What is an Offset Smoker? And How Does it Work?

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You must know about all the classic meat smokers – pellet smokers, barrel smokers, box smokers, and even water smokers. 

Most of these conventional smokers have been designed in a vertical configuration. Offset smokers beat these designs by introducing horizontal smokers. 

Therefore, offset smokers are barbecue smokers that have a horizontal instead of a vertical smoking chamber.

Offset Smoker in a Backyard

They have their firebox present on a side instead of directly under the racks. This causes the meat to be smoked indirectly, resulting in a low and slow cooking method.

Don’t get us wrong, vertical smokers are great. But offset smokers have upped the smoking game. 

We’ll tell you why!

What is an Offset Smoker?

An offset smoker is a barbecue smoker with a horizontal configuration, instead of the usual vertical one.

One of the major differences between the two is the placement of their firebox. Vertical smokers have it under their cooking racks, which causes the meat to be smoked under direct heat. 

Whereas offset smokers utilise indirect smoking methods by placing their firebox on a side, with a chimney present on the opposite end.

These smokers also feature multiple shelves in their cooking chamber, accommodating a big number of briskets, ribs, etc., at the same time.

How Does an Offset Smoker Work?

Now, we know that offset smokers have a firebox on one side, but how does that work for it?

This firebox produces smoke from fuel courses such as charcoal, wood, etc. The smoke is then allowed to travel to the cooking chamber, circling around the meat enough to make it tender, juicy, as well as crispy.

This smoke is then later on allowed to exit through the chimney present on the opposite end of the firebox.

The heat in a cooking chamber of an offset smoker is regulated with the help of air intake and exhaust vents. In either case, the more air will be allowed to enter, the hotter the smoke produced.

In other words, if you want a higher temperature inside the cooking temperature, you need to open the vents a little more. And if you’re looking to lower the temperature, you need to shut the vents according to need.

As it shows, you can only become better at smoking in an offset smoker by practicing

Offset Smoker Uses

Of course, the reason behind the high popularity of offset smokers is the list of benefits that come with it. But like any other equipment, this product has its downsides as well.

Pros

  1. Offset smokers allow you to cook large amounts of meat at the same time – whether it’s multiple briskets, racks of ribs, or something else you need to cook together.

This is because they have many racks present inside their cooking chamber at once.

  1. You can refill the charcoal of wood chips and pellets inside your firebox without disrupting the smoking process.

This is far better than opening the cooking chamber again and again.

  1. You can easily grill on an offset smoker as well.
  2. They’re rather inexpensive to use frequently, and can last a lifetime with the right maintenance. 

See also: How to Use an Offset Smoker

Cons

  1. The bigger the smoker, the higher the temperature disparity inside the cooking chamber.

This is because naturally, the temperature near the firebox is the highest, and it’s the lowest near the chimney.

Because of this, you have to constantly change the position of the meat being smoked. Otherwise it would come out overcooked from some parts, and undercooked from some.

A lot of offset smokers have reverse flow technology to combat this issue today.

  1. The preheating process of this smoker is a bit time taking.
  2. Since it uses the low and slow cooking method, it takes many hours to smoke meat and is very time consuming.
  3. Offset smokers also need to be monitored constantly since their firebox needs to be checked and refilled every 30 to 60 minutes.
  4. They’re not as portable since they’re large and heavy.
  5. They need to have very good insulation otherwise they can’t be used in extreme climates.

What to Look for in an Offset Smoker When Buying?

If you’re looking to buy a new offset smoker, you should look for the following features in it to make sure it’s worth the investment.

Quality and Durability

Any offset smoker you purchase should be constructed of heavy gauge metal.

This will ensure a durable product, and also retain the heat the right way. Heat retention is also made better with the presence of high quality seals etc.

These seals will also make temperature control better and easier.

It’s also important to ensure that the product has good quality wheels, legs, dampers, etc.

Portability

Since all offset smokers are large and heavy, the only way to make sure they’re portable is by ensuring that they have high quality legs and wheels attached to them, as well as handles!

Firebox and Cooking Chamber Capacity

Make sure that the smoker you purchase is not too small or too large for you. 

When you have measured your need, purchase an offset smoker with the right size for a firebox and cooking chamber for yourself.

Cleaning

A good smoker can last a lifetime, but only if it’s maintained the right way. So, check with the product you’re looking at to see if it’s easy to maintain and clean or not.

Additional Accessories

Does the offset smoker include other accessories in the purchase that could be of help to you?

Whether it’s a protective cover, an insulation blanket, extra racks, rib hooks, or anything else – it makes the package even better for you.

Warranty

Whether it’s a smoker or any other equipment that you’re buying, a warranty on it will make your choice safer.

When was the Offset Smoker Designed?

It is estimated that the first offset smokers were designed in Texas and Oklahoma by the oilfield workers present there.

The invention merely took place because they wanted to enjoy a good barbecue. With the lack of actual barbecue resources, these workers put the design of traditional brick barbecues into use.

Not much later, they were able to come up with a new barbecue pit constructed out of oil pipes and 55 gallon steel drums.

Later on in the 1980s, the founder of an oil-contract dependent company explored his choices in business when the oil prices fell greatly.

He rather smartly started his own smoker chain by introducing the oil-pipe and steel drum smokers under the brand name “Pitt’s and Spitt’s”.

Today, this is one the most popular companies that excels in offset smokers.

Wrapping it Up

Offset smokers have bettered the smoking process by many folds – but to experience that greatness, you need to make sure that your choice of smoker is good and you’re well practiced.

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TYLER LACHANCE

Tyler Lachance is a cookout professional. His expertise on cooking grilled food, creating marinades, formulating sauces and matching his food with the perfect drink is unrivaled.

Born and raised in a family that has a long history of cookout, he has treated this activity as a part of his culture and who he is.