The Offset Smoker Explained
What is an offset smoker? An offset smoker is a barbecue smoker with a horizontal cooking chamber and a firebox on the side, designed to cook with indirect heat for "low and slow" barbecue.
How does an offset smoker work? The air drafts into the firebox, through the "oven", and out the stack. Temperature is controlled by maintaining a charcoal or wood fire in the firebox and adjusting the flow of oxygen into the firebox and out the stack using adjustable vents.
We open the vents wider to give the fire more air and therefore raise the temperature, and we give the fire less air to lower the temperature. Wind, barometric pressure, and outside temperature affect how hot the fire burns and how hard the fire has to work to keep the temperature steady, so while guidelines help, maintaining a consistent temperature and a "clean" fire in an offset smoker relies on a bit of experience and intuition, which come by practice and dedication to the sport.
Common Challenges With Offset Smokers
Offsets look cool, but the cheap ones have turned more people off barbecue than any other smoker. After one season of frustration, owners dump them and often never return to smoking. They kill the curious. Read entire article.
Who the Offset Smoker Is For
A note about using wood on a cheaply-made offset (less than $500 range): You may have better results using mostly charcoal because of how hard it is to control the fire in some of the cheaper offsets. First, master using only charcoal and refueling with pre-lit charcoal. Supplement with a couple of wood chunks or a handful of smoking pellets tossed on top of the fire. It's much better to have a light smoke flavor than to over-smoke the meat.
Can you grill in an offset smoker? Offset smokers are designed to cook with indirect heat, but many of them also allow you to cook with direct heat. Some have a door in the top of the firebox and a cooking grate directly over the fire. Others can be set up to build a fire under the cooking grate in the cooking chamber.
Barbecue doesn't get more real than cooking over a wood fire.
My Experience With the SQ36 Offset Smoker
I've been cooking on a backyard offset smoker for more than 10 years. My smoker is a Meadow Creek SQ36 offset smoker. Here are several of the cooks I've done on this model.
Examples of Heavy Duty Offset Smokers
At Meadow Creek Welding, we believe it takes more than raw steel and cool machines to build a BBQ smoker. That's why every smoker we build is handmade in a culture of integrity. Our commitment to integrity shapes the durable design of each smoker and the kindness we strive to show our customers.
Our offset smokers are made with 1/4" steel fireboxes. Their heavy duty construction helps them cook more evenly, makes them easier to use, and lets them hold up much longer than the mass-produced smokers made overseas. In summary, these are the kind of smoker you'll purchase if you're looking to invest in an offset smoker that will be a pleasure to use and serve the future generation.
Can I customize my offset smoker? Meadow Creek offset smokers are available with a sweet list of available options, including extra grates, insulated fireboxes, stainless steel outside shelves, trim packages, grilling pans, and more! View one of our barbecue smokers below to see the list of features and upgrades for each model.
Most of our offset smokers are also reverse flow smokers. Learn what a reverse flow smoker is and how it cooks differently here: