How to Use an Offset Smoker

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Smoker with an offset barrel. Using a stick burner. Vertical smoker.

This is the sort of smoker who dominates the competitive circuit, whatever you call them. And, without a doubt, this is what most people envision when they think of a smoker.

Unlike electric, gas, or even charcoal smokers, there is a lot more to learn before you can start making your own excellent barbeque.

Continue reading for a step-by-step instruction to utilizing your offset smoker. From starting it up to fire management advice and more.

Are you still looking? See our guide to the best offset smokers for more information.

How Offset Smokers Work

How to Use an Offset Smoker

Offset smokers are made up of a big chamber that resembles an oil drum or a metal box. This is where you put the food that will be cooked.

The fire is created in a smaller room that is normally off to the side of the main chamber, a bit lower. It is sometimes placed towards the rear of the main cooking chamber.

To cook and flavor the meal, heat and smoke from the fire box pass into the main cooking chamber.

A chimney emerges from the cooking chamber, often at the far end away from the fire box.

A vent on the side of the fire box controls the temperature, and the chimney may also be opened and closed.

If you’re reading this article, I’m assuming you’ve already bought one, but if you’re still looking, this page offers some useful information on aspects to consider before purchasing an offsetsmoker.

Step By Step Guide to Using an Offset Smoker

How to Use an Offset Smoker

Using an offset smoker is not a one-and-done situation. This is the most difficult and time-consuming sort of smoker to master.

But don’t let it deter you. We’ve broken down the process of using one of these smokers into simple, easy-to-follow stages.

There are also tons of wonderful materials on You Tube that will walk you through the procedure. This video from All Things BBQ was quite beneficial to us.

Starting the Fire

  1. This may come as a surprise, but charcoal is the finest method to light your offset smoker. When the coals are sufficiently hot, add the wood.
  2. Assuming your offset smoker does not have any sophisticated gas lighting devices, the easiest method to fire your coals is using a chimney starter.
  3. Once the coals are ignited, throw them into the fire box from the chimney smoker. Dump them on the far side of the fire box so you don’t have to continually reaching over the fire to tend to it.
  4. Put a few pieces of the wood you want to smoke in the fire box. Don’t put them straight on the coals just yet. For the time being, we are just heating the wood. The optimal log size is around the size of a soft drink can.
  5. Place the logs on top of the coals after they have been roasted and dried. We’re now waiting for the fire to heat up.
  6. While you’re waiting for this, put another wood in the firebox to warm up. Place another log in the fire box to heat up every time you roll a fresh log on the fire. These heated logs will catch fire much faster and will not emit white smoke, allowing your stove to operate more smoothly.

While you’re waiting for the cooking chamber to heat up, keep the vents completely open and the firebox door cracked open.

Getting the Temperature Right

A decent smoker thermometer is essential unless you have previously calibrated your smoker and know the built-in thermometer is dependable (unlikely).

Set up a probe at the grate level, directly where your meat will be cooked.

  1. When you’ve achieved the required temperature, open the vents on the side of the firebox and adjust the chimney cap to be open.
  2. Throughout the cook, you will need to monitor the temperature and adjust the vents since elements like as the wood, outside temperature, and wind may all alter the temperature.
  3. You should check in on the fire again at this point. If the log you were heating has gone to coals, roll it in and lay another log in to heat.
  4. Resist the impulse to make drastic changes to your vents all at once. To keep your temperature under control, make little modifications gradually.

Fire Management

It takes practice to regulate the fire in an offset smoker. It is critical to get acquainted with the peculiarities of your particular smoker.

Also, keep in mind that the weather may have a significant impact on everything.

This T-ROY Cooks video is jam-packed with useful hints. If you don’t have 20 minutes to see the full movie, I’ve simplified the important elements below.

  1. Although it may vary from smoker to smoker, you should check the fire pit every 45 minutes to an hour to add additional logs.
  2. You should also monitor the temperature and smoke coming out of the chimney every 15 or 20 minutes (without opening the fire pit door) to spot any issues early. If white smoke is flowing out of the chimney, there might be a problem with the firebox.
  3. If the temperature begins to fall, it is time to add some additional wood to the fire.
  4. If your temperature has decreased and you add a fresh log, you may need to keep the firebox door open a crack for a few minutes to help bring it back up.
  5. The temperature of the cooking chamber may vary by up to 75 degrees Fahrenheit from one end to the other. Make sure to rotate your meat as well so that it cooks evenly.

Tips For Cooking With an Offset Smoker

Cook With Charcoal + Wood

Cooking with charcoal and wood in tandem is the winning technique for getting the most out of an offset smoker.

Cooking with wood is difficult and may result in bitter, creosote-covered food.

If you exclusively cook with charcoal, you will lose out on the taste that wood may give.

Begin your fire with completely lit coals that you ignited in a chimney, then add wood to keep the fire going.

Preheat the Cooker Before Adding Your Meat

Wait until the cooking chamber reaches the proper temperature before adding your meal to prevent creosote on your food.

This sort of smoker may produce far more smoke than a charcoal smoker in the early stages, and it is not the type of smoke you want to flavor your meal with.

Use a Digital Thermometers at Both Ends

As previously stated, the temperature of the cooking chamber may vary by up to 75 degrees Fahrenheit from one end to the other.

In this instance, you’ll need a thermometer at both ends. You may add them by drilling a hole in either end and attaching thermometer probes.

Keep the lid closed as much as possible

Don’t keep opening the doors! This is true for both the cooking chamber and the fire box.

True, you’ll have to open the doors from time to time to add wood or check on the meat, but monitor as much as you can from the thermometer reading or by viewing the smoke coming out of the chimney to prevent unnecessary door opening.

Rotate the Meat

Because of the temperature differential between one side of the cooking chamber and the other, you will need to rotate the meat if you are cooking at both ends of your grill.

Even if you’re just cooking one piece, be sure to flip it over or you’ll end up with an unevenly cooked dish.

Learn One Vent at a Time

We did provide some ideas for vent placements in the step-by-step directions in this post, but if you want to learn more about vent management, here are some pointers:

  • The first vent you should look for is the one on the fire box. This has the most direct influence on the temperature of the fire, and hence the cooking chamber.
  • Allow this vent to remain open while you start the fire. You may start to shut this one up a bit as you get closer to your target temperature.
  • While the chimney is still wide open, use this vent to keep the temperature steady. When the temperature has been constant for about 30 minutes, you may begin regulating the chimney.
  • As a general rule, do not close the chimney more than halfway. And don’t completely close the firebox vent or you’ll wind up with bitter, creosote-covered meals.

Go Easy on the Smoke

Smoking meat is definitely a case of less is more

While using wood and charcoal together will give you smoke flavor, you may also start up your fire with charcoal exclusively and then add pellets, chips, or chunks for smoke flavor, just as you would on a gas or charcoal barbeque.

If you take this route, don’t soak the chips, chucks, or pellets; instead, add them every 10 minutes or so, 4 ounces at a period, until the temperature reaches 200F.

Beware of the Weather

The temperature inside your smoker will be affected by the weather outside. Consider the weather and make sure you have enough charcoal and wood to compensate, particularly if it is extremely rainy, windy, or cold.

Use a Water Pan

A water pan will assist to manage the temperature, provide moisture, and enhance the taste of your meat.

A water pan may be added by placing a rack above the fire in the fire pit and placing a tray full of water on top of the rack.

Do Some Practice Runs

With a few dry runs, you can learn how to tune your offset smoker. If this seems like a waste of excellent wood and charcoal, consider cooking inexpensive cuts during your practice runs.

Don’t get discouraged if the outcomes of the practice runs aren’t spectacular. Remember that the purpose of practice runs is to understand how your smoker works and to come up with your own tips and techniques.

Wrapping it up

If you’ve just unboxed an offset smoker or are considering purchasing one, you now have all the information you need to light it up and start smoking.

Remember that a charcoal chimney is your greatest friend when it comes to getting your offset smoker started. Wait until the coals are red hot, then heat up the cooking chamber, add your meal, and then monitor and maintain the temperature.

And don’t lift the lid unless you have a good cause; there’s no place for sticky beaks!

You will need to care for an offset smoker more than a pellet smoker, but for old school smokers, it is part of the experience.


Are offset smokers hard to use?

Although offset smokers seem scary, they are simple to operate if you understand how to control the heat. To get the smoker going, light briquettes and place them in the firebox. Place your meal in the cooking chamber and keep the temperature low as it smokes.

How do you use a smoker for dummies?

Configure two temperature probes. You’ll need to keep an eye on the temperature to maintain your grill constant at 225°F.
Light a Chimney Starter using Charcoal.
After opening the intake and chimney baffles, add lit coals.
Keep your body temperature stable.
To add taste, add wood bits.
Make the smoke moist.
Give it some time.

How do you keep a 225 on an offset smoker?

Slow-cooking brisket, hog, lamb, and even chicken at 107-120°C.Once the fire is burning and the coals are forming, close the firebox door, leaving the bottom firebox vent open but closing the chimney a quarter of the way. You want your temperature to be between 225 and 250°F.

Can you just grill on an offset smoker?

3: Can I use an offset smoker to both grill and smoke? Yes, you can cook on an offset cooker in three ways: Grill directly on the grill. This is accomplished by constructing a charcoal fire immediately under the cooking grates and grilling directly over the coals.

How often do you add wood chips to an offset smoker?

The simple version is that you should only add 5 wood chips every 45-60 minutes.

Do you keep adding wood chips when smoking?

The amount of woodchips you use will be determined by how long you want to smoke the meat. To keep the tastes robust, start adding more woodchips to the tray every hour of cooking time.

What wood is not good for smoking?

EASTERN CEDAR, CYPRESS, ELM, EUCALYPTUS, SASSAFRAS, LIQUID AMBER, PINE, REDWOOD, FIR, SPRUCE, or SYCAMORE should never be used to smoke meats or other sorts of food.

Can you leave offset smoker unattended?

– The Pro Smoke Offset Smoker is ONLY FOR OUTDOOR USE. Never leave the smoker running unattended.


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