A Step by Step Guide to Using an Offset Smoker

Offset smokers, barrel smokers, stick burner smokers, BBQ smokers; whatever you call them, these smokers demand a certain expertise on your part, unlike the gas, electric or charcoal smokers.

Offset smokers dominate the market, and there’s a reason why. They are ideal for cooking a lot of food at once; easy to add fuel/wood chips; relatively inexpensive; one can grill on them too; and with proper maintenance it can last a lifetime.

But sometimes new users may find offset smokers a little difficult to use. That’s why I have listed a 4-step guide to help you cook better on an offset smoker.

Step 1: Prepare the Meat!

Make sure there’s about a ¼ inch fat layer, which acts as a moisturizer or lubricant while cooking. Remove the excessive fat before you cook.

Now add your choice of seasoning to the meat and keep it for 1 hour. Ideally, you should keep it in a refrigerator overnight. This would ensure that the seasoning is absorbed perfectly.

Step 2: Fire It Up!

Add your choice of fuel in the firebox. Using dry charcoal is recommended as it doesn’t leave too much of its taste on the meat.

Don’t use wood as it leaves a lot of smoke, which can change the taste of the meat. However, you can still add some wood chips to add a little flavor to the meat.

Use a fire starter to ignite the charcoal. Add wood chips once it turns red, to increase the overall heat and smoke. Make sure to keep the exhaust partially open while you’re cooking.

Place a thermometer probe at the grate level, which will give you an accurate reading to adjust the vents. Once the temperature reaches 200o F, close half of the intake vent. And if the temperature keeps rising, close it to keep only ¼th part open. Keep adjusting the vent until the temperature is stabilized at around 215o-220o F. This can take around 10 to 15 minutes, but it’s important to stabilize the temperature.

Step 3: Control the Heat!

Controlling the temperature is important, and using BBQ thermometers is the way to go. In case you want to increase heat, you will need to provide oxygen to the offset smoker and the best way to do is through the dampers – which are present at two locations: the firebox and the smokestack.

When you are firing up the coal, make sure to keep the dampers open and adjust them according to the conditions. The firebox doors and the cooking chamber must be closed, as opening it will make smoke and heat escape.

If you are not able to increase the temperature above 200o F, check whether the fire has gone out. If there is fire, make sure the damper is open.

The best way to change temperature is by controlling the smokestack and firebox dampers. While they are open, more air flows through and the temperature increases.

Step 4: Cook Slowly!

If you want your meat to be tender and well cooked, it’s necessary that you give the time it needs. Keep flipping the meat pieces from time to time, so that meat is cooked evenly.

The amount of time would depend on the type of meat you’re cooking and how thick it is.


Keep checking the temperatures, keep monitoring the dampers and DON’T open the lids unless there’s a very good reason.

Cooking on an offset smoker is a relatively longer process, but it’s worth the wait.


Feature Image by OnyxCambridge from Pixabay