How To Use An Offset Smoker In 8 Simple Steps With Pictures

Offset smokers are special in their own kind of way. They are built to have more focus on adding extra flavors while cooking. This means, if you get the heat in the smoker’s cooking chamber just right, your food will have the right temperatures and level of good smoke cooking it.

Cooking food with this equipment follows the same step-by-step guide procedures as many other offset smokers do; hence this should be easy for even an entry-level user to use. Now, let’s dive into the breakdown of steps of how to use an offset smoker to achieve the best of flavors. If your particularly creative, check out our guide to modifying an offset smoker.

1. First, get an offset smoker that works best for you

First, get an offset smoker that works best for you

Offset smokers usually have long cooking chamber grills, with a smoker box on one end, an air intake vent, exhaust vents, and a chimney. Fire is created in the smoker box, heats through the cooking chamber that the food or the meat is placed on, and then smokes out through the chimney.

Think about the way you like your meat to be smoked. Does a standard offset smoker help you more, or do you need an offset barrel smoker with reverse flow technology features?

Therefore, the food doesn’t cook on direct fire. It is done by heat and smoke generated from the firebox.

This gives you more assurance that your food is less likely to burn.

2. Prepare your fuel source

Prepare your fuel

Most offset smokers use wood or charcoal for fuel, making using the offset smoker a cheaper option.

Using woodchips or lump charcoal as a fuel source is one reason why so many people and experienced chefs like offset smokers. Place the pellets or parts directly inside the hopper without first soaking it if you intend to use wood. Soaking the timber will make it challenging to get the smoke you need.

Get the best type of charcoal that will give you the best heating result, and choose the wood’s flavoring that you prefer for spice.

Ensure to use dry wood when using an offset smoker to help create good smoke for the food.

After this, start your smoker fuel or fire in a separate hollow container until the coals are all lighted up.

Some specialists suggest that you use lit briquettes with a chimney starter in your smoker. You can light the charcoal ahead of time if you have a charcoal chimney. The chimney was designed to provide easy access for the hot briquettes to be moved to the hopper.

3. Load your fire

Load your fire

The best ways to getting the best heat for your smoker are as follows:

Place the briquettes inside the hopper first when using charcoal briquettes. In a pyramid pattern, arrange the briquettes. The flame will eventually spread to those on the bottom when you add a flame from a lighter or match to the top briquette.

Fill a half part of the firebox with your choice of charcoal. Then, transfer the lighted coal to the empty half of the firebox and close the lid for about 10 minutes. This will help the coals light faster.

After, open the lid and add the dry wood if you want to smoke it more. Please leave it to light up partially and then close the lid. I always strongly suggest investing in a chimney starter.

4. Control flavouring with the chimney

Control flavoring with the chimney

After making the fire, the chimney is essential to ensure that you do not have much smoke cooking your food.

Always keep the cooking chamber lid open when cooking to allow the lousy smoke to escape from the smoker.

Most importantly, the chimney, in this case, does not serve as an airflow regulator.

5. Use the dampers to control fire

Use the dampers to control fire

The dampers are made to help control the air level that goes into the firebox, which affects the heat created.

Locate the dampers usually on the side of the smoker and open it at various levels for the best results. A full opening will let in a lot of oxygen into the smoker, which will lighten the coals faster.

A partial opening will allow in a smaller amount of air for somewhat heated coals. A total closure will mean no air going into the smoker, which is necessary to drastically reduce the smoker’s heat.

6. You aren’t cooking when looking

You ain’t cooking when looking

Like with all other smokers, marinate your food as you desire and once the smoker is 210 °F to 275 °F, place your food on the grill grate and, most importantly, close the lid of the smoker.

The lid of the cooking chamber of your smoker should be closed continuously during cooking. You can only open the firebox to add fuel to the fire discussed in the next point.

Besides this, let the food cook closed for at least 1 to 1 ½ hour before opening the lid to check for doneness. Otherwise, the cooking temperatures will be interrupted and will affect the food.

7. Manage the heat

Manage heat

While your food cooks, keep the temperature of the cooking chamber in the good heat and smoke range. This should be between 210 °F to 275 °F.

If the fire has burned out after a while, open the firebox and add more wood chips (not charcoal), then keep the lid open for about 10 minutes for the wood to catch enough fire and close the lid.

8. Control the temperature with the air intake vent or dampers

Manage temperatures with the vents or dampers

Close the vent halfway to reduce the flow of oxygen into the fire so that the smoker’s cooking chamber is not too heated up.

Here are some main points for fire management:

  1. Although it will vary from smoker to smoker, before you put in more wood chips, make sure to check the fire pit approximately every 45 minutes to an hour.
  2. To catch any issues early, you should also check the cooking temperature if it’s at the right temperature and smoke coming out of the chimney vent on the side  (without opening the fire pit door) every 15 or 20 minutes.
  3. You can put some more wood on the fire if the temperature begins to drop.
  4. You may need to open and leave the firebox door open only a crack for a few minutes to help get the temperature back up if your temperature has fallen and you add on a new log.


Cooking Meats

Most offset smokers provide a few different ways and steps to cook meats and other ingredients. Within, you can use the grill grates, which are usually cast iron or steel, or a rotisserie adapter can be used. This spins the meat slowly in the smoker and ensures that the smoke hits all parts of your food.

Adding Flavor to your Meat

You can marinate your meat ahead of time if you want to add more flavor. A brine in poultry such as chicken or turkey can impart great flavor. For up to 24 hours, you can soak the bird in a brine.

It can also add lots of flavors to a dry spice rub. Mix the spices and vegetable oil ahead of time while using a rub. With your fingertips, add a generous sprinkling of the mix over the meat and rub it into the skin.

Be sure to rotate the meat while cooking, but don’t open the cooking chamber lid to often.

Water Pan Basics

With the addition of a water pan, a decent cooking process to get tender and flavorful meat is. You can make your own from any small bowl that you fill with water if your smoker’s manufacturer does not provide a water pan. Make sure you have a heatproof bowl.

Place the bowl of water in the hopper on the griddle right above the charcoal or wood. Within the grill grate, the water raises humidity and prevents the food from drying out. A water pan that sits on the grill comes with some barrel smokers. If it didn’t be sure to add a water pan before you use it.

Tips For Cooking With an Offset Smoker

Cook With Charcoal and Wood

To get the most out of an offset smoker, the winning formula is to cook with charcoal and wood chips in combination.

Using an offset smoker alone with wood chunks is fiddly and can contribute to bitter, creosote-covered food.

Cook only and use either the charcoal, and you’ll skip the flavor the wood will add.

To keep the fire going, start your fire off with fully lit coals that you started in a chimney, adding wood to them.

Preheating the Smoker Before Adding Your Meat

Wait until the cooking chamber is at the desired temperature before adding your food to prevent creosote on your food.

In the early stages, this kind of smoker its smoking process can give off way more smoke than a charcoal smoker, and it is certainly not the type of smoke flavor you want to add to your food.

Use Temperature Probes

The temperature can be different from one end of the cooking chamber to the other, up to 75 ° F.

It would help if you had a thermometer at both ends to check the temperature, as this is the case. By drilling a hole at either side, then inserting the thermometer air probes, you can install them yourself.

A temperature probe is among the most critical tool that comes with your offset smoker. This looks like the same thermometer you would use in your oven with foods cooked. Most of these temperature probes have a digital design that allows you to instantly verify and check the temperature of something inside the smoker. Before adding some meat, you need to check the internal temperature, so you need one.

Keep the lid closed as much as possible.

To add wood chips or chunks or check the meat, you may need to open the doors regularly but track as much as you can from the thermometer reading or by monitoring the smoke coming out of the chimney to prevent the unnecessary opening of the door.

Rotate the Meat

We briefly touched on this, but due to the temperature difference from one side of the cooking chamber to the other, if you are cooking at both ends of your grill, you will need to rotate the beef.

Even if you only cook one piece, make sure you turn it around; otherwise, an unevenly cooked dinner could be served.

Avoid bad smoke

Good smoking is usually light and blue and should always be maintained. Once you experience thick smoke coming from your chimney, it is time to do an immediate check. So, solve the problem by opening the firebox and use a metal rod to stir the fire well. It will allow oxygen in, your coals will light up, and you should be good to continue cooking.

Stay safe

Always wear heatproof gloves when cooking, as you will be dealing with heat all along while using the offset smoker.

This will prevent you from getting burnt.

Clean after always

Once you are done cooking, always ensure to clean your offset smoker while it is warm. This aids with an easy and more effective clean.

How to use an offset Smoker

Offset Smoker FAQS

How do you keep the temperature up on an offset smoker?
Close the lid, ensure that the cooking chamber’s lid is also closed, and preheat the grill to the appropriate temperature (usually between 225 to 275 degrees). If the temperature becomes too high, close the vents partly and allow the temperature to settle; add more charcoal if it is too low.
Can you grill in an offset smoker?
Yes, there are three different ways for you to cook on an offset cooker: direct barbecue grilling. This is accomplished directly below the cooking grates by creating a charcoal fire and smoking directly over the coals.
Are offset smokers better?
Despite being referred to as stick burners, when fueled with a mixture of wood and charcoal, offset smokers perform best. Cooking with a wood and charcoal combination is much less fiddly than cooking with all wood, creating a smoky taste without the risk of destroying the meat with excess smoking, soot, or creosote.