Do you need tuning plates for offset smoker

Last Updated on: 20th April 2023, 10:12 pm

Offset smokers are the leader of the smoking industry when it comes to traditional smoking. They also come with various accessories that can increase the efficiency of offset smokers.

 Some of these are necessary while others are complimentary . So you may think that you need tuning plates for offset smokers. 

No, you don’t need tuning plates in an offset smoker if you are satisfied with its heat retention. tuning plates are complimentary modifications, which are only needed if your smoker is not heating up to higher temperatures.

if your smoker comes with tuning plates when you buy it , then there is no harm in using them . however , if your smoker doesn’t have one, the there is no need to buy new ones.

To answer this question we have put together this complete guide about installing tuning plates in an offset smoker. Let’s get started.

Do you need tuning plates for offset smoker

Offset smokers are made up of two sections that are attached horizontally to produce meat in one section and cook food in another. Heat produced in a firebox travels to the other end by convection. This transfer is performed by air.

Air is a poor conductor of heat , so the area near the firebox is hotter than the area near the farther end of the smoking chamber. 

Due to which the food smoked inside the smoker is unevenly Cooked meaning that it is overcooked in hotter zone and undercooked in cold zone.

offset smoker

Tuning plates are not normally needed in smokers with good build quality but it can increase the efficiency if added. But in case of cheaper offset smokers, tuning plates are a must have property to smoke meat at higher temperatures.

Cheaper offset smokers are made up of flimsy build quality, due to which their temperature is influenced by the weather conditions. 

Related: Best smoker for beginners

By adding a few tuning plates we can increase the heat Retention and maintain temperature for a longer time.

In addition to reducing heat loss and Maintaining heat for a longer time, adding tuning plates also helps in preserving fuel inside the smoker.

 By reducing the heat loss , less fuel is required to heat up the smoker to higher temperatures.

What are tuning plates ?

Tuning plates are sheets of stainless steel that are used to reduce heat loss and insulate offset smokers . These are placed below the smoker or alongside the length of the smoker to avoid heat loss and retain heat for longer time without fluctuations.

In offset smokers, heat is generated in the firebox and travels to the cooking grates by air. This creates different temperature zones inside the smoker. 

grill flame

The area near the firebox is hotter than the area near the cooking grates of smokers.

This leads to uneven distribution of heat which results in uneven cooking of food in offset smokers. The food in the hot area is overcooked while the food in the cold area is uncooked. 

To avoid this problem, tuning plates are used.

Tuning plates are placed below the smoker or cooking grates which help deflect heat and work in a similar way to reverse flow offset smoker. 

In addition, it also retains heat which helps in maintaining temperature constant without fluctuations.

What do tuning plates do?

Tuning plates help reduce heat loss in offset smokers which can lead to uneven distribution of inside the smoker. 

These are often recommended for cheap offset smokers which can’t heat up to higher temperatures but it is equally effective for good quality offset smokers.

These tuning plates can be  added in different places depending on your personal choice. Some people prefer to add the alongside the length of the smoker cylinder to minimize heat loss while others prefer to just add them below the e.

smoked fish

These places work in the same manner. These deflect the heat backwards and reduce heat loss through smokers build. 

These are also made up of stainless steel so they retain heat for a longer time which helps in avoiding fluctuations in temperature.

How to install  tuning plates in an offset smoker

Installing tuning plates in an offset smoker is a simple process that doesn’t involve any complexities. 

Tuning plates are installed at different points in an offset smoker but in this guide we are going to discuss Installing tuning plates below the offset smoker.

Test the smoker first

Before installing the tuning plates in an offset smoker you should test your smoker first to measure the temperature difference in different zones of smoker.
We will have to add our tuning plates by keeping in mind this difference.

>First of all , you will have to start your Smoker by adding pre lit charcoal into the firebox. The charcoal can be prelit in charcoal chimneys to avoid later complexities while starting smoking.

>We are only finding temperature differences so you can avoid adding wood chips if you want.

>Now wait for the smoker to heat up to the desired temperature. You can keep checking the temperature of the smoker at different time intervals to avoid overshoot.

>The desired temperature can vary depending on the food you are smoking.

>After it has heated up to the desired temperature, you should then measure the temperature difference between the different zones of the smoker.
Usually the area near the firebox will be hotter than the area near the exhaust vent.

>After you have measured the temperature difference, you should try cooking something in a smoker to further confirm the difference. You can try cooking anything delicate that requires less time for cooking like sausage or biscuits.

Some biscuits will be overcooked , while others will be uncooked due to the temperature difference. It is a common fact that this temperature difference will be higher if the air vents are closed and vice versa.

Installing tuning plates

After that we have measured the difference in heat distribution in the offset smoker, we will have to install the tuning plates inside the smoker keeping in mind that difference.
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The number of tuning plates to add and the space between the tuning plates will depend on the temperature difference between different zones.

>First of all you will have to acquire some tuning plates from the market or make some for yourself. These plates should be preferably made up of stainless steel .

The thickness can vary but usually it can be around 1/4 to 1/8 inch.

>After buying tuning plates, you need to clean them before installing them into the smoker. These tuning plates can contain grease or other chemicals to protect them from rust but these can be hazardous when exposed to heat.

>After cleaning the tuning plates, you need to look for a place to add tuning plates. Most of the smokers come with specific spaces below them for adding tuning plates but if your smoker doesn’t have one then you can place them below the smoker firebox.

>You should be careful about the space between the tuning plates because it can affect the efficiency of the tuning plates.

If you want to heat up to higher temperatures then you should give less space. But plates should also be far enough from each other so that they don’t touch each other.

>You should also keep in mind the number of tuning plates to increase the efficiency of plates.

If your smoker is not heating up to higher temperatures then you should consider adding more tuning plates to avoid Heat loss and increase heat retention

Heat up the smoker again

After you are done adding tuning plates into the smoker, you should consider heating up the smoker again to make sure the smoke is working effectively. 

You should consider cooking something in the smoker to measure the heat distribution.

If the smoker is not heating up to the desired temperature or the temperature difference is higher then you should consider adding more tuning plates and decreasing the space between the tuning plates to increase efficiency.

Are there any cons to smoker tuning plates?

The only disadvantage of using tuning plates in an offset smoker is that the smoker cannot be heated up to the searing temperature. 
The reason behind this is that the tuning plates for smoker also absorb the heat produced so more fuel is required to reach higher temperatures.

What is a smoker tuning plate?

Tuning plates or offset smoker baffle plate are flat plates of cast iron or stainless steel which are commonly used in reverse flow smokers. these are primarily used for heat retention and decreasing temperature fluctuation.

these are placed near the firebox or the vents to deflect the heat before exiting from the smoker. so the heat is deflected back into the smoker before leaving the smoker , which helps in getting the most out of your fuel and decreasing heat loss.

Do you need a water pan in an offset smoker?

The simple and straightforward answer to this question is yes. Water pan is a really important component of an offset smoker which helps in many ways ranging from maintaining humidity and temperature to avoiding flare ups in smoker.

Although it is a personal choice whether you want to use it or not if you want to get a good and crispy bark, then you can smoke in offset smoker without using water pan.

although , you will have to keep an eye out for drying out of meat.


Tuning plates are not a necessary part of offset smokers but they can undoubtedly increase the efficiency of smokers if added. 

offset smoker tuning plates can be a game changer when you are smoking with a cheaper smoker. They can provide the heat retention like good quality smokers while minimizing the heat loss.

Jakob miller