The best offset smoker – BBQ Grill Academy goes hunting.
If you are serious about BBQ Grilling and Smoked Meats, then you are likely searching for the best offset smoker to advance your craft to the next level. Some like BBQ food, and then some LOVE Smoked BBQ food. There is a difference between throwing some chicken on a propane grill and smoking a tender pork butt to perfection for 12 hours.
Welcome to the big leagues
The best offset smokers are designed and built to cook using indirect heat and for long periods. If you want to graduate from that little propane smoker and cook real BBQ food, welcome to the big leagues.
When you become serious about smoking meats and are ready to move up to the big leagues, then it is time to get an offset smoker. The majority of professional BBQ Pitmasters use offset smokers for s reason. Let find out why.
How Offset smokers work and why we like them
Offset smokers are the top-tier grills of the BBQ smoking world. These smokers can handle large amounts of foods but, more importantly, are well designed for cooking low and slow for long periods. Perhaps you are reading multiple offset smoker reviews and are wondering why people like these giants.
Why we like them
Smoking meats is not as easy as it sounds; it takes practice, patience, and years of experience. However, the main challenge when smoking meats is cooking the food at low temperatures for long periods of time without drying it or burning it.
Grills like the Dyna Glo, Oklahoma Joe’s Longhorn, and Char Griller, to name a few, build smokers with side fireboxes isolating the fire from the meat. Indirect heat and smoke render tender juicy smoked meats.
What categorizes a grill as an offset smoker
The firebox, or heat source, on an offset smoker is attached to the primary cooking chamber side, which is why these grills are referred to as “offset.” Unlike traditional grills or vertical smokers where the fire sits below the meat inside the main cooking chamber.
By removing the firebox or heat source out of the cooking chamber, two things happen, the cooking chamber gains more space, and the second indirect heat cooking. Indirect heat is excellent when smoking meats as the food is cooked by only smoke, steam, and clean heat. No flames touch the food, avoiding drying and burning meats.
Are offset smokers any good? Oh yes, they are!
What’s excellent about offset smokers is that the food cooks with nothing but pure heat and smoke, no direct flames touch the meats. Some may confuse a side box pellet grill with an offsets smoker, but they are not the same, not even close.
A side pellet or offset pellet grill has a pellet hopper on its side, but the pellets are burned by a burning box inside the cooking chamber. A traditional offset smoker or grill will have its heat source on its side, offset and out of the primary cooking area.
When smoking meats for long periods, direct heat and flare-ups can burn tips and thins pieces of meat; having an offset source of heat ensures only heat is cooking the meat and no fire is touching the food.
These grills are large!
Offset smoker cooking chambers are traditionally large, thus why many pitmasters prefer these grills when smoking whole hugs or lots of food for large crowds.
The best smokers are well isolated, built using heavy gauge steel, and the doors either come with heat seals or just simply seal well. It is essential for the main cooking surface area to remain at a constant temperature and retain its temperature.
The cooking area in any grill needs to retain heat and smoke to perfectly cooking meats. If hot air escapes or the main cooking area is not well insulated, the smoker will not retain heat well and will not be too efficient.
Common problems with cheap offset smokers is heat retention and smoke leaks.
What can you cook, grill, and smoker in an offset smoker
A large offset smoker can handle a whole hog, and some of these smokers are used in restaurants’ kitchens due to their capacity. Anything from turkeys, ribs, and pork shoulders can be cooked in these smokers.
What we like about offset smokers grills
What we like the most about offset smokers is that only heat and smoke touch the food. Only indirect heat is cooking the foods, and in the right smoker, food cooks evenly.
Also, compared to a charcoal grill, these smokers can be found in larger configurations with massive cooking chambers.
What we don’t like about offset smoker grills
Although indirect heat and side fireboxes sound like a good combination, and they are, a by-product of this combination is dimensions. Offset smokers are large and sometimes findig a good space to store them or even use them at home.
These grills are also heavy, and it might be hard to move these grills around. Some models like the Dyna Glo Char Griller are built using thinner steel and are easier to move around.
What we consider when researching the best offset smokers
It is important to consider the gauge of steel used to build the smoker, especially the cooking chamber. Offset smokers are meant to be abused and cook for long hours. Be cautious of cheap offset smokers, some manufacturers use low gauge steel to save costs, but those smokers do not tend to lost long.
Offset smokers tend to be on the higher price range of grills, and understatedly, these are commercial-grade heavy-duty large smokers. The top smoker manufacturers use heavy-gauge steel to build their smokers and grates. Heavy gauge steel smokers can handle years of use and even the abuse of being transported on trailers or towed around town.
Efficiency and Heat Retention
Build quality is important not only for the smoker’s durability but also for its efficiency. A cheap grill will have smoke and heat leaks and will be hard to manage and control temperature. A good offset smoker should have a heavy-duty firebox with good air vents a well-insulated cooking area, and the primary cooking area should also be well sealed to avoid losing heat and smoke.
The hard truth is that cheap offset smokers will tend to leak and are hard to manage the cooking temperature. Higher quality smokers on the market will cost more, but you will not encounter many of the issues found in cheap smokers.
Cooking capacity is important; after all, you are spending good money to get the best offset smoker. The cooking chamber in an offset smoker is naturally large because there isn’t a firebox, ash pan, burner, or charcoal tray in the chamber; all the space inside the main chamber is cooking space.
Due to its design, offset smokers offer a vast amount of square inches of cooking. Besides the cooking grates, there is nothing else in the main chamber to get in the way of meat!
A larger offset smoker won’t necessarily offer a considerable cooking capacity. Cooking capacity will also be affected by the square inches of available grates surface and the number of grates available to cook.
Inches and Space
Some smokers on the market advertise attractive square inches numbers, but the cooking capacity is limited by the absence of cooking grates or inefficient cooking area designs.
Cooking space isn’t usually an issue with offset smokers; the main chambers offer plenty of square inches of cooking.
Cooking Chamber Size
The cooking chamber size of any smoker should be considered. If the offset smoker is used for cooking ribs and briskets, then a small to medium-sized offset smoker cooking chamber will work fine. If the offset smoker is used for cooking a whole hug, then a larger chamber should be considered. The main chamber in an offset smoker can hold multiple grates.
Buying an offset smoker can be a significant investment, and the cooking area of a grill should be prioritized. If you outgrow your grill’s primary cooking area, unfortunately, you will need to buy a new grill. The cooking area of a grill is like a house backyard; if you need a larger one, you can’t take it from your neighbor.
Type of Fuel
Charcoal offset smokers are the preferred type of smokers by pitmaster. Charcoal or wood are burned in the firebox to smoke meats with smoke and heat-producing tender smokey meat. A charcoal offset smoker is as good as BBQ gets.
However, there some who preferred pellet offset smokers over charcoal. A traditional offset smoker will burn a mix of charcoal and wood, and the beauty of choosing an offset charcoal smoker is the flexibilities and controls over wood mixes, the amount of charcoal vs. wood, and much more.
Pellet offset smokers smoker are trending and becoming very popular.
To us, however, the primary purpose of an offset smoker is to cook real BBQ food with authentic flavor, and it is hard to beat the taste from charcoal and wood combinations. However, pellet grills do a great job with flavor too.
Traditional offset smokers can use charcoal or wood as fuel, and many experiments with this mix to control the meat’s flavor.
A temperature gauge on an offset smoker is essential. Knowing the internal temperature of your cooking space will ensure the food is cooking at the proper temperatures.
Other features like reverse flow technology, a removable ash pan system, a temperature gauge, and a well-designed main cooking chamber are all nice features to have.
A Good Temperature Gauge
Temperature control is paramount when cooking but more so when smoking meat. If the temperature is not monitored, the meat can dry and too low, it will not cook well. A good temperature gauge will help with temperature control but also read the health of your fire. Most grills include gauges, but accurate temperature gauges are usually found in the more expensive grill models.
Cooking grates quality and build materials are important. The grates are your cooking surface and where your food will cook for hours. It is important to choose good cooking grates as long as your budget and preferences allow it. Also, consider grills which main cooking area can support multiple grates.
Porcelain Coated Grates
Porcelain-coated cooking grates are often found in gas grills and charcoal grills, and also smokers. Porcelain-coated grates are durable, protected from rust, and easy to clean. The coating acts as a protective layer and also transfers heat well; however, it is essential not to use metal brushes as the voting can get damaged exposing the metal. Both steel and cast iron grates can be found coated.
Porcelain-coated cast-iron grates work well in smokers but can chip. Most people using these types of smokers will abuse the grates, thus shortening the coating’s lifespan.
Cast Iron Grates
Cast Iron cooking grates are preferred in the BBQ world because they retain and radiate heat well and are incredibly durable. Porcelain-coated cooking grates can chip if dropped, but a cast iron grate, well, the floor better be strong. Cast iron grates are usually on the expensive side and require a bit of maintenance to remain rust-free. Cast iron likes to stay “oiled,” but cast-iron grates can last a long time put through good curing and “seasoning” process.
Cast iron heavy-duty grates can be found on many charcoals that offset smokers, although cheap offset grills offer coated or stainless steel grates.
Stainless steel cooking grates are another good option and are affordable. Stainless steel grates do not provide the heat retention and transmission of cast iron but are cheaper and get the job done.
Whether you are using your smoker at home or transporting it to a business location, storage is a nice feature to consider when shopping for an offset smoker. When cooking on an offset smoker, you will need many tools, cleaning brushes, charcoal, wood, thermometers, gloves, towels, water buckets, you name it, you will want to use when cooking on an offset smoker. These machines are rudimentary and do require a bit of creativity to handle.
Offset smoker storage compartments or shelve spaces can be used to secure cleaning tools, charcoal, or wood. It is always nice to have space to keep your cooking tools and accessories in a single place.
Because some of these offset smokers are built out of heavy gauge steel, they will be heavy. If you want an offset smoker for your backyard and want to move it around from time to time, consider lighter smokers with good wheels.
A large offset smoker can weigh hundreds of pounds and can be challenging to move around even with wheels. Consider the end goal for your offset smoker. Do you need to move the offset smoker from one place to another to use it? Are you setting the smoker in a dedicated area? Or are you trailing your offset smoker to different locations to sell your product? Be sure to have clear answers to these questions; portability can be an issue with just about any offset smoker.
We are heavy
Again, these smokers offer vast square inches of cooking and are often built out of heavy-duty gauge metals; they are heavy.
There are smaller smokers on the market that offer good portability and are easy to move around. However, if you are looking for a heavy-duty charcoal offset smoker with a large cooking chamber, beware that those smokers will be hard to move around.
Price and Value
When searching for the best offset smokers, the price can be a sticking point, and understandably so. After all, these grills aren’t cheap. There are smokers on the market who retail for only a few hundred dollars, which can be great beginners’ options.
Still, if you are serious about grilling and looking for the best offset smokers, you might have to spend a few thousand for a heavy-duty, high-quality smoker.
When searching for the best offset smoker grill, be ready to shed a bit of cash for a good quality grill. Sorry guys, but I do not want to sugarcoat this. However, buying an offset smoker is a great experience and will bring years of joy and yield unique culinary masterpieces.
Offset smokers have to withstand long hours of cooking, heat, and smoke plus, in some cases, transporting. Things are bound to get dropped, break, crack, or malfunction. Consider buying a grill from a company that offers good customer support and a good warranty. Cheaper grills might provide short-term warranties. Some vendors stand by their products and offer lifetime warranties and US customer support.
Can I grill on an offset smoker?
Offset smokers are built to cook low and slow, but it is possible to use them as a grill. However, it might not an efficient way of grilling meats. For instance, it would be tough to sear a steak without direct fire.
However, some offset smoker fireboxes can be used as grills. For example, the Dyna Glow has a small grate in the firebox and can be used to grill.
What can I grill in a smoker?
Smokers can cook many types of food but are most commonly used to smoke meats like pork, poultry, and even fish. However, the beauty of these grills is the creative opportunities are endless.
What is the best offset smoker to buy?
Big Poppa Smokers and grills are very impressive, and please hear me out. They hand-make their grills, and their company culture is remarkable. Here at BBQ Grill Academy, we do a lot of research before writing a review, and very few times, we feel as passionate as we do about Big Poppa Smokers.
There are very few companies left that hand-build anything and care so much about quality. Today it seems every girl vendor is important stuff from China and adding a logo to it. We like what you are doing, Big Poppa!
Big Poppa offers different smoker models, including commercial smokers. We will discuss their smaller offset smoker in this round-up, the MEADOW CREEK SQ36 OFFSET BBQ SMOKER.
The Meadow Creek Offset Smoker is the smaller lineup but still offers the same quality as Poppa’s largest smokers. The Meadow Creek lineup is handcrafted in the United States using high-quality metals.
If you are serious about smoking meats and want ample space and quality, then look no further; welcome to the big leagues!
Overall Dimensions: 61½”l x 29″w x 56½”h
Grate Dimensions: 14½” x 35″, Wire Grid With ½.”
Spacing • 2nd Tier Grate Dimensions: 13″ x 34.”
Metal Thickness on Smoker: 13-Gauge
Metal Thickness on Firebox: ¼” Plate
Net Weight: 310 lbs.
Shipping Weight: 450 lbs.
Shipping Dimensions: 65″l x 43″w x 62″h
What we like:
- Buil quality is exceptional and expected as these grills are handcrafted using 13 gauge heavy-duty metal.
- Impressive cooking capacity can feed 50 to 70 people and plenty of square inches of cooking.
- Cooking Capacity is versatile and impressive, capable of cooking a whole pig 30 to 40 pounds.
- The cooking chamber offers plenty of space for pork butts, briskets, and ribs.
- The firebox in this grill is constructed out of quarter-inch metal. An upgraded insulated firebox is available, which will help outside the firebox get too hot.
- Stainless steel grates in this grill offer plenty of inches of cooking space, and an optional top or second-tier grate can be purchase, increasing the cooking space available.
- Good heat and smoke controls, easy to control heat going into the cooking chamber even if the firebox gets too hot.
- The Slide-out ash pan. And the drain hole adds extra convenience when it is time to clean the grill.
- This smoker has excellent features such as stay-cool handles on slide vents, a ball valve drain and they include a small can of touch-up paint.
- Good quality built-in temperature gauge
- Charcoal Grate in Fire Box
- Oversized wheels help move this grill around, but you will need some help at 310 at the pounds.
What we don’t like:
- This is a heavy grill, as expected when using high-quality materials to construct the grill.
- These are hand-made grills, and there will be a lead time, but sometimes quality is worth waiting for.
- Shipping will be expensive since this is a 300 pounds object, and your average UPS drive won’t be able to deliver this to your front door.
- Quality does come at a price but to be expected.
Oklahoma Joe’s LongHorn models are the best offset smoker for those looking for an everyday good quality smoker but at the lower price range. This is a reverse flow smoker, which means a reverse heat baffle draws air from the firebox to the grill’s opposite side, then directing back in the firebox direction. A reverse flow smoker will distribute heat evenly and, in some cases, cook better than a regular flow grill.
This smoker can handle lots of food with plenty of square inches of cooking. This smoker is not like some cheap offset smokers. Although it is priced well, the Oklahoma Joe’s LongHron offers excellent features and good quality. These grills are built using heavy-gauge steel, improving heat retention, and we like the oversized wheels. This is a good grill for those who want a quality product and at a reasonable price.
The Oklahoma Joe’s LongHron grates are porcelain-coated and provide 751 square inches of cooking space in the main chamber with an additional 309 square inches in the firebox chamber you can use for grilling.
Weight: 226 Pounds
Dimensions LxWxH 35.5 x 64.25 x 55.5 inches
Made from 12-gauge black oil pipe
What we like:
- Good quality reverse flow offset smoker – built using 12 gauge black oil pipe.
- Ample cooking space at 751 square inches of cooking.
- There is grilling space in the firebox; there is a grate that sits right above the fire, turning the firebox into a small 309 square inch cooking space.
- Reverse flow smoker – meaning it is easier to manage heat and sure the cooking chamber is evenly hot.
- Oklahoma Joe’s longhorn reverse flow baffles are removable, which help during cleaning.
- Porcelain-coated grill grates – can be easy to clean.
- The side clean outdoor on the firebox helps clean the firebox with ease.
- There are shelves in front of the cooking chamber and at the bottom of the grill. This is very convenient for storing tools or placing food on.
- The Built-in temperature gauge will help monitor the cooking space temperature.
- Their top of the firebox is flat and intended to be used as a “keep food warm” or plate warming spot. – pretty cool feature.
- The wagon wheels help move this 200-pound grill around but are ready to ask for help; it is still 200 pounds.
What we don’t like:
- There isn’t much to dislike about this reverse flow offset smoker, but some might like prefer regular flow smokers to have different cooking temperature zones in the grill.
- The wagon wheels are cool looking but might not work well in certain terrains where large rubber and inflated tires will shine.
Now that we have talked about the two heavy hitters on our list, we want to introduce you to the Char-Broil A1 offset smoker. The Char-Broil A1 is an excellent option for those desiring to start smoking meats and learn more about BBQ grilling using an offset smoker.
If you are looking for a budget-friendly offset smoker or a smaller smoker, the Char-Broil can be a good fit. This grill is smaller and will fit fine in most backyards, and its value is pretty good. Don’t expect the same quality and features as the big dogs in this list. The Char-Broil is simple, with no shelves, a smaller cooking area, and thinner, cheaper metals to build this grill.
This Char-Broil features s total of 440 inches of cooking space. That’s a 290 square inch cooking surface in the main cooking space and 140 sq inches in the firebox.
Weight 20.95 Kilograms
LxWxH 17.5 x 46.25 x 44.75 inches
What we like:
- The char broil build quality is comparable with that of any grill at this price range. The grill is not built using heavy-duty metal that is well put together. The Char-Broil is a good charcoal grill but door seal gasket if you want good heat retention.
- Enough cooking space for a small family.
- This grill is light and easy to move around. Char-Broil offset smoker h.as two plastic wheels.
- This Char-Broil is fewer parts and is simple to set up.
- Built-in temperature gauge.
- This Char-Broil smoker is priced well.
What we don’t like:
- As expected, the build quality is not the best at this price range.
- Might need seal gaskets to keep heat and smoke from escaping.
- Heat distribution is not as good, as expected, as the blogger smokers like the in the Oklahoma Joe’s Longhorn.
- No storage rack.
The Char-Griller 1224 Smokin Pro is very similar to the Char-Broil, just bigger. The smoking pro design shares many characteristics with the Char-Broil but with a few improvements besides more cooking space.
Its total cooking space is 830 square inches with 580 square inches of cooking space and an additional 250 square inches in the firebox that can be used to grill or warm up food.
The firebox in the Char-Griller is built out of heavy-duty powder-coated steel and features cast iron cooking grates.
Weight: 146 pounds
Grill measures 62″ X 29″ X 50″
What we like:
- The build quality is what’s to be expected at this price range. These grills are not at the quality level of the Big Poppa Smokers or Oklahoma Joe Smokers but are neither at that price spectrum. When shopping for any kind of BBQ Grill, it is essential to remember that better materials will increase its cost.
- The firebox is powder crowded with double bottom for durability and has air vents to control airflow and a cleanout door.
- 580 square inches of cooking space in the main chamber.
- Temperature gauge.
- Cookin grates are cast iron help with heat distribution.
- Front shelve is helpful when cooking as it can be used to lace meats and cooking tools.
- The bottom shelf offers excellent storage space.
- This grill has wheels and is light enough to move around with ease.
What we don’t like:
- It is a value buy, so quality is not the same as some of the best offset smokers on this list.
- Heat distribution can be a minor issue.
We want to bring you something slightly different from a reverse flow offset smoker or pretty cylinder. Let talk about vertical offset smokers. A vertical offset smoker combines the benefits of offsets and vertical cabinet smokers. In a vertical offset smoker’s heat, air, and smoke travels upwards and cooks food evenly.
A vertical offset charcoal smoker is easier to fit in small places as ll its software inches are going upwards, and the cooking chamber is vertical. All this means you get a lot of cooking square inches without need a mile-wide space. In a vertical offset smoker, the food is stack vertically on the different grates at different rights allowing for excellent heat and cooking manager. Larger cuts can be placed closer to the fire, and thinner cuts higher away from the coals.
This Dyna Glo features a total cooking space of 1382 square inches with 5 chrome-plated cooking grates. This is a big boy and can handle lots of food.
The Dyna Glo Signature series smokers are built using heavy-duty steel with a built-in temperature gauge to guide users to the perfect heat zone to smoke meats.
LxWxH 45.5 x 24.9 x 58.8 inches
What we like:
- The Dyna Glo Signature Series are budget-friendly grills with good built quality. Although heart retention and distribution are not this or any budget grill forte, the Dyna Glo is an excellent smoker to get started.
- Dyna Glo vertical smokers offer 1382 square inches of cooking space.
- The Dyna Glo Firebox can be used as a charcoal grill. So you can smoke and grill some side dishes at the same time.
- FIVE chrome-plated cooking grates
- Good lid handles
- The temperature gauge has a “smoke zone” indicator to let users know when they are at the rate temperature range for smoking meat.
- Oversized steel wheels for mobility before and after use
What we don’t like:
The Dyna Glo Signature Series build quality is as expected, that of a less expensive grill.
Dyna Glo chrome-plated grates. These can rust over time.
One Last word.
Offset Smokers are in a league of their own, and anyone interested in smoking meats should consider trying an offset smoker.
Consider your budget and try to find a grill that combines good features, build quality, and the cooking space you’ll need.