How to Use an Offset Smoker

How to Use an Offset Smoker

Are you wondering how to best use an offset smoker? Some people call these kinds of smokers sticker burners, offset barrel smokers or horizontal smokers. Either way, it’s an offset smoker that most people see in their minds when they use these various terms.

There is actually a lot to know when you want to use an offset smoker. That’s why we’ve provided you the following step-by-step guide. Make sure to check out the best offset smokers after you’re done learning the most effective ways to use one.

How do Offset Smokers Work?

An offset smoker has a big chamber that looks a bit like a metal box or oil drum. Food is placed on it in order to cook. There is a smaller chamber where the fire is created. This smaller chamber is typically located at the back of or to the side of the main chamber and is often called the firebox.

Heat travels from the firebox chamber into the main chamber in order to cook the food. Temperature is controlled by a vent and there is a chimney that opens and closes.

Getting the Fire Started

Charcoal is the best way to get your offset smoker started. Use a chimney starter to light the coals and dump them from the chimney into the far end of the firebox. This will make sure you don’t need to keep reaching over them to tend to the fire.

Now it’s time to add the wood. Use logs that are approximately the size of a soda can. Place two wood pieces into the firebox without placing them on the coals so that they begin to heat up.

Move the wood pieces on top of the coals after they’ve dried out and become hot. Put another log into the firebox as you wait for the fire to reach the correct temperature.

Always put a new log into the firebox to get heated each time you roll another log onto the fire. This will keep everything running smoothly without causing white smoke.

The vents need to stay open all the way as you’re waiting for the cooking chamber to reach temperature. Keep the door on the firebox cracked open a bit, as well.

Bringing the Offset Smoker to Temperature

Use a smoker thermometer so there’s no question about getting to the correct temperature. Crack the chimney cap so it’s open halfway and open the vents so they are positioned to about one-third open after you reach temperature.

Keep checking the temperature as you cook because the outside temperature, your wood, and even the wind might change the temperature. Check the fire, too. Roll a new log in if the current log has burned out.

Managing the Fire

It will take time and experience to become good at offset smoker fire management. Here are tips to consider:

  • Inspect the fire pit to know whether a new log is needed every 45 minutes to an hour
  • Check smoke as it comes out the chimney and inspects the temperature every 15 to 20 minutes so you spot issues immediately
  • Place more wood on the fire if the temperature begins going down
  • It’s possible that you’ll need to open the firebox door a bit if you’ve just added a log to bring it back to temperature
  • Check for firebox issues if white smoke is coming out the chimney

Add Meat After Preheating

Don’t add your meat until after you’ve gotten the cooking chamber to the correct temperature. An offset smoker might smoke more than needed as it’s being brought to temperature. The early smoke that’s released in these earlier moments isn’t the type of smoke you want flavoring your food.

Keep the Lid Closed

Avoid opening the firebox and cooking chamber door too often. You need to open the doors when checking the meat or adding wood, of course.

Try to keep from opening them needlessly, however. It’s better to watch the smoke coming from the chimney or to use the thermometer as opposed to opening the doors.

Keep the Meat Rotated

Temperatures can differ from one end of your cooker to the other. This necessitates the need to rotate the meat on a consistent basis. Do this even if you’re only cooking one piece of meat. You’ll cook the meat unevenly if you don’t pay close attention to this issue.

Pay Attention to Weather

Weather affects a smoker’s temperature. If it’s windy, wet or cold outside, you need to pay attention to whether you have enough wood or charcoal so that you offset these weather conditions.

Use a Water Pan

You can make use of a water pan by adding an additional rack in the fire pit right above the fire itself. Place a full tray of water on the rack. The water pan will:

  • Add moisture
  • Regulate temperature
  • Improve the flavor of the meat

Practice Using Your Offset Cooker

Know that you will need to give this process a few practice runs. You might want to use cheap cuts for the first few times if you don’t want to chance wasting good meat. Don’t become disappointed if you don’t achieve great results in the beginning. This is like anything in life. You’ll get better with time.

Final Thoughts

Well, you shouldn’t be asking these questions anymore:

  • What are offset smokers?
  • How do offset smokers work?

You’ve learned how to use an offset smoker. You know enough to get started on your new journey of backyard fun and good eating. Your next step is to search the various offset smokers on the market and decide on which one best fits your needs. Then, simply get started, have patience as you practice cooking this way and enjoy it!

This content is sponsored by Noman Khatri.

Photo: Shutterstock

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