As you’ve probably already established . . . I have a ProQ bullet smoker . . . a fantastic bit of kit (well, I think so anyway). Being the ‘geek’ that I am I spent weeks researching the best setup I could afford and ensured that, for those first few cooks, I followed all guides and recommendations meticulously.
. . . and that’s the problem!
Now the team at ProQ are a great bunch of people, always on hand to offer advice, however, in my personal opinion, there is one huge flaw with what they say . . . and here it is:
Water makes the whole cooking process really simple, and will pretty much control your temperature for you. This method is fool proof and allows you to get a feel for your BBQ, how it works, and how to manage your fire without having to worry too much about burnt food. Water also creates a humid environment within the cook chamber helping smoke adhere to the surface of the meat and enhancing the smoky flavour.
Here is how to set up your smoker for low’n slow using water in the pan:
- Make sure your fire is set up right, light 3-4 big handfuls of lumpwood charcoal or briquettes, put them in the middle of the charcoal basket and then fill the basket up with unlit coal and add a couple of wood chunks for flavour
- Open all your vents, both lid and base, the smoker is designed around this setup and should happily sit at 95 – 120°C/220 – 250°F as long as there is water in the pan and the fire is running
- Fill the water pan ¾ of the way up with hot water from the tap or the kettle, and place it the first stacker with a grill above it
- Put your food on the grill, add another stacker with a 2nd grill if needed and put your lid on.
As long as you have a healthy fire with sufficient fuel and at least an inch of water in the pan, your smoker should sit happily in the low’n slow temperature range
Before I set up my ProQ for the first cook I joined this fantastic community on Facebook called ‘The ProQ Party’ and time and time again people warned me about using water in the pan . . . “it’s not stable”, “never works”, “it’s all over the place” . . . yet all I could think was . . . it’s called a ‘water pan’ for a reason right?!?
Guess what . . . they were right!
Now hold fire . . . don’t stop there . . . it’s not time to take a hammer to the water pan and dispose of in next weeks rubbish, it’s an extremely valuable element of the bullet smoker . . . just not when filled with water.
Before I saw the light I was having to constantly check the water levels and tweak the vents in an attempt at regulating the temperature to a level I was happy with. In addition, if I wanted to cook around 200f to 225f it was just about manageable, but 250f? Forget it!
So, what did I do about it?
The solution I went for was to invest in some lava rocks these set me back £15 and have transformed the ProQ into a completely different beast.
Once the rocks arrived I placed them all (4kg) in a clean water pan, foiled several times (trust me, you don’t want to attempt to clean sticky, fatty rocks . . . if you think you’ve foiled it enough, do it one more time just to be safe) and inserted back into the rack.
If I want to add moisture to the chamber . . . simple . . . use a foil tray . . .
Since using lava rocks:
- Temperatures are more stable
- It’s possible to reach higher temperatures (like cooking at 250f, I know right . . . crazy)
- Easier to regulate temperatures using the bottom vents
- Fuel lasts longer (as it’s taking less ‘burn’ to reach the temperature you need)
So there you have it . . . lava rocks (some people use sand / house bricks etc, but it’s all the same) . . . if you are new to the ProQ and enjoy constantly fighting with your smoker to produce a chicken that tastes like your chewing a soggy flip-flop, then, crack on . . . knock yourself out . . . get that kettle on and fill up the pan.
However, if you want to enjoy your smoker and be in control of the outcome . . . guess what . . .