Find the Best Offset Smoker – Standard, Vertical, and Reverse Flow Models Reviewed

To properly smoke meats, you need to maintain constant low cooking temperatures for hours at a time. While you can get by with most backyard grills, smokers are designed to make the job easy.

But here’s the catch — most things you buy to grill things hot and fast aren’t very good at cooking low and slow. And appliances built for low and slow, they aren’t great for hot and fast.

What’s the solution?

Well, an offset smoker is about as versatile as backyard barbecues get.

You might believe that these rustic-looking grills are only for the most dedicated of souls, but their ability to do just about anything with delicious results makes them wonderful companions for outdoor cooking.

Our recommendations for Best Offset Smokers:

All About Offset Smokers

How Do Offset Smokers Work?

Rather than keep your fuel directly under the food, as in a traditional grill, offset smokers use a smaller firebox off to one side. This setup makes them look like a large barrel grill with a second baby grill attached at the hip.

The two grill bodies are designed with dampers to encourage airflow through the firebox and out through a side chimney. They are sometimes called barrel smokers or horizontal smokers due to their appearance.

Most traditional offset smokers are fired with charcoal and wood chips. The side firebox means that you can load it up, then use the dampers to control your cooking temperatures. Whereas standard grills require careful tending and monitoring, smokers are much better about maintaining their temperatures.

Here is a great video that explains the anatomy of offset smokers and how they work:

Why Should You Get an Offset Smoker?

Offset smokers are the choice of many pro-level pitmasters.

Here are a few good reasons to get one:

Versatile

Maybe the best thing going for offset smokers is that you can grill or smoke. You see, the main cooking chamber is itself a grill.

So, if you’re going to cook up a bunch of burgers, load up the coals under the big grate. On that same note, most of the smaller fireboxes are designed with grates that can be used as small cooking areas. They make great sear stations, or if you’re only cooking a few small items.

Easy to Use

There’s not much to the offset smoker, but the beauty of the design is in its simplicity. Where regular grills require careful monitoring and babying when trying to smoke something, the offset smoker is pretty close to set-it-and-forget-it.

It does take a little time to learn how to set up the smoker and exactly how much and what types of fuels to add. But once you’ve got it, it’s easy enough to set up that you’ll start smoking any day of the week.

Large Cooking Space

Offset smokers typically rate their cooking area based on both the primary grate and the smaller space in the side firebox. Keep this in mind when shopping, because you won’t often use the two simultaneously.

Regardless, these are pretty big grills that can smoke nearly anything you want them to.

Durable and Easy to Maintain

Grills range in quality greatly, so you need to do a little shopping around. But generally, there’s nothing complicated or delicate about an offset smoker. They’re robust and sturdy, and if properly cared for, they should last a generation or two.

Convenient to Add More Fuel

The offset firebox means you can lift the lid and check the fuel level without even opening the main cooking area’s cover. That’s good news because it helps you maintain constant temperatures.

The side box is easy to load with fuel, too, since most of the time, that’s the only thing in there. Most of them even have easy access side panels that make an easy job even easier.

Possible Disadvantages of Offset Smokers

Offset smokers aren’t for everyone. They are usually traditional-style charcoal grills, with few frills or electronic gizmos. They’re big and heavy, too. The biggest ones on our list weigh over 200 pounds!

Such a big grill in your backyard means you’re going to need to have space for it and the desire to put up with its old-world ways.

Hate the work of grilling on charcoal and prefer gas grills?

You might be better off with an electric smoker or a pellet grill in the end. The best smoker is the one you’ll use the most, so don’t focus too much on getting the biggest or the most traditional one.

Like all charcoal appliances, offset smokers require some learning before you’re going to win any awards. So if you are looking for the best smoker for beginners, this might not be your first choice.

Yes, they are simple and easy to use, but perfecting your skill of cooking different types of meats takes some time. They have quirks that you need to figure out, and the only way to do that is by learning the ropes the hard way.

Best Offset Smokers Reviewed

Best Offset Smoker Under $1000: Oklahoma Joe’s Longhorn Reverse Flow Smoker

The Longhorn is a well-designed and durable smoker that provides excellent value for money. It features a moveable smokestack, which allows you to set up the grill for maximum versatility. It can work as a reverse flow smoker, a standard offset smoker, or a grill.

Oklahoma Joe's Longhorn Reverse Flow Smoker

Specifications:

  • Cooking Area: 1,060 sq.in (751 primary / 309 secondary)
  • Weight: 226 lbs
  • Build Materials: Painted steel, stainless steel, and porcelain-coated wire (grates)
  • Dimensions: 64.3″ x 35.5″ x 55.5″ (W x D x H)
  • Warranty: 2 years

Traditional Quality and Dependability

So you want to make some genuine Texas barbecue, and you’re looking for the smoker to do it. Look no further than the Oklahoma Joe, which is as traditional as they get. It is made of the heaviest steel you’ll find, and everything is metal down to the wagon-style wheels.

Size

Big enough to feed a crowd, the Longhorn model is supersized for any backyard event. Even the firebox is enormous, which means it can hold plenty of fuel for long smokes. The main cooking rack measures 40-by-19 inches, large enough to hold six eight-pound pork shoulders.

Reverse Flow

A reverse flow offset smoker provides much more even heating over the entire cooking area than a regular offset firebox provides. On a reverse flow, the offset firebox empties into a lower air chamber, regulating the heat under the entire cooking grate. Air then flows over the food, delivering very consistent temperatures to everything on the rack.

What We Love

  • Large cooking area
  • Great overall quality
  • Reverse flow provides even heat
  • Sturdy and durable construction
  • Moveable smokestack for more versatility

What We Don’t

  • The paint on the firebox peels off

Best Offset Smoker Under $500: Char-Griller Smokin Pro

Char-Griller Smokin Pro is a versatile offset smoker and grill with a large-enough cooking area and durable construction. This smoker has all the necessary features for cooking tasty Texas-style barbecue and it’s very affordable too.

Char-Griller Smokin Pro Charcoal Grill with Side Fire Box

Specifications:

  • Cooking Area: 830 sq.in (580 primary / 250 secondary)
  • Weight: 117.5 lbs
  • Build Materials: Powder-coated steel and cast iron (grates)
  • Dimensions: 62″ x 29″ x 50″ (W x D x H)
  • Warranty: 5 years

Storage and Versatility

The Smokin Pro is a value-packed offset smoker. It’s neither as beefy nor as large as the Oklahoma Joe, but it’s got a great mix of features that make it extremely useable for the backyard pitmaster.

There are side and front prep shelves to give you a little more space, as well as a lower storage rack. The “Easy Dump” ashtray makes cleanups a breeze.

Heavy-Duty Grates

The Char-Griller features heavy-duty cast-iron grates. They retain heat well and are quite simply one of the best features you can have on a grill.

Nearly indestructible, the best thing about cast iron is that they are heavy enough to help distribute heat. If you plan to do direct or indirect barbecuing in your smoker, the cast iron grates will be great.

The insulation on this unit is not very tights, so temperature control in windy conditions can be hard. But there is an easy fix to this: just apply some silicone to the seams on the inside of the grill.

What We Love

  • Great value for money
  • Made with heavy-duty steel
  • Easy to clean
  • Durable cast-iron grates
  • Comes with a 5-year warranty

What We Don’t

  • Could have a better insulation (can be fixed with silicone)

Best Premium Option: KBQ C-60 Smoker Pit

If you are looking for an award-winning smoker that cooks amazing barbecue and don’t mind paying a bit more, then here it is. The KBQ C-60 Smoker Pit is designed by veteran smoker Bill Karau and is protected by several US Patents related to its unique firebox, control box, and cook box technology.

KBQ C-60 Smoker Pit

Specifications:

  • Cooking Area: approx. 700 sq.in (on 4 levels)
  • Weight: 92 lbs
  • Build Materials: Stainless steel
  • Dimensions: 19.29″ x 25.59″ x 41.73″ (W x D x H)
  • Warranty: 2 years

Vertical Offset Smoker

The KBQ Pit is a vertical offset smoker, which looks very different from the traditional designs on our list. KBQ uses “Inverted Flame” technology, with the firebox mounted on top of the smoker cabinet.

The very complex firebox that KBQ has designed draws smoke from below, pulling it through the hot coals with lots of oxygen. It offers complete control over the combustion process and allows you to nail that thin blue smoke that the pro pit bosses so covet.

Better Control and Lower Cooking Times

The smokebox’s lower outlet releases thin blue smoke for lighter and sweeter flavors used in long-cooking recipes. The upper outlet puts out much heavier, smokier flavors for chicken or sausage.

Because of the fantastic control you have over the KBQ Pit airflow, cooking times are usually 20 to 25 percent lower than in comparable offset smokers.

Stainless Steel Quality Construction

All materials are made with laser-cut stainless steel for precise fit-and-finish and a lifetime of service. The central 60-pound capacity cookbook is made with heavy 18-gauge 430 stainless steel.

What We Love

  • Unique design makes smoking easier
  • Constructed with durable stainless steel
  • Easy to use and maintain
  • 60-lb cooking capacity
  • Consistently produces amazingly tasty barbecue

What We Don’t

  • Quite pricey

Best Pellet Smoker: Z Grills 450A Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker

The Z Grills 450A offset smoker and grill is digitally controlled, making it very easy to use. It has an auger that feeds pellets into the burn chamber automatically. If you want to have a “set-it-and-forget-it” offset smoker then this is our top pick.

Z GRILLS 450A Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker

Specifications:

  • Cooking Area: 452 sq.in
  • Weight: 84 lbs
  • Build Materials: Stainless steel and porcelain-coated steel
  • Dimensions: 45″ x 28″ x 49″ (W x D x H)
  • Warranty: 3 years

Easy to Use

Pellet grills haven’t been around very long, but they are catching on quickly. They offer an incredible mix of ease of use and flavorful results that is hard to discount.

The beauty of this pellet grill lies in its ability to hold a programmed temperature, almost like a modern smart oven. All you have to do is tell it the temperature you want to smoke or grill at, and the unit feeds enough fuel to make the fire hot enough. Then, all you have to do is make sure there are pellets in the hopper to burn.

Great Flavors

When smoking, it is the hardwoods that make the flavors you’re looking for. The fuel pellets are made of those hardwoods, so a single consumable fuel source does everything you need. It makes the heat, the smoke, and the flavor.

And now that pellet grills have caught on, most big-box stores carry pellets in an assortment of wood types.

What We Love

  • Easy temperature control
  • You can start it with one push of a button
  • Well-designed pellet hopper
  • Heavy-duty steel construction
  • Comes with a protective cover
  • Z Grills has great customer service

What We Don’t

  • The legs could be more sturdy

Affordable Vertical Offset Smoker: Dyna-Glo Signature Series Offset Smoker

Dyna-Glo Signature Series offset smoker doesn’t take too much space but has a huge cooking capacity. This affordable vertical smoker also comes with a large firebox that can be used as a grill.

Dyna-Glo Signature Series DGSS1382VCS-D Heavy-Duty Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker & Grill

Specifications:

  • Cooking Area: 1,382 sq.in (on 5 levels)
  • Weight: 124.3 lbs
  • Build Materials: Painted steel and chrome-plated steel (grates)
  • Dimensions: 45.5″ x 24.9″ x 58.8″ (W x D x H)
  • Warranty: 3 years

Vertical Design

Vertical offset smokers manage to squeeze a lot of cooking space into a small footprint.

There’s a tall smoking cabinet with an offset firebox near the bottom. The tall cabinet allows for the hanging of meats or the arrangement of lots of small items on multiple racks.

Versatility

When you first look at this smoker, you might think it’s as single-purpose as regular cabinet smokers. But the Dyna-Glo Vertical Offset Smoker is surprisingly versatile.

The smoker has a large firebox that can be used as a grill, after all. And the tall vertical design means that it can hold items that many horizontal smokers cannot, all while having superior heat distribution.

What We Love

  • Tall smoking cabinet with huge capacity
  • The large firebox can be used as a grill
  • Affordable
  • Adding fuel while cooking is easy
  • Comes with pre-installed sausage hooks

What We Don’t

  • Removing the ashes while cooking is a bit tricky
  • Might need some additional insulation for better temperature control

Great Value for the Money: Oklahoma Joes Highland Offset Smoker

The Highland is basically a smaller and more affordable version of Oklahoma Joe’s Longhorn smoker reviewed earlier in this guide. This is a great entry-level smoker that is affordable but doesn’t have the reverse flow function.

Oklahoma Joes Highland Offset Smoker

Specifications:

  • Cooking Area: 900 sq.in (619 primary / 281 secondary)
  • Weight: 178 lbs
  • Build Materials: Painted steel, stainless steel, and porcelain-coated wire (grates)
  • Dimensions: 57″ x 33.5″ x 53″ (W x D x H)
  • Warranty: 2 years

Classic Old-World Smoker

There’s no denying that one of the appeals of the Oklahoma Joe grills is that they look like you stole them off a Texas ranch at gunpoint. Their raw, heavily-welded steel designs look like something your cowboy grandad built on the farm and handed down to you to hand down to your kids.

Small Size, Big Features

The Highland is a smaller version of the Longhorn, built for small families or typical patio operations. This version is a standard offset design, but for about a hundred bucks more, you can get it in as a reverse flow design like the Longhorn.

What We Love

  • Great quality and affordable
  • Large cooking capacity
  • Durable built
  • Well-designed dampers for temperature control

What We Don’t

  • Might need some extra insulation
  • The paint on the firebox tends to peel off

Budget Pick: Royal Gourmet 30″ BBQ Grill and Offset Smoker

The Royal Gourmet smoker is an excellent choice when you want to try cooking with an offset smoker without spending too much money. This smoker is very budget friendly and yet it provides all the features you need for cooking tasty barbecue.

Royal Gourmet 30" BBQ Grill and Offset Smoker

Specifications:

  • Cooking Area: 800 sq.in (437 primary + 179 warming rack / 183 secondary)
  • Weight: 54.2 lbs
  • Build Materials: Painted steel and porcelain-coated wire (grates)
  • Dimensions: 55.1″ x 27.2″ x 48.4″ (W x D x H)
  • Warranty: 1 year

Inexpensive Starter Grill

Weighing less than a third of a comparable sized Oklahoma Joe, the Royal Gourmet isn’t in the same class at all.

But it’s a completely functional smoker and grill with everything you need and nothing you don’t. It might be a little trickier to manage temperatures due to its thin construction and lightweight design, but it will get the job done.

What We Love

  • Very affordable
  • Simple and functional design
  • Big-enough cooking area
  • Easy to move around

What We Don’t

  • Could be more sturdy and durable
  • Takes some effort to keep the temperature steady

How to Choose the Right Offset Smoker

We have reviewed the best offset smokers out there in this guide, but how to choose the right one for you?

Here some things to consider before making the decision:

Size and Portability

Probably the most critical factor in picking the perfect offset smoker is finding one that has the right combination of cooking capacity and physical dimensions.

There are barrel smokers out there used by champion pitmasters and restaurants that could take over your whole backyard. Don’t get one that’s too big, or lighting it up for a weeknight smoke won’t be worthwhile.

Another factor to consider is portability. Many of these smokers have castering or wagon wheels to be rolled into the garage when not in use. Make sure that it fits where you need it and that it can roll where you need it to roll.

Types of Offset Smokers

Offset smokers come in different types and here are the 3 main aspects to consider:

  • Horizontal or Vertical: The design of the smoker refers to the direction of air movement. In a horizontal smoker, hot air from the firebox moves horizontally into the cooking chamber and then out through the chimney. A vertical smoker works the same as a horizontal one, but the fuel is under or above the cooking chamber. A vertical smoker can have a large cooking capacity without taking too much space in your backyard. Both designs use dampers to control the cooking temperature.
  • Fuels – Charcoal or Pellet: Charcoal is the traditional fuel of pitmasters everywhere, but remember that it is the wood chips that make the smoke, not the charcoal. Pellet smokers are a newer design that uses only hardwood pellets as fuel. The neat thing about pellet smokers is that they are electronically controlled. A thermostat controls how many pellets are fed into the burner over a period of time, so all you have to do is set the cooking temperature you want and keep the pellet pile full.
  • Reverse Flow or Traditional: Reverse flow smokers look like standard horizontal smokers, but they allow the air to flow both ways through the cooking chamber. It’s a more complex design, which also leads to more uniform heating. Standard smokers will have more hot areas and perhaps trickier cooking temperature zones.

Quality

The final consideration is quality. Much like charcoal kettle grills, you can get identical-looking grills that are very different from one another.

The best offset smokers are made from heavy-gauge metal that is welded together and highly sturdy. It’s also very heavy. There are plenty of lightweight competitors with cheap components and thin metal. The two might look the same, but one will last a lot longer than the other. You do get what you pay for.

Extra Features

There are lots of features to look for in these smokers, but the designs are very traditional. Cooking and prep racks are nice, as are built-in thermometers and wheels. Check out how easy they are to clean. Does it have a removable ash pan?

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