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Why do you put water in a smokeless grill?

There are a few key reasons why you need to put water in a smokeless grill before cooking:

Heat Regulation

One of the main purposes of the water is to help regulate the temperature inside the smokeless grill. The water absorbs some of the heat, preventing the interior of the grill from getting too hot. This allows you to cook foods thoroughly without burning or overcooking them.

Smokeless grills use various methods to generate heat like infrared burners or electric heating elements. Without water, the interior can heat up rapidly beyond the desired cooking temperature. The evaporating water absorbs some of this excess heat energy, keeping temperatures steadier.


Evaporating water from the drip tray also helps keep food moist as it cooks. The interior of smokeless grills lacks the moisture present during traditional grilling from food juices dripping onto hot coals and flaming up. Water pan evaporation replaces some of this lost moisture.

The added moisture prevents foods from drying out too much during the cooking process. Meats will cook up juicier and vegetables will retain more of their natural moisture compared to cooking without any water present.

Smoke Flavor

Though called “smokeless”, many models still produce a small amount of vapor that imparts a light smoky flavor to foods. The water helps facilitate this process by supplying additional moisture to combine with cooking vapors.

As fat and juices hit the hot interior surface, they vaporize and mix with the evaporating water. This produces a clean-tasting smoke flavor from the food itself rather than burning wood or charcoal.

Grease Reduction

Adding water to the drip tray also helps reduce mess from grease splatters inside the grill. Fat and grease that hits the hot metal will instantly vaporize and disperse. Water in the tray captures some of this grease, reducing smoke and potential flare-ups.

This makes cooking easier and less smoky, as well as minimizing the amount of grease coating the interior. The water prevents the continuous buildup of sticky grease residue inside the grill over time.

Ease of Cleaning

Along with capturing grease drippings, the water also makes cleaning much simpler after you finish cooking. Any oil or debris from food will accumulate in the water rather than sticking to grill surfaces. This allows you to quickly dump out and replace the water to prep for the next use.

The water helps prevent the need for heavy scrubbing or dealing with lots of baked-on grease. Just periodically washing the grill with soap and water will remove any remaining residue the water doesn’t catch.

How Much Water Do You Need?

Most smokeless grill manuals recommend filling the included drip tray with around 1⁄2 inch to 1 inch of water before cooking. This provides enough water volume to absorb heat, circulate moisture, and collect grease drippings.

Be sure not to overfill the drip tray, as too much water can limit air circulation or even spill out once hot. The water level will also reduce during cooking as moisture evaporates. So start with a moderate amount of water and you can refill as needed.

What Type of Water is Best?

Plain tap water is perfectly fine for use in a smokeless grill. You don’t need any special mineral or filtered water. The minerals in hard water may leave behind some residue when the moisture evaporates, but this can be removed during cleaning.

Avoid using distilled water if possible, as it may evaporate more quickly due to the lack of minerals. The goal is steady evaporation rather than rapid boiling. Room temperature water works well, so you don’t need to chill it first before adding.

Should You Add Anything to the Water?

Most manufacturers don’t recommend adding anything like seasoning, herbs, or even lemon juice to the grill’s water pan. Plain water allows for steady evaporation and heat absorption. Oils or dissolved solids can alter this process and potentially stick to the interior of the grill.

However, some people report adding apple juice, beer, wine, or other liquids creates extra moisture and flavor. Just be aware this may require more frequent cleaning. Stick to water if you want the simplest and most effective method.

Preheating with Water

It’s important to preheat your smokeless grill with the water already added to the drip tray. This allows the interior to come up to temperature gradually and prevents overheating.

If you preheat first without water, the heating elements may scorch food placed inside or create more smoke from grease. Let the grill preheat fully with the set amount of water for 5-10 minutes before cooking.

Should You Replace the Water While Cooking?

Most smokeless grills only require adding water before preheating, rather than needing to replace it mid-cooking. However, if you’re cooking particularly greasy foods or for long cook times, check the water level periodically.

Replenishing back to around 1⁄2 inch if the volume drops significantly will help maintain moisture and grease regulation throughout the cooking process. Allow the grill to cool slightly first before carefully removing and replacing the drip tray.

Emptying After Cooking

Be sure to remove and empty the drip tray once you finish cooking. Leaving water, grease, and debris to sit can cause odors or clogs.

Allow the grill to cool fully before disposing of water. Rinse out the drip tray in hot, soapy water or even run it through your dishwasher to clean thoroughly after each use.

Key Takeaways

Here are some key points on why and how to use water in a smokeless grill:

  • Water regulates interior heat and prevents overcooking.
  • Evaporating water adds moisture to food.
  • It combines with vapors to impart mild smoke flavor.
  • Water captures grease drippings for easier cleanup.
  • Use 1⁄2 to 1 inch of plain tap water in the drip tray.
  • Always preheat with water already added.
  • Check and replenish water as needed for long cooks.
  • Empty and rinse the drip tray after each use.

The Benefits of Smokeless Grilling

Using a small amount of water brings out the best qualities of smokeless grills. Here are some of the key benefits this style of cooking provides:

  • Convenient and easy indoor grilling year-round.
  • Precise temperature control for perfect doneness.
  • Doesn’t heat up kitchen like stovetop grilling.
  • Adds smoke flavor from drippings rather than charcoal.
  • Cooks food evenly without constant turning.
  • Retains moisture and juices without drying out.
  • Little smoke or grease mess to deal with.
  • Simple cleanup with removable, dishwasher-safe parts.

Smokeless grills combine the convenience of indoor electric cooking with the great flavor of outdoor grilling. Using a small amount of water makes the process easier and enhances the cooking results.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

While using water in a smokeless grill is fairly straightforward, there are some potential mistakes to avoid:

  • Not preheating with water – Always add water before turning grill on.
  • Overfilling the drip tray – Use around 1/2″ to 1″ of water only.
  • Letting water completely evaporate – Check and replenish water as needed.
  • Adding seasonings or other liquids – Stick to plain water.
  • Not cleaning after each use – Empty and wash drip tray after cooking.
  • Leaving greasy residue – Water prevents most buildup.
  • Getting interior wet – Don’t directly spray or splash water inside.

Following the manufacturer’s instructions and using water properly will prevent any potential issues.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should you put water in a George Foreman Grill?

Yes, George Foreman grills work similarly to other smokeless grills. Fill the included drip tray with around 1/2 inch of water before preheating and cooking to regulate heat and add moisture.

What kind of water should I use in my Ninja Foodi Grill?

Ninja Foodi Grill manuals recommend plain tap water. Avoid using mineral water or adding lemon juice. Use room temperature water and fill to just below the water line marking.

Do you put water in a Philips Smokeless Grill?

Philips Smokeless Indoor Grills include a drip tray designed to be filled with about 1/2 inch of water for moisture and catching grease. Always preheat with water in the drip tray first.

Does water go in the bottom of an electric grill?

For indoor electric grills labeled as smokeless or with included drip trays, water plays an important role. Outdoor electric grills without drip trays rely solely on fat drippings for moisture and flavor.

Should I put water in my Cuisinart Griddler?

Cuisinart Griddlers do not use water, as they are designed more like indoor contact grills. The grooved grill plates release grease from foods. Water is not required or recommended.


Using water in the drip tray of a smokeless grill provides multiple important benefits. It regulates heat, adds moisture, imparts flavor, reduces grease, and simplifies cleaning. Just 1/2 to 1 inch of plain tap water is all you need to get the most out of indoor grilling.

Be sure to preheat your grill with water added, check the water level during longer cooks if needed, and empty and clean the drip tray after each use. Following the simple steps of adding water makes smokeless grilling an easy and effective cooking technique.