Best Offset Smoker | Blue Ribbon Smoked Meats from Your Own Back Yard

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What is an Offset Smoker?

Offset smokers have been known by several names since their invention: offset barrel smokers, horizontal smokers, pipe smokers, and “stick-burners,” just to name a few.

It is believed that the first offset barrel smokers were built by oilfield workers in Texas and Oklahoma. Long days at work and a lack of transportation to restaurants led hungry men to turn unused oil pipes and 55-gallon drums into portable fire pits. They based the design of the barrel smokers on brick barbeque pits that used one chamber to build a fire and a second chamber to cook the food.

In the early ‘80s, during a severe oilfield downturn, Wayne Whit worth put his crew to work building barbeque pits to keep them busy. His company “Pitts & Spitts” is still one of the most recognized names in the offset smoker industry.

How Offset Smokers Work

A wood, charcoal, or wood-enhanced fire is built in the firebox. This locates the heat beside and not directly under the food being cooked. A portal between the firebox and cooking chamber allows heat and smoke to circulate around the meat on its way out the chimney on the other side of the cooking chamber.

Preparing smoked meat on an offset smoker is as much sport as cooking. If you are not attentive, the offset smoker is not for you. To maintain a constant temperature in the cooking chamber, one must constantly monitor for hot and cold spots and adjust intake and exhaust vents accordingly.

Since the firebox is located on one side, that side of the cooking chamber is generally much hotter than the other side. To avoid one half of the food being overcooked and the other half raw, the food must be frequently rotated from side to side. The larger the smoker, the greater the temperature will vary.

In addition to monitoring the meat in the cooking chamber, the firebox must be constantly fed additional wood or charcoal.

To combat the temperature differences described above, some smoker manufacturers are now adding a form of reverse flow technology, similar to convection technology, to move the hot air around the cooking chamber more evenly.

Prerequisites to Using an Offset Smoker

If a smoker has never been used, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to prepare the smoker for use. This is known as “seasoning” the smoker. All grease and protective coatings that were used in the manufacturing process must be burned off prior to cooking a meal on a new smoker.

 How to Cook on an Offset Smoker

Product of Offset Smokers

Pork shoulders and ribs boast dark red smoke rings, and brisket cooked in an offset cooker bears an irresistible crisp crust.

Things to Consider Before Purchasing a Barrel Smoker

Cost

An offset barrel smoker can cost anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. How much do you plan to spend?

Construction

Size

Are you cooking for the family only, extended family, holiday gatherings, cookoffs, or opening a restaurant? These factors will dictate what size smoker you purchase.

Accessories

What accessories will you need? Grill grates? Removable drawers or racks? A counterweight for the lid to the cooking chamber? A warming box? Shelves? A trailer? Racks for smoking jerky?

Warranty

Does the smoker you are considering come with a warranty? If so, how long? Does the cost of the smoker support the cost of the warranty?

Why Use an Offset Smoker versus Other Outdoor Cookers?

Disadvantages to Offset Smokers

Best Offset Smoker Reviews

Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker

The Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Black Steel Double Door Vertical Charcoal Offset BBQ Smoker is easy to use and holds the heat well all year long. The vertical six-shelf design allows you to slow cook and smoke as much as 150 pounds of food at the same time. Be your neighborhood pit master for holiday parties; or cook chicken, pork, brisket, ham, roast, and prime rib at the same time, freeze what you can’t eat now, and enjoy the best smoked meat in town for months.

Dyna Glo Vertical Offset Smoker

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ProsCons
  • 6 adjustable grates, 25 lb. capacity per grate
  • Thin metal; poor fit
  • Vertical design uses natural tendency for smoke and heat to rise to cook more efficiently and improve smoked flavor
  • Reports of smoke leaks (can be sealed with high heat silicone and a gasket)
  • Porcelain-enameled charcoal chamber keeps charcoal stacked tightly, improving burn efficiency
  • Pouring coals from a chimney starter into the firebox is awkward
  • Removable steel ash pan for easy cleaning
  • Thermostat broken on arrival
  • Adjustable flue on smoke stack for better flavor and temperature control
  • Temperature gauge on the door allows you to monitor temperature without opening the door
  • Smokestack grease and condensation management system
  • Heavy duty handles for carrying

 

Char-Broil American Gourmet Offset Smoker, Deluxe

The Deluxe Char-Broil American Gourmet Offset Smoker is a work horse. Featuring a vertical smokestack with multiple adjustable dampers and a temperature gauge, this smoker is designed for heat and smoke control. The extra grilling space in the offset chamber eliminates the need for a separate grill. Just open the clean-out door to remove ash and clean the firebox.

Char Broil Offset Smoker

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Dimensions:

ProsCons
  • Side door for easy removal of ash
  • Manual instructions are inaccurate
  • Temperature gauge
  • Smoke loss through the chimney
  • 2 wheels for easy mobility
  • Smoke box door too small; hard to load wood into the box
  • 2 shelves – front and bottom
  • Porcelain-coated grill racks
  • Chrome-plated cool-touch handles
  • Multiple adjustable dampers to control temperature
  • Storage racks for utensils and extra charcoal

 

Royal Gourmet Charcoal Grill with Offset Smoker, 30” L

The Royal Gourmet Charcoal Grill with Offset Smoker features a space-friendly design that will fit comfortably on most patios and balconies. Easily adjust the temperature inside the cooking chamber using the charcoal pan. The additional cooking area allows you to roast corn or vegetables while you smoke your meat.

Royal Gourmet Charcoal Grill with Offset Smoker

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Dimensions:

ProsCons
  • Compact design
  • Rusts quickly
  • Versatile appliance
  • Paint peels quickly
  • Porcelain-steel cooking grates
  • Smoke leakage
  • Adjustable charcoal pan in cooking chamber
  • Parts bent and predrilled holes don’t line up
  • 182 sq. in. of additional cooking area for roasting side dishes
  • Chrome warming rack
  • Removable charcoal pan for adding charcoal and removing ashes
  • Adjustable damper for better air flow
  • Lifting handles to adjust the height of the charcoal and control temperature
  • Easy-to-read thermometer in lid
  • Front table and bottom shelf

Char-Broil American Gourmet Offset Smoker, Standard

The Char-Broil American Gourmet Offset Smoker is designed for the beginning smoker, cooking just for the family. Its compact size is perfect for apartments, condos and places where you only have room for a small grill.

Char Broil Offset Smoker

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Dimensions:

ProsCons
  • 288 sq. in. porcelain wire cooking grate
  • Manual instructions are hard to match to smoker pieces
  • Side door for ash removal
  • Smoke leakage
  • Side shelf
  • Smoke box hard to load
  • Adjustable height steel fire grat

 

Char-Griller 1224 Smokin Pro 830 Square Inch Charcoal Grill with Side Fire Box

The Char-Griller Smokin’ Pro BBQ Smoker is constructed of non-stick cast iron (to prevent warping) and heavy-gauge, powder coated steel. Adjustable dampers are used to control the heat, and an adjustable fire grate and heat gage on the hood let you know the temperature. Clean-up is as simple as emptying the removable ash dump pan.

Char Griller offset smoker

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Material:

 

Dimensions:

ProsCons
  • Adjustable ash pan
  • Vague instructions
  • Built-in heat gauge
  • Requires assembly
  • Air-tight flanged hood
  • Paint peels quickly
  • 2 shelves
  • Firebox too small to maintain proper temperature
  • Rotisserie and warming rack adaptable
  • Dents and scratches on receipt
  • Slide-out coal drawers
  • Heat gauge
  • 2 wheels for easy transport

Pitts and Spitts 18″ x 30″ Ultimate Smoker & Grill with Upright Smoke Box

When it comes to the top-of-the-line smokers, Pitts and Spitts was the first company to make and sell smokers commercially. They have remained on the cutting edge of technology as smokers have advanced over the years. The differences between Pitts and Spitts smokers are in the thickness of the steel used and the quality of the other parts on the smoker.

Pitts and Spitts Ultimate Smoker

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Material:

Dimensions:

ProsCons
  • Upright smoke box for smoking cheese, nuts, and sausage and keeping food warm
  • Weight makes transport difficult without help
  • Handmade in Houston, Texas, USA
  • Price is not for most home cooks
  • Superior heat and fuel efficiency
  • Patented roll-top lid, stack cap, prep shelf, firebox damper, and propane bottle holder of quality 304 stainless steel
  • Built-in 30,000 BTU propane log lighter for quick and clean fire starting
  • ¼” plate firebox
  • Easy-open door and removable fire grate for easy cleaning

 

Oklahoma Joe’s Longhorn Reverse Flow Offset Smoker

The next generation of smokers are known as reverse flow offset smokers. These smokers position the smokestack between the firebox and the cooking chamber instead of at the opposite end of the cooking chamber. What this does is force the heated air to travel to the far side of the cooking chamber and then reverse back to the firebox where it can finally exit through the smokestack. Requiring the smoke to travel both directions over the meat doubles the length of time the meat is absorbing smoke, producing meat with a much richer smoke flavor. The Longhorn Reverse Flow Offset Smoker is not just a reverse flow smoker. It comes with removable baffles and a large charcoal basket which allows you to customize the heat and smoke levels.

 

Oklahoma Joe's Longhorn Offset Smoker and Charcoal Grill

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Material:

Grates:  4 glossy porcelain coated wire cooking grates

Dimensions:

Total Cooking Space: 1060 sq. in.

Overall height: 55.5”

Overall width: 64.25”

Overall depth: 35.5

Box:  44.9” W x 24” D x 25.5” H

Overall weight: 253.5 lbs.

ProsCons
  • Switch between traditional and reverse flow offset smoking with optional smokestack locations
  • Weight makes transport difficult without help
  • 4 baffles under the cooking grate channel smoke under and over the food – even heat and smoke across the cooking chamber
  • Price is not for most home cooks
  • Large charcoal basket in the firebox maintains longer cooking times and greater heat control
  • Assembly required
  • Door to remove ash from firebox
  • Warming tray above firebox for pan-heating sauces and sides
  • Access door in firebox makes adding wood or stoking flames easy without opening the main chamber
  • Vertical smokestack and adjustable dampers regulate heat and smoke by drawing it through the cooking chamber
  • Bottom shelf for storage of utensils, wood and charcoal
  • Temperature gauge in two locations

 

Conclusion

After reviewing products from the lower priced entry-level categories and the mid-to-upper level categories, I must conclude I could not recommend any of the five entry-level products. There were so many reports of leaks, faulty parts, peeling paint, dents, and poor construction that I would have to continue my search for an entry-level offset smoker.

Offset smokers are difficult to control the temperature unless the materials are of the highest quality. Temperatures can be swayed by outside influences like wind, rain, and cold, so the density of the steel makes a significant difference in the smoker’s ability to maintain an even temperature. If the steel is of inferior quality or if the heat can escape through poor fitting and inaccurately drilled holes, it will be very difficult to maintain a consistent cooking temperature in the cooking chamber.

On the other hand, I would recommend both the Pitts and Spitts and Oklahoma Joe’s offset smokers without reservation. Both companies are longstanding American companies with proven histories of producing solid products in the offset and combination smoker industries. They are made with high-quality materials and perform as expected.

Once you have chosen your smoker, click here for an informative video to help you get started.


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