To water pan, clay pot base, sand? What's your pleasure


Bob Hunter

So I have had my WSM going on 20 years now, I am coming to of period of low to no usage. It's been a couple years since I've really used it. Anyway, as I am getting back into barbeque I am trying to reeducate myself on trends and adaptations to the art. Back in the day we had a pretty good debate going on the value of using water in the pan or adding some other form of heat sink like a clay pot base or sand in the pan.

As I am watching the newer generation of youtubers making their mark on the world I am seeing a lot of arguments towards using water pans. Not just in WSMs but also in offsets and other smokers.

This group has always been a good source of information and not so much trend followers, so I am curios what ya'lls opinions on the topic.

Me, personally I switched to a clay pot base after my 3rd or fourth cook years ago and have never looked back.

Karl Quist

I don't mind using the water pan, either with water or just foiled. The problem is that the stock water pan for 18" is just so stinkin' deep, so sometimes I just just foil a mesh pizza pan I have that fits and use that instead.

I could be easily talked into a clay pot base or something similar. I should have bought one of those Brinkman pans back when they were available.


TVWBB Olympian
Empty pan foiled with a airspace.
Tried the tera cota thing and that didn't work for my target temp 275.

Bob Hunter

I don't mind using the water pan, either with water or just foiled. The problem is that the stock water pan for 18" is just so stinkin' deep, so sometimes I just just foil a mesh pizza pan I have that fits and use that instead.

I could be easily talked into a clay pot base or something similar. I should have bought one of those Brinkman pans back when they were available.
@Karl Quist , Luckily I have an older WSM with the shallow water pan, which is why the first mod I ever did on my WSM, after the vey first cook spent all night refilling the water pan, was to buy the Brinkman pan. Problem with it was that it is thin sheet metal. Only used it a couple more times before going to the clay pot base in the original WSM water pan. My brothers WSM has the deep pan, not a big fan of it personally.

@timothy - The problem with the clay pot base not working at 275°. Is that you can't get to 275° or that it overshoots it? I haven't really had a problem with maintaining and temp I need from 225° up to 325°

I guess my biggest question though do people feel the need to use Water in the smoker, So far we I take it as a No.


TVWBB Emerald Member
I'm not a water nor water pan user. At my age I follow the KISS approach. But my method obviously doesn't mean others should use it. One of many nice things about our adventure is that trying different methods--if we wish--can be enjoyable, educational, and reduce boredom. I utilize my no water method even if smoking in the low 200's (which is not often).

Jim C in Denver

TVWBB All-Star

Makes a nice diffuser. Fits the brackets exactly. Scrapes clean in seconds, or you can foil wrap. Like 1/16th of an inch thick, so it opens up the internal chamber significantly versus a deep water pan (especially on an 18). Much more BTU efficient than using a full water pan.

$50 for a 22 wsm, less for an 18 wsm.

I feel I can control temp and provide moisture in easier ways than the full water pan.


TVWBB All-Star
I Have been waterless for a long time now, I got tired of the mess left behind via the water & the pan. I have the WSM 22 with a clay pot suspended inside the pan & a special pizza like tray on top of the bowl. Both the bowl & the pan are covered in aluminum. I do use an ATC, but I never have any problems regarding temperature control, if anything mines runs more on the lower temp side, probably due to the amount of lit coals that I begin with via the Minion method. My preferred temps on the WSM are 225-250, I am in no hurry, let the beast do it's thing!


TVWBB All-Star
I just use the clay 14" flower pot base wrapped in tin foil. No issues. I cook from bacon at 130F to chicken at 370 F using an ATC. It's possible water could be better but it certainly not necessary.

John K BBQ

TVWBB All-Star
I run dry water pan most of the time. Also use the fire dial on occasion.

Using water in the pan absolutely helps stabilize temperature when trying to run 225 to 250

I have used the water pan in the past. Main reason I don't use it more is due to the wet clean up. Cleaning up after a foiled wrapped, dry pan, or a fire dial is a lot easier...


New member
I normally use the water pan, filled with water, because it makes temperature control so easy! For a higher temperature, (say, 350 for meat loaf) I switch to sand in the pan.

Having said that... I just did my usual bacon/salmon smoke combo and forgot to fill the pan with water. I was surprised the temp didn't go way too high, and everything came out great. I'll be experimenting with this setup more in the future.


Firedial or Hunsaker vortex instead of water pan. I got the vortex plate for my 14.5 and I'll never use the water pan again.


TVWBB All-Star
I figure its a heat sink so why use it at all when a empty foiled pan does the same thing when shooting for 275.

I agree with you that it's does the same thing as an empty foil fan. It's more or less just the heat deflector, it really doesn't have any significant mass to help stabilize temperatures after opening the lid or such.

But I also have no problems with mine from temperatures of 130 up to 370F.
I have toy with the idea of using a cast iron Olympic 25 or 35 lb plate in there to see what that does.
But the truth is with an ATC I have no problems controlling temperature so..... I'm just jealous of the absolutely straight lines that the temperature controllers on insulated 400-900 lb gravity feed cookers can draw. The little 35 lb WSM just doesn't compare. It might be nice to have the temperature rebound immediately when replacing the lid. Thing is most of the time with the WSM that will cause the temperature to actually spike because the fire begins burning more due to the air when the lid is off for very long

Erik Tracy

I went with a tip here on the TVWBB and went with an alternate shallower water pan for my 18WSM as a diffuser. After trying both water in and no water in a foiled pan, I'm a no water convert for my bbq cooks.

My stock 18WSM pan makes for a nice propane tank "hat" for my backup tank stored outside.

Timothy F. Lewis

TVWBB 1-Star Olympian
I’m a plant saucer user, the concept was sold to me here and I’ve never used water in the pan. My brother was a big proponent of the water system, even chastising me for not using it then he had some feasting from my technique and he has not complained since.

Steve Petrone

TVWBB Diamond Member
Old guy here. Used water to start. Switched to sand (not sure why I bought the concept of needing a heat sink). For the longest time, I used two pans with a 1/2" spacer foiled for easy cleanup. A member from S.C. came up with this concept and it worked for me. Was it called a Piedmont Pan ? I don't remember, perhaps someone can recall. It was simple and worked. After thinking about it, probably the easiest and simplest method is just a plain foiled pan. I don't see why that wouldn't catch the grease (if that's what you want) and sheild some of the direct heat. No need for anything fancy.

Bob Bailey

TVWBB All-Star
When I used that style of smoker, I found topping up the water pan was a pain in the arse, so quickly switched to filling the water pan halfway with sand. Worked well as a deflector and seemed to help stabilize the temperature too. Easy enough to scoop out oil saturated sand once it cooled down and replace it as needed. It does help if you live in the desert, near a beach or dunes.

Joe D - BBQ Joe

TVWBB Member
I use water, I guess that is my version of KISS since that is the design of the cooker. I found a stainless steel pan that fits at a local market some years ago, and that is holding out. Like Chris, I use water when I am cooking at a low temp, I foil the pan when keeping the temp higher.