What is a reverse flow smoker – Here is a simple explanation.

what is a reverse flow smker

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What is a reverse flow smoker ? Who do they work with? In this article, we answer these more questions to help you decide if a reverse flow smoker is for you.

So you began researching offset smokers and came across reverse flow smokers. Now you are confused and unsure what a reverse smoker is, how it works, and even if it is something you should even care about.

Well, you found the right article. We will explain what a reverse flow offset smoker is, how reverse offsets work, and the pros and cons of reverse flow smokers compared to traditional smokers.

What is a reverse flow Offset smoker?

Short and straightforward, reverse flow smokers are BBQ smokers with internal chambers, baffles, and plates that direct heat to the furthest opposite side of the firebox, forcing hot air and smoke to travel to the entire length of the cooking chamber before reversing back towards the firebox side of the smoker and exiting the smokestack. 

The smokestack is located on the same side as the firebox to support the smoke’s “zig-zag” movement. 

If you are shopping for an offset smoker, a good way of telling the difference between an offset smoker and a traditional offset smoker, besides the internal baffles, is the location of the smokestack.

If the smokestack is on the firebox side, you are looking at a reverse flow offset smoker.

In a regular offset smoker, the smokestack is placed on the opposite side of the firebox to drive air flow to travel the exhaust route, which is the smokestack. The key component making a reverse flow smoker work is the baffle plate system.

The baffle plate system also acts as an additional buffer between the food and heat of the fire and cools, creating a more manageable internal temperature when cold smoking. Still, these smokers offer the same cooking space as regular offset smokers.

What does reverse flow smoker mean For You?

Simply put, a reverse flow design help with heat distribution, especially in large smokers. The reverse flow baffles will direct heat across the entire smoker, creating even heating and cooking throughout the whole smoker. 

If you buy a reverse flow smoker, you will benefit from uniform heat distribution, the consistent cooking temperature in the cooking chamber, and easier heat control. 

Since there is less to worry about different temperatures, hot and cold cooking zones, these smokers are great for beginners or those who want to smoke meats low and slow cooking. You can cook lots of food and use the entire cooking surface of your smoker without worrying about burning or overcooking meats placed in specifics areas of the smoker.

For example, suppose you fill-up the entire cooking area with chicken and use a reverse flow smoker. In that case, you won’t have to worry about burning chickens closer to the firebox. The baffles in the reverse flow system allow for a uniform cooking environment and even heat across the cooking chamber.

How does a reverse flow smoker work?

How reverse flow offset smokers work is simple. The fundamentals of these smokers are the same as an non-reverse flow smokers. A reverse flow smoker uses indirect heat to smoke meats, which allows for more consistent temperature, heat, and delicious juice meats with smoke flavor. 

Because harsh heat or fire never directly touches the meat, it doesn’t draw out moisture or create burn spots. This is a perfect combination for smoking foods with meats like beef brisket. 

However, reverse flow smokers will use their reverse flow chamber to force hot air across the smoker before exiting the smoke exhaust. Since hot air has to fill the reversing chamber first, these smokers require more fuel and more time to heat up than regular smokers.

Are reverse flow smokers better than regular smokers?

Yes, but there is a catch! Reverse flow smokers can be better in most scenarios and for most users to answer the question. But to cover the topic well, we will go over the pros and cons of reverse smokers later in this article.

The reason reverse flow smokers are better is that uniform even heat is perfect for smoking meats, lots of meat! If you are smoking a brisket, you want even uniform heat cooking every inch of the meat cut, from tip to flat, at the same temperature. 

Even temperature throughout the cook will yield better results than overpowering one side of the smoker burning or overcooking only one side of the meat.

However, some users and pitmasters prefer regular offset smokers because they want to control every cooking aspect, including creating different heat zones in the cooking chamber.

Ultimately whether reverse flow smokers are for you or not depends on your cooking style and preferences. When the temperature remains consistent across the smoker, you can easily smoke larger meat cuts and lots of food without rotating on and off hot areas. 

For newcomers who need something more consistent and less burdensome to babysit, reverse flow smokers will be more beneficial than a standard offset.

Reverse flow smoker vs. offset smoker: pros and cons

Reverse Flow Smoker Pros

  • A consistent uniform even cooking environment means more consistent results.
  • More even smoke distribution is excellent for smoking large meat cuts.
  • The reverse flow baffle plates reduce the usual hot spot next to the firebox common in regular smokers. 
  • Less prone to temperature changes after adding more wood to the fire, the reverse flow chamber acts as a buffer evening the heat.
  • Since heat is disturbed evenly, the smoker returns to smoking temperature faster after opening the main cooking chamber door.
  • If used properly, these smokers can render juicier meats. More experienced smoker 
  • If you are planing on placing meat on every inch of the cooking grate and want every meat cut to cook evenly.

Reverse Flow Smoker Cons

  • You cannot create different cooking heat zones. All the meat will cook at the same temperature.
  • Some reverse flow smoker baffles systems are not removable, making it harder to clean the smoker. 
  • Because the reverse flow chamber needs to be fed with hot air before sending it to the main chamber, these smokers take longer to heat up.
  • The extra metals and baffles mean these smokers are heavier than regular smokers.
  • You will need more fire to get the main chamber hot since the reversing chamber absorbs some heat before making it to the main cooking chamber.
  • Some of these smokers can be more expensive.
  • You need to be sure nothing is covering the baffles or air flow can suffer.

One important fact about reverse offset smokers

One of the significant differences between these two types of offsets, besides how hot air flows and something you should keep in mind is price. Here is a screenshot from a popular smoker website, the Oklahoma Joes. Here is a price comparison side by side. As you can see the price difference between a regular offset and a reverse flow model is about 100 bucks.

price of regular offset vs reverse flow smoker
Source: Oklahoma Jones

Explanation: How Do You Use a Reverse Flow Smoker? Is it any different than a standard offset smoker?

Using a reverse flow smoker is not that much different than using a regular offset smoker. When using a reverse flow smoker, the main difference is that the reverse chamber system will need more heat and smoke to keep the main chamber at temperature. We wrote an article which details how to use these large smokers effectively.

Regular offset smokers

A traditional offset smoker works with smoke entering the cooking chamber on one end, moving across the meat, and exiting the chamber through the exhaust on the other end. 

Let’s Compare The Two regular offset smokers and reverse flow smokers

reverse flow smoker air flow diagram
Reverse flow smoker air flow illustration
regular offset smoker air flow
Regular Offset Smoker Air Flow Illustration
Regular Offset SmokerReverse Offset Smoker
Large Cooking CapacityYesYes
Can Smoke Lots of FoodYesYes
More Even Cooking Temperature / More Even Temperature DistributionNoYes
Easier for BeginnersNoYes
Easy to Create Different Heat ZoneYesNo

So, is a reverse smoker for you?

If your budget permits it and you are new to the BBQ smoking meat game, a reverse smoker will be great for you. Also, those who want even heat and pack the entire smoker without worrying about hot zones burning the meat. 

However, those with more experience and wanting total control over the cook and the smoking process might prefer a standard offset smoker.

It is important to mention that the best reverse flow smoker won’t make you a better chef or family BBQ champion, but it can help, especially if you are starting out and want to enjoy the benefits of indirect heat cooking with offsets. We compiled a list of the good offset smokes, including the best reverse flow smokers we found.

Faqs

Is the temperature really that even across the entire reverse flow smoker cooking chamber?

Nothing is perfect, including the reverse flow offset smoker idea. However, implementing a baffle plate helps eliminate different heat zones, have more even cooking temperatures and temperature spikes

Can I grill using a reverse flow smoker?

The cooking temperature required to grill food such as steaks and pork ribs is higher than smokers’. An offset smoker will operate at a cooking temperature range of anywhere between 200 to 275 degrees F.  These temperatures are for smoking a large cut of meat for a long time, like a pork butt. You can grill other foods that won’t require searing or high temps.
Normally to grill and good steak, you need to run your grill at much higher temperatures. 
You might be able to grill small cuts of meats like burgers or hotdogs, but to grill and sear stakes, you need a grill for that.

How can I tell the difference between a traditional offset smoker and a reverse offset smoker?

Besides the way the smoke flow is “routed” in these two types of offset smokers in a regular offset smoker, the main chamber is hollow. Only the cooking grates are visible and occupy the space. The smokestack is welded on the opposite side of the firebox. 
In a reverse offset smoker, you quickly notice the extra parts inside the cooking chamber. These can be baffles, tuning plates, or an additional metal plate sitting at the button of the cooking chamber. The smokestack is welded on the same side as the firebox.

One Last Word.

The purpose of this article is to explain and give you infomration on reverse flow offset. If you are new to BBQ these smokers can be a great way to polish your skills and get started smoking meats. What makes these smokers help you is having a more uniform cooking environment and having to worry less about managing the smoker. 

Using large smokers can be a huge learning curve, but don’t be afraid to fill up those cooking racks and have some fun!

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