How to Clean Drip Pans and Water Pans

Want to be a successful pit master? You need to know how to clean your drip pans! Start off with a dirt pan and it will affect the taste of your BBQ!

It is very important for sanitary reasons to keep them clean. Plus your meat tastes better when keep your drip pans and water pans clean! 

The last thing you want is to cook a delicious smoked pork butt and discover that your dirty drip pan has tainted the flavor!

Why Should You Clean Your Drip Pan?

You should clean your drip pan other it can affect the flavor of the food your cooking. Also as they are use to collect drippings, if you don’t clean them you may have issue with flare-ups.

Note: You can use the drippings to make yummy things like brisket ice cream or gravy.

How To Clean a Drip Pan (FYI This May Not Be Fun)

You may be tempted to line your drip pan with aluminum foil or sand. You must avoid this, as it can prevent the grease from flowing properly.

It can also help you avoid getting mold in grill as I get asked all the time is mold on grill dangerous? Follow the steps below to clean the drip pan and avoid mold.

Follow the steps below to correctly clean a drip pan

  • Remove the drip pan from your smoker/ BBQ.
  • The pan should be scraped out with a putty knife or scraper, and all the debris should be scraped into the disposable grease tray.
  • Using hot water and detergent give the drip a go scrub.
  • This tray should be replaced every two to four weeks.

How To Clean Your Water Pan (Yep More Cleaning)

The most important thing to keep in mind while cleaning either the drip pan or the water pan is that you don’t want to simply dump it in your yard. 

This is particularly important with the drip pan if you just used it to collect drippings from a really greasy recipe such as bacon jerky.  If you do thow this in your yard, it’s going to attract all kinds of unwanted pests from insects to larger animals.

These 6 steps below to clean your water pan correctly.

Don’t Forget: You also need to clean your grill to prevent rust.

Follow the steps below for the most efficient ways to clean your water pan!

  1. To make cleanup easier, we recommend lining the drink pan  with aluminum foil. This way, it will be a lot easier to get everything out at the end without having to put a lot of time and elbow grease into cleaning out the pans. 
  2. Alternatively, you could also use disposable pans which cuts the cleanup time down even more since all you have to do is throw them away.
  3. To remove the fat from the pan, allow it to cool until the fat solidifies. Sometimes, you may need to add some ice cubes to the pan to get it to cool down enough for the grease to become solid fats. 
  4. Cleaning the pan will be much easier if you remove the fats first, which you can easily peel off or remove once cooled and simply throw them away.
  5. Then, all that you’ll have left to deal with is the remaining water. To throw it away, pour it into old milk bottles or even cleaning bottles then put it in your regular trash.

  6. You can also carefully pour it into the toilet and simply flush it away, though you’ll have to clean your toilet after this since the bits of food can make the inside of the toilet bowl dirty

Cleaning Grease Traps

Now cleaning grease trap is really important as it can not only affect the taste of your food but create a fire hazard.

So follow my instructions on how to clean a grease trap here.

What is Difference Between Drip Pans and Water Pans?

Drip pans and water pans are different and have two distinct purposes.

Water pans generally go above the heat source to provide moisture
Drip pans are found beneath the food to collect drippings.

Why Do You Need a Water Pan You Ask

A water pan creates condensation, this helps the smoke to stick to the meat. The vapor from the water can also keep the meat moist and stop it from drying out. The water can also baste the meat. As the vapor sits on the surface of the meat it cools.

This slows down the cooking, therefore, allowing the conversion of connective tissues into fall-apart meat as well as render the fat.Many smokers that you can buy come with a water pan, so you don’t have to worry about going out and buying one separately or improvising.

The best place to put a water pan is above the fire, so the heat can cause the water to evaporate. You should also avoid placing the water pan beneath the meat as the greasy drippings can coat the water and prevent evaporation.

One of the main purposes of the water pan is to keep the air temperature in the smoker around 225 degrees Fahrenheit. For most things that you’ll be smoking, this is the ideal cooking temperature, and so you should do your best to keep your smoker at this temperature during the smoking process. 

Need to Know What Goes in The Water Pan?

First of all, you want to make sure that the water you put in the water pan is hot, not cold.

If you add cold water, it will cool down the smoker too much and could cause a significant drop in temperature.

  • The amount of water you put in is also important. To avoid opening the smoker more than necessary to add extra water, fill the water pan as much as you can, then place it in the hottest spot in the smoker.Although there’s a lot of debate about what should go into a water pan, the truth is that the only thing you really should put into the water pan is water.
  • Some people argue that adding wine, beer, or herbs and spices will help add more flavor to the meat. However, the truth is that most of those won’t evaporate to add flavor and you’ll just end up wasting some good beer that you could drink instead.
  • One thing that you can add to water pans to increase the humidity is to add red lava rocks. You can find these at most garden stores. All you have to do is fill the pan with the lava rocks, then add water without completely covering the rocks. The rocks will act as sponges to increase the surface area of the water which will enhance the humidity in the smoker.


I always get sent lots of questions about water pans. So I thought I would throw them in just in case you’re having the same problem!

Question: Why should I use a water pan in my Masterbuilt electric smoker
Answer: Not only does it help with cleaning it can help steam items such as puddings, seafood, or meatballs! You can find more recipes on Masterbuilts website 

When cooking for anyone, especially friends and family, you want to ensure you’re using clean equipment. The bottom line is, that if you don’t clean your smoker right you might be putting your guests or family at risk.

Plus I love cooking too much to be shafted from my king of the smoker throne.

Smoke On!


Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I have been meat-smoking and grilling for the past 15 years. I have an array of different smokers, thermometers, and have a love for finding the right wood and charcoal combo My favourite recipes are my EXTRA CRISPY smoked pork belly, juicy pulled pork, smoked brisket, duck poppers, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill).

I loves sharing his tips with beginners, helping them navigate the world of smoking. I find it’s not just about cooking; it’s a quest for that perfect smoky flavor.

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling recipes with you!

You can read more about me on our About Us page.

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