Best Offset Smokers in 2020

How to choose the best offset smoker for your needs
Mark Orwig

So, you want to buy an offset smoker, but you want to ensure you choose the best one. That’s understandable. Luckily, you’re in the right place.

This article will provide you with fail-proof tips to ensure you get the best smoker for your needs. But first, here’s a quick look at the best offset smokers in 2020.

Buyer’s guide

I know the decision to buy an offset smoker is not one to be taken lightly. There is so much that goes into the decision making process. 

Choosing a smoker can be overwhelming. So, I will break it down to make the process much more comfortable. I’ve done my research to provide you with reliable information so you can make your choice confidently. 

Here are a few pieces of information I will share with you throughout this guide:

  • An overview of what an offset smoker is
  • Who this particular type of smoker is for
  • Why choose an offset smoker rather than another kind?
  • Basics of operation
  • Features you should look for, and why.
  • What you should consider before buying one
  • Budget considerations
  • Additional items you may need for your offset smoker

Now, let’s get to it, shall we?

What is an offset smoker?

Chances are you already have a general idea of what an offset smoker is. Therefore, I’ll provide a brief explanation just in case you don’t.

An offset smoker is the most classic version of all smokers. Offsets are also one of the most popular designs. It cooks your meats with low-temperature smoke rather than by direct fire. 

Your fuel source of choice goes into a firebox adjacent, or “offset”, to the large, horizontal cooking chamber. Your meats will go in the main cooking chamber where the smoke will cook, and infuse your meat with a fantastic smokey flavor.

Who should choose an offset smoker?

I want to start by saying that an offset smoker is not beginner-friendly. Now, that’s not to say that a beginner can’t use it. However, it will take some patience as you go through a learning curve.

Additionally, an offset smoker is not for everyone as it requires much more attention than other types of smokers would. Whether or not it’s for you is yet to be determined. I can’t do that for you, but I can provide you with the benefits and the disadvantages.

Benefits of offset smokers

I love my offset. Offset is the classic type of smoker. They have many great benefits, such as:

  • You can cook a lot of food at one time because of the space in the chamber.
  • You can add your fuel without opening the food chamber.
  • An offset smoker will last for decades with the proper care and treatment.
  • They are great for your pocketbook. They don’t cost as much to buy or to operate.

For me, the benefits far outweigh the negative aspects of these traditional-style smokers.

Drawbacks of offset smokers

Of course, where there are pros, there are cons. Sometimes the disadvantages can be a dealbreaker for specific individuals. So, I must share those with you as well:

  • The cheaper models can leak air, heat, and smoke which makes controlling the temperature much harder.
  • Models that don’t have a reverse flow feature will cook unevenly unless you’re frequently rotating your meat.
  • They’re a bit harder to cook with during the colder seasons.
  • They’re much larger. Therefore, you need an ample amount of cooking space for it.
  • It can take hours to smoke your meat and you’ll need to be much more attentive than you would with other types of smokers.
  • This type of smoker takes a lot practice and patience to master.

No piece of equipment is going to be perfect. Although, in my opinion, the cons of this magnificent smoker do not outshine the positives.

When and why you should use an offset smoker vs. other types of smokers

One main reason to choose an offset smoker is that they double as a grill. You won’t need to invest in a grill, because the offset smoker is one. This convenience saves you from:

  • Having to find more cooking space to accompany an additional grill
  • Shelling out more money 
  • The hassle of moving another bulky piece of equipment.
  • Double the upkeep

You will have everything you need in an offset smoker.

Also, slow-smoked is the way to go. Slow smoking allows for a strong flavor. Typically, quick smokers don’t have that ultimate, savory flavor. Besides, who doesn’t want meat infused with flavor for hours? The meat tastes so good.

Another great benefit of an offset smoker is that they come in various sizes. You can choose a smoker that’s the appropriate size for your smoking needs.

Don’t forget about the grilling. If you choose a grill smoker combo, charcoal makes food taste incredible.

 I don’t know about you, but I love meat grilled over charcoal and wood. It’s so good. Propane grills just don’t cut it when it comes to that savory, mouth-watering grilled taste.

Now, this is not to say that other types of smokers aren’t great in their unique ways. However, offset smokers are the way to go for several reasons:

  • The best flavor
  • A variety of great budget-friendly choices
  • Add fuel without affecting the cooking process
  • Various sizes for your needs

So if you’re looking for:

  • A way to smoke or grill a large amount of meat at once
  • A more traditional style of grilling or smoking
  • An option that saves you money

Other types of smokers may not be ideal for you. 

Now, if you are one of those individuals who:

  • Need a smoker for your apartment, or travel trailer
  • Prefer pellet-smoked meat
  • Live in a colder climate or an area where there’s a lot of rain.
  • Don’t want to take the time to learn how to use an offset.
  • Want a more controlled type of fire

Then a different type of smoker may very well be a better fit for you. However, some individuals have multiple smokers that they use. 

How do you use an offset smoker?

To use an offset smoker, you need to know how to operate one. I will tell you the steps you need to take to use one to the best of its ability.

Step 1: starting the fire

Starting the fire is best done by first lighting the charcoal. You can then add the wood after there is an adequate amount of heat. Keep your firebox door open a crack, and your vents open while the temperature builds. 

Step 2: temperature control

You need to invest in a good thermometer for your smoker. After you get it to the temperature you want it, you need to make a few adjustments:

  • The vents on your firebox should be about ⅓ of the way open.
  • Your chimney cap should be half-open.
  • Do not put too much wood on at the same time. Too much wood could result in a lowering of the temperature.

Step 3: managing your fire

Managing your fire is the trickiest part of smoking with an offset. Here are a few tips that I use during this phase of smoking:

  • Every 45 minutes, check your firebox to add wood.
  • If your temperature decreases after using wood, keep your firebox open. The oxygen will help to raise the temperature back up.
  • If you see white smoke from the chimney, check your firebox.
  • Rotate your meat frequently to prevent unevenness in cooking.
  • You can throw some flavored wood chips on the fire to enhance the smoke flavor.

Features to consider

Reverse flow smokers

Reverse flow helps to keep the entire chamber at the same temperature. Usually, the chimney is on the opposite side of your firebox. However, in a reverse flow smoker, the stack is on the same side of the firebox.

An extra baffle plate helps to guide the smoke to the other side of the smoker. From there, it will come back across the grill rack and exit the chimney.

 The reverse flow is excellent for keeping the temperature even in the grill. It also helps the meat to smoke evenly.

Combo smoker/grills

Some offset smokers even double as grills. You won’t need two different pieces of equipment. A combo saves you from the hassle of needing to take care of two items.

Simply use it as a regular charcoal grill.

Not to mention, could you imagine a nice cookout using an offset grill? You wouldn’t need to leave anyone waiting for their food, that’s for sure.

Thicker metal

Thicker metal is crucial if you’re in a colder climate. The thicker type of metal will help keep the weather from affecting your meat smoking sessions.

However, if the metal is too thick, it can take longer to preheat. Look for a smoker that is medium thick. That way, the weather won’t affect it, but it won’t take hours to preheat.

Stable build

I once saw an offset smoker with aluminum legs. Stay away from smokers like this. Smokers are very heavy and need a sturdy surface to sit on. If the legs gave out while you were cooking, that would be a disaster.

Warranty

No matter what you buy, there is always a risk of potential flaws. Having a warranty will help you in case something is wrong with your smoker.

Things to consider when buying an offset smoker

There are several things you need to consider when purchasing an offset smoker, such as:

  • The amount of outdoor cooking space you have
  • Whether you’re willing to learn how to use it or not
  • How heavy it is
  • How much meat you want to cook at one time
  • Whether or not you want a combo grill/smoker

Since there are different types of offset smokers, you need to understand your preferences. For example, if you aren’t planning to cook a whole pig, you don’t need a gigantic smoker. 

Budget considerations

Always set your budget before shopping. These amazing smokers run anywhere from a few hundred to several thousands of dollars.

However, keep in mind that a $400 smoker may not meet your needs. They also may not be very sturdy, depending on the material used to make them. 

Be sure that if you’re looking for a cheaper route, you go into a store to see it. If you buy it online, you may not realize it’s terrible quality until you receive it. 

Accessories you may need in addition to your smoker

In addition to your smoker, there are several other tools you may need, such as:

  • A wireless meat thermometer
  • Grill Brush
  • Tongs
  • Rib racks
  • A rack to hang your cookware on

These accessories will make life a lot easier when grilling or smoking. 

Frequently asked questions

Can I use pellets in an offset smoker?

For a primary heating source, no. However, you can add pellets to your charcoal and wood. Pellets help to enhance the smokey flavor to your meat.

How long will an offset smoker last?

Your smoker will last you for your entire lifetime. How long it lasts depends on your upkeep, however. As long as it’s taken care of, it will last a lifetime. 

What is the minion method?

The minion method is a fueling technique. Rather than throwing your wood on the fire, you set it near the coals in your firebox. Eventually, the wood will ignite. 

I like to create a crater in the middle of the firebox. In this crater, I place a hand full of lit coals. I then surround the coals with my wood. 

This helps my smoker to stay at the same temperature for hours. Also, my wood lasts longer, as well.

It’s best to choose the smoker that fits your needs

You now know the advantages and disadvantages of an offset smoker. This knowledge will give you the confidence you need to choose the best type of smoker for you.