Best Offset Smoker

If you want to feel cool and macho when barbecuing, then the best offset smoker is what you need. Used by the pros and competition pit masters, this type of smoker stands apart from your regular drum or cabinet models.

Not only does it look cool, it cooks great as well. If you’re in the market for an offset smoker we pick out the top products and review them. Plus, we also go into detail about how they work so you understand more about what you’re buying.

 

Our Top Choices: Offset Smokers for BBQ at Home

Find more options: View the available offset smokers on Amazon.com.

 

What Is an Offset Smoker?

Offset smokers are among the most popular styles around. They us a traditional design where you have the cooking chamber laid down horizontally instead of vertical.

This allows you to cook more food. It also makes rearranging your briskets, racks of ribs and pork shoulder easier.

Offset smokers use charcoal and wood. They’re often made with thick metal which acts as a conductor as well as keep in the heat.

What makes them unique is the positioning of their firebox. It is places on an offset. Hence, its name. The firebox is set on one side of the smoker a few inches lower than the cooking chamber. This allows you to cook with indirect heat.

As a result, it takes longer to cook using this type of smoker because they work on low temperatures. But, that also means you get more tender, flavorful BBQ.

 

How an Offset Smoker Works and How to Use It

Offset smokers are horizontal-shaped barrels with a lid on their sides. The lid opens upward allowing you to insert food in the main cooking chamber.

On one side of the unit, there’s a firebox that’s attached slightly lower than the barrel. This is why they’re called offset. On the opposite side of the firebox, you have a chimney that sits on top of the barrel.

How They Work

Cooking starts with you building a fire using charcoal or wood in the firebox. Because of its design, the heat and smoke cook meat indirectly. They do this by traveling out the firebox and circulating around the chamber and food. Then, exit out the chimney on the other end.

Besides stoking the fire in the firebox, internal temperature can be modified by adjusting the intake and exhaust vents. Allowing more air to get into the smoker increases the fire. Reducing the size of the vents cuts oxygen inflow. This in turn, works to lower temperature.

 

Types of Offset Smokers: Standard Offset Smoker vs. Reverse Flow Offset Smoker

Standard Offset Smokers

Standard offset smokers have their firebox on one side of the cooking chamber and the smokestack on the other end.

In this design, heat and smoke start from the firebox. From there is travels through the cooking chamber and up out the smokestack on the other end.

Along the way, the heat and smoke circulate around the food. This allows it cook as well as impart that smoky flavor.

Because of where the firebox is located and how heat travels (up), food that’s closest to the heat source cooks faster. This means you’ll need to monitor them differently from those that are positioned on the other end of the chamber.

Reverse Flow Offset Smokers

Compared to standard offset smokers, reverse flow units have 2 things different.

  • The firebox is positioned on the same side as the smokestack.
  • They have a deflector plate added underneath the grates.

Reverse flow offset smokers, which are often the more expensive units, come with an extra deflator plate. This steel plate is positioned under the grates. Its main function is to deflect the heat and smoke from going straight up as it leaves the firebox. Some of these plates come with pre-fabricated holes of different sizes. This allows heat and smoke to travel upwards at a controlled amount.

So what happens is the smoke travels the length of the chamber. And, is only able to go up at the end. This evens out the temperature better. As a result, meat that’s on both ends of the chamber get similar temperature. So, you get even cooking.

images from: amazingribs.com

 

Horizontal Offset Smoker vs Vertical Smoker

In terms of design, offset smokers are unlike many other smokers. They lie down horizontally whereas barrel and cabinet smokers for example stand up vertically.

Design and Fuel Source

  • Vertical smokers come in many forms. These include barrel smokers as well as cabinet units. In either case, the heat source and smoke are located at the bottom of the device. Often, it is in the same chamber as your food. This makes it cook food faster. Depending on what you’re cooking, this can be an advantage or disadvantage. Vertical smokers can use charcoal, gas or electric as their fuel source.
  • Horizontal offset smokers have their firebox mounted to the side of the cooking chamber. It is also set a few inches lower. This puts the flame to the side instead of the bottom. As a result, it doesn’t produce as much heat as vertical units. The lower temperature is what many pit masters like. For the most part, you’ll find horizontal smokers that use either charcoal or wood as their fuel source.

Heat

This affects how the heat travels from the fire to the food. It also affects smoke.

  • Vertical firebox designs run on large amounts of charcoal and wood chunks that burn slowly. This is what adds flavor to your food. Here, heat starts from below and travel upwards.
  • Horizontal offset smokers meanwhile, use a smaller fire. This, in combination with the offset firebox design keeps the chamber’s cooking temp low, which is ideal for good BBQ. It does extend cooking time though. Offset smokers use charcoal was well as wood. With this design, heat and smoke travels from one end of the unit to the other.

In terms of heat distribution, both have their own issues.

  • Vertical smokers deliver more heat to food that’s placed on the lower level grates. This makes them cook faster.
  • Horizontal smokers are hotter in the section that’s closest to the firebox. This means meats placed there are likely to cook much faster than those on the other end.

 

Offset Smoker vs. Kamado vs. Pellet Grill

Offset Smokers

  • Fuel Source: Charcoal

 

Offset smokers are the coolest to look at. They’re what many professional BBQ pit masters use. While they look macho and all, they’re also very difficult to master. That’s because heat isn’t distributed evenly across the cooking area.

The location of the firebox means that meats closer to it get more heat. This makes them cook faster than those on the far end. Reverse offset smokers do a much better job in heat distribution. But, they still require a learning curve.

The uneven heat is good if you want to cook with varying temps. But, if you want uniform temperature with all your food. That’s not the best situation.

Offset smokers also come in two main varieties. The cheap and the expensive. Cheap units are often made with lower quality, thin metal. That’s not a great environment for keeping heat or maintaining it. Expensive ones are what you want. They work great. But you need to be willing to pay the price.

Offset smokers are generally large and heavy. So, you need a lot of space for them.

Kamado Grills

  • Fuel Source: Charcoal (lump, briquettes) and Wood

Kamado grills are unique in their shape and size. Traditionally, they’re made of ceramic, which is why they’re called ceramic grills as well. Lately, some manufacturers are using other materials like stainless steel to build kamados.

It’s easy to spot one of these cookers because of their egg shape. Though a few newer styles are emerging where they’re more oval in shape.

Kamado grills are among the most versatile cookers around. You can grill, smoke, bake, and do a lot more with them. Ceramic grills come with thick walls which are conducive to holding in heat. This allows it to maintain steady temperature very well. On the flip side, it does take a longer to get to temp. And, cool down after.

It’s worth noting that kamados are very heavy. Plus, they don’t give you a lot of cooking space due to their shape and size.

Pellet Smokers/Grills

  • Fuel Source: Wood Pellets

Among the three in our comparison this is the easiest to cook with. Pellet smokers are equipped with an auger system that’s electronically controlled. This means all you need to do is load the hopper with wood pellets. Then, set it to the temperature you want. From there, the smoker does the rest.

Based on your digital setting, it feeds compressed wood pellets to the firebox to get the right thermostat. When temp runs low, it uses a blower to increase airflow to bring levels back up.

This is a good choice if you’re looking for convenience. You get to control everything from a digital panel. And, the cooker does the work for you. Just set and forget.

 

Pros and Cons of an Offset Smoker

Pros

  • Authentic BBQ flavor. Being able to use charcoal, wood chips, chunks and logs allow you to get the best flavor possible for your brisket, shoulder or ribs.
  • Large cooking capacity. The horizontal design allows you to have a lot of space. Plus, it makes it easy to organize your meats inside.
  • You can easily add fuel. The offset firebox lets you add logs, wood, chips or chunks without opening the cooking chamber. This lets you monitor and stoke the fire without lowering the cooking temperature.
  • You can grill with it. By adding a grid over your firebox you can grill with your smoker. This lets you enjoy both low and slow BBQ as well as quick seared steaks.
  • No electricity needed. This means you can use it anywhere without relying on electricity. Plus, no electrical components means less breaking down and easier to fix.
  • Cheap to operate. Charcoal is cheaper than propane or electricity. In the long run, you don’t spend as much.
  • It looks cool. Admit it. Of all the types of smokers, this is the coolest looking. It certainly beats out the fridge-style cabinet smoker.

Cons

  • They’re expensive. Entry level units are cheap. But, good quality offset smokers are expensive. You’ll spend a lot more money on a good offset smoker than a gas or electric one. Typically, high quality units will cost $1,000 or more.
  • They take a lot of work. You’ll need to regularly monitor and tend to the flame. Add fuel when needed as well.
  • Steep learning curve. Learning how the smoker works and where the hot and cold spots are takes time and experience. Also, understanding how to maintain a steady flame takes a lot of practice and patience.
  • They’re big. Unlike vertical smokers that save on space, these units lay horizontally. So, you’ll need a good amount of backyard to fit them in.
  • They’re heavy. Medium sized smokers can easily weigh over a hundred pounds. So, you’ll either need a rig to pull it. Or, set it down permanently.
  • Long to heat up. Because of its design and the size of the chamber, it can take up to an hour for the unit to get to temp.
  • Even more difficult to cook with in cold weather. Rainy, windy and cold weather largely affect how it cooks. It makes cooking during these situations even more difficult because you need to watch and tend to the fire eve more.

Choosing an Offset Smoker: Buying Guide

1. Cheap vs. Expensive Offset Smokers

Price is a big factor in all our buying decisions. With offset smokers, it becomes vital.

Before going any further, we’ll define what cheap and expensive are.

  • Cheap offset smokers are those that cost $200 and below.
  • Affordable smokers around $400 or less.
  • Expensive smokers $800 or more
  • Those on between are the mid-range smokers

In general, offset smokers that cost $400 or less come with thinner metal. This makes them less able to keep heat in. Additionally, they often make it difficult to cook. This is because heat is unevenly distributed.

You can make great BBQ with these smokers. But, it requires a lot of work and practice. You may also want to modify them by adding a metal deflector plate under the food grates. This will help redirect heat and smoke to even out temperature.

2. Attainable Temperature Range

Cooking low and slow requires steady temperature inside your cooking chamber. It also means keeping heat at a manageable level.

Smokers typically run at around 225 to 275 degrees. This is great for most BBQ. So, you’ll want to choose one that’s capable of doing so.

In addition, some pit masters may want to use higher or lower temps sometimes. Cold smoking for example uses temperatures less than 200 degrees. Others may want to be able to go about 300 degrees.

3. Size & Capacity

Choose a smoker that fits your backyard. To start with offset smokers are big. So, determine how much space in your yard you’re willing to allocate for it.

In addition to physical size, pick one that has enough cooking space for your needs. BBQ is a long process. So unlike grilling, you’re not going to be able to cook another round.

That said, balance is key.

You want a chamber that’s big enough to fit all your food. And, have enough space between each item. But, too much space also means being inefficient with fuel. Plus, it takes longer to heat up and cook all your food.

4. Vertical or Horizontal Design

For the most part, offset smokers are horizontal. But, there are a few vertical offset smokers around. This is a rare case. But, if you’re tight on space, a vertical offset smoker may be an option.

5. Materials, Durability and Construction

When it comes to materials and build, there are two main things to consider.

One is how well things seal and keep heat in.
Another is how strong they are. The stronger and more rugged, the more durable they’ll be.

With smokers, the heavier the better. This often means thicker metal which holds heat better. Additionally, thicker metal also distributes heat better. As a result, you get even heat distribution.

In addition to the material, consider the workmanship. This includes the welding as well as the hinges.

 

Best Offset Smoker Reviews



Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker

This doesn’t look like your standard barrel offset smoker. It has a vertical cabinet design with the firebox on the side.

The unit gives you a more space to put food without taking up a large amount of space. Because the grids are vertically stacked, you get more space for your ribs and pork. It all, it offers a total of 1,176 square inches of cooking space. This lets you cook as much as you want.

It comes with 6 removable cooking grids to let you select how much you want to cook. Together, they let you smoke as much as 150 pounds of food each time.

We like the heavy duty steel build and the temperature gauge on the door. The firebox makes is easy to access. The position of the firebox also helps keep heat low. This lets you cook meats slowly to get the most flavor and tenderness.

Weighing 57 pounds, its dimensions are 34.5 inches side to side and 20 inches from front to back. The unit stands 47 inches high.

Overall, this is an affordable charcoal offset smoker. It uses a vertical cabinet design that lets you cook more food at once.

Oklahoma Joe’s Highland Reverse Flow Smoker

From one of the best known names in BBQ, we have this reverse flow smoker.

Compared to the standard horizontal offset smokers, reverse flow smokers have their chimney on the side of the firebox. In addition they have an extra layer inside the smoker that diverts the smoke from the firebox to the end of the smoker.

This makes the smoke move to the end of the smoker before getting to the meat. In doing so, it balances out the heat that reaches the BBQ. This way you get even cooking throughout. Standard offset smokers will have higher heat in the area closer to the firebox. And, less heat at the end of the smoker.

Because of this, we prefer reverse flow smokers. The compromise is, they’re more expensive.

We like this solidly built smoker for its performance. It offers 619 square inches in the main smoking area. And, another 281 square inches in the firebox chamber for secondary cooking.

The unit is made with heavy gauge steel throughout. Its porcelain coated grates also need less maintenance and are rust resistance.

Overall, this is a quality offset smoker. It offers a large area for smoking BBQ. And you get multiple dampers that let you control the smoke and heat. Its built-in temperature gauge lets you know when the smoker is ready to go as well as monitor your BBQ.

Char-Broil American Gourmet Offset Smoker, Standard

For those who are looking for something that’s budget friendly, this is worth a look. This cheap offset smoker that’s budget friendly. It is simple. And will let you smoke BBQ as well as grill.

As with the others in our offset smoker reviews, it runs on charcoal. You can use the main 290 square inch chamber for your slow cooking BBQ. And the extra 140 square inch space in the firebox chamber for grilling burgers or steaks.

This Char-Broil smoker comes with adjustable height grates. This way you can control how much heat the meat get. For further control, there’s an adjustable damper for airflow and smoke.

Overall, this is a basic offset smoker. It is well suited for beginners or those who don’t want to spend a lot for their BBQ.

RiverGrille SC2162901-RG Rancher’s Grill

If you want to be able to smoke a lot of meat at once, this is a good choice.

This is a big and heavy. That’s a good thing when it comes to smokers. This means that you’re getting heavy gauge steel not something flimsy. You’ll want that for durability as well as keeping the heat sealed inside the box.

This offset smoker comes with a total of 1,713 square inches of space for cooking. You get dual layered porcelain coated grates. The unit also has two lids. This lets you open the side you want. In doing so, minimize the amount of heat and smoke that get out.

The large offset fiebox meanwhile can also be used as a grill to get more cooking does. It is designed to retain heat.

This isn’t the cheapest nor the smallest of smokers. For that reason, we don’t recommend it to beginners. Instead, it is something that’s more suited for pit masters who have some experience.

Overall, this is a good quality offset smoker. It has excellent capacity so you can smoke racks of ribs, pork shoulder or turkey. The heavy gauge steel built and large firebox let you retain heat and smoke well. This lets you maintain proper temperature for your BBQ.