In this review, we put five offset smokers to the test, covering different price points ranging from entry-level to high-end competition smokers. We have categorized the best offset smoker grill in each class to help BBQ enthusiasts choose.
Offset smokers are sought-after among BBQ aficionados as they produce the best smoke flavor profile, using real wood as fuel. They are usually extremely well-built, using high-quality materials and workmanship. They offer large cooking areas that hold heat and smoke extremely well, thanks to a separate firebox. The smoke has a linear travel path that eliminates hotspots and infuses intense smoke flavor into the food.
In this review, we have picked quality offset smokers, most of which are built in the USA and have established followings. We have also covered several price points and have included a great introductory offset smoker that would be perfect for beginners. After rigorous testing and research, our review is meant to help barbecue enthusiasts of all levels.
Our award for the best overall offset smoker you can buy goes to the excellent Old Country Brazos smoker, which features fantastic quality materials and construction at a great price. The Brazos will be a great resource no matter your level of expertise and provide consistent results and reliability across the board.
Offset smokers are great for those longing for the best results—the smoke flavor penetration and taste are second to none. Although the cooking process is a little involved, the results justify the effort. Read on to find out more about offset smokers, what makes them good, and how to choose one.
Our Favorite Offsets
|Old Country Brazos Smoker||CHECK PRICE|
|Yoder Cheyenne Smoker||CHECK PRICE|
|Lang Original 36" Patio Smoker||CHECK PRICE|
|Yoder Cimarron Competition||CHECK PRICE|
|Oklahoma Joe Highland Smoker||CHECK PRICE|
Other Offsets to Consider
These offset smokers are a little harder to find but are worth checking out. We explain them in detail below. They are all made in the USA and quality is top priority. We did not complete full reviews, but we know these deserve to be mentioned.
|Mill Scale 94-Gallon||GO TO SITE|
|Chud's Chudpit 65-Gallon||GO TO SITE|
|Franklin BBQ Pit||GO TO SITE|
|Lone Star Grillz Offset||GO TO SITE|
Best Offset Smokers
1. Old Country Brazos Smoker – Best Backyard Offset Smoker
The best offset smoker grill for backyard use needs to be simple to operate, affordable, reliable and durable over time, and spacious enough to handle large parties and gatherings. The Old Country Brazos smoker checks all these boxes and provides excellent utility. The heavy-duty quarter-inch stainless steel construction, while being made in the USA, inspires confidence and promises solid reliability. The smoker is usually shipped fully assembled, which means you can start using it straightaway.
The Old Country Brazos has an imposing presence, weighing in at 399 lbs. The unit comes with two sturdy legs and two large wheels that make it easy to move in spite of its size and weight. Below the smoking chamber is a large rack that is ideal for storing your wood splits. In fact, you can easily accommodate enough splits in the rack to last you multiple cooks. To the right is the firebox, which comes with a stay-cool handle and a side door with an adjustable air intake. The top of the firebox has been fashioned into a nifty pot warmer where you can keep your sides and beverages warm while using the smoker.
Right on top of the large firebox is a convenient grill grate that you can use to cook sides and lean cuts of meat. The bottom of the firebox is designed for easy airflow and the sloping floor makes it a breeze to clean the ash. The large entry point to the smoking chamber is covered with a metal baffle plate that directs the smoke and heat properly to ensure even heating of the cooking chamber.
The smoking chamber comes with the same effective stay-cool handle and features two large pull-out cooking grates, with the lower grate measuring 18” x 35” and the upper grate 7.75” x 35.75”. The chamber also has a pre-drilled hole which you can stick a thermometer in, or keep closed using an included gasket. In front of the cooking chamber is a convenient foldable tray that spans the entire length of the chamber, giving you ample storage.
The cooking chamber exhausts to a large smokestack with an adjustable top that lets you control airflow. On the bottom is a grease drain that makes cleanup a lot easier. At the left is a large grab handle that you can use while moving the unit. Under $1,500, this is hands down the best offset smoker grill you can get for this price.
What We Like
- Excellent quality of materials: 1/4″ Steel
- Large cooking area
- Attractive price point
What Makes Us Angry
- The odd smoke leak around door area
- Temp Gauge Location Not Ideal
2. Yoder Cheyenne Offset Smoker (Runner-Up)
Despite being relatively new in the BBQ game (2007), Yoder has successfully carved out a place for itself in the highly competitive barbecue market, thanks to the exceptional quality of all its products. Yoder is synonymous with quality and they are well known for their pellet grills. The Yoder Cheyenne is a testament to just that—it epitomizes all the features that have made the company a crowd favorite since its inception. Though one of Yoder’s entry-level smokers, the Cheyenne aims to please with everything starting from its appearance to its build quality and feature set.
Bearing a close resemblance to an industrial-Europe steam locomotive, the Yoder Cheyenne is a stunning matte black from end to end. It offers a cooking area of a whopping 703 sq. inches divided across one 14.9” x 13.9” cooking grate within the firebox and two 16.9” x 15” cooking grates—more than sufficient to cook large cuts of meat, poultry, and even some burgers. The unit weighs 315 lbs. but is quite mobile due to the oversized steel wheels and the large sturdy handle. 1/4″ Steel is used throughout.
What sets the Cheyenne apart from its competitors and makes it a contender for the title of the best offset smoker is its indirect heat drawing mechanism. This indirect heating system is the key to moving even temps across the cook chamber. The heavy-duty stainless-steel build ensures that the smoker maintains an even temperature over long periods of time and retains its heat extremely well, even in cold or windy weather. We also found the smoker to require less wood than other pits at this price point.
The thermometer is situated close to the chimney and the expanded steel-mesh front shelves with the firebox lid and the main chamber lid can be perfect for storing utensils or resting your meat. The log grates at the base of the smoker are also a useful addition. The offset round firebox of the Cheyenne comes with an easily adjustable baffle for air intake regulation and temperature adjustment. The grease drain makes clean-up a breeze and the stay-cool handles ensure that you do not burn yourself when operating the smoker.
The Cheyenne is built like a tank with heavy-duty steel that not only enhances its overall performance but also guarantees longevity. Amongst other useful features are an added coupler for an additional temperature gauge and an integrated probe port. Possible upgrades include a charcoal grate for the cooking chamber, a stainless-steel front shelf, and fitted covers with fixed and removable stacks. We would strongly recommend the heat management plate which will contribute to better heat distribution within the cooking chamber.
All in all, the Yoder Cheyenne provides incredible value for money and is therefore a close second on our best offset smoker grill list.
What We Like
- Large cooking area
- Exceptional build quality
- Lifetime warranty
What Makes Us Angry
- You’ll wonder why you didn’t buy one sooner
3. Lang BBQ Smokers 36″ Original Patio: Best Reverse Flow Offset Smoker
A lot of BBQ purists swear by reverse flow offset smokers, which they believe can provide a better flow of air and heat across the entire smoking chamber. If you are looking for a reverse flow smoker, it is hard to do better than the Lang BBQ Smokers 36” Original Patio smoker. Unlike a traditional flow smoker that has the firebox on one side and the smokestack on the other, the chimney in reverse flow smokers is placed on the same side of the firebox. This forces the smoke to travel through the bottom of the cooking chamber, reverse course, then travel along the top back to the chimney.
In practice, the Lang Original Patio yields consistent and excellent results. The construction done with care using 1/4″ rolled steel, inspired confidence and promises durability. The unit comes fully assembled at a weight of 665 lbs. It ships with two pneumatic tires and two locking casters, but you can opt for four pneumatic tires and a swivel front axle for an additional fee. Similarly, apart from the original design, Lang also offers a left-handed version and a non-frame version for use in BBQ pits and outdoor kitchens.
There are plenty of convenience features. The entire front and left side of the cooking chamber is taken up by a large storage tray, making it easy to prep and keep important supplies. Under the main cooking area, there is a large storage rack that is perfect for storing wood logs and splits, and even bags of charcoal. The large wheels and casters make it fairly easy to move around.
The 17” x 17” firebox is accommodating enough for large logs, and you can also use pellets or charcoal to fire up this smoker. The cooking area is split into two levels, with the bottom area having two 18” x 15” racks and the top area with one large 23.75” x 17” rack, which can be slid out for easy placing and removing of food. The grates are of extremely high quality, made with flat expanded metal and square tubing frames that promise long use without warping.
Overall, the Lang 36” Original Patio provides you with a massive 72 lbs of total cooking space. This means you can easily accommodate up to eight full ribs or even a whole piglet in there. The smoke flow works according to plan, helping to maintain even heat and consistent smoke flavor across the food. The bottom of the grill also has a vent for grease, which makes cleanup a breeze.
What We Like
- Effective reverse flow design
- 1/4″ Solid construction and materials
- Excellent customization options are available
What Makes Us Angry
- Availability / 180 Days
4. Yoder Cimarron Competition Offset Smoker: Best Competition Offset Smoker
Ever since the first barbecue cookoff in Hawaii in 1959, BBQ competitions have emerged as the ideal way for grilling enthusiasts to not only partake in all things BBQ but also display their hard-earned smoking skills. A competition smoker thus has to be specially crafted with a large cooking surface, impeccable temperature control, and easy mobility. Yoder is one of the biggest names in the realm of competitive smoking equipment due to the unmatched quality and overall robustness of its products. The Cimarron competition offset smoker is easily the best offset smoker grill in the competitive barbecue segment as well as for mobile catering purposes.
The cooking chamber of the Cimarron is 54” in length and 26” in diameter, providing a total cooking surface of a sprawling 2,225 sq. inches. Its total cooking surface is divided across two 25” x 26.5” lower cooking grates and one 42.75” x 21” slide-out cooking rack for added versatility. The unit weighs 1,567 lbs., but mobility should be the least of your worries as it comes fitted with four large 10” or 12” pneumatic tires. Moving the smoker around, even on uneven surfaces, could not have been made easier.
The Cimarron includes an insulated square fire box with a boiler style door. The insulated fire box will keep fuel consumption down and aid in keeping more consistent temps. Heavy steel grates are included to build your fire and allow air flow from below the fire.
What further consolidates the Cimarron’s position as the best offset smoker grill in the competitive barbecue segment is its overall build quality. The cooking chamber is fabricated of 1/4″ steel and heavy racking is used throughout. Yoder includes their unique heat management system which allows you to move dampers in the cook chamber. Pictured below is the variable displacement dampers that allow you to pick where you want more or less heat in the chamber.
Among other convenience features are the stay-cool handles, grease drain, and heat management plate. Along with the temperature gauges, the smoker also comes with a 10-gauge steel competition cart, a 10-gauge stainless steel front shelf, and a lower drawer for added room and easy storage. The Cimarron also contains a grease drain to make cleanup simple.
Lastly, like all Yoder products, the Cimarron is built with longevity in mind as evident from its solid and remarkably sturdy build. It delivers all the features necessary to achieve competition-winning results every time, all packed into a compact footprint.
What We Like
- Robust build quality
- Easy mobility facilitated by large wheels
- Unique Heat Management System
What Makes Us Angry
5. Oklahoma Joe Highland: Best Offset Smoker for Beginners
If you are looking for the best offset smoker grill for beginners, our choice is the popular Highland smoker from Oklahoma Joe. This smoker is perfect for beginners as it is simple to operate, does its job consistently, brings great build quality to the table, and provides versatility as an added bonus. It is very forgiving and makes it easy to make sensational food.
The accessible design of the Oklahoma Joe Highland begins with its sturdy steel construction. In spite of using quality materials and providing a large cooking area, the smoker weighs in at only 178 lbs, making it very easy to lug around and maneuver. Two sturdy stands and two large, wagon-style wheels make moving about easy and there are plenty of convenience options on board.
At its heart, the Highland is a simple offset smoker that provides you with a large firebox that you can use with wood, charcoal, or a mix of both for best results. The main cooking chamber is large enough to take care of your cooking needs for small backyard parties, providing a total of 619 sq. inches on the primary cooking area and an additional 281 sq. inches on the secondary area. The grates are made from porcelain-coated steel, offering excellent durability and heat transfer while being easy to clean.
To make things even more versatile, you can place a grill grate directly above your fire in the firebox and use the Highland for some quick searing. The unit comes with several adjustable dampers to give you direct control of the airflow and the internal heat.
The Highland also comes with several convenience features, chief among which is a large bottom shelf where you can store logs and charcoal bags, and a durable front shelf to hold your ingredients or help you prep before your cook. The unit also comes with an analog temperature gauge you can plug into one of the two dedicated ports on the lid, leaving you free to use the second for another. Overall, it is a complete package that provides great value for beginners.
What We Like
- Excellent value for money
- Multiple adjustable dampers for airflow
- Large shelf and bottom rack
What Makes Us Angry
- Thin Gauge Steel Compared to Others
- Some users report smoke leaking issues
Other Notable Smoker Cookers
Mill Scale 94-Gallon Offset Smoker Review
At the very forefront of the Texas-style barbecue game is Mill Scale Metalworks, a Texas-based smoker manufacturing company that makes custom offset smokers for commercial, competition, and residential use. Having made custom pits for some of the most renowned pitmasters in the country—Aaron Franklin, Billy Durney, Dylan Taylor, and many more—the company boasts the finest craftsmanship and quality and leaves absolutely no questions regarding functionality and durability. The Mill Scale 94-Gallon smoker is one of their entry-level smokers that epitomizes all that makes the company so well-loved among BBQ aficionados.
What is most remarkable about the Mill Scale 94-Gallon offset smoker is the quality of its build and its all-around robustness. Crafted out of quarter-inch steel, the unit is exceptionally well-constructed and built like a tank, and is essentially an industrial grade pit made for backyard use. The welding on this offset, and all Mill Scale products in general, is dexterous enough to make the finest welders in the nation swoon. The appearance of the Mill Scale 94-Gallon is left unpolished, even with scratches and other such flaws, which gives it a raw aesthetic appeal, something that most barbecue enthusiasts would be able to appreciate.
Coming to the specifications, the smoker comes with a 24” pipe cook chamber and one 23” x 36” cooking grate that can hold four briskets at a time. There is a deflector plate towards the front that allows for uniform heat distribution across the entire cooking grate to help cook everything evenly. It can double as a station for your water pan if you are looking to keep the cooking chamber moist for juicy and tender results. You could also use it as a plancha for foods that you would like to cook hot and fast.
The 4” smokestack comes with a damper which is crucial for airflow and temperature regulation. The 20” pipe firebox with ¼” thick walls is left uninsulated which allows for a fantastic bark and color on your meat. The unit weighs in at approximately 775 lbs, but moving it around is made easy by the four sturdy wheels with 8” locking casters to secure them in place.
The Tel-Tru dial-type thermometer gives precise readings and the sturdy lower shelf provides room for the storage of wood. The smoker also comes with a grease drain located at the center of the cooking chamber as well as a grease bucket that makes for quick and easy cleanup.
If you are after quality and durability without any of the bells and whistles and are not worried about a hefty price tag, the Mill Scale 94-Gallon offset can be just the thing for you.
Chuds Chudpit 65-Gallon Offset Smoker Review
The Chudpit 65-Gallon offset smoker from Chuds BBQ is an extremely versatile piece of equipment to have for those who take their backyard barbecue seriously. Although Chuds BBQ is fairly new to the world of smoker manufacturing, it has managed to attain the perfect sweet spot between versatility and quality without compromising either. The Chudpit 65-Gallon is their entry-level offset smoker cooker made with quality steel and designed with incredible attention to detail.
The cooking chamber of the Chudpit 65-Gallon is 20” x 48” which is large enough for 4 briskets or a few ribs. There is a water pan holder within the cooking chamber where you can place a 1/6th pan of water for delicious succulent smoked meat with each session. The cooking grate is divided into two halves making it easy to put in or remove and also allowing for easier cleanup. No compromises have been made in terms of build quality; the entire unit is crafted out of industrial grade ¼” steel. The 20” x 20” firebox is made of ⅛” thick steel and has bottom insulation for promoting a clean fire as well as for increased longevity.
The baffle with the firebox has a nifty 4-stage latch notch system for better control over airflow and temperature regulation. Another instance of the manufacturer’s exceptional attention to detail is the signature V-shaped firebox that not only helps with better airflow but can also accommodate wood logs to rest over the fire bed for a clean-burning fire. The V-shape also adds to the insulation and overall strength of the firebox.
The versatility of the Chudpit 65-gallon smoker comes from the 2-stage charcoal grill that sits right on top of the firebox. The two tiers are at a height of 4” and 10” respectively from the base of the grill. The grill grates are 19” x 16” each and are perfect for getting some burgers, small cuts of meat, or veggies going on the side. The large door ensures that you can access the entirety of the cooking space and the handle on it is hollow so that it remains cool to the touch while still being sturdy. The Tel-Tru thermometer gives precise readings and the smoker as a whole can hold a nice steady temperature over long periods of time.
The collector-style smokestack is 4” x 36” and designed in a way as to facilitate easy passage of smoke and avoid impaired airflow and any hot spots around this area. The swivel damper on the smokestack is another way to control airflow and temperature within the cooking chamber. The Chudpit 65-gallon comes with two grease drains and two grease buckets for simple, hassle-free cleanup and there is a robust lower shelf for storage of wood logs. The 4” lockable swivel casters guarantee easy mobility and ensure that the unit does not move around when opening or closing the cooking chamber door.
The Chudpit 65-gallon offset smoker thus promises versatility like no other smoker at this price point, making it one of the best offset smoker grills in our experience.
Franklin BBQ Pits Offset Smoker Review
Franklin BBQ Pits are the brainchild of Texas-style BBQ master Aaron Franklin himself. After having spent years exploring and learning the nitty-gritty of barbecue, pitmaster Franklin put his years’ worth of knowledge and experience into crafting a premium offset smoker that is, in his own words, ideal “for those BBQ purists who want to take their craft to the next level”. Boasting fantastic build quality and handcrafted in the USA out of quarter-inch and 5/16” steel, the Franklin BBQ Pit will last you a lifetime.
The 42” cooking chamber on the Franklin pit can hold up to 3 briskets in one go and the single cooking grate is a superior quality steel mesh for even distribution of heat across the entire length of the chamber. There is a heat deflector at the front end of the chamber that not only provides for uniform heat distribution within the cooking chamber but can also double as a station for the water pan as well as an area for cooking foods hot and fast.
The whole unit is 80” in length and 81” from the ground to the tip of the smokestack—the perfect size for a backyard smoker. The smokestack is collector style for optimum airflow and the prevention of backward flow of smoke and hot zones around that end of the smoker. It is also easily removable for convenient storage of the unit when not in use.
The Franklin BBQ Pit weighs in at 600 lbs. and can be fairly easily moved about on its four 5” rolling casters. The lid on the cooking chamber comes with a sturdy brushed stainless steel handle. The firebox is double-walled for insulation, ensuring that the fire and overall temperature of the smoker remains undisturbed even in bad weather. This pit is engineered for optimum convection and airflow which is what makes it a contender for the title of the best offset smoker grill. The laser-cut logo and holes on the baffle of the firebox helps maintain a certain degree of airflow even when the baffle is completely closed. Fire management and maintaining a steady temperature with this smoker is one of the easiest among all its competitors.
Further adding to the superior build quality of this pit is double-welding across all its joints that contributes immensely to its overall longevity. The grease drain is situated towards one end of the cooking chamber and comes with a grease bucket for easy cleanup. The Franklin-branded Tel-Tru thermometer located on the cooking chamber right next to the smokestack gives precise readings and the lower shelf provides added room for fuel storage.
To wrap it up, the Franklin BBQ Pit is extremely well-constructed with top-quality materials and can be the perfect companion for your long backyard smoking sessions.
Lone Star Grillz 24” x 36” Offset Smoker Review
A lot of BBQ aficionados swear by Lone Star Grillz products, and for good reason. In the Lone Star Grillz 24” x 36” offset, you get to see a balanced combination of excellent quality of materials and exquisite workmanship where every weld and seam is executed perfectly, resulting in a flawless product that is built like a tank and will easily last for decades while helping you make gastronomical food every day.
Coming in at a whopping 850 lbs., there is no doubt that the 24” x 36” Offset is built to last, fashioned from quarter-inch thick steel of the highest quality. The moniker of the smoker comes from the 24” x 35” main cooking chamber that provides a gigantic 1910 sq. inches of cooking area. The entire unit is immaculately finished with three coats of high-heat paint. While buying, you can choose between a ¼ inch firebox and a ½ inch firebox which is even more durable. All the design choices are well-thought-out to facilitate superior results.
In the main cooking chamber, you have two large or pull-out food trays, which are set at an inward angle to make usage easier. Then, there is another sliding or pull-out adjustable food tray, also set at an angle, that you can use directly on top of the firebox if you want to use the unit as a grill for high-heat searing. The design features fully flanged doors that improve insulation and minimize heat leakage, along with heat deflectors and adjustable tuning plates that let you avoid hotspots and ensure even and a consistent dispersion of heat across the entire cooking chamber.
The lid is outfitted with an accurate Tel-Tru stainless steel thermometer and stainless-steel touch-cool handles that work great to keep your hands safe. The main cooking chamber also features a large drain with a steel cap, making cleanup a breeze. You can also fill the bottom chamber with water to keep moisture levels high inside the cooking chamber while smoking. The large smokestack is adjustable and the firebox also supports using a propane log starter.
The unit comes with a large, foldable front shelf for prep and storage and a huge open storage rack under the main cooking chamber, also at a slight angle, where you can store your logs. As standard, the unit ships with industrial-grade 5” wheels and swivel casters, but you can also opt for larger 8” wheels or a more premium offroad package. The unit also comes in a taller version.
Offset Smokers Explained
If you want to graduate from cooking in your and are ready to take things to the next level, it is time for you to get an offset smoker. The best offset smoker grill offers you an authentic experience of everything that cooking over the fire ought to be—it takes time, effort, care, and a lot of learning through trial and error, but the end results are easily the most rewarding when cooking with an offset smoker.
For those unfamiliar with what an offset smoker cooker is, it is essentially a variety of smokers that derives its name from the positioning of its fire. The fire in an offset smoker grill is lit separately within a dedicated firebox that is situated off to one side of the main cooking chamber. This allows for independent access of the food and the fire, and the food is thus cooked over indirect heat. Offset smokers primarily use two different types of fuels—wood, charcoal, or a combination of both.
Let us now take a look at how an offset smoker works, its different subcategories, and everything else you need to know to get cooking with an offset smoker grill.
How Does an Offset Smoker Work?
The working of an offset smoker is relatively simple. It has three main sections—the firebox, the cooking chamber, and the smokestack or chimney. The fuel of your choosing, be it wood, charcoal briquettes, or a bit of both, goes into the firebox where they are ignited. Once you have built a clean-burning fire, heat, and smoke from within the firebox travels into the main cooking area via an opening.
Heat and Smoke Flow in Offset Smokers
The fire from the firebox therefore indirectly heats up the air within the cooking chamber as well as the cooking grates and gradually cooks your food to perfection. The heat and smoke ultimately travel across the length of the cooking area and out through the chimney or the smokestack. The amount of airflow can be regulated using the baffle on the firebox as well as the one at the top of the smokestack. This in turn controls the amount of smoke and the temperature of the cooking area.
The Different Types of Offset Smokers
Before deciding on the best offset smoker grill for your use case scenario, it’s crucial that you acquaint yourself with the different subcategories of offset smokers to find one that suits you best. These subcategories mainly occur based on the difference in the orientation of the smokers or the direction of airflow.
Vertical Offset Smokers:
Vertical offset smokers are those which have an upright vertical shape. The cooking area is divided into multiple levels that ascend vertically and the firebox is situated diagonally off to one side of the vertical unit. The primary advantage of vertical offset smoker cookers is the fact that they offer a large enough cooking area and the experience of a traditional offset smoker but in a much more compact footprint.
Horizontal Offset Smokers:
Horizontal offsets are the smokers of choice for those looking to indulge in some serious barbecue. These smokers are built on a horizontal plane with a long cooking chamber that typically has one or two levels. They offer a considerably larger cooking area than their vertical counterparts but also take up greater space on your backyard or patio. These are the most popular today and are the preferred offset at Angry BBQ.
Reverse Flow Offset Smokers:
A reverse flow offset smoker looks somewhat different from a horizontal one, with its smokestack situated on the firebox end of the smoker instead of on the opposite end. This slight change in design makes a world of difference as the heat and smoke from the firebox are forced to travel across the entire length of the smoker and back in order to be able to leave through the smokestack. This leads to remarkably more consistent heat distribution and temperature across the entire unit—something that is regarded as the key to good barbecue.
How is an Offset Smoker Different from a Pellet Smoker?
Pellet smokers and offset smokers are both very widely used the world over. While the latter has been around for ages and is regarded as more traditional, the former rose in popularity over the past few decades. These two types of smoker grills differ from each other on multiple fronts, the most noteworthy of them being the positioning of the heat source.
The heat source in pellet smokers is located directly beneath the cooking area which means that food in this kind of smoker is cooked over direct heat. On the contrary, the source of heat in an offset smoker, as suggested by its name, is located off to one side. The cooking in offset smoker grills thus happens by means of indirect heating.
Another key difference between these two varieties of smoker cookers is the fact that pellet smokers require electricity to run while offset smokers do not. Electricity is required in pellet smokers primarily to run the auger system that feeds the pellets and to keep the thermostat control operational. In an offset smoker, however, everything has to be done manually and there is no need for electricity. Naturally, pellet smokers are of a set-and-forget nature while offsets need you to be more involved in the cooking process.
Temperature control in an offset smoker is also done manually and, as a result, is somewhat more complex than in a pellet smoker. Lastly, pellet smokers use wood pellets as their fuel while offset smokers allow for a little more liberty and can be used typically with wood and charcoal for ignition.
Does an Offset Smoker Make Better BBQ?
Yes, Offset smokers do make better BBQ. Addressing the question of whether or not offset smokers impart the most and the best flavor is stepping into controversial territory, but the answer seems obvious. Offset Smokers impart a much richer flavor profile and yield some of the juiciest, most tender meats that are hard to match even with the finest quality pellet smoker.
The reason for that lies in the indirect cooking method used by offset smoker grills. The best offset smoker grill operates at a leisurely pace and takes a while to heat up because of the indirect heat from the firebox. As a result, the food is cooked low and slow while retaining the perfect amount of moisture. For instance, if you are smoking a large and fatty hunk of meat, the indirect heat slowly renders the fat over a prolonged period of time which tenderizes the meat giving you the most succulent and delectable results.
Another reason why Offsets produce better tasting BBQ is the smoke they produce. If you know what you are doing and can tend a proper fire, you will notice the thin blue smoke that exhausts out of the smoke stack. This means your fire is burning hot and clean which creates the thin blue smoke. I’ve yet to see a pellet grill emit the same thin blue smoke as an offset. I believe the reason behind it is the fact that pellets burn differently then actual logs and the pellets never burn at the same heat or rate as a natural log, hence the lack of thin blue smoke.
Additionally, since everything is done manually in an offset smoker, you have complete control over the cooking process and over the flavor of your food as a whole.
Buying Guide: What to Look for When Buying a Quality Offset Smoker
Choosing the best offset smoker grill for yourself can be quite a challenge with the sheer number of options that are available. To ensure that you end up getting the right offset smoker for your needs, it is imperative that you take the following factors into consideration.
Construction and Materials:
The quality of construction and materials used in an offset smoker is key to its functionality and durability.
A) Thickness of steel – The use of ¼” thick steel is the benchmark in quality offset smokers. Not only does this guarantee that your offset will be your loyal barbecue companion for a lifetime, but it is also crucial to its functionality as it enhances heat retention and helps prevent temperature fluctuations.
B) Type of steel and quality of welds – quality stainless steel or hot-rolled steel is ideal for a quality offset smoker. Also, keep an eye out for double-welded joints throughout the smoker body as it is a sign of expert craftsmanship and improves the durability of the unit by a long shot.
C) Warranty – Offset smokers are an investment and will ideally last you a lifetime. Therefore, you would want as long a warranty period as you can get. Many companies even offer a lifetime warranty on their offsets.
D) Made in America – Many smoker grill manufacturers, to take down production costs, often outsource the production process. This may lead to cheap quality construction and components. Look for brands that manufacture their grills in the USA to make sure that you get what you are paying for.
The firebox is the only source of heat in your offset smoker and the quality of its design is what largely determines the results that you will get.
A) Ventings/dampers – A damper is indispensable when it comes to your offset firebox. Ensure that the damper is sturdy and does not swing about easily. Also, look for a latch that would help secure the damper in place when closed.
B) Log grates – While raised log grates within the firebox are not crucial, they are a very convenient feature to have, especially if you are using both wood and charcoal for fuel simultaneously.
C) Ash removal – Again, this is not directly related to the functionality of an offset but simply something that promotes easy upkeep. Keep an eye out for a firebox that does not have a lip at the bottom; this minor design flaw can make ash removal time-consuming and more of a hassle than it needs to be.
Functional Cook Chamber:
The cook box is the most important part of your offset smoker since this is where all the magic happens.
A) Heat/smoke flow – The best offset smoker grill will have a smooth and uninterrupted flow of heat and smoke that facilitates uniform heat distribution throughout the cooking chamber for nice even cooks. Ideally, there will be no drastic hot or cool zones in the cook box.
B) Door seal to cook box – A latch or seal on the door to the cooking chamber is a nice detail to have to make certain that the cooking area is sealed properly and retains maximum heat.
C) Food trays and racks – When looking for the best offset smoker grill, ensure that the cooking grates are made of superior quality steel mesh for even heat distribution, longevity, and easy cleanup.
D) Overall space for food – Depending on the quantity of food you are typically looking to prepare, look for an offset smoker with a cooking area large enough to accommodate the same.
E) Cool-touch handles – While stay-cool handles may seem like a minor detail, it is extremely important to the easy and safe handling of your smoker.
F) Accurate temperature gauges and placement – An accurate temperature gauge is a key to perfectly cooked meat. A gauge that is positioned roughly an inch or so above the cooking grates on the smokestack end of the offset will yield the most precise readings of the grate temperature.
How easily you can move about your offset smoker grill is also an important factor to consider when purchasing one, especially if you intend to use it at cookoffs or for mobile catering. Proper wheels can make a big difference when it comes to Smoker mobility.
A) Quality wheels for mobility – Look for sturdy wheels, preferably locking casters, so that the smoker does not move about on its own when cooking.
B) Strong handles – Take note of the sturdiness of the handles on the offset smoker—the sturdier the handle, the easier it will be to grip and move the unit.
Paint and Finish:
Many grills come with a coat of high temperature and rust-proof paint while some others require an extra charge to be painted on.
When to Consider an Offset Smoker
Since owning and operating an offset smoker involves a specific workflow, higher initial cost, and the lack of modern features, the ideal use cases for these devices are usually confined to a few customer types. Generally, offset smokers are a popular choice among seasoned BBQ enthusiasts who have long experience with smoking. However, beginners willing to take the time and learn the idiosyncrasies of the format can also have a great time with offset smokers. If your priority is to make the best-smoked food you possibly can, it is hard to go wrong with an offset smoker.
Advantages to an Offset Smoker
Offset smokers come with many advantages. First, most BBQ enthusiasts agree that the best-tasting smoked food usually comes out of offset smokers. This is mostly due to the use of real wood, usually in the form of logs or chunks. Using real wood results in real smoke, which has the best flavor profile and intensity. Compared with pellet or charcoal smokers, the quality and taste of the food cooked on offset smokers are usually superior.
The offset design also leads to consistent temperatures, since the firebox is a separate unit and you face no loss of heat or smoke any time you have to stoke or add to the fire. Since offset smokers are simple by design and do not rely on energy sources like propane or electricity, they are also safer and more reliable by far compared to other smoker designs.
Disadvantages to an Offset Smoker
Using an offset smoker brings to the table certain disadvantages and compromises. The experience can be involved and challenging, especially for beginners. With a separate firebox unit and using real wood as fuel, ash cleaning is a regular and frequent chore. Offset smokers also do not come with modern features. If you love features like Wi-Fi compatibility or set-and-forget systems that automatically maintain temperature, an offset smoker probably will not be for you.
The cooking process itself is also involved, as you need to really keep tending to the fire in order to maintain temperature and smoke levels and achieve desired results. This means coming back to the unit and tending the firebox every fifteen minutes or so, and possibly more frequently if you are a beginner. Offsets smokers are also priced much higher than other smoker types, representing a steeper entry barrier for users.
Best Foods for an Offset Smoker
Foods that take smoke well are best suited for offset smokers. Due to the large size, you can also smoke large cuts of meat and even small whole animals like piglets in certain offset smokers.
While ribs, and pork butt are offset smoker staples, the long, low, and slow cooking and infusion of smoke also lends itself well to tougher cuts of meat like brisket. Chicken and turkey, being blander meats, are also good candidates for smoking. Of course, you can smoke hams, sausages, and certain cheeses for a deep, rich smoky flavor as well.
A Difficult but Proper Choice
With our exhaustive research and testing, the Old Country Brazos smoker emerged as the clear all-around winner. For those looking for a reverse flow-style smoker, the Lang BBQ Smokers 36” Original Patio is our top pick. For beginners, we recommend the sterling value package Oklahoma Joe Highland smoker.
We hope this review helps beginners and experts alike choose their first or next offset smoker.