was written by Robert McCall, the founder of bbqdropout.com. Robert also owns and operates the BBQ dropout YouTube channel where he demonstrates his first-hand experience cooking all kinds of meats and strives to provide helpful, authoritative content for people looking how to barbecue.
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