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Is there anything better than driving by a BBQ restaurant and smelling the sweet scent of smoked barbecue? Now imagine having that at your own house whenever you want. That’s exactly what can happen with a little patience and an offset smoker. There is an abundance of brands and styles of offset smokers, some of which can have a dual purpose, unlike a more traditional charcoal grill.
Most offset smokers are easy to maintain and are incredibly durable—they have to be since they are being used for hours at a time, after all. Offset smokers can come as the more traditional southern model with two chambers, stand-up tower-like versions, or even shaped like an egg. I did my research on the best offset smokers available out there, and I also chatted with Atlanta-based grilling expert Chef David Rose, executive chef and spokesperson at Omaha Steaks, about what he looks for when buying one.
Here are a few of the best offset smokers to consider based on my research.
Best Overall: Oklahoma Joe's Highland Reverse Flow Offset Smoker
What We Love: Removable baffles, firebox has a clean-out door for easy cleaning
What We Don't Love: Wheels are on the firebox side of the smoker, which can cause ash to fall out if it hasn’t been cleaned properly
With almost 900 square inches of cooking surface between the main chamber and the firebox, the Oklahoma Joe’s Highland Reverse Flow Smoker is our choice for best overall. The construction of the smoker is ideal, with the smoking box as a separate piece and set more toward the bottom of the main chamber.
The all-steel smoker helps to hold the heat in and allows the smoke flavor to evenly permeate whatever you’re cooking. There is a series of four baffles to guide the heat, and each of them is removable for a custom setup, just like the pros have.
Material: Steel construction, porcelain-coated cooking grates | Weight: 180.8 Pounds | Cooking Surface: 879 square inches | Dimensions: 33.5 x 57 x 53 inches
Best Budget: Char-Griller Smokin' Champ Charcoal Offset Smoker in Black
What We Love: Sizeable cooking surface area, easy to move around
What We Don't Love: Assembly can be challenging, some reviewers mentioned rust forming after about a year
Those looking for a budget-friendly offset smoker should look no farther than the Smokin’ Champ Charcoal Offset Smoker in Black. The smoker features cast iron grates that absorb plenty of heat to keep meat cooking at an even temperature.
Backyard pit masters will also find the adjustable charcoal tray and dual damper controls helpful as they smoke meat and veggies. After the smoker is cleaned up just wheel it back to the shed or cover it with a grill cover, and you’re ready to use it again.
Material: Painted steel | Weight: 123 pounds | Cooking Surface: 1,263 square inches | Dimensions: 65.7 x 27.50 x 50.4 inches
Best Combo: Oklahoma Joe's Longhorn Combo Charcoal/Gas Smoker and Grill
What We Love: Easy to move, dual chambers allow for more cooking control, side burner for charring vegetables
What We Don't Love: Bottom can rust out over time if grill is not stored properly
Those who don’t want to have multiple grills or smokers in the backyard will want to look into a combination offset smoker, the best of which is the Oklahoma Joe's Longhorn Black Triple-Function Combo Grill, which can function as a charcoal or gas grill, as well as an offset smoker.
The small side burner is nice for cooking side dishes or roasting vegetables over an open flame. The combo grill and smoker has two separate chambers: one for grilling and one for smoking, so you can easily do both at one time.
Material: Steel, porcelain-coated cast iron | Weight: 204.6 pounds | Cooking Surface: 1,060 square inches | Dimensions: 31.5 x 50.6 x 74 inches
Related: The Best Charcoal Grills
Best for Beginners: Broil King Regal Charcoal Offset 500
What We Love: Combination grill and smoker, integrated tool hooks
What We Don't Love: Short chimney struggles to get smoke out efficiently
If you’re looking to hone your smoking skills in the backyard and want a grill that can help you to level up, consider the Broil King Smoke Offset Charcoal Smoker and Grill. The mid-range smoker is ideal for beginners who are looking for an elevated learning experience while using a smoker that isn’t considered a budget brand.
The smoker features reversible cast iron cooking grids, a stainless steel charcoal tray, and adjustable dampers for heat control. With 625 square inches of cooking space in the main chamber, you’ll be able to smoke and grill enough to feed your entire family and perfect the craft of smoking in no time.
Material: Steel, cast iron | Weight: 186 pounds | Cooking Surface: 955 square inches | Dimensions: 52.5 x 60 x 26 inches
Best High-End: Texas Original Pits Luling Loaded Single Lid Offset Smoker with Counter Weight
What We Love: American-made, hand-welded, large chimney to draw smoke, large wheels make it easy to maneuver
What We Don't Love: Very heavy, might not be suitable for all residential areas
Everything is bigger in Texas, and that includes smokers. If you’re looking for an offset smoker that can handle Texas-sized meals, as well as give you a similar experience to professional grill masters, then the Texas Original Pits Luling Loaded Single-Lid Offset Smoker is the one for you. The hefty price tag is outweighed by the stellar construction of the smoker, with a whopping 1,610 square inches of cooking surface in the main chamber. The firebox also has a grate that can turn the space into a small charcoal grill.
“100 percent natural oak and hickory lump charcoal is the best fuel source for offset smokers. It has no additives, chemicals, or nitrates, which could taint the taste and smell of the cook. It lights up relatively quickly, in about 10 minutes, and burns slower than less premium charcoal. Then, you can add your desired wood chunks or wood chips on top of the charcoal to impart flavor." — Chef David Rose, Omaha Steaks
Material: Steel | Weight: 591 pounds | Cooking Surface: 1,610 square inches | Dimensions: 74 x 34 x 54 inches
Related: The Best Smokers
Best Upright: Dyna-Glo Signature Series Heavy-Duty Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker & Grill
What We Love: Vertical construction saves space, firebox can be turned into a grill, cool-touch handle on both doors of the smoker
What We Don't Love: Vertical construction may not allow smoke flavor to evenly disperse over meat
Those who have a smaller backyard and don’t necessarily have the room for a large smoker may want to consider a vertical offset smoker. The large tower with this model has five cooking grates and a total cooking space of 1,382 square inches. Vertical offset smokers work essentially the same way as a traditional offset smoker, with a smoking chamber to the side where you can place charcoal and wood, and a larger cooking chamber where food is placed.
Many users like that it holds temperature heat well and there's minimal air leakage due to the door seal and the smoker's thick construction. They say it also doesn't need as much wood as some other smokers to get that distinct smoky flavor, and that the temperature gauge is close to accurate.
Material: Steel chambers with chrome-plated cooking grates | Weight: 124.3 pounds | Cooking Surface: 1,382 square inches | Dimensions: 58 x 45.5 x 24.9 inches
Related: The Best Electric Smokers
The best overall offset smoker is the Oklahoma Joe's Highland Reverse Flow Smoker, which is a reliable model that can be used over and over again without the fear of rusting or decay. If you’re looking for a more economical offset smoker, consider the Smokin' Champ Charcoal Offset Smoker in Black, which has a moderately sized cooking area.
How We Selected
To choose the products for this article, Megan sifted through customer reviews and manufacturer information on the scores of offset smokers available on the market. She kept several features in mind during her search: a heavy-gauge metal build, accurate temperature gauges on both the top and bottom of the smoker, ample cooking space, and well-fitted dampers and seals. She then interviewed grilling expert Executive Chef David Rose from Omaha Steaks, who draws from his culinary background as a classically trained and at the same time decidedly Southern chef, as well as being as his experience being a self-professed lifelong meat-lover.
What to Look for When Buying Offset Smokers
The best offset smokers are made with heavy-gauge metal that's at least 0.25 inches thick, which helps with smoke, heat retention, and overall durability, according to Rose. Cooking racks should be easily removable for cleaning and be made from cast iron for maximum heat retention.
Look for temperature gauges on the top and bottom of the smoker. This will give an accurate reading of the true temperature inside. “Make sure to inspect that the dampers and seals are well fitted and easy to open and close; there should be no gaps in the seals," so the smoke stays inside the main cooking portion of the smoker, says Rose.
This depends on what you’re going to be using the smoker for. Those looking for a backyard smoker to make meals for family and friends should stay in the 500 to 700 square inches of cooking space in the main chamber. Grill masters looking to level up their barbecue may want to be more in the range of 1,000 to 1,500 square inches of cooking space.
Ease of Cleaning
An offset smoker should be easy to clean up with removable grates that can be wiped clean, and a firebox with a door to sweep out ashes.
How do I use an offset smoker?
Offset smokers use indirect heat to cook a variety of foods. “Utilizing a horizontal cooking chamber, and tending to the firebox on the side, you smoke your protein, side, or vegetable using indirect heat as a method of cooking. Fire doesn’t come in direct contact with food. You continuously feed the firebox throughout the cook with charcoal and wood to maintain ideal smoking temperature,” explains Rose.
What can I cook on an offset smoker?
“Just about anything can be cooked on an offset smoker: from brisket, ribs, pulled pork, or steaks; to seafood or vegetables; to desserts or even smoked cocktails. Anything you want to give a smoky flavor to can be cooked on offset smokers,” says Rose.
Are offset smokers better than vertical ones?
It depends on what you’re cooking. “Offset smokers are a lot more versatile in usage than a vertical smoker. Adding fuel to the firebox won’t disturb the heat and smoking process in the cooking chamber,” says Rose. Offset smokers are easier to use for larger cuts of meat that you want to lay flat, like ribs or brisket, he says, because it’s easier to maintain temperature and rotate your meat. "It can double as a grill, too, with direct heat usage,” he adds.
What is the difference between an offset and a reverse flow smoker?
The main difference between offset and reverse flow smokers is the ability of the latter to maintain a more uniform and consistent temperature inside the cooking chamber. Offset smokers allow heat to enter the cooking chamber from a firebox and to a chimney opposite the firebox. Reverse flow smokers, on the other hand, push the heat under a sealed drip pan to the far end of the smoker before the air is reversed through the smoking chamber and exits through a stack on the firebox end of the smoker; this allows the heat to be distributed more evenly.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
This article was written by Megan duBois, who is a kitchen and lifestyle expert for Simply Recipes. Throughout her career, she has tested an endless amount of products, from TikTok-famous gadgets to chef-approved knife sets.
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