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Weber Smokey Mountain Without Water Pan | 10 Important Facts

Weber Smokey Mountain Without Water Pan | 10 Important Facts

The Weber Smokey Mountain is, without a doubt, one of the most user-friendly smokers on the market. If you are a newbie you will find it brilliant to learn on but, it’s also a great smoker for any backyard Pitmaster. Whether you are looking for a low and slow smoke or something quick and hot, you can do everything with Weber’s versatile smoker. You can even use it as a grill, so it’s a fantastic and practical piece of equipment for your backyard.

The WSM (also known as The Bullet due to its shape) is a water smoker. Between the fire and cooking grates sits a water pan. The pan adds humidity to the smoker, helping to deliver a better smoke flavour and regulate the temperature. You don’t have to use the water pan for every smoke in your WSM. This is another reason the Weber Smokey Mountain has its own fanbase! There are so many options for the chef to help perfect their smoke adventure!

There are three main sections to your Weber Smokey Mountain:

  • The lid is where you will find the exhaust vent and the temperature gauge.
  • The smoke chamber houses the upper grate and the lower grate. The water pan sits just under the lower grate. It also has an access door so you can add more wood or charcoal should you need to.
  • The base pan is where your charcoal pan sits. You will also find your intake vents here.

The WSM is loved because of its simplicity to use. The water pan helps to deliver effortless smokes and can make you into a confident smoker. If you are ready to experiment a little then you could remove your water pan and try some more technical smokes. Check out our brief guide for cooking without your WSM water pan!

Can You Smoke Without The Water Pan?

Yes! You can use your smoker with or without the water pan. You can also use it with water in the pan or with no water in the pan.

When Should You Not Use A Water Pan In A Weber Smokey Mountain?

If you want to do a fast smoke then you will get a better result without the water pan. This will give you crispier skin on your chicken. You can remove it for cooking Boston butt or brisket. Some people believe the fat dripping on the coals delivers a better flavour. One thing it will definitely do is leave a terrible mess in your fuel pan! Don’t use the water pan if you are grilling.

Best Barbecue Cuts To Use Without Water Pan On A WSM

While expert smokers may get away with not using the WSM water pan on most BBQ cuts, it is best to only remove it for cuts that don’t need a long cooking time, such as brisket. These meats benefit more from the low and slow smoke which is best done with the water pan. Remove the water pan when you are cooking steak, chicken, turkey or smaller cuts of meats.

What Does The WSM Water Pan Do?

Firstly the pan creates an indirect cooking environment. Essentially it puts a barrier between what you are cooking and the fuel source. Traditional smokers are naturally indirect as the firebox is separate from the smoke chamber. Having the water pan above the heat source stops the meat juices and fat from creating a nasty mess in your fire pan, which will save you plenty of cleaning!

Water is also brilliant for the low and slow method because it works as a temperature regulator. It’s tricky for smokers to get above 225 degrees with a water pan. This makes it much easier for beginners and means once you have stabilised the temperature in your WSM, you can check it far less than without the pan. The constant rolling boil of the water takes a lot of energy and keeps the smoker temperature stabilised.

The water pan also helps to enhance the flavour of your smoke and to render fat and help tougher cuts, such as Pork butt or brisket, be moist and tender.

Is The Water Pan Necessary?

In short, no. It isn’t necessary. However, using a water pan is sensible for newbie pitsters. Using the water pan is more forgiving than just using your vents to control temperature. Build your confidence up by using the water pan and then, if you like, experiment without it.

The water pan is also not necessary for hot and quick smokes or if you are grilling meats.

Does Barbecue Come Out Differently Without Water Pan?

There are pitsters that say the flavour of the barbecue is different without the water pan. Some say that allowing the fat from their meat to drip directly on the fire pit creates an amazing smelling smoke and gives the meat a better taste. Others say that there is no difference at all. This will all come down to your preference and tastebuds, so try it out and see what you think.

It is possible to use the pan without any water in it, this would catch the fat drippings so you don’t have such a mess to clean in your fire pan. It also means the meat on the lower rack will get a more fierce heat. So bear this in mind when cooking.

Flavor Without WSM Water Pan

As mentioned above there is some discrepancy over water pans and flavor. Some say the water helps to give a more full flavor, others claim that the meat drippings add a flavor to the smoke. One thing that is for sure, if you like your chicken skin to be crisp, you will achieve this easier with no water pan.

Temperature Effects Without A Weber Smokey Mountain Water Pan

When you remove the water pan, or you cook with an empty water pan, the temperature of your smoker will get much higher. It will also be a little harder to stabilise. You will probably find you need to tweak the vents a little more until you get used to your WSM.

Should You Put Water In The Water Pan?

You can cook without water in the pan. You should do this if you are trying to achieve a hot smoke. Place the empty pan in the smoker and you will be able to get to temperatures over 300 degrees. The empty pan will radiate heat a lot fiercer than a full pan, so you might need to put your joint on the higher rack or, if you are cooking on both racks, rotate the meat.

It is also important to remember that no water means checking your temperature regularly to ensure it hasn’t got too hot or dropped down too much. Adjust your vents and give it 15 minutes to stabilise.

WSM Water Pan Alternatives

The Weber water pan is designed to get the job done in the most effective way. However, there are plenty of alternatives that you may want to experiment with. Some people swear by them for improving temperature stabilisation, clean up and even flavour. Others say that they are a waste of time. Some of these include:

  • Replacing water with beer/wine/onions or herbs to improve the flavour of your smoke
  • Adding lava rocks, sand, clay or steel plates to help regulate temperature without steam and with less mess to clear up

Weber doesn’t suggest using alternatives. Why mess with perfection?

The Weber Smokey Mountain is brilliantly and completely user friendly so, get outside and share your amazing barbecues with friends!