What if you had to choose which season is the best ? Many would argue between summer and winter but most likely everyone will settle for BBQ season!
Just picture your backyard and the amazing time you will spend there: cooking, drinking, chatting, enjoying.
Good meat is inseparable from those afternoons and weekends, and you always try to get the cooking on point to impress and satisfy all of your mates and relatives. What’s your best weapon to achieve that ? An offset smoker of course!
Just think of how many amazing smoked meats you’ll be able to prepare with the best offset smoker (and yes, you can show-off too). Remember it’s a versatile tool, so if you’re not the keen on smoking your own meat and simply want to BBQ it, you can do it too.
Take this quiz first…
– Do you like smoked meat?
– Do you like to cook yourself your meat?
– Are you the king of ribs, sausages, burgers (or any other poultry/meat on the grill?)
– Are you the one and only masterchef of the kitchen in your backyard?
– Do you simply love meat ?
If you answered YES to at least one of the above questions the rest of this article will guide your path to whole new level of meat cooking.
What is an offset smoker ?
Traditionally, you’ll find a main chamber, barrel-shaped and with a lid, where you can put the meat to smoke/grill. Then there will be a smaller secondary fire/wood chamber on the side, not on the same lever: offset. Last, on the opposite side to this fire chamber, there will be a chimney to allow to the air to flow away. That’s the basics of an offset smoker.
Why should you get an offset smoker ?
1. Smoking your own meat
It seems pretty obvious but one of the first reasons we will state is self-satisfaction. Elaborating your own recipes, trying them out and eventually realising the perfect smoked meat, the way it looks/smells/tastes, is a very rewarding process. You can’t put a price on that feeling, however, money wise, you will feel the difference: it’s going to be cheaper on the long run. Moreover, the smoked meat you’ll do thanks to your brand new offset smoker will suit better your taste as you can customize it as much as you want and it will be healthier. Indeed you can’t compare meals done from scratches and hand picked ingredients to the ones that you buy in supermarkets that are filled with mainstream, yet mysterious ingredients.
2. Versatile and reliable tool
Offset smokers are the better version of regular BBQs. People usually settle for BBQs because of the price, but they don’t think that when they invest in an offset smoker, they are actually investing in a BBQ and grill too. You can easily grill any meat (fish/veggies) by creating a fire directly in the cooking chamber under the grate. Then you just proceed as you would with any other bbq.Or you can simply activate the offset smoking “mode” and use it to smoke your meat. So it’s a very versatile device that you can use on various occasions. If you invest in a proper high-quality offset smoke, you can almost be certain that it will last several years. Most of them benefit from very long constructor warranty, which is a good sign of longevity. But in general, when you pick them carefully, they will last pretty long with very little maintenance.
3. Essential device to any backyard chef
Whether you usually cook at home or not, you’ll most likely enjoy to demonstrate your chef’s talent in your backyard. Showing off? Maybe a little…. But surely it’s deserved: thanks to the tastiest meals ever you’ll do with your offset smoker. Also, let’s say it honestly, any backyard would look and feel empty without a proper meat cooking device! It would be such a shame not to get to enjoy fully a day out in your backyard -cooking included.
What to consider when buying an offset smoker ?
1. Determine the right size for you
This section will actually refer to the “size” on two different levels: the size of the offset smoker in general and then the size of the chambers.Surely enough, an offset smoker is not a small cooking equipment, it’s like a stove that you can’t fit into your kitchen. You need to make sure you have a backyard large enough to welcome it. As for the chambers, there’s the fire chamber (or firebox), that should be large enough to accomodate logs, charcoal and spit wood. As for the cooking chamber, its size is a major factor to consider when you pick one. It’s seldom that you smoke/grill meat for one person only… but it’s crucial to know for how many people you’ll be cooking in average and what’s the size of the piece of meat you’ll place in the cooking chamber.
2. Check all the features available
Offset smoker are traditionally built in a very standard way, but you can always find add-ons and additional features that will single out some models. It can be things such as the number of welded cooking grates and the way they are organised within the cooking chamber (and firebox). Having a removable ash pan can be really convenient too to ease up the cleaning process. Having a front shelf that is solid can always come handy at the moment of placing the meat in or taking it out, so have a look if there’s one. A lower shelf is an extra that can come quite handy too.To some extent, heat proof handles are equally highly appreciated.Then you can move on and check if some really handy extra tools are provided with your brand new offset smoker such as a grill scrubber (custom made for your grates) and/or a bucket on the side. A thermometer: it seems so obvious that you don’t even think to check if one is provided. But check indeed cause it’s a crucial tool to monitor the cooking temperature. Last but not least, a cover. It might sound superficial but an offset smoker cover is always a good thing to have.
3. Be sure you can move it: portability
Once you bring it the offset smoker home, you will pick the best possible spot to place it and then you’ll start putting it together. Make sure that you pick a model with some wheels to carry it around easily. Maybe for the lighter models this is not a crucial requirement but typically a good offset smoker won’t be light. Usually you will find that most models will have two wheels and that’s enough for them be easy to move around. As for the wheels, if they can have a rubber tire around them, it’s best. The plain metal wheels are more solid but might get rusty at some stage and possibly leave some stains on your patio.
4. Don’t skimp on quality
Possibly the main criteria to look at when picking your offset smoker. We’ll move on and discuss pricing later but surely quality can’t be left aside. The ideal -and reference in the industry- would be ¼ inch steel. It has to look and feel solid. Try to have a closer look to the craftsmanship: the weldings and the seals between the lid and the cooking chamber.The latter one is very important not let any of the smoke leak during the process for better temperature control, use less charcoal/fuel and save some time. Also the feet/base: it absolutely has to be stable.
5. Safety measures to respect
This section will be pretty straightforward. There are some common sense measures to respect and guidelines to follow and you’ll be able to enjoy your cooking session safely. Do not let kids around when your cooking. Temperatures raise up and a serious burn can happen at any time. Burns can happen at any age, so take any precautions that might be needed. You can check out some models that come with stainless steel (or other material) handles for a bit more comfort. Have a fire extinguisher at home. Dozens of fires and accidents are caused every year during random bbq cooking sessions. This can happen to anybody, and even if it you use extreme caution, it’s better to be well prepared in case something happens. Have your mind clear. This means that smoking your meat is a serious matter. If a cool beer in your hands is extremely enjoyable and completely fine, don’t get close to the offset smoker if/when you’re intoxicated.
6. Set up the right budget
Money: important factor. How much should your offset smoker cost to be a smart yet affordable investment. There’s no right answer to this question. You will have to determine first what is your priority in an offset smoker (room in the cooking chamber, structure done by a welding master, warranty…) and put it against the type of budget you have. Mass market offset smokers can be as cheap as $100 and then you can expect to fork out $4000+ for some high end ones. There’s plenty of options in between. Obviously it’s easier to treat yourself when the budget for leisure is high but keep in mind that an offset smoker is really a versatile cooking device and can be considered also as a household expense.
7. Constructor’s warranty
As stated before, the high end models can come with a lifetime warranty. It’s comforting to know that if anything happens, it will be covered. What about the cheaper models? You better check out the warranty in those ones. 2 to 3 years would be a good reference and pretty standard.
Brief summary: advantages of owning an offset smoker
+ Really rewarding to be able to smoke your own meat/poultry/fish
+ Healthier and more self-managed cooking
+ You can customise the flavours (oak, cherry tree, apple tree)
+ The “cool backyard king” factor is definitely present
+ After initial investment, it’s not expensive to run
+ Low maintenance cooking device
+ Versatile usage
+ Easy to use
Brief summary: Inconvenience of an offset smoker
– Smoking is a pretty long process: you need time and patience
– The initial monetary investment can be high
– Cheap/poor quality offset smoker will surely disappoint you
– It will take some time to master the smoking art
The most popular and affordable offset smokers
In this section you’ll find some of the most appreciated offset smokers on the market in no particular order. We selected few of them in different price ranges and with different features and specificity so that you can have a global overview and be able to make a choice with a global picture in mind
1. Dyna-Glo Signature Series DGSS1382VCS-D Heavy-Duty Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker & Grill
Dyna-Glo products (GHP Group Incorporation) are manufacturers specialised in all things fire-related. And this heavy-duty offset smoker & Grill is the perfect illustration of their craftsmanship, high standards and good value for money.
DESIGN: you would have noticed that this offset smoker is vertical. This is not quite a typical shape but it can be very interesting and just as efficient as the usual barrel shape that offset smokers have. Whether you like it or not, it’s just a matter of personal taste. It’s indeed an offset smoker as the firebox is located on the side. The best advantage of this shape ? as it’s vertical, the constructor managed to add some chrome-plated sausage hooks. This will guarantee you some surprisingly amazing sausages, hot-dogs and so on.
GRATES: its vertical shape will make you able to benefit from 5 distinct chrome-plated grates in the main cooking chamber (17″ dia. Ea.). You will also benefit from extra grates in the firebox, which can come handy to quickly grill a burger or a piece of meat giving them all this fire/charcoal taste. It’s totally removable if you don’t need it, so it won’t affect your wood/charcoal burning when you purely want to smoke meat.
VERSATILITY: As there’s a porcelain coated steel cooking grate on the firebox, you’ll be able to grill any meat/poultry/fish you want. This works also for some finer vegetable skewers. As the firebox is smaller than the main smoking chamber, you will use it as a regular BBQ/Grill. It will be able to reach a temperature hot enough to grill much quicker and you will be able to make a nice set of grilled meat. This is a big time saver when you’re not planning to smoke a big quantity of food but only to grill some bits and pieces.
QUALITY: heavy gauge metal body. This smoker is made with 2.5mm thick steel. Basically said, it’s no the thickest you’ll find on the market but it’s very satisfying quality. Also you’ll find locks to secure that the door of the main cooking chamber is properly closed. Some users reported minor smoke leaking but nothing very dramatic or that could affect cooking . A simple trick as applying some high-temperature sealant tape will do if needed. Cool touch handles are available on any door/drawer that you can pull and secure a safe manipulation of the tool.There are indeed several doors as you’ll even find one at the back of the cooking chamber for easier access to the bottom water pan. You will also find a side tray for quick access to fuel while minimizing heat loss and easy disposal of ashes when it needs to be cleaned. Provided with this offset smoker you’ll have a smoke zone for you to monitor and adjust the temperature in the smoking chamber.
Cooking space: 1,382 total sq inches
Size: 45.5 x 24.9 x 58.8 inches
Weight: 124.3 pounds
Grates: 5 x Chrome-plated Steel Cooking Grates (17” dia. ea.)
Warranty: 1 year limited warranty
2. Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Charcoal Offset Smoker
To continue the Dyna-Glo series, here’s another offset smoker from this very reliable brand that also features their design trademark : a vertical cooking chamber.The durable centerpiece will help you spend some unforgettable and tasty time with your beloved ones around perfectly smoked and cooked food.
DESIGN: Dyna-glo brings you another vertical offset smoker, but this time it has a pretty non-conventional vertical shape. This time, rather than a vertical barrel you’ll find a rectangle. This vertical shape will allow you to enjoy 6 grates that you can arrange according to your needs on different levels.
It also has quite a unique charcoal and ash management system that has a removable ash pan (standard), a grate and on top of that a steel charcoal box. Dyna-glo assures that thanks to its porcelain enameled charcoal chamber, the burn efficiency of the pellets is improved by keeping them tight together.The ashtray is removable after use for convenient disposal of the charcoal/pellets; just as the ash pan.The quick release door handles (chrome plated) will secure that the doors are safely and tightly locked for minimal smoke loss.
CAPACITY: you will be pretty much spoiled and largely satisfied with the capacities of this offset smokers. We pointed out before that it boasts 6 cooking grates that are height adjustable. This means that you’ll be able to arrange them in the way that suits you for maximum space occupation. Also, each one of the grates can hold up to 25 pounds of food. This is sufficient for a big piece of meat, a turkey or any other piece you’d like to smoke. This represents about 784 square inches of smoking area.
QUALITY: the body is done in a heavy duty steel that is specifically arranged to resist very high temperatures. It has a powder coat finish for better resistance and longevity. The wood chip box is heavy gauge and porcelain enameled. For a better efficiency of the smoking chamber and temperature regulation there is an adjustable flue on the chimney and a side opening. This will help you control the air flow and assure an even transfer of heat, just as the temperature within the smoking chamber. For more precision there is a temperature gauge with a clearly indicated smoke zone for you to know when you have reached that temperature and to help you make sure you maintain it. The charcoal box is really solid, convenient and can be filled with charcoal, pellets or briquettes. Also, if you are not a fan of the chip box, you can safely place the charcoal/wood on top of the grate where the box usually lies.
Dimensions: 20.2 x 34.5 x 47 inches
Weight: 57 pounds
Capacity :784 square inches of smoking area
3. Traeger TFB42LZBC Grills Lil Tex Elite 22 Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker
Traeger grills are a specialized manufacturer that focuses on grills and everything related to it. We really like their approach that is a mix between modern, comfort, and traditional wood-fired cooking. They also bring a real added-value by offering a comprehensive range of accessories, covers, books, covers, woods, apparels, sauces, recipes etc… . They can be your only stop to equip properly your backyard.
The model presented here below is a killer. And indeed one of the best on the market.
DESIGN: the first thing that will strike you in this offset smoker is the unusual bronze color of the lid. It’s pretty chic and stylish, yet totally respecting the manliness that is often associated with the grilling activity. The main cooking chamber has a classic barrel shape. What is really striking is the size of the offset chamber : the hopper capacity is actually of 18 lbs. As all offset smokers it will have four legs and two of those have wheels to help move it. The two other legs have rubber cover for better protection and resistance and also to avoid ruining your patio is if where you keep it. There is not, unfortunately, a front shelf but you could get a foldable one if you wish to. Just as extra grates and other accessories. A side hook (opposite to the burning chamber is available to hang the little bucket provided.
CAPACITY: this compact offset smoker will offer you 418 sq. of grilling space. As per the manufacturer, this is enough for up to 16 burgers, 4 whole chickens, or 5 racks of ribs. This is comfortably enough for your sunday/occasional cooking session. It comes with only one cooking grate that is made in a non-stick porcelain surface for better and easier cleaning. This model from Traeger also boasts a pretty impressive 6-in-1 versatility that will interest any member of the family. You can: bbq, grill, bake, braise, smoke and roast. A multifunctional tool that has found its spot in many houses already.
QUALITY: In this section, we would like to review some key points of this offset smoker that makes it really interesting to consider.
-Technology: This is probably the most interesting point of this offset smoker. It’s not a traditional firebox where you put your charcoal/wood, light it up and have to come and surveil it and top it up regularly. It has an ingenious system where you basically fill the hopper with the pellets, turn the machine on, and an auger will activate to move the pellets to the fire pot. There, a hot rod will set fire to the pellets. The draft fan (that is located under the hopper) will then bring air to the fire and make it circulate throughout the cooking chamber. It will then simply evacuate through the chimney.
-Digital controller: first of all, and as it’s rare enough, we need to point out that this offset smoker has an on-off button. Indeed you can actually enjoy an electronic auto-start ignition. Once you start it, it will take about 5 mins for the fire to be ready. This is a really convenient feature for the least expert chefs or if you want to enjoy smoked/grilled food often but don’t have much time. However if you like to manipulate fire-starters and charcoals, you will probably not opt for this model. When you turn it on, you also have to choose your mode/temperature. You can either cook slowly and on low temperatures with the “smoke” mode or reach temperatures as high as +375 degrees with a precision of about 20 degrees.
-Hard-wood pellet only: no need for charcoal any longer. You can use exclusively hardwood pellets. This i really convenient if you prefer not to have too many materials in the firebox and if you indeed enjoy woodfire taste on your dishes.
Model: TFB42LZBC Lil’ Tex Elite 22
Cooking capacity: 418 sq. in.
Pellet hopper capacity: 18 lbs.
Height: 49 in. | Width: 42 in. | Depth: 22 in.
Weight: 98 lbs
Warranty: 3 -YEAR WARRANTY (U.S.A. ONLY)
4. Oklahoma Joe’s Highland Reverse Flow Smoker
Oklahoma Joe’s is a brand that has arisen from a much respected and self-made man : Joe Davidson. His adventure started in 1987 when he decided to create himself few models of meat smokers for a state fair. They got so successful that not only all the models exposed were sold but he also got pre-orders. It was the beginning of the success story of a passionate man that is still going on. Joe is an awarded pitmaster and has won many impressive competitions.
Design: this model from Oklahoma joe is a solid looking device that looks pretty rough and authentic. It will give you some serious grilling credibility. It has a traditional barrel shaped main cooking chamber with an also barrel shaped offset fire chamber. Even if its dimensions are standard for a non-professional offset smoker, it definitely looks more impressive than other offset smokers thanks to some pretty simple additions. We are talking about the front and the bottom shelf. Pretty basic but very handy when you want to have everything you need on hand or if you want to serve straight from the grill to the plate. It also has two wheels for ease of transport. You will also find a vertical smokestack with adjustable dampers to help you manage the smoke and heat. As it’s a reverse-flow offset smoker, you will see that there are four removable baffles under the cooking grate that have been specifically designed to direct the smoke underneath and above the food for an even cooking. Also, last but not least, you’ll find a warming tray on top the of the firebox to keep your sauce warm or to quickly heat up a pan, some beans or anything that needs to.
– Temperature gauge measures the air temperature in the right side of the cooking chamber, with a secondary location available for additional monitoring (there’s basically a second insertion for you to place another temperature gauge to monitor more accurately the cooking)
– Thanks to the convenient side door, you can easily remove leftover ash from your firebox. The clean up becomes fast and easy.
– 4 uniquely engineered baffles lock under the cooking grate and channel smoke under and back over the food to provide even heat and smoke across the cooking chamber.
– 5 porcelain-coated grates
Capacity: with this machine, you’ll benefit from almost 900 square inch cooking surface! Only in the main cooking chamber there’s 619 inches available of cooking area. Enough to accommodate steaks, ribs, whole poultry pieces, pork shoulders, briskets etc..
Technology: Many people will wonder what is a “reverse-flow” offset smoker and if there’s really a difference with a regular offset smoker (some kind of fancy marketing phrasing?). Indeed all reverse flow smoker benefit from a particular structure that allows the air to circulate in a guided way in the cooking chamber. Basically, there are baffles in the cooking chamber. The smoke is drawn under the baffles until the end of the cooking chamber then reversed back at the top of the cooking box (above the baffles) to smoke the meat. The circle is complete, the meat is smoked and the direct heat is kept away. This “return” trip that the smoke does got this device the name of reverse flow smoker.
Assembled Dimensions: 57″W x 33.5″D x 53″H
Assembled Depth (in.): 33.5
Assembled Height (in.): 53
Assembled Width (in.): 57
Box Dimensions: 38.8″W x 21.1″D x 23″H
Weight: 196.2 lbs
Warranty: 2 years (refer to manufacturer)
5. Char-Broil American Deluxe Gourmet Offset Smoker
Char-Broil has been a fine provider of all devices to cook, grill, smoke since 1948. It’s their speciality and they have been recognised in the industry for more than half a century. Their keyword and motto is “performance”. No matter what are your cooking skills, style or requirements, your cooking tool should be just as efficient as it can be. They brought to you this “Deluxe” edition of their standard offset smoker (much better and worth the few extra dollars).
Design: the design of this offset smoker is pretty classic but efficient. It has a barrel shaped main cooking chamber with a chimney to release the smoke and on the side you’ll find the offset firebox where you can load the wood and coal. A pretty functional grate is located right in front of the cooking chamber, to place some utensils, ingredients, plates etc… For a better mobility, this offset smoker has two wheels. An extra grate is located at the bottom between the two side wheels and the two “simple” feet. It can be used for some regular storage.
Capacity: this offset smoker will delight you and is made for you if you are looking to feed your family and your close circle of friends. The main cooking chamber has a cooking area of 670 square inches in porcelain wire cooking grate and 355 sq inches chrome rack. You can also, if you need, use the firebox as cooking surface : it has about 255 square inches cooking surface available.
Quality: this offset smoker is pretty good for first time owners or people with little experience in smoking/grilling. It’s an entry-level model made out of steel. It’s basic but can do the job for simple bbqing/smoking/grilling sessions, however, if you’re looking for some big quantities, regular uses and “advanced” mode smoking, we would suggest to go for a higher quality model.
Assembled width : 59
Assembled height: 50
Assembled depth: 27
Grate material: porcelain coated Wire
Device material: steel
We have seen the main reasons why you would own an offset smoker and few models that are the most wanted in the market at the moment. We hope this article can help you make a decision and direct you towards the best offset smoker for your needs. There’s a perfect offset smoker for everyone, every budget, every mastership level, every need.
It’s was a tough call to only pick one offset smoker among the listed ones. All of them have their particularities and their benefits and the best pick will be exclusively defined by your needs. But if we had to settle for one and only smoker out of this list, it would be the LIL’ TEX ELITE PELLET GRILL 22 from Traeger. It literally takes 5 minutes to get the cooking on. It’s the perfect match between tradition and modern technology. Its versatility and ability to braise, roast, grill, smoke, BBQ and smoke will make it a must-have for any household and please everyone’s taste bud.