If you are serious about BBQ grilling and smoking meats and are looking for the realest, most authentic way to cook BBQ food, then you need an offset smoker, also known as “stick burners.”
If you are ready to step up your barbecue game, I have compiled a list of the best offset smokers on the market today. I have previously used some of these smokers to produce pounds of delicious barbecued meat.
Welcome to the big leagues
The offset charcoal smokers are designed and built to cook using indirect fire for long periods, and smokers have large cooking chambers. 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, it is time to buy find the right offset smoker for you. The majority of professional BBQ Pitmasters use offset smokers for a reason.
This article will give you plenty of information so the next time you see an offset smoker for sale, you know what to buy.
What is an Offset Smoker
Offset smoker is a smoker variety where the firebox or heat source is attached to the side of the main cooking chamber. So instead of having a burner or charcoal tray inside the smoker main cabinet, the firebox or charcoal box is on its side.
Offset smokers are also referred to as barrel smokers or horizontal smokers in some communities.
How does an offset smoker work
An offset BBQ smoker works by burning wood and charcoal in a side firebox outside the cooking chamber. Hot air and smoke are then directed to the main cooking chamber.
Traditional offset smokers feature large horizontal cooking chambers and a “side firebox” to burn wood or wood chips and charcoal.
The food inside the main smoking chamber in offset smokers cooks with indirect fire from the fire in the offset firebox. The most common design is horizontal offset smokers, but these grills can also be found in vertical design styles.
An offset is very similar to a traditional charcoal grill, except there are two main chambers, a cooking section and a fire or charcoal chamber.
What is a Reverse Flow Offset Smoker
You will come across smoker models advertised as reverse flow offset smokers. A reverse flow smoker has internal chambers and baffles to direct heat evenly across the entire length of the smoker, forcing smoke and heat to the opposite side of the firebox before exiting the smokestack.
In other words, reverse flow technology ensures heat “zig-zags” the smoker’s chamber before exiting the smokestack, ensuring the entire grill gets heat and smoke.
Reverse Flow chambers with adjustable dampers make it easier to control the heat.
reverse flow smokers vs Traditional offset Smokers
For those new to offset smokers, a reverse flow system can assist with heat control and distribution. A reverse flow smoker is a preferable option for people who desire uniform heat distribution throughout the whole smoker with the least amount of effort, as well as for those who have little or no BBQ smoking experience.
On the other hand, users who want total control of their smokers’ heat zones will find traditional offsets better to use. A regular offset will allow you to create and control different heat zones in your smoker.
What Should you consider When Buying a new offset smoker
It is important to consider the gauge of steel used to build the smoker, especially the cooking compartment. Offset smokers are meant to be abused and have to be able to cook for long hours. Be cautious of cheap offset smokers, some manufacturers use low gauge steel and thin metal to save costs, but those smokers do not tend to last long.
Good quality offset Smokers tend to be on the higher price spectrum compared to a traditional smoker, and understatedly, some models are commercial-grade heavy-duty large smokers. The top smoker manufacturers use heavy-gauge steel to build their smokers and grates.
Heavy gauge steel construction smokers can handle years of use and even the abuse of being transported on trailers or towed around town.
Efficiency and Heat Retention
Quality is important not only for durability reasons but also for efficiency. A cheap smoker will leak smoke and heat making it hard to maintain and control temperature.
A good-quality smoker grill should have a heavy-duty offset firebox with good air vents and a well-insulated cooking area. The primary smoking chamber should also be well sealed to avoid losing heat and smoke.
The hard truth is that cheap smokers will leak smoke and can be hard to maintain cooking temperatures. Higher-quality and heavy steel construction smokers will cost more, but you will not face many issues found in cheap smokers.
Cooking capacity is important; after all, you are spending good money to get the best smoker within your budget. The cooking capacity in an offset BBQ 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 surface.
Due to its design, offset smokers offer a vast amount of square inches of cooking. Besides the grates, there is nothing else in the main chamber to get in the way of meat! These smokers are perfect for cooking for a large family.
A larger offset BBQ smoker won’t necessarily offer more 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 manufacturers advertise attractive square inches numbers, but the cooking capacity is limited by the absence of grates or inefficient cooking area designs.
However, the cooking surface 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. A small to a medium-sized smoker will work fine for smoking ribs and briskets.
If you plan on smoking large meat cuts like a whole hug, then a larger chamber should be considered.
Buying an offset smoker can be a significant investment, and a grill’s cooking area should be prioritized. Unfortunately, if you outgrow your grill’s primary cooking area, 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
A traditional offset smoker will burn a mix of charcoal or wood, and the beauty of choosing an offset BBQ smoker is the flexibility and control over wood blends, the amount of charcoal vs. wood, and much more.
Pellet offset smokers are trending and becoming very popular.
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 of charcoal and wood blends. However, pellet grills do a great job with flavor too.
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, removable ash pan systems, a quality temperature gauge, and a well-designed cooking space are all nice features to have.
A Good Temperature Gauge
Temperatur, in addition to smoke control, is paramount when cooking but more so when smoking meat. If the temperature is not monitored, the meat can dry and not cook well.
A good temperature gauge will help with temperature control but also help monitor the health of your fire. Most grills include built-in gauges, but accurate temperature gauges are usually found in the more expensive grill models.
Cooking Grates and cooking racks
Cooking grates’ quality and build materials are important. The grates are your cooking surface and where your food will cook on for hours.
Materials like stainless steel are commonly used in cooking appliances and can also be found in most offset smokers.
It is important to pick good cooking grates as long as your budget allows it. Also, consider grills in which the cooking area can support multiple grates.
Porcelain Coated Grates
Porcelain-coated grates are often found in gas grills and charcoal grills, and also smokers. Porcelain-coated grill grates are durable, protected from rust, and easy to clean.
The coating acts as a protective layer and transfers heat well; however, it is essential not to use metal brushes as the coating can get damaged, exposing the metal. Both stainless steel and iron grates can be found coated.
Porcelain-coated cast-iron grates work well in smokers but remember to be careful cleaning the grates. Most people using 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 grates can chip if dropped, but an iron grill cooking grate, well, the floor better be strong.
Iron grates are usually on the expensive side and require a bit of maintenance to remain rust-free. Iron loves to stay “oiled,” but cast-iron grates can last a long time if used in a good curing and “seasoning” process.
Cast iron heavy-duty grates can be found on many commercial-grade charcoal offset smokers, although inexpensive offset grills offer coated or stainless steel grates.
Stainless steel grates are another good option and are affordable. Stainless steel grates do not provide the heat preservation and transmission of iron grates but are cheaper and get the job done.
Storage is a nice feature to consider when shopping for an offset smoker; whether you are using your smoker at home or transporting it to a business location, having space to store your grilling tools is a plus.
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, cooking utensils, charcoal, or wood. It is always nice to have space to keep your cooking tools and accessories in a single place and nearby.
Because some of these offset smokers are built out of heavy gauge steel, they will be heavy.
If you are looking for an offset smoker for your backyard and want to move it around from time to time, consider a lighter smoker with good wheels.
A large offset smoker can weigh hundreds of pounds and can be challenging to move, 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 placing 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 charcoal 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. 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 a good offset smoker, 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 a good, commercial-grade charcoal offset smoker, you will need to spend a few thousand for a heavy-duty, commercial-grade high-quality smoker.
When searching for a good offset 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 can 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. The best brands offer US phone support.
Can I grill on an offset smoker?
Offset smokers are designed to cook food low and slow, but it is possible to use them as a charcoal grill. However, it might not be 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 grill.
What can I grill in a smoker?
Smokers can cook many foods but are mostly used to smoke meats like pork, poultry, and even fish. However, the beauty of these grills is the creative opportunities are endless.
Our list of the 5 Top offset smokers As Ranked and tested
1. The MEADOW CREEK SQ36 OFFSET BBQ SMOKER – Best Overall
The Meadow Creek smoker line is impressive, please hear me out. They hand-make these grills, and their company culture is remarkable. This is the best smoker on our list and a top-rated heavy-duty offset smoker.
We do a lot of research before publishing an article at BBQ Grill Academy, and very few times do we feel as strongly about a brand as we do about Meadow Creek.
There are very few companies left that hand-build anything and care so much about quality. Today it seems every grill vendor is importing stuff from China and adding a logo to it.
Meadow Creek offers different smoker models, including commercial smokers. We will discuss their smaller offset smoker in this article, the MEADOW CREEK SQ36 OFFSET BBQ SMOKER. This is the best offset smoker on our list, hands down.
The Meadow Creek Offset Smoker is the smaller in the Meadow Creek lineup but still offers the same quality as Meadow’s largest smokers. The Meadow Creek lineup is top of the line, handcrafted in the United States, and built tough using high-quality metals.
If you are serious about smoking meats and want a huge cooking space plus top-of-the-line quality or a competition smoker, then look no further; welcome to the big leagues!
|Smoker Dimensions:||Length: 61.5 inches | Width: 29 inches | Height: 56.5 inches|
|Grate Dimensions:||14.5 inches x 35 inches with a wire grid With ½.”|
|Metal Thickness on Smoker:||13 Gauge ( the firebox uses a 1/4 inch thick plate )|
|Smoker Weight:||310 pounds|
|Warming rack ( 2nd level ) Dimensions:||13″ x 34″|
What we like:
- Top offset smoker. Build quality is exceptional, comercial grade and expected as these grills are handcrafted using 13 gauge heavy-duty metal. Top offset smoker with better heat retention than any other smoke on this list.
- Large cooking space. Impressive cooking capacity, if you want to cook for 50 to 70 people or have plenty of square inches of cooking space.
- Cooking Capacity is versatile and impressive, capable of cooking a whole pig 30 to 40 pounds.
- The cooking surface offers plenty of grilling space for pork butts, briskets, and ribs.
- The firebox on this grill is constructed out of quarter-inch metal. An upgraded insulated firebox is available, which will helps orevent the outside of the firebox from getting too hot.
- This smoker smoker comes with Stainless steel grates, offer plenty inches of cooking space, and an optional top or second-tier grate can be purchase, increasing the total cooking space available.
- Easy temperature control. Better heat control and smoke control, easy to control heat going into the food chamber even if the firebox gets too hot.
- The Slide-out, removable ash pan and drain hole add extra convenience when it is time to clean the smoker.
- This smoker has excellent features such as “cool touch handles” on slide vents, a ball valve drain and they include a small can of touch-up paint, just in case.
- Good quality built in thermometer.
- A charcoal Grate in Fire Box protects the buttom of the firebox.
- Oversized heavy duty wheels help move this smoker 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.
2. Oklahoma Joe’s Longhorn – Runner Up
Oklahoma Joe’s Longhorn Reverse Flow models are the best for those looking for an everyday good quality smoker but at a lower price.
This is a reverse flow BBQ smoker, which means a reverse heat baffle draws air from the firebox to the grill’s opposite side, then directs 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. Although it is priced well, the Oklahoma Joe’s highland reverse models offer excellent features and good quality.
The Oklahoma Joe’s Highland smokers are built using heavy-gauge steel, improving heat retention, and we like the oversized wheels. The Oklahoma Joe is a good grill for those who want a quality product and at a reasonable price.
The Oklahoma Joe’s Longhorn 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.
|Smoker Dimensions:||Lenght: 35.5 inches | Width: 35.5 inches | Height: 55.5 inches|
|Metal Thickness:||12-gauge black oil pipe|
|Smoker Weight:||226 pounds|
What we like:
- Good quality – the Oklahoma Joe’s Highland reverse flow smoker is built using 12 gauge black oil pipe.
- The Oklahoma Joe features ample cooking space at 751 square inches of cooking surface. Large but still a great backyard smoker.
- The firebox grill feature adds another level of versatility. There is a grate above the fire, turning the firebox into a small 309 square inch cooking space for direct grilling.
- Longhorn reverse flow system, meaning it is easier to manage heat and ensure the main chamber is evenly hot.
- Oklahoma Joe’s Longhorn reverse flow baffles are removable, which helps during cleaning.
- This charcoal smoker comes with 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 main chamber and at the bottom of the grill. This is very convenient for storing tools or placing food on.
- The built in thermometer gauge will help monitor the cooking space temperature.
- The top of the firebox lid is flat and intended to be used as a “keep food warm” or plate warming spot. – pretty cool feature by Oklahoma Joe.
- The large steel wheels help move this Oklahoma Joe 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 prefer creating different cooking temperature zones.
- The wagon wheels are cool-looking but might not work well in certain terrains where large rubber and inflated tires will shine. The wheels are Oklahoma Joe signature look.
3. Char-Broil 12201570-A1 American Gourmet – Budget
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. This charcoal smoker is an excellent option for those wanting to start smoking meats and learn more about BBQ grilling.
Learn more: Using an offset smoker.
This is the best budget-friendly smoker on our list but still a good smoker for those not wanting to commit to a large purchase. If you are looking for a budget-friendly offset smoker or a smaller smoker, the A1 can be a good fit.
This grill is smaller and will fit fine in most backyards, and great value. 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 space, and thinner, cheaper metals to build this grill.
This charcoal smoker 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. This is the best value offset smoker on this list.
|Smoker Dimensions:||Lenght: 17.5″ | Width: 46.25″ | Height 44.75″|
|Metal Thickness on Smoker: 13-Gauge|
|Smoker Weight:||38 pounds|
|Capacity:||290 sq in ( main chamber )|
What we like:
- Ok quality is comparable with that of any grill at this price. The grill is not built using heavy-duty metal that is well put together. The Char-Broil is a good charcoal grill but add a door seal gasket if you want good heat retention.
- Enough cooking space for a small family.
- This grill is light and easy to move. Char-Broil has two plastic wheels.
- This Char-Broil is fewer parts and is simple to set up.
- Built-in temp gauge.
- This Char-Broil smoker is priced well, great price point.
What we don’t like:
- As expected, the quality is not the best at this price point.
- Might need seal gaskets to keep heat and smoke from escaping, less expensice grills are prine to smoke leakages.
- Heat distribution is not as good, but expected at this price range.
- No storage rack.
The Char-Griller 1224 Smokin Pro is very similar to the Char-Broil, just bigger. The Smokin pro design shares many characteristics with the Char-Broil but with a few improvements and more cooking space. This is a great smoker for beginners and those wanting to try an offset smoker.
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 grates. This is a great offset smoker under 300 dollars.
|Smoker Dimensions:||Length: 62″ | Width: 29″ | Height: 50″|
|Metal Thickness on Smoker:||Heavy Gauge Steel|
|Smoker Weight:||146 pounds|
|Capacity:||580 sq in ( main chamber ) 250 sq in grilling space in the firebox|
What we like:
- The quality is what’s expected at this price range. These grills are not at the quality level of the Big Poppa Smokers ( not even close ) or Oklahoma Joe Smokers but is the price. When shopping for any kind of BBQ Grill, it is essential to remember that better materials will increase costs.
- The firebox is powder crowded with a double bottom for durability and has air vents to control airflow with a clean-out door.
- 580 square inches of sapce. Good size for a backyard smoker.
- Built in temp 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 smoker has wheels and is light enough to move around with ease.
- Good price point for beginners. Great value and a low price tag.
What we don’t like:
- It is a value buy, so quality is not the same as some of the best smokers on this list.
- Heat distribution can be a minor issue.
5. Dyna-Glo Signature Series DGSS1382VCS-D Heavy-Duty Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker & Grill vertical offset smoker
We want to bring you something slightly different from a reverse flow smoker or pretty cylinder. Let talk about vertical offset smokers.
A vertical offset smoker combines all the benefits of barrel smokers and vertical design 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 or if you don’t have a lot of outdoor space as all its square inches stretch upwards, and the cooking space is spread vertically, making this grill the best backyard offset smoker. All this means is you get a lot of cooking square inches without needing a mile-wide space.
In a vertical design offset smoker, the food is stacked vertically on the different grates at different heights allowing for excellent heat and smoke penetration. Larger cuts can be placed closer to the fire, and thinner cuts higher away from the coals.
This Dyna Glo features a total cooking area of 1382 square inches of space with 5 chrome-plated grates. This is a big boy and can handle lots of food. A vertical smoker is a great option for those with limited space.
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 foods.
|Smoker Dimensions:||Lenght: 45″ | Width: 25″ | Height: 58.8″|
|Metal Thickness:||Heavy-Gauge Steel|
|Smoker Weight:||124 pounds|
|Capacity:||1382 sq in|
What we like:
- The Dyna Glo Signature Series are budget-friendly BBQ smoker grills but good quality. The Dyna Glo is an excellent smoker for begginers.
- Dyna Glo vertical smoker offers 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.
- The Dyna Glo signature series ( vertical ) includes FIVE chrome-plated cooking grates, PLUS sausage hooks.
- Good lid cool touch 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
- This Dyna Glo verticle charcoal grill smoker can fit in smaller places.
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 cooking grates. These can rust over time.
Bonus Option – The Pit Barrel Cooker drum smoker
Have you ever heard of a drum smoker or an “ugly smoker”? Despite the fact that these smokers are not classified as offsets, they are great smokers that are simple to use.
If taste and flavor are important to you when choosing a smoker, Pit Barrel Cookers are a great option. We created an entire article on these smokers, in which we detailed all of the different types, specs, and pricing.
why we like Offset Smokers
Offset smokers are the top-tier grills of the BBQ smoking world. These grills can handle large amounts of foods but, more importantly, are suitably designed for cooking low and slow for long periods.
Perhaps you are reading multiple reviews and are wondering why people like these giants.
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.
What makes a smoker an “offset smoker” is an external firebox attached to one side of the grill. This means that fire is not below the food or inside the cooking chamber.
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 Makes a Smoker an offset smoker
On an offset smoker, the firebox, or heat source, is attached to the primary cooking chamber side, which is why these grills are referred to as “offset.” In traditional charcoal grills or vertical smokers, the fire sits below the meat inside the main cooking chamber.
By removing the firebox or heat source from the cooking chamber, two things happen, the cooking chamber gains more space, and the second is indirect fire 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. If you want to cook for long periods, this is important.
You will also come across offset reverse flow smokers. A reverse flow smoker will use baffles in the main chamber to conduct heat to the opposite side of the fireboxes before infusing the heat into the main chamber.
This ensures that heat traves the entire length of the cooking zone of the smoker before the heat and smoke exits the smokestack.
Reverse flow BBQ smokers create even heat distribution and eliminate hot and cold zones, which is excellent for most users. Users with more experience prefer to have complete temperature control of hot and cold zones in their smokers and often opt for traditional offsets.
What can you cook, grill, and smoke 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 large cooking capacity. Anything from turkeys, brisket, ribs, and pork shoulders can be cooked in these beasts.
Are offset smokers any good? Oh yes, they are!
What’s excellent about offsets is that the food cooks with nothing but pure heat; no direct flames touch the meats. Offset smokers are built to cook, smoke, and grill amounts of food.
Good offset smokers will cost a pretty penny and the larger higher quality models can cost a few thousand dollars.
Some may confuse a side box pellet grill with an offsets smoker, but they are not the same, not even close! Here is a picture of an offset firebox.
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 chamber.
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.
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 fire is cooking the foods, and in the right smoker, food cooks evenly.
What we don’t like about offset smoker grills
Although indirect fire and side fireboxes sound like a good combination, and they are, a by-product of this combination is dimensions. These smokers are large, and sometimes, finding a good space to store them or even use them at home can be challenging.
These grills are also heavy, and it might be hard to move these grills around your backyard. Some models like the Dyna Glo Char Griller are built using thinner steel, making them lighter and easier to move around.
Offsets can be are harder to use than your standard built-in grill in your summer kitchen. Having some experience with charcoal and heat management is helpful.
These grills are large!
Offset smokers’ 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. The main chamber needs to remain at a consistent temperature and retain its temperature to help the smoking process.
If hot air escapes or the main cooking space is not well insulated, the smoker will not retain heat well and will be less efficient at inducing steam, heat, and smoke in the meats.
Common problems with cheap offset smokers are heat and smoke leaks. If you are going to buy an offset smoker to smoke meats for long hours, temperature retention and control is important.
How to use an offset smoker
Managing the fire in an offset smoker is very similar to any charcoal grill or smoker.
Place your fuel of choice in the smoker’s firebox, that being lump charcoal, wood, or both. Light the charcoal and let the charcoal turn white and wait until you see “white smoke” before setting the air vents and control the internal temperature.
Configure the smoker’s air vents so that the internal temperature is in the smoke zone and let the smoker get to the temperature.
Is important to monitor the charcoal fire and not let it extinguish. If the fire shuts off and you have reignited the coals the dirty smoke during the re-ignition process will stain your food and add a bitter taste to your food.
Also, monitor the smoke coming out of the smokestack. If you start noticing black smoke coming out of the smokestack open the firebox air vents to let more oxygen into the firebox.
Black smoke is a sign of poor combustion due to a lack of oxygen in the firebox.
One Last word.
Offset Smokers are in a league of their own, and anyone interested in smoking meats should consider trying an offset smoker.
A good offset grill will smoke meats better than a charcoal grill, and many of us would not use anything else to smoke a perfect brisket or any kind of smoked meat.
Consider your budget and try to find a grill that combines good features, quality, and the cooking space you’ll need. All these grills will have different features, and at times some of those features will help with smoke and heat control.
If your budget allows it, try spending your money on quality and features which can help control heat and smoke. Cooking Capacity is also important, but a durable grill with a good warranty is a good place to start.
I like smokers that are easy to clean, are not built out of cheap thin meat, and can propagate even heat well along the entire cooking area. A built-in thermometer is needed to keep an eye on the smoker’s temperature and be able to smoke meat accurately.
Features like a removable and accessible ash pan, good air vents for temperature control, and good gauge stainless steel construction are good indications of quality.
Storage space is also nice to have. When smoking meats with these smokers, you will be using all kinds of tools, and it is nice to have storage space to keep everything in one place.