A water pan in Traeger smoker feels wrong if you’re new to smoking. However, using a water pan in your Traeger is important for regulating the internal temperature of the chamber, preventing your meat from drying out, and stopping flareups in the smoker.
This article will explain if, why, and how to use a water pan in Traeger smokers and vital tips for using them.
Should I put a water pan in Traeger?
Using a water pan in your Traeger smoker improves your overall BBQ smoking. The main reason for putting water pans in Traeger is to regulate the cooking temperature in the chamber.
This is because water temperature cannot exceed 100 °C (212 °F), regardless of how hot the Traeger grill is.
Another reason you may use a water pan in a Traeger pellet grill is that water adds the much-needed moister to your cooking chamber when you smoke food.
This moisture is crucial for preventing the meat from getting too dry when you smoke it. The moisture also helps the meat absorb smoke and gives it a smokey flavor.
A water pan can also serve as a drip pan that stops fluid from dripping onto the hot coal as this dripping can result in flareups in the smoker.
However, Traeger pellet grills need no drip pan because they come with a drip tray that serves the same purpose.
Here, I’ll explain in details, the benefits of using a water pan in your Traeger smoker.
1. Indirect heating
When you position a water pan over the coal, the heat from the burning coal warm up the water, which then transmits the heat to your food.
This slow, indirect heating provided by a water pan in your Traeger will prevent the meat from smoking unevenly.
2. Temperature regulation
A water pan provides indirect heating; thus it ensures that your food doesn’t heat to temperatures much higher than water’s boiling point.
The temperature of water cannot rise above its boiling point of 100°C (i.e., 212°F), and the same would apply to your meat.
Ideally, you will smoke at around 225°F. Since water retains heat way longer than air, the water pan also is also important for maintaining the temperature of your food when when the temperature of your smoker drops.
3. Adds extra smokey flavor
You place the water pan between the coal and your meat, and so the smoke settles in the water in the pan. This heated water transmits steam with this smokey flavor onto your meat.
Also, the smoke that goes directly to the meat sticks on it, thanks to the water vapor on the meat from the water pan.
4. Moisturizes your meat
The heat transmitted from the water pan to your meat is usually moist and steamy. This humidity in the cooking environment reduces the temperature of the meat, making it cook more slowly. When you eat meat that was cooked slowly, you’ll notice that its easy to chew.
5. Prevents dryouts
Water vapor from the pan condenses on the meat you are cooking to moisturize it. This moisturization ensures that your meat doesn’t dry out.
You will notice this benefit of water pans mostly in electric smokers, which have much less air flow than charcoal smokers. The humidity water pans provide to your Traeger is perhaps the single most vital reason why you should use a water pan in Traeger.
6. Prevents flareups
Flareups happen when grease or fat drips from your meat and falls onto the fire or coals while you’re smoking meat.
Most chefs know all about flareups, and the main solution to that is using a drip pan to collect the dripping grease and oil before they hit the coal.
When you use a water pan in your Traeger, the water pan will collect the dripping grease just as the drip pan does.
In the section that follows, I’ll explain the differences between a drip pan and a water pan for Traeger smokers.
Drip pan vs water pan in Traeger: What are the differences?
Although drip pans and water pans can serve similar functions, they are fundamentally different.
Drip pans and water pans are used for different purposes, but they both stop grease from dripping on your heat source.
You position drip pans beneath the food, where it can collect all grease drippings before they get onto the hot charcoal or flames and cause flareups.
Water pans, on the other hand, are placed above the heat source, where it’s optimal for moisturizing your meat.