A Quick Guide To Water Smokers

As a beginner pitmaster, it's easy to get tempted by a heavy-duty smoker with a lot of bells and whistles. Let us introduce you to something simpler that will get you straight into the swing of things: a water smoker. Whether you're a backyard cook or a competition chef, there's a water smoker that'll suit your needs. 

Water smokers can cook hot and fast, or low and slow. When they're firing on all cylinders they can produce temperatures of up to 120°C (250°F) for hours at a time. What makes them different to other smokers is the water pan. Even if you're smoking meat for eight, ten hours, it will come out of a water smoker succulent and moist. Cheers, water pan!

Getting Started With Your Water Smoker

Your typical water smoker has three sections. 

  • There's a firebox, where you put the fuel. Once your charcoal's roaring and you're ready to start smoking, you'll add wood chips or pellets.
  • Next, there's the water chamber - the part that makes a water smoker interesting. You can add water to this, but we experimental types like to add beer, cider, or any liquid that takes our fancy. As this evaporates, it manages temperature, keeps the food moist, and adds flavour. Three in one!
  • Last you have your cook chamber. This is where the meat or veggies go. Hot tip: if you're cooking a combo of lean and rich foods, put the lean ones on the bottom so the rich ones drip fat over them. That'll handle some of the basting for you.

Your water smoker will also have some vents, which you can use to adjust the temperature. You should be checking that around about every thirty minutes. Too hot? Close some vents and add ice or water to the water pan. Use some tongs to take a bit of charcoal out if that doesn't quite do the job. Too cold? Open up the vents. More oxygen means more fire, more fire means more heat. Keep in mind that'll also mean you need more fuel. 

You'll want to check the water chamber and firebox every hour or so. Make sure there's enough charcoal and wood chips, and the water pan has about 5cm of liquid in it.

If you've got a brand new water smoker it's going to come with some instructions on how to season it. Take those to heart. It might be that you need to burn off some grease from the manufacturing process. Also, a shiny new smoker tends to run a bit hotter until you've given it a few goes.

What Makes Water Smokers Better?

We can't stress this enough: the water pan is a game-changer. It blocks the flames from the charcoal, so you aren't blasting your food with direct heat. Filling the cook chamber with steam keeps temperatures consistent and food moist. It also adds a whole new tasting element to your cook. Experiment with the flavours, but classic choices include beer, wine, and cider. Heck, you can dump a whole soup or broth in there - onions, garlic, herbs, and veggies. Figure out what works for you!

You also don't actually have to use the water pan if you don't want to - in fact, there are cases where you'll want to avoid it. Some foods, like pork loin and duck, thrive in high heat, which a full water pan will reduce. Too much moisture will spoil the crispy skin on a smoked chook. Take the liquid out of the water pan and your water smoker can hit temps up to 175°C (350°F)!

What To Think About Before Buying A Water Smoker

If you're sold on the idea of getting yourself a water smoker, there’s a few bits and pieces to consider first. Of course, there's the undeniable advantages - moist meats, easy clean-up, simplicity and fuel efficiency. But there's a little more to think about. 

How much do you want to be cooking at once? Some water smokers can a bit short on cook chamber size. You can go for a larger model, but this will increase the cost.

Temperature control can be a bit fiddly. It's a process of trial and error, opening and closing vents, adding water and removing fuel. If your water smoker's made from thin-gauge steel then cold, wet, and windy weather may also affect the heat. Some water smokers don't even come with an in-built thermometer or top vents - these should be a priority.

Where Can I Buy The Best Meat Smoker In Australia?

Make sure you're getting a water smoker that solves all the technical problems from the get-go. Our collection of Myron Mixon Water Smokers at The Barbecue Company tick all these boxes, and then some. They feature military-grade insulation, an automated water fill system, and a high capacity for their size. You, your family, and your friends will never be disappointed with the quality of food coming out of these smokers. Check out our range and contact us today.