Chefs and Pit-masters use drip pans and water pans for a number of reasons.
First, placing meat over a drip pan helps prevent flare-up and scorching caused by juices dripping down onto the coals as the meat cooks.
While that action adds flavor, it can be hard to control over the long haul (and get get plenty of it, when you searing the exterior of the meat in advance of the low and slow cook time.
While many outdoor cooks will place the water pan on one side of the coal grate, with the coals on the other side (meat over the pan), I’ve found that I get much more even cooking and browning, by placing the pan in the center, and the coals all the way around it (see: Kettle Grilling: #1 ~ Advanced Charcoal Techniques)
I also recommend just using hot water in the pan (always start with hot water, or you’ll drop you temps too much, while it heats. Some folks will add wine, beer, herbs, fruit juices, and other flavoring in the water pan, but I haven’ found that this has much effect on the flavor of the food.
It can smell great, but it’s really just water vapor escaping while everything else reduces in the pan.
If I’m cooking something that I know is going to produce a LOT of drippings, I’ll add a small amount of complimenting stock (beef, chicken, or pork) in the pan, to keep the juices from burning off, so I save the flavorful dripping for stocks, sauces, or gravies.
More reasons to use drip/water pans:
Water pans create a space for indirect cooking, and will protect meat from excess heat.
Water pans create a moisture, which helps cooking food retain IT’S moisture.
This moisture traps smoke particles from the air and holds them to the surface of the food, inscreasing its “smokiness.”
Water pans help control the temperature and maintain consistent heat between 225F and 250F (ideal for BBQ). The water absorbs heat and the steam stabilizes temperatures.
When using a water pan, be careful not to over fill it, and remember to check the liquid levels often, adding more (hot) water as needed.
Water pans work best for low and slow BBQ, so use it with meats such as pork shoulders, ribs, roasts, and briskets.
For poultry, I don’t typically add water to the pan, and only a little stock, as excess steam will keep skin from getting crispy, leaving the best part of the bird flaccid and rubbery.
(And when is “flaccid” EVER a good thing?) 😉
In our next lesson, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of an advanced technique known as “reverse grilling.”
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Here’s one of my favorites from my upcoming book, “Grilling: A Home Chef’s Guide”.
Sanbeiji (Taipei3-Cup Chicken)
Sanbeiji (literally “3-Cup Chicken”) derives it’s name from the 3 sauce ingredients: Soy Sauce, Sesame oil, and Sugar. Originating from the Jiangxi province of China, this is a hugely popular dish in Taiwan.
1 cup Sesame oil 1 cup soy sauce
1 cup white sugar 4 cloves fresh garlic
8 bone-in chicken thighs 2 inches fresh ginger
*For shorter cooking time, you can substitute boneless-skinless thighs, but only marinate fro 4 hours, max.
In a mortar and pestle (or food processor) reduce the garlic and ginger to a past.
Mix all ingredients together, adding chicken last. Marinate overnight (or at least six hours) turning one of twice. Pat dry, and brush both sides lightly with oil.
Spread prepared coals for Split Zone Indirect Grilling.
Set the chicken in the cool zone, cover (or close the lid), and cook for 20-30 minutes to an internal temperature of 160F.
One the thighs are at temp, move them to the hot zone, and grill until well marked on both sides (3-5 minutes per side.)
Allow to rest 10 minutes, the slice and serve with Perfect Thai Rice, and a steamed veggie!
Let me know if you would like to recieve a one-time notification, when “Grilling: A Home Chef’s Guide” is available on Amazon.com!
First there were 12, then there were three, and then…after 3 rounds of tie-votes (Gahh!) we have a winner!
Now to send it to my graphic artist (she’ll make the sub-title bigger, by the way.)
Looking at about 30 days to release date!
Here’s a little preview recipe…
Carolina Gold Baby Back Ribs
Now, mustard barbecue sauces are completely different than your regular red sauces, obviously, but not just due to the mustard. They’re also much, much tangier, especially the Carolina ones, than the average joe sauces, too.
1 rack baby back pork ribs, (rinse, pat dry, remove sinew from back)
1/2 Cup Dry Rub
South Carolina Gold Sauce (see below)
Place a large sheet of foil, several inches longer than the ribs at each end, onto working surface dull side-up. Spray center with non stick spray. Place ribs, meat side-up, onto foil. Coat with a little over half of the dry rub, coating well.
Turn ribs over, making sure they are in the center, and coat bone side with rest of rub. Bring long-edged sides of foil up to meet and carefully roll down to meet the top of the ribs.
Fold ends of foil inward like an envelope and roll up. It should be a nice closed package touching the meat. Just be careful not to tear the foil. You want it sealed closed.
Place rib package onto foil-lined baking sheet folded side-up (meat side-down). Let rest and preheat smoker.
Pop into preheated 300º F smoker for 2½ hours.
Remove ribs from foil, coat well with 1/2 of the sauce. Increase smoker temp to 350º F.
When smoker reaches 350, return the ribs, uncovered, and smoke for 5 minutes, bone up.. Flip the ribs over, and baste with rest of sauce. Smoke for 5 minutes longer.
Remove from smoker and let rest at least 10 minutes.
Slice into serving-sized pieces and serve hot with any extra sauce if desired.
South Carolina Gold Sauce
½ Gal. yellow mustard ½ Gal. cider vinegar
1 C light brown sugar 2 Tbsp. sea salt
¼ C Worcestershire 2 Tbsp. black pepper
¼ C hot sauce (to taste)
For each of these recipes, combine ingredients, heat to a low simmer, and cook 20-30 minutes, stirring often.
Chill for at least 24 hours (72 is better) before using.