The Texas Original Pits Luling Loaded Single Lid Offset Smoker can help you entertain a crowd. We also like the budget-friendly Dyna-Glo Vertical Off-Set Charcoal Smoker for its ample cooking space and adjustable racks.
If you love grilling and smoking foods, it may be time to take your skill set to the next level. An offset smoker, also known as a “stick burner,” features a horizontal cooking chamber with a firebox, attached to the side, or “offset.” One of the first custom offset smokers was produced from surplus oil pipe, but they’ve come a long way since then. These types of smokers, which burn charcoal and wood, are ideal for large, inexpensive cuts of meat, because they cook them “low and slow” with indirect heat. Some units also can be used to grill over the firebox portion.
Smoking aficionados swear by offset smokers because they say the food develops a superlative texture and flavor you can’t achieve through other methods. It’s important to note that an offset smoker is an all-day, hands-on experience that’s meant to be savored; it’s not something you’ll fire up after a long day at work. However, it’s a great option if you enjoy tending the fire and “controlling the cook” or have dreams of entering the next big BBQ competition.
Texas Original Pits Luling Loaded Single Lid Offset Smoker with Counter Weight
Can reach temperatures up to 700 degrees
10-year warranty on cooking chamber
If you’re experienced at smoking food and are ready to move up to the next level, you need this deluxe offset smoker. It features a cooking door counterweight so it won’t slam down on you as you’re working, a single or optional upgraded double lid on the main cooking area, and two temperature gauges, which are great for monitoring your heat throughout the cooking chamber. A dual damper enables better heat control, too.
With 1,610 square inches of cooking surface, you’ll be able to smoke large cuts and entertain a crowd. Plus, it’s handmade in Texas and generally is considered one of the finest in the industry by pitmasters and chefs. Reviewers rave about its solid build and value for the sturdy construction, which holds up well for years. This tool is for serious cooks only, but it will likely be the last offset smoker you’ll ever need to buy.
Price at time of publish: $3,000
Dimensions: 80 x 30 x 62 inches | Total Cooking Area: 1,610 square inches | Weight: 585 pounds
Dyna-Glo Vertical Off-Set Charcoal Smoker
Six cooking grates
Ample cooking space
Leaks smoke around door and thermometer
This model offers six cooking grates for 1,176 square inches of cooking space. At only 35 inches wide, it’s also a practical choice if you’re tight on space on a deck or patio. However, it’s plenty big enough for large families or parties, and the manufacturer says it can cook up to 150 pounds of food at once.
The unit has a powder-coated steel exterior and a porcelain-enameled wood chip box, along with an adjustable smokestack and side damper to improve the air flow and heat transfer. The six cooking grates height-adjust so you can accommodate different cuts of meat, from a whole chicken to several racks of ribs. It also has carrying handles in case you need to move it around your outdoor living space. This smoker is a budget-friendly alternative if you want to give offset smokers a try or don’t want to invest too much but still want a substantially sized cooking area to experiment.
Price at time of publish: $206
Dimensions: 35 x 21 x 50 inches | Total Cooking Area: 1,176 square inches | Weight: 66 pounds
Dyna-Glo Vertical Wide Body Offset Charcoal Smoker
Well-priced for a “starter” offset smoker
Extra-large cooking space
Removable rib racks
Leaks smoke around cooking chamber, fire box and temperature gauge
If you’re looking for a large-capacity smoker that won’t take up half your patio, this vertical model features six cooking grates, which can be adjusted to accommodate all sizes of foods, from a whole turkey to pork tenderloins. This unit boasts an impressive 1,890 square inches of total cooking space. That’s large enough for a family reunion or neighborhood gatherings but for a fraction of the price of some other smokers of this size.
The external firebox allows you to add charcoal without having to open the main compartment, which is convenient if you’re doing a long smoke for foods such as brisket. The metal isn’t super-heavy-duty, so it may not be as easy to regulate cooking temperature in cold weather, since it’s not well-insulated; you’ll just need to be more attentive. The pre-installed sausage hooks and removable rib racks provide cooking versatility and ease of use, especially for novice offset smoker cooks.
Price at time of publish: $340
Dimensions: 34.5 x 20 x 47 inches | Total Cooking Area: 1,890 square inches | Weight: 83 pounds
Oklahoma Joe’s Longhorn Reverse Flow Offset Smoker
Wheels so you can move it easily
Cool touch handles
Paint might blister off exterior after first use
For those who believe that reverse flow is the only way to go for superior flavor and heat consistency throughout the smoking chamber, this consumer favorite is a solid contender. A series of four ceramic-coated baffles move the heat and smoke around efficiently, and the convenient swing-open firebox door allows you to add fuel without having to open the cooking chamber lid. That helps you regulate temperature with a little more ease.
Biggest plus: The smokestack can be moved so you can use the unit as either a reverse flow or a traditional offset smoker. Although most pit bosses have very strong opinions about what technique is “best,” it really gets down to personal preference. This unit will allow you to experiment with both configurations and come to your own conclusions. With some experimentation, you’ll figure out which method you feel works best for the cuts of meat you smoke on a regular basis.
Price at time of publish: $800
Dimensions: 64.6 x 35.5 x 55.5 inches | Total Cooking Area: 1,060 square inches | Weight: 226 pounds
American Gourmet by CharBroil Offset Charcoal Smoker
Can be used as a charcoal grill or offset smoker
Large cooking area
Paint might peel off after several uses
With a cooking area that’s as large as some higher-priced offset smokers, this unit offers plenty of space to smoke food at a more manageable price point. With multiple dampers, you’ll have good flexibility for altering the flow of air to control the temperature. The firebox also has an easy-access clean-out door so you can remove ashes after use. There’s a sizable shelf to hold cooking tools, such as tongs or mops to slather on the sauce.
Another advantage to this smoker is that it can be used as a charcoal grill, too, so it’s an option for those who want cooking flexibility. You’ll have the ability to use both techniques but won’t have to invest in two separate units, nor take up additional space on your patio or deck with a second grill. It’s certainly not as heavy-duty as higher-priced offset smoker models, but it’s a reasonable alternative that allows you to get comfortable with smoking without a huge investment.
Price at time of publish: $249
Dimensions: 60 x 29 x 51 inches | Total Cooking Area: 1,280 square inches | Weight: 102 pounds
Char-Broil Charcoal Offset Smoker
Small footprint if you don’t have a ton of space
Great for beginners
Charcoal use only (no wood)
Paint might peel off after first use
Maybe you don’t have a lot of outdoor space for a full-sized grill, or perhaps it’s just the two of you. This small offset smoker will get you going without a huge outlay. It’s important to note, however, that this is a beginner’s offset grill, not one for anyone who already feels comfortable with this cooking technique. But it is a good unit to learn about offset smoking at a budget price point, and it’s large enough for couples or families with small kids.
With a small footprint, it won’t hog a ton of space on your patio. It also can be moved easily in tight quarters because of its wheels. A small clean-out door allows you to empty ashes from the fire box. Porcelain grates clean up fairly well, and a small side shelf allows you a place to set items such as tongs while you’re working. It’s not fancy, nor will it last a lifetime, but it will get the job done.
Price at time of publish: $130
Dimensions: 48 x 18 x 44 inches | Total Cooking Area: 430 square inches | Weight: 38 pounds
Our top pick is the Texas Original Pits Luling Loaded Single Lid Offset Smoker for its quality construction, optional single or double lid, and 10-year warranty on the cooking chamber. The Oklahoma Joe’s Longhorn Reverse Flow Offset Smoker is a more budget-friendly option, and it can be used as a reverse flow or traditional offset smoker by switching up the smokestack.
What to Look for When Buying an Offset Smoker
Cooking area ranges from roughly 500 square inches to 1,800 square inches for most units. If you’re a small family or don’t plan to do extra-large cuts of meat, stick with the smaller end of the spectrum, because it’s more practical and economical. If this is your first offset cooker, you probably don’t need a huge unit until you figure out whether you actually like all the hands-on time that's required to cook efficiently on these types of smokers.
Measure out the dimensions of each smoker on your patio or deck to see how much space it’s actually going to require; it’s much different reading dimensions versus seeing them marked out in front of you. Some units have a large footprint, and you’ll need to figure out whether it fits, so that a hot grill won’t block walkways or be situated too close to the house to be used safely, for example. Check the weight, too; if you’ll need to move around due to space limitations, it should be light enough to be maneuverable and, preferably, also have wheels.
A smoker always includes a thermometer, because it’s a necessary tool to keep your unit at a recipe’s recommended food-safe temperature throughout the process. (There’s no temperature “control,” per se, because you must learn to adjust the temperature by opening and closing the dampers.)
However, other add-ons to look for that may enhance the joy of cooking on an offset smoker include components such as sausage hooks and rib racks; they’re not essential tools, but they do provide additional flexibility and grilling options.
How do you use an offset smoker?
A traditional offset smoker has a horizontal cooking chamber, a firebox on the side (or “offset”), and a series of dampers to help you regulate air flow, which adjusts the temperature. You’ll use the vents to control the amount of air that flows through the grill. The more air allowed in, the hotter the grill will get, and the faster the fuel will burn.
Although there’s a bit of a learning curve, many cooks say the food smoked in an offset smoker is more moist with a better, nuanced smoky flavor. “It’s a labor of love,” says Paul Sidoriak of Grillingmontana.com. “This is a full-day event. It’s about gathering around the fire and unplugging. It’s not practical for a weeknight meal, but it is a great leisure time activity.” Many dedicated offset smoker users actually call it a sport!
What can you cook in an offset smoker?
Just about anything! “It’s idea for large, muscular or tougher, more affordable cuts of meat,” says Sidoriak. “Anything that will benefit from long, slow roasting, such as pork butts and brisket is ideal for an offset smoker. But it’s versatile enough that you also can throw on some burgers or brats, too.” Other options include poultry, game, seafood such as shrimp, fish, ribs, bacon, and vegetables. Basically, anything you want to imbue with a rich, smoky flavor is fair game.
How does a reverse flow offset smoker work?
Reverse flow smokers are engineered so that the heat and smoke flow from the firebox to the far end of the smoke chamber underneath the food, then back across the food, then out the chimney on the firebox side. (Traditional offset cookers have the exhaust on the opposite side of the firebox.) Serious cooks say that this longer period of contact of the smoke with the food imbues more flavor and makes food juicier, and that the design provides a more consistent temperature across the smoke chamber. But it’s basically a matter of personal preference and what cooking style you enjoy, says Sidoriak.
How do you cold smoke in an offset smoker?
Cold smoking is a process through which smoke is used to flavor food, not cook it. Foods are cold smoked for a long period of time (12 to 14 hours) over a fire that’s typically less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Generally, it’s not recommended for cooking, because foods are held at a dangerous temperature for so long that the inherent food safety risk isn’t worth it, says Sidoriak.
However, some foods, such as cured meats or cheeses, can be cold-smoked safely. For example, with cheeses, keep your smoker at the lowest temperature possible, surround the cheese with ice, and place it far away from the heat source. It should take a few hours to imbue flavor, then another few days in the fridge to further enhance the taste. Or you can try a cold smoke generator attachment that converts your hot smoker for cold smoking, or handheld kitchen gadgets that allow you to add smoke flavor to food.
How do you season a new offset smoker?
This step is absolutely non-negotiable. “Think of it as if you’re seasoning a cast iron pan,” says Sidoriak. “You want to burn off all the factory oils, paint, and welding materials that are inside the unit and create a patina before you start cooking food. A smoker that’s been properly seasoned will provide a nice, non-stick surface.” If you skip this step, ash from these byproducts of the manufacturing process will drop down on top of your food, which isn’t too appetizing.
Read your manufacturer’s instructions (search your model online if you don’t have a manual), and follow their steps. But generally, you’ll wipe down all internal surfaces, including the racks and walls and inside the lid, with a light coating of a high-smoke-point oil, such as canola, peanut, or grapeseed. Treat all the surfaces of the cooking chamber and the racks with an even coat. (Clean up drips.) Burn your smoker at a low temperature for about two to three hours. Let it cool, and clean out the chips and charcoal. Now you’re ready to go!
How much charcoal or wood do you need in an offset smoker?
Efficiency of the unit will vary greatly, depending on the build quality and size of the smoker, says Sidoriak. Follow your manufacturer’s recommendations (search your model online if you don’t have a manual), but in general, you’ll want to create a nice bed of coals in your firebox, which typically requires four to six pounds of charcoal to get started. Adjust and add fuel as needed, based on the current outdoor temperature, wind, and humidity levels, which all affect how quickly fuel is consumed.
How do you regulate temperature in an offset smoker?
You modify air flow to control the temperature, and the goal is to manage it so that the fire smolders and burns longer to create the smoke, says Sidoriak. The more air you allow into the chamber, the more quickly and hotter the fuel will burn. When you restrict air, the fuel burns off more slowly, and the temperature cools down. Designs vary, but generally, the intake vent, which brings air into the unit, is near the firebox, while the top vent or smokestack is your exhaust.
“You’ll need to adjust your dampers frequently, because this isn’t a passive activity. You’ll have to work at it,” says Sidoriak. It may take a while to catch on to the nuances of your smoker, but you’ll learn in time, and it’s plenty fun as you learn!
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
This roundup was written by Arricca SanSone, who has been grilling since she owned her first tiny hibachi in college. She’ll grill anything, but her favorite food to grill is homemade pizza, and her favorite thing to smoke is poultry. Arricca is a health and lifestyle writer for Prevention, Country Living, Veranda, House Beautiful, PureWow, and many others
- Paul Sidoriak, a writer/grill expert of GrillingMontana
Email, Twitter, Instagram, Rss. How offset smokers became the de facto cooking instrument of texas pitmasters. Texas Monthly. Published August 5, 2022. Accessed December 5, 2022. https://www.texasmonthly.com/bbq/history-offset-smokers-barbecue/