Offset smokers can be an efficient, easy-to-use grilling tool essential for any outdoor occasion; but how do you know which one is best for your needs?
Whether you consider yourself “just an ordinary grill dad” or a top-of-the-line grilling professional looking for a high-quality appliance to clinch that next competition win, there is one clear winner for the title of 2019’s Best Offset Smoker.
What You Need to Know about Offset Smokers
If you’re not yet familiar with the art of smoking the perfect meat, then the next few tips should get you well on the way to fixing that problem!
Why a Few Grilling Aficionados Dislike the Offset Smoker
While offset smokers can be a great tool for grill masters of all skill levels, not everybody loves them as much as the next guy.
Getting an even, controlled burn out of the wood or coals can prove challenging, especially for beginners.
Whether you use too much wood, too few coals, or they’re simply not put in the best locations in the barrel, your dream of smoking gorgeous, apple-hickory ribs might turn into a nightmare of charred, rock-like racks.
Depending on the size and structure of your smoker, controlling the oxidation level of the fire in the smoker can be somewhat of a daunting task.
If the smoke has poor ventilation, your smoke can vary from too white (if not enough oxygen) to too black (if too much oxygen). Either way, the meat will be ruined.
Even if the smoker were constructed with an ingenious ventilation design, beginners might find themselves struggling to get over the steep learning curve of knowing when to increase or decrease oxygen levels to get that perfect, translucent smoke.
Advantages of an Offset Smoker
Despite these setbacks, offset smokers come with plentiful advantages that more than outweigh the costs.
Optimize Storage Space by Using Your Offset Smoker as a Grill
One of the more obvious advantages over standalone smokers is that offset smokers can help better manage limited storage space. Instead of having to store a smoker and a grill in the same one-car garage, an offset smoker can be used for either grilling or smoking, saving half the space.
Operating an offset smoker only costs as much as the wood, coals, and meat, meaning a full day’s worth of smoking might only cost you a few bucks.
Offset Smokers are Incredibly Long-Lasting
Given proper maintenance and frequent cleanings, even a mediocre offset smoker should be able to last you the rest of your life, adding to the fantastically low life-time costs of operating these appliances.
How to Choose the Best Offset Smoker
With all this talk about costs and benefits, setbacks and advantages, you might be interested in getting your hands on an offset smoker of your own, but how do you choose the best one for you? Simple!
The size of the firebox can limit the fuel you use for smoking. If you only want to use chips now, that’s fine, but it might be a good idea to get a smoker with a firebox large enough to fit logs in case you decide to go down that road in the future. It’s always good to have the option.
Cooking Area Size
Make sure that your cooking barrel is large enough to handle the volume of meat for which you’re using it. A large body makes for a large cooking volume and shorter large-volume cooking times.
Ease of Maintenance
Depending on where the steel racks are positioned inside the body of the smoker and whether or not they’re removable, you might find yourself in the nasty situation of struggling to get your brushes into all the nooks and crannies of your smoker.
Not all offset smokers are the same. Some come with additional steel supports for you to hang tools, prep meats, etcetera. Always make certain that the smoker has what best suits your individual needs before putting down your hard-earned cash.
Precautions to Take Before Using an Offset Smoker
While offset smokers are great for new grill masters to master their grilling skills, there are a few key precautions to take to ensure that everything is done safely and correctly.
Light Your Coals in a Starter Chimney
Trying to get your coals to light and stay lit directly inside your firebox can be considerably difficult for even the most well-seasoned grillers. Instead, take a couple wax cubes, light them under your starter chimney, and give it 20-30 minutes for your coals to catch.
Then you’ll put fresh coals on one side of your firebox, fill the other side with the ready coals, and let them burn across for an even, regulated burn.
Use Dry Wood
If you have to soak kebab skewers to keep them from burning, why would you soak your high-quality apple-wood when you want it to burn? Wet wood in a smoker tends to be a generally bad idea as it produces puffy, white smoke that can ruin your meat.
Looking for a gas smoker instead? Read our other roundup review of the Best Propane Smoker on the market.
The Best Way to Use an Offset Smoker
Once you’ve got your coals set up and ready in your firebox you can prep your wood. Make sure to keep a close eye on your firebox’s temperature throughout the entire smoking process.
After the firebox gets to the desired temperature (usually about 250 degrees, give or take a few), set the dry wood inside near the starter coals. Leave the firebox hatch open long enough for the wood to catch before closing it. This helps prevent any white smoke from the fire not having enough oxygen to burn cleanly.
Now comes the fun part! Add the meat and start smoking. Make sure to monitor both the firebox’s air intake as well as the smoker’s primary chimney. Mostly clear, translucent smoke is ideal for smoking meats, but this can’t be sustained if the firebox doesn’t stay properly ventilated.
When you’re done smoking, make sure to safely dispose of the remaining hot coals and burning wood. Once your smoker has cooled down to a safe temperature, get in there and clean it top to bottom to ensure a safe and clean smoking experience next time.
Looking for a propane smoker instead? Read our other article on the Best Propane Smokers.
Top 5 Offset Smokers on the Market Today
- Affordable: This smoker provides decent value at an affordable price.
- Large Cooking Area: With 477 square inches of cooking space, this smoker can put out a significant amount of meat in a relatively short period of time.
- Well-Ventilated Firebox: The firebox comes in a complex three-piece design that allows for an easier time controlling burn and ventilation.
- Easy to Clean: Once you’ve scraped the burnt remnants of wood and coal off of the firebox’s grate, you can easily sweep it out the clean-out door for an easy clean.
- Requires Assembly: If you’re just starting out or you don’t know your way around the mechanics of offset smoker appliances, I would not suggest this smoker. It comes with the option for expert assembly, but that almost doubles the price.
- Limited Prep and Storage Space: I’ve found prep space to be one of the most important factors determining how successfully I’m able to smoke. Unfortunately, this smoker only comes with one small shelf on the right-hand side for prepping. If you’re like me, this means you’ll need to bring over an additional surface such as a portable table in order to have adequate prepping space.
- Affordable: This is the most affordable option out of all five that I’ve listed in this article.
- Versatile Firebox: This smoker’s firebox comes with a deep barrel for up to five pounds of charcoal or wood and includes a lifting mechanism for adjusting the height and heat of the cooking area. Being able to get more heat out of fewer coals has been a very helpful tool for me when smoking on a budget.
- Sub-Par Prepping Space: This smoker has a steel mesh shelf that runs across the front of the entirety of the cooking area; however, the holes in the mesh are big enough that smaller cuts might fall right through. I’ve specifically had difficulty keeping kebab cuts on a shelf like this without them winding up in the dirt by my feet.
- Requires Assembly: While assembly isn’t necessarily a con, the price of assembly for this grill is just about half of the price of the grill itself.
- Porcelain-Enameled Steel Cooking Grates: Porcelain is not as durable as cast-iron but it is much more chip-resistant, meaning your competition ribs will most likely not have any metallic flakes on them. This porcelain-enameled steel is also easier to clean than simple steel or porcelain cooking grates.
- Easy to Clean: The removable charcoal grate and ashpan on the offset make it much easier to clean and empty out the firebox than standard single-body designs while also giving you an easier access to fuel. This is a great feature to have if your cooking temperature is dropping too quickly and you need to get more coals on as soon as possible.
- Precarious Locks on the Prepping Space: Although this smoker comes with a decent steel mesh prepping space, the only thing holding the space upright is a couple of small notches designed to rely on gravity. A single bump and the prepping space could collapse back down into its portable setting, dropping all of your meat into the dirt.
- Huge Cooking Space: In the primary body alone, there are 739 square inches of cooking space. When converting the offset firebox into a secondary cooking space, that brings the total cooking are up to 1,014 square inches.
- Plenty of Prepping Space: A large shelf spans the front of the primary cooking space, giving you around four full feet prepping space.
- Firebox Ash Drawer Doesn’t help with Refueling: Many smokers in this price range tend to have drawers on the firebox that not only allow easy cleaning of the ash but also easy access to the fuel. Unfortunately, this smoker lacks that functionality.
- Unique Aesthetic Design: This smoker looks unlike many others of its kind, housing multiple different layers of primary cooking space in a visually pleasing silo style.
- Sturdy Construction: The designers incorporated heavy-gauge steel into the majority of the body of both the grill and the firebox.
- Massive Cooking Space: The combined cooking space between the firebox and the main body is 1,382 square inches.
- Detailed Temperature Gauge: The built-in thermometer comes with additional color-coded zones to help you recognize ideal smoking, barbecuing, and grilling temperatures.
- Not Very Affordable: This smoker and grill combo is significantly less affordable than other top options. In the case of the Char-Broil Offset Smoker, 30’, it can sometimes cost up to three times as much.
In conclusion, there are many factors that inform the selection process of the “best offset smoker of 2019.” Whether it’s the firebox, the primary body, or the prep space, there’s always something that might catch the eye, and not always in the best possible way.
Personally, I’d have to say that the Dyna-Glo Signature Series DGSS1382VCS-D Heavy Duty Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker and Grill is my favorite and the winner of this competition, hands down.
Not only does this model satisfy all the necessities that a good grill and offset smoker combo should but it also has the largest cooking space, has the most additional functions, and also has the sturdiest construction materials out of any on this list.
If you’re going to buy an offset smoker, which has the potential to last a lifetime if you practice proper maintenance techniques, then why not spend a little extra to make sure that you have as great grilling and smoking experiences as you possibly can?
Of course, there are plenty of offset smokers on the market and everybody has different needs and preferences when it comes to outdoor cooking. As long as you practice the tips and tricks mentioned in this article, you’ll be certain to find your own personal favorite smoker.