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Finding the best offset smoker for your backyard or patio can be a long arduous process.
There are so many types of smokers. Hence, today we will add another buying guide, and look at how to get the best offset smoker possible.
There are a ton of offset smokers available. Thus, you would think that would make it easier for you to find the best one.
However, this is not the case, due to the sheer amount of brands and models available.
How do you know which ones to look at? That’s what we hope to help you with.
Firstly, it is important to note that in searching for an offset smoker, you should know as much as you can about smokers in general.
So please take a look at our smoker 101 information guide as well.
In it, you will find a lot of user smoker information, regardless of what you are searching for.
That being said, in the end it really depends on what is going to work best for you.
Namely, you might find that the most popular offset smoker might not be the best offset smoker for you.
Hence, this guide will provide you with lots of options to make your decision making process easier.
Offset smokers are one of the most popular and classic versions of a smoker.
In trying to differentiate an offset smoker from others you can look at a number of things.
Firstly, you’ll notice that the cooking chamber has a cylindrical shape form.
Additionally, the food is usually smoked while charcoal and wood burn on a side attached firebox.
This firebox is usually a cylinder that has a smaller diameter.
This side firebox is the reason for the “offset” part of the name.
In order to cook the meat, a fire is lit in that firebox, in which the flow of air is heavily controlled.
More importantly, the heat and smoke are used to cook the meat and give it flavor before exiting through a vent on the other side of the cooking chamber.
The idea is to to make sure that the heat is next to the meat rather than under it.
This sort of design has been adapted across the industry, and bigger commercial versions have also been manufactured.
It is common believe that offset smokers surfaced in southern states like Texas by people who worked the oil field(although this has never been confirmed).
Nevertheless, the offset smoker was designed based on brick barbecue pits.
You can basically make any type of low or slow meats, including chicken.
The idea is to give you control of the heat and smoker by monitoring and changing the amount of air that flows and the vents.
Remember that by opening vents you let in more oxygen, which gives life to the fire.
Basically, the temperature changes inside the cooking chamber.
Thus, in order to have even cooking not only do you need to keep an eye on the temperature, but on the airflow as well.
Additionally, make sure you keep in mind that the different changes in temperature is even more glaring in bigger offset smokers.
In a common offset smoker, the side of the cooking chamber that is closest to the firebox is the hottest. Which, can of course cause uneven cooking.
All this led to the creation of what is known in the industry to a new form of technology reverse flow technology.
Essentially, what this does is add an additional metal plate. That way, your meat is protected from intense heat.
Furthermore, it directs the smoke around the meat over and under, before venting it out through the chimney.
Nevertheless, if you don’t have an offset smoker that includes such a system, then simply move and rotate your food around.
Although, keep in mind that you’ll have to have a more hands on approach.
You can easily tell the difference between a traditional and a reverse flow offset smoker by the location of the chimney.
Namely, reverse flow smokers has a chimney right by the firebox. In which case you know the smoke has circulated the cooking chamber before being released.
When getting an offset smoker, you want to consider a number of things.
Firstly, you want to make sure you decide what you will be using the smoker for. Meaning, do you need a big smoker to cook for larger groups? Or just something you’ll use occasionally. That really is crucial in your decision making process.
Secondly, you have to come up with a budget of how much you want to spend. It is absolutely useless to look at the best offset smoker available if you cannot avoid it.
Thus, stick to a budget, then figure out a way to maximize the amount of features you can get at that price range.
Make sure you hammer down what specific features you will be needing.
Do you need bigger grilling space? What parts of the smoke need to be removable? Etc, basically, make sure everything you need is covered.
If you want to focus on the most important common features? We suggest you take a look at the size of the firebox.
You want to make sure you have a firebox that is big enough to fit whatever you will be using as fuel.
Additionally, take a look at the size of the cooking chamber.
This ties back to what we said a few points back about the size of the groups you’ll be cooking for.
Furthermore, you want a heavy gauge metal composition, it will allow you to avoid unnecessary bends.
And, be more prepared for weather conditions.
Especially relevant, is the need for 2 temperature gauges, as you will see later on in our explanation of how to use an offset smoker.
There are plenty of good affordable options, so do not rely on the integrated one.
Also, make sure you get an offset smoker with a good warranty.
Hence, you want to do your due diligence on the brand of the offset smoker you are getting and determine if they offer good warranties on their products.
Finally, make sure you find an offset smoker that will fit wherever you plan on using it.
We cannot mention how many times we’ve seen people disgruntled about the size of the smoker and how they miscalculated.
Please note this includes space needed for ventilation as well!
Therefore, avoid this problem by doing your due diligence about the spacing of your backyard or patio.
Trust us when we say it will save you a lot of time and trouble.
When it comes to using an offset smoker it is quite simple once you learn how to deal with the heat.
Firstly, make sure to season the smoker if you have to.
What exactly does this mean? It means you have to get your smoker ready for use.
This is usually done to avoid rust and corrosion.
It is a process that extends across multiple industries such as Woks for example.
If you have a new offset smoker you want to make sure you apply soapy water to the entire smoker.
Afterwards, wash with water to get rid of any dirt or grease accumulation.
Follow that up by letting it dry and apply vegetable oil inside the cooking chamber.
Moreover, once this is done simply light a fire, with the vents open and let it burn for about half an hour.
Secondly, although you don’t have to do this, you should put in place 2 temperature meters in the smoker.
However, we do recommend it, even if your offset smoker has a built in temperature gauge
Basically, you want to place one on each end of the cooking chamber in order to have very good accuracy.
The reason you don’t want to depend on the built in thermometer that’s usually found at the top of the smoker.
Because that one measures the temperature at the top of the lid rather than where your food is smoking.
While the difference in temperature may not be much, it may be significant to alter your recipe result.
Don’t forget about the vents!
After placing your 2 thermometers(if you have them), make sure the vents(both the air intake one and the chimney vent) are opened.
Why? Remember the flames inevitably need oxygen, and you’ll also need to open the chimney vent, to release the smoke.
Bear in mind that you will be manipulating these vents during your smoker to keep the heat and smoke inside the smoker in check.
More importantly, follow that up by lighting a full box of briquettes inside a chimney starter.
You want to heat them until they start glowing. Which, can take roughly 15 minutes.
Thus, once you you have your briquettes glowing hot and ashy, place them in the firebox and close the lid.
Keep in mind you don’t want to light the fire completely out of wood.
Why? Because it is hard to keep going for long periods of time.
Finally, monitor your offset smoker until you bring the temperature to whatever your desired level is.
Moreover, make sure you keep the chamber and firebox closed while your offset smoker reaches the desired temperature.
Now for the good part! Firstly, place whatever you are cooking on the grill in the cooking chamber and close the lid.
Furthermore, you have to add briquettes to the firebox as you see fit.
Particularly, if you want to keep a steady heat or make the temperature higher.
You should also have some form of grill scoop to make space for new briquettes from the chimney by scooping aside the ashy coals.
As far as checking the temperature and firebox? Due so roughly every half an hour. In order to avoid your fire going out.
More importantly, really keep an eye on the temperature.
If you notice it starts fluctuating or dropping after you’ve added more briquettes, you should a log of wood to the firebox.
Also, you can open the air vent to let the fire breathe and get stronger.
Please note if you open the vents don’t do it for long as the temperature will skip within a few minutes.
Likewise, if the temperature is too hot then simply close the vents.
Furthermore, if this does not work then also open the cooking chamber for a minute or 2 for a quick drop in temperature.
Keep a few pieces of wood to add to the firebox every hour.
Additionally, make sure you place the wood next to the fire, you don’t want it to burn too fast.
Especially relevant, is to remember that wood chips burn off quickly, so wood chunks should be your preferred go-to.
In regards to the food, just flip it over about every hour.
Thus, when you flip the pieces you want the pieces now being worked on are closer to the firebox.
No matter what you are you making, rotating it is important when using an offset smoker.
On the other hand, you can avoid your meat drying out, by taking a rack(made out of metal) on top of the coals in the firebox.
Get a pan filled with water(aluminum pan) and place it on the rack.
That will let the smoke be moist before going into the cooking chamber.
Furthermore, you’ve probably seen people spray beer or water on the food. This is not for show, but to keep the food moist.
This is normally done towards the end of your smoke, and should be part of your recipe.
As long as you follow this general procedure, you should be good to go in using your offset smoker.
Nevertheless, here’s a great concise and easy video from The Home Depot we found that explains how to use an offset smoker to perfection:
One final thing we want to talk about before we take a look at the best offset smoker options is to make sure you get a cover for your offset smoker.
Remember that all smokers are subject to rust and weather conditions.
No matter what type of material your smoker is made out of, it will inevitably rust if you do not properly take care of it.
Thus a cover is essential in all this. All the offset smokers we are going to review below come with a cover option.
While it is not normally included, it is a relatively small percentage of the total price of the smoker and will save you a lot of hassle down the road.
Additionally, there are also plenty of universal offset smoker covers from reliable brands. So do not worry about finding one that suits your budget.
Without a doubt finding the right offset smoker depends on a lot of factors. It really depends on what you are looking for as a cooker.
Do you want a more hands on approach? Or an offset smoker that will give you versatility.
What’s your budget looking like? How many people are you going to be cooking for on a regular basis?
Nevertheless, finding the best offset smoker can be narrowed down once you know what you are looking for.
As long as you remember that everybody has their own guidelines in regards to shopping, you should be fine.
That being said, if you ask us which things you should keep an eye out for the most.
We would say getting an offset smoker that includes reverse flow technology.
Just because an offset smoker is a reverse flow smoker it does not mean that you cannot closely monitor your meat.
Thus, we would suggest you get one with reverse flow technology unless you are a master chef.
Additionally, you want to make sure you have a good warranty.
Why? Because there are a lot of cheap offset smokers out there that do a great job of masking how terrible they are.
Thus make sure you do you extensive research on the warranty of your product.
We hope this guide made it easier in your selection process. We are positive that one of the above is the best offset smoker you can get.
Please feel free to leave us any questions or comments in the section below.
And, don’t forget to take a look at our other reads at thecookingsmokers as well as our reviews section for more interesting reads on smokers.