What Is an Offset Smoker?

As far as smoking meats and seafood is concerned, water smokers, barrel, box and pellets smokers do a pretty good job. But nothing beats the class and quality of a meat smoked by an offset smoker. For years, offset barrel smoker also known as horizontal smokers, pipe smokers or “stick-burners” have ruled the empire of the barbecue circuit.

What Is an Offset Smoker?

An offset smoker is a classic smoker design which is one of the most popular smokers designs in the market right now. The meat is smoked in a long horizontal chamber while a firebox is attached to one side for burning charcoal and smoke wood. It also includes shelves in the cooking chamber that are used to handle briskets, pork shoulders, racks of ribs etc. If you need good heat control and stable temperatures, go for an offset smoker made of thick steel. Thick Steel helps in retaining the heat for a longer period of time. These smokers can be heavy, so always look for a smoker featuring wheels or casters.

typical offset smoker

How Does an Offset Smoker Work?

The most common type of offset smoker that you will find in the market consists of two parts. Both of these parts differ in sizes and are connected to each other. One part is the main cooking chamber which is a long metal barrel or box featuring a lift door and a smokestack. The other part is a small box which is most often called a firebox. It is connected to one end of the cooking chamber and features a top/side door and an adjustable vent.  This firebox houses a charcoal or wood fire and it is positioned to direct the smoke rising from the fire into the cooking chamber, often referred as an oven or cooking space. Here the smoke moves through the chamber which cooks the meat inside and then escapes through a chimney.

By simply adjusting the air intake and exhaust vents you can control the temperature of an offset smoker. To increase the temperature simply make the vents more open which will allow more oxygen to come in, and help in burning the fire faster and hotter.

How to Start & Use Offset Smoker

Offset smokers are built to have more focus on adding some extra flavor to your meat. So, if you get the right heat in your smoker, your food will have the perfect temperature and the ideal level of smoke cooking it. Offset smokers follow the same procedure as most of the other smoker do to cook food, which makes it easy even for a beginner to use. Following are the steps to follow while using an offset smoker in order to achieve the perfect flavors.

Prepare Your Chimney

First and foremost step is to prepare your chimney. I usually fill my chimney only about halfway before lighting it. After lighting charcoal or wood fire, wait until the briquettes of the smoker have white corners to identify that they have attained an appropriate temperature. The edge of preheating your fuel is that you will not have any creosote forming on your meat.

Exhaust’s Setting

Exhaust’s setting is important. When you are starting up your flame, make sure that exhaust hatches are open. The reason is that when you will try to ignite your charcoal with both of the exhaust closed, you will fail to achieve the proper temperature and you might even end up choking out the flame.

Pouring in The Briquettes

When you are going to pour in the hot briquettes into your smoker’s box, make sure you keep yourself a bit away from the box and carefully pour it in to avoid the splashing of briquettes.

Look Out for The Temperature

When you are done with igniting your wood, you’ll start to notice the smell and smoke from your wood. You have done very well till now. Now, you need to keep an eye on the temperature. The required temperature depends on what you are cooking. In most cases you will need to keep the temperature of your grill somewhere between 225-250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Putting Meat on The Grill

Now once you have reached the target temperature, it’s time to bring on the meat. Place the meat properly in the smoker

Rotate the Meat

The heat source on your offset smoker grill is located on one side only. There is no heat source underneath your meat. So, it’s obvious that the meat located farthest from the heat source will not cook as quick as the one that is closest to the heat source. So, you will need to keep on rotating the meat throughout your cook.

Use Ventilation

Use ventilation doors to adjust the temperature of your cooking chamber whenever needed. This is where it becomes more of an art than science. You need to be patient and see how well your meat is cooking. You need to open and close the ventilation to learn what it takes for your grill to cook the perfect meat.

Monitor temperature

I recommend using a wireless thermometer to check the temperature of the meat and/or smoke box.  That way you do not have to open the smoke box which may result in heat being released.


You did a great job. Now is the time to enjoy your tasty success. Make sure that your meat has cooked all the way through by using a meat thermometer. Once you are done, enjoy the perfect, mouthwatering and full of flavor barbecue.



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