Important note: Clean your drip pan before doing high-temp cooks!!!!


Ryan Gardner

Ok, I'll be the first to admit that although I used to be pretty good about cleaning my water-pan back when I used to put water in it... since I've switched to using my stoker I've not thought about it much...

So... imagine my surprise when I'm using a hair-dryer to heat up my coals for a 350 degree standing-rib-roast cook yesterday, and the flames get high enough and I start to notice flames flicking up around my meat...

Putting my lid on and closing the vents seemed to put it out - but opening the lid created a serious blowback where the flames shot up again like crazy.

I was able to save my meat (I finished it in the oven) - and by dragging the feet of the WSM I was able to get it out from under my deck so it didn't burn my house down - but the flames on that thing were nuts.

In my rush to get the fire put out, I didn't get any pictures of it... I wish someone else around me had their camera handy and had snapped a few because it's hard to describe just how nuts that thing got.

We're talking 16-foot high flames shooting out of the thing like jet-engine afterburner.

I used a fire extinguisher to get the flames to die down enough for me to be able to put the lid back on and put the door back on - but the handle on my WSM is melted now and both my pit probe and my meat probe for my stoker are now out of commission.

So... Everyone doing high-temp cooks (or any cooks for that matter) - CLEAN YOUR WATER / DRIP PANS... A year of grease buildup is not a good thing to have sitting in your cooker waiting to ignite...
I put foil in my water pan and take it out after every cook. Clean up is a breeze. Yeah letting a years worth of grease build up in your water pan is not a good idea for a lot of reasons. Health reasons come to mind first, followed by nasty smelling goo second?
I take it a step further, and place a foil pan on top of the foiled water/flower pot base assembly. Pull it out, and throw away.
A year's worth???? I bet it did make a nice firebomb.

I'm not a stickler, but I do give the water pan a squirt with the hose between smokes. I've also been known to start a small fire under a dry water pan to help burn off the gunk, but never a big fire.
Kudos to you for having an extinguisher out there with you!! I keep a small one just in case only because I have a covered deck (if my grills/wsm's were out in the yard, i probably wouldn't). This post should be a word to the wise!

Glad you got it under control.

Wow, the mental picture of that first post is something else!

I'm no stickler about cleaning my WSM either, BUT, I only leave greese in the water pan after a cook. It will always get wiped out, and re-foiled before the next cook starts. Like others have said, use heavy duty WIDE foil and one piece covers the pan and is super easy and quick to replace and clean out.

My dad just took it down to the local car wash and gave it a thorough cleaning for me (I'm busy working today... shucks
) - But yeah... I guess I will get back into the habbit of dumping it out after every cook.

Oh - and the fire extinguishers WASN'T out there with me - once I pulled it a safe distance away from my deck I had to run inside to find it. (I will keep one closer in the future as well)
Ryan, did it look anything like THIS except I imagine you're kept burning once the lid was off. Damn, would loved to have a video of that one.

I had a mini flashback happen to me a few weeks ago, scared the hell out of me!
Originally posted by LarryR:
Ryan, did it look anything like THIS except I imagine you're kept burning once the lid was off. Damn, would loved to have a video of that one.

I had a mini flashback happen to me a few weeks ago, scared the hell out of me!

The first small flashbacks looked a bit similar - but the fire was contained inside the WSM and it just lipped up and around the drip pan.

The BIG flames make that flashback video look like a pilot lite on a gas stove by comparisson - the big flames were at least 10 feet high - probably more like 15+ feet high... and it was roaring like an afterburner...

I'm pleased to report I haven't had any incidents since this one - and I now clean my drip pan of grease after every cook
As embarrassing as it is to relive... I think it's important to bump this thread up a bit ahead of Thanksgiving - when most people will be doing high temp cooks of their turkeys.


There, I said it

As a follow up, I've been using the WSM ever since and it still works great. I do clean my drip pan a lot more frequently. The finish on the top of the WSM isn't as shiny as it was when it was new, and the top handle is a bit melted - but it still functions just fine.

For high temp cooks I will move it out from under any structure as an added precaution. (I've got a nice deck that it can sit under which is great for when I'm smoking something in the rain / snow - because it keeps the smoker dry and lets me use less fuel - but if I'm doing a high temp cook I'll move it out to be safe)

So... this concludes my safety message that probably very few of you need to hear - smoke on!
I don't recall the exact pre-event setup, but some years back I also got to see the "afterburner" effect in my WSM. Had it on the open deck and had dumped in a chimney of coals, covered them with more coals to fill the ring, then put the middle section on, waiting for the coals to ash over. I recall I was planning on doing a high heat cook.

A few minutes later, my daughter asked "Daddy what is that fire on the deck". You guessed it, 10'+ afterburner in full glory. Fortunately it was well outside the eves of the house. Closed the lower vents and wearing welding gloves put the top on with the top vent closed. Smothered it just fine.

It looked like the thin build up of gunk on the inside of the middle section had burnt off. I think there must have been some grease on the water pan, although it did have fresh foil (empty pan).

Either way - it's scary. And yes it also sounds like a jet afterburner..... wooooosh....
Ryan I have to admit I'm chuckling a bit from the mental image in my head of you running around like *** do I do! I'm glad you were not hurt and or the house. That is crazy and something I have never thought about. I always remove the foil to toss the grease out and never reuse it after everything cools down.. Basically for the same reasons bryan had said. Someone should send a link to Chris and have him post this on the main page of the forum if it has not already been done. . Thanks for sharing I can see how this thread will save some pain and suffering for a lot of folks. Thank you for posting it. Vince

Edit..just sent Chris an email with a link here! If this info is not posted than it should be!
Experienced my first grease fire in the WSM last weekend. Empty, unwrapped water pan. I think the build up of grease in the water pan occurred because I smoked 10 pounds of sausage first, then put a rack of ribs on when the sausage was done. when i turned up the heat to finish the ribs with sauce, I opened the lid and POOF!
You'll see me trying to blow out the grease fire to no avail. I've done this plenty on my kettle, but there was too much grease and this fire was too hot. Why didn't I just close the lid right away? I was 3 1/2 hours into a rib cook and didn't want to lose the ribs. Dumb idea in hindsight.
If you listen closely, you can hear one of my thermoworks temp probes explode.
Ironic that the Mrs said these were my best tasting ribs yet...
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Wow interesting that the probe exploded! Yeah she was just hell bent on chugging away🤣
Blowing on that only introduced more air, sorry but, that is not a good idea ever!
10 pounds of sausage then you put ribs on? Using the 80/20 theorem that would have been two pounds of grease, lots of fuel for a bullet!