- 1 What Is An Offset Smoker And How It Works
- 2 Guide To Use An Offset Smoker
- 3 Step 2. Get The Right Temperature
- 4 Offset Smoker Tips
- 4.1 Pre-season your offset smoker
- 4.2 Use wood + charcoal for best results
- 4.3 Add meat only after preheating the cooker
- 4.4 Use digital thermometers at both edges of the cooking area
- 4.5 A lid should stay closed
- 4.6 Control the smoke
- 4.7 Rotate the food
- 4.8 Add a water pan
- 4.9 Consider the weather
- 4.10 Have some practice
- 5 Conclusion
It’s hard to imagine a big party or a hangout in the backyard without that deliciously smoked meat. If you are a grill- or a smoke-lover, you’ve probably tried various devices from easy-to-use electric equipment to more complicated ones like the best charcoal smoker or the best vertical smoker. But what if we tell you that there is another machine which will take your garden parties with smoked meat to the next level – the best offset smoker, it’s not the same as a smoker box for gas grill. Maybe you’ve seen it and thought that such a tool is too difficult to use. Well, we agree that proper use of an offset smoker needs some knowledge and practice; you’ll have to master the temperature control, mode of operation, etc. However, there is nothing you won’t be able to cope with. Our team has created this post to help you out.
Here, our chefs and home cooks, who often use their best offset smokers, share tips and tricks on how to use these devices and prepare that perfectly delicious-smelling meat. Thanks to them and some practice, you’ll reach the needed level of expertise and spoil your nearest & dearest with mouth-watering smoked meals. Keep reading!
What Is An Offset Smoker And How It Works
The best offset smoker, which is also called offset barrel smoker or horizontal smoker, is a type of cooking equipment that looks the same as 2 barrels. A smaller barrel is a firebox, you build fire there, and the bigger one is the main, where you cook meat. The smaller chamber or firebox is usually placed on the brunch of the main chamber (barrel), sitting a bit down. There are models with a firebox that sits on the back of the main chamber.
Offset smokers have been in use for a long time; you can find different designs on the market, however, basics are pretty the same.
The offset smoker construction is simple, let’s take a closer look at it.
- As we already understand, the cooking area is housed in the main, bigger chamber, and it has a hinged lid.
- Smoke and heat from the firebox, attached on the side, travel into the cooking area to prepare and flavor the meat.
- An offset smoker has air intake vents and exhaust vents; tanks to them we can control heat and smoke.
- The best offset smoker can be even equipped with reverse flow technology.
The device works by cooking your food the moment you have built up the fire. The heat is transferred to the main, cooking chamber where the food is lying in wait. You have to control the amount of smoke by adjusting air intake vents and tinkering with a chimney.
We often get asked if the best offset smoker can be used for grilling. Actually, this device is not meant for such a purpose since the main firebox is not placed under the cooking area, which is obligatory for grilling. However, in some models of horizontal smokers, you can place grates atop the firebox – that’s how you can use your smoker for grilling. Or you can buy a combo, but do get to know how to use an offset smoker grill.
Offset Smoker Vs Vertical Smoker
If you have already done little research, you probably noticed that there are horizontal and vertical models available on the market. What is the difference between them? Let’s find out!
A vertical smoker, as its name implies, is vertically orientated equipment. It consists of the main part which is a cooking area and a separate firebox attached to the main part by an internal damper.
The main difference between offset smoker vs. vertical smoker is that you can cook much larger cuts of meat on the best offset smoker whereas a vertical device provides a lot more cooking area with a smaller footprint.
So, your choice between these two models depends on the size and capacity of the cooking area.
Guide To Use An Offset Smoker
On the one hand, offset smoker cooking is the best way to prepare meat; on the other hand, it requires knowledge, skills, and work. Using this equipment isn’t a set-&-forget process, but do not let it deter you because the result will amaze you!
To make your life easier, our team has created this guide with simple steps to follow.
Step 1. Start The Fire
How to use an offset firebox smoker? It’s the first question you’ll ask when you start using your best offset smoker.
- You may be surprised, but the best way to build up the fire in your device is by using charcoal. When there is enough heat in coals, add some wood.
- Use a chimney starter to light the coals.
- As soon as the coals are lit, throw them out of the chimney into the firebox. Dump coals on the side of the firebox so that you won’t need to reach over the fire to maintain the coals.
- Put several pieces of wood you want to smoke in the firebox, but don’t place them on the top of the coals. Our purpose is to heat the logs; a log size should be about the size of a drink can.
- As soon as the wood is heated and dried, put it over the coals and wait for the fire to catch up to the temp.
- While you are waiting, put another log to the firebox to warm up. Each time you place a new piece of wood in the fire, put another one to the firebox for heating up. The heated pieces of wood will fire up much faster and won’t make white smoke, and you’ll cook smoothly.
- Vents and firebox doors must be fully opened while you are waiting for the cooking area to heat up.
Now when you know how to use an offset smoker box, let’s go further.
Step 2. Get The Right Temperature
Offset smoker temperature control is one of the most important things for proper cooking. Unless you calibrate the smoker and are sure that a set-in thermometer is unfailing (which is unlikely), use a high-quality smoker thermometer. Ensure that you have this tool right beside you while your food is being cooked.
- As soon as the needed temperature is reached, set up the chimney cap to ½ open and turn the vents on the side of the firebox to about ⅓ open.
- You’ll have to check the temp and adjust vents all time you are cooking since various factors like outside temperature or wind may affect smoker temperature.
- Check the fire. If the log turns to coals, roll the previously heated log, and put another log to heat up.
- Do not make substantial adjustments to the vents in one go.
- Make settings gradually to have the right temp in the smoker.
Step 3. Fire Management In The Best Offset Smoker
Fire management takes some experience, and it’s essential to know the specialties of your own smoker. Note, that the weather can affect everything dramatically.
- Check the firebox each 45 min – 1 hour so that you can add a new log if needed.
- Also, check the temp and, without opening a fire pit door, check the smoke which comes out every 15-20 minutes to get to know about any trouble early. If white smoke is coming out you may have some issues in the firebox.
- If you notice that the temperature begins to drop, you should add more wood to the fire.
- If you have put a new log but the temp is still dropping, leave the door of the firebox open for several minutes so that the temperature gets back up.
- Ensure to rotate the meat because there may be an inequality up to 70F on the ends of the cooking area.
Offset Smoker Tips
Now you know how to use an offset charcoal smoker. However, we have prepared some extra tips for you so that you feel more comfortable and skillful when you decide to use your best offset smoker for the first time.
Pre-season your offset smoker
Our experts often get asked “Why and how to season an offset smoker? Is this important?” The answer is yes, we must pre-season an offset smoker if we want it to work effectively. The reason behind seasoning is the same as seasoning cast iron camp ovens or grills, it creates a thin, protective oily coating. This coating will polymerize to the surface after baking it on from the fire.
Use wood + charcoal for best results
Wood and charcoal is a winning combination. If you cook only with charcoal, you’ll miss the flavor of the wood, while cooking without charcoal will lead to the bitter taste of your food. Start the fire with lit coals, then gradually add logs.
Add meat only after preheating the cooker
Do not put the food on the cooking area unless it has the right temp, otherwise, you’ll have creosote on your food. The offset smoker gives off much smoke, and it’s not that smoke you’d like to flavor the food.
Use digital thermometers at both edges of the cooking area
As it was mentioned above, the temp may differ up to 70F at the ends of the cooking area. To prepare the food evenly, you have to put thermometer probes on each end of your smoker.
A lid should stay closed
Do not open the lid too often! It impacts not only the quality of the meat being prepared on the cooking area but also the firebox.
Surely, you’ll have to open the lid and doors for controlling the process; however, do try to monitor it by watching the smoke which comes out of the chimney and from the thermometer readings.
Control the smoke
We like to get the smoke flavor from using wood+charcoal combination, but you can build up the fire using charcoal, and then adding pellets, chunks or chips.
Do not soak pellets, chips or chunks, add about 4 ounces every 10 minutes when the temperature reaches 200F.
Rotate the food
Again, the food can be cooked unevenly because of the temperature. So, make sure to move the meat to different ends of the cooking chamber, even if you are only preparing one piece.
Add a water pan
Place a rack over the fire and put a tray with water on the top of the rack. It will add moisture, regulate the temperature, and improve the flavor of the meat.
Consider the weather
The weather will affect the temp inside your best offset smoker. Consider this fact and ensure that you have a bit more than enough of wood and charcoal, especially if it’s cold, wet and windy outside.
Have some practice
Make several dry runs to get to know how to calibrate your device. If you don’t want to waste charcoal and wood, try to cook cheap cuts of meat while you are practicing.
Don’t feel too disappointed if the result isn’t great on your first run, your aim is learning how your device works and finding out your own tips and tricks.
Now, when you’ve read our post, you have enough knowledge to start using your best offset smoker. Of course, you’ll need some practice before you make it to perfection, but don’t stress out – the result is worth the efforts! Remember, that you are using the coolest smoker ever! And our team on mykitchenadvisor.com is always here to help you out with any question from cooking to using the most complicated appliances.
Take care and enjoy your smoker!