How To Use An Offset Smoker – Beginner’s Guide

Offset smokers are the most looked upon smokers of all. They have that firebox on the side hence provide a massive cooking space for your food. While cooking low and slow, it makes up for the competition barbeque. But to get hands-on with the offset smokers, you need proper guidance and skill to make your food stand out. To give you proper guidance to break into this traditional cookware, we bring up this guide to use an offset smoker. Here, we will explain everything from its workings to tips to master the art of smoking food. So let’s have a look.


How Does An Offset Smoker Works?

Before diving into how to use an offset smoker BBQ, it’s a must to know it’s working. You have seen that an offset smoker houses a large and a small chamber. The large chamber is your cooking space, while the small chamber located at the side of the smoker (or sometimes at the back) is your firebox.

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Char-Broil American Gourmet Offset Smoker

You place the fuel (say it’s burning pellets or coal) into the firebox. It inlets the heat and smoke into the main chamber and makes for a low and slow cook. Furthermore, to regulate the temperature, you will see a vent pierced into the firebox and a chimney on the cooking chamber.

Let’s say if you want to heat the smoker, you open the firebox vent and let the air exhaust the coals. More off, if you want to lower the temperature, open the chimney and let heat escape. So this was a little insight into how to offset smokers’ work, now. Let’s get to know how you can use an offset smoker grill.

7 Steps To Use An Offset Smoker (Step by Step Explained)

The offset smokers are traditional yet most difficult to get hands-on. But don’t restrain yourself just by fearing those gigantic smokers. Here we will explain the step-by-step methods to season the offset smokers. The below-mentioned steps will work perfectly for any smoker. Moreover, if you want an answer to how to use a billabong offset smoker or how to use Oklahoma Joe’s offset smokers, you can look at these steps.

Step 1: Season the Smokers (For New Smokers)

If you are using an offset smoker for the first time, then season it first. Get a soapy water sponge and wipe it down with it. Then thoroughly rinse and let it air dry. After that, spray the vegetable oil into the cooking chamber. Then it would be best if you opened all the vents of the firebox and chimney and light up the firebox. Once the fire burns nicely for 30 minutes or the ashes die, your smoker is ready to start.

The below-given video will explain in detail the seasoning of Joe Oklahoma offset smoker:

Step 2: Set Up Fire

Now to start smoking food, you should have got the fuel (wood briquettes or coal). So get a chimney starter and lit a good amount of coal. Once the briquettes or coal start to burn and ash out, pull them over into the firebox.


Moreover, if you want to enhance the food’s flavor, adds some of the soaked hardwood like hickory, maple, and applewood during the cooking phase. But if you plan to use an offset smoker with wood chips entirely, then don’t go for it as it, in the long term, it isn’t easy to maintain the heat.

Step 3: Pre Heat

Get the smoker to your desired temperature depending on the type of food you are planning to smoke. Mostly the smoker temperature from 225F to 275F is preferable. A point to ponder here is that you must keep the firebox and cooking chamber completely closed during pre-heating. Furthermore, you can open the firebox vent to spark up the coal nicely.

Step 4: Add Food and Manage Temperature

Once the smoker gets to your required temperature, place the grates’ food, and close the lid. If the smoker’s temperature is getting lower, you can add unlit coals to the firebox and open the vent to increase the smoker’s heat. Moreover, for safekeeping, you should check the temperature every 30 minutes.

On the other hand, if the smoker’s temperature is higher (even with the firebox vent closed), you can open the cooking lid for a minute or two to lessen the temperature.

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Char-Broil American Gourmet Offset Smoker

Step 5: Add Wood Pellets for Flavor

To make food more flavorful, you can use wood pellets in an offset smoker or wood chunks.


  • Wood chips

If you opt for wood chips or pellets, soak them for half an hour before adding them to the firebox. Soaking wood will not burn them instantly; instead, it will smolder slowly to add flavor and smoke.

  • Wood chunk

In the case of wood chunks, add one or two wood chunks on the burning coal side, not directly on it, as it will burn the wood instead of smoldering. Furthermore, you should not add a vast amount of wood chunks or pellets to make for an unnecessarily strong flavor to the food.

Step 6: Manage the Food

After placing the food in the smoker, keep a keen eye on the food.

  • Rotate Food

Rotate the food every hour during the smoking phase. If you are smoke a large turkey or brisket, you don’t need to rotate the food. Still, it would be best if you eyed the temperature of the smoker for large pieces. Moreover, use temperature probes instead of lid thermometer for best results.

  • Place Water Pan

The most important factor to smoke like a seasoned chef is to keep the food moisture by the end. So if you think that the meat is drying out during the long hours of smoking, you can place a disposable aluminum filled with water into the firebox. Place the rack on the coals and keep the water pan on top. Besides that, many smokers come fitted with water pans.

  • Spray Apple Juice or Water

You can also add moisture to the dried-out meat by spraying water, apple juice, or some beer. Please fill up the spray bottle and shower it after every 15 minutes for the best results.

Step 7: Check the Temperature of the Meat


For small food items like salmon and ribs, you can guess the cook just by the look of it. But for larger meats like a whole brisket or even brisket flat and turkey or turkey breast, you need to insert meat probes into the fattiest part of the meat. Once the temperature reaches 165 to 225F, you are good to go. More off, depending on the food type, you can wrap the food for the perfect flavor.

So you see, it’s not that difficult to break into the offset smoker. It just asks an attempt or two to get the hang of it. Furthermore, for your convenience, I’m also mentioning how to use a vertical offset smoker so that you can master any of it.

How to use a vertical offset smoker?

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Unlike barrel smokers or horizontal offset smokers, the vertical smokers have an upright egg-like shape. It consists of some parts like offset smokers but with a different arrangement. The firebox, cooking chamber, and lid are stacked above each other. It goes like the lowermost part is the firebox, then above it has a water pan rack and then a cooking rack, and above all goes the lid.

Its vents are located at the top and the firebox, so you can regulate temperature by opening and closing the top and bottom vents. For a clearer explanation, look at the below-given steps:

Step 1: Light up the Smoker

First of all, light up the coals with a chimney starter or with some lighter fluid. Once the coals turn red and you start to see some ashes off, add them to the vertical smoker’s firebox. After adding, pre-heat the smoker for a good 15 minutes or till it reaches your desired temperature.

Step 2: Place Food on the Grill

Unlike offset smokers, vertical smokers have multiple cooking racks that make for smoking different food types simultaneously. The lowermost cooking rate will induce more heat, while the topmost will have the lowest heat induction. So place the food according to its nature and heat requirement.

Step 3: Filling the Pan with Water for Steam

Mostly, the water pan comes with vertical smokers. If you don’t want the meat to dry out during slow and low cook, fill the water pan three-quarters and place it above the firebox. A point to ponder here is that fill the water pan with cold water, or else it will destroy the purpose of temperature control.

Step 4: Regulate the Temperature

Depending on your requirement of temperature, you can manage the heat flow of the smoker. The common temperature range of vertical smokers is 220F to 250F. If the temperature gets lower, you can open the bottom vent and close the upper vent to heat the smoker and vice versa. Moreover, if you think that the temperature is not getting high despite opening vents, you must add a batch of unlit charcoals.

Step 5: Add the Wood Chips

When the meat has cooked a quarter way, add some soaked wood chips to the coal. Don’t forget to soak them for half an hour. These soaked hardwood chips will work for flavor and smoke both. You can go for maple, apple, hickory, almond, and other flavors of your liking to enhance flavor.

Step 6: Cook Thoroughly

Cooking low and slow will take hours and hours to cook. For the smaller meats, you require a maximum of four hours, while for the larger meat, consider 10-18 hours of low and slow cooking. A general rule of thumb is 1 ½ hour for each pound, depending on the smoker’s temperature. Make sure you have the meat probes to get to know of cook temperature of the meat.

Tips to Season the Offset Smokers

Follow the below-given tips to master that low and slow cook.

  • Use meat probes or thermometers to check the smoker’s temperature. It is best to avoid the lid temperature gauge as it shows the smoker’s temperature, not the temperature of the food.
  • For perfect results, place the cold meat on the racks as it will make for more smoke absorptions during the phase
  • During low and slow cooking, don’t haste and open the lid now and then. For the best outcome, keep the lid closed as much as possible.
  • Before going for some expansive cuts, you must practice on cheap ones.
  • Don’t make fire with wood or charcoal alone as If you do so with wood, only your food will have a burnt taste, and on the contrary, smoking with coals only make you miss that woody flavor.
  • You can use a charcoal basket in an offset smoker to prevent unlit coal disposal. Remove the basket, shake it up a bit, and it will shed all the ashes while leaving unlit coals behind.


So you got all the answers to how to smoke on an offset smoker. Now, if you were planning to get a hands-on one, you can do so with this guide. Remember that to slay that gigantic smoker; you need practice and time. You should spare yourself a try or two for properly breaking into an offset smoker.

If you are not a seasoned chef, I must recommend going for some cheaper cuts and practicing the heat regulations through vents on it. Once you confirm that you got a good insight into the offset smokers, then go for the briskets or turkeys or other expensive cuts. Happy smoking!

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