How to use an offset smoker ? The complete guide

Last Updated on: 20th April 2023, 08:34 am

Smokers come in a lot of shapes and sizes, many of which are designed for the backyard or camping. One smoker in particular stands out though, I’m sure many of you have heard of or seen an offset smoker, they are long and rectangular, they are also extremely common.

 But despite their popularity, they have a reputation for being difficult to use, but why? The answer is not simple, it’s not one specific thing that makes smoking so difficult, rather it’s how many things work together, how difficult it is to get all of them to work in unison.

 Because of this, This is a blog that takes an in-depth look at how to use an offset smoker. 

How to use an offset smoker ?

This is a thorough yet easy to understand guide that looks at step by step instructions and also looks at the tips and tricks behind using this particular cooker for smoking meat.

Step 1:

Go to the store and buy wood chips, during cold months store them in a ziplock bag or vacuum seal them.

Step 2:

Read your user manual, it will tell you which type of wood works best for the smoking process.

Step 3:

Remove the cooking grates and place them on top of a table or in the backyard away from your smoker, this is where you will be putting your meat later on.

Step 4:

Place your smoker over heaters (propane or charcoal), allow it to get warm and hot, this will take at least an hour.

Step 5:

If using propane make sure that you turn off all but one or two burners depending on how hot you want it to get. Once you have turned off all but one or two turn on a fan facing up towards the grates. 

This process can take about five hours so come prepared with a book and some drinks because chances are no one is going to want to leave the smoker.

Step 6:

Place your wood chips on top of your heaters, wait for a few minutes and then place them over the grates. Now that you have placed the wood chips on top of the heaters use a fork and make small holes in order to oxygenate the wood chips.

Step 7:

Place your cooking grates back onto top of your smoker, be careful because this process is going to get extremely hot. 

To help keep the food warm you can place tin foil over the grates and make sure that there is no space between each grate, it is important that nothing gets in between each grate otherwise your food will burn which defeats the entire purpose of barbecuing.

Step 8:

Place the meat onto our smoker (ribs, chicken etc.) , close up all the lids and doors and allow them to cook for at least 6 hours or even more depending on how tough they are.

 If using an oven thermometer keep an eye on your meat to make sure it isn’t getting over 200 degrees Celsius. Food should be cooked thoroughly but not burnt and I recommend cooking them a little more than you usually do to prevent illness.

 If the food is extremely tough then cook it for longer, if it is really really tough then you may want to consider using another method to cook your food.

Step 9:

When the meat has been smoked on low for a few hours add your sauce into a small cup and pour some of the juice from the pan/heat source and stir it in.

Best offset Smokers under 1000:the complete guide

Do not pour juices over cooked meat as this will cause high chances of burning or spoilage.

 Step 10:

Place the lid back onto top of the smoker (so that you have created an “oven”) allow the lid to slow cook for another couple hours.

I would recommend removing the meat from heat around an hour before serving so that you can allow it to rest, this will ensure that your meat does not become dry when attempting to cut into it. 

Step 11:

Whilst your meat is resting you can position a cheese cloth over a pan and strain the marinade through it to remove any debris left inside and allow the mixture to simmer for about 15 minutes.

This will give you a nice and sticky glaze for your meat. 

Step 12:

Cut meat into serving size pieces and place each dish with sauce/glaze over top of meat on a plate. Enjoy!

Tips on How to Use an Offset Smoker for the First Time

using charcoal

If you are using charcoal for offset smoker ,be sure to fill the bottom of your pan with a layer of coals before adding your cooking environment (wood).

This will allow for easier lighting and more importantly easier maintenance so that you are not constantly having to put light to the wood itself which will lead to unnecessary smoke.

placing thermometer

Be sure that you have a cooking accurate thermometer placed inside your smoker in order that you can monitor the temperature and have the ability to adjust it accordingly throughout your time smoking. 

open vents

Open up both vents at the bottom of your smoker and place one vent on top, this is done so that you can slowly get air flowing into your smoker when it is first being lit.

if done correctly there should be no need for any lighter fluid or additional startup items such as matches or newspaper/paper towel. 

cooking racks

Remove all of the cooking racks and place them back in the inside opposite direction, below should be space which allows for the smoke to filter through and ensure the even distribution of smoke on all sides of the meat.

wood chips

Place a layer of soaked wood chips in offset smoker within the pan below your cooking racks, ensure that there are no holes in the wood chips themselves as this may allow grease from your meat to come into contact with the charcoal below. 

Drip pan

Ensure that you have a drip pan underneath your smoking rack, this will prevent any fat or other unwanted products like grease from falling into your charcoal and thus making for an unpleasant odor in the future or if you wish to use it again. 

water pot

When using an offset smoker, place a large pot filled with water beneath the smoker itself, this will prevent any heat loss during smoking which will lead to greater amounts of smoke coming off your wood and thus in turn more flavor within your food.

How to use a barrel smoker?

  1. The first thing that you will need to do is to prepare the barrel smoker by cutting it down to size. Since they are large, they take a little extra effort in preparing them before smoking.
  2. After doing this, you will want to sand the interior and exterior of the barrel smoker and repair any damages that may have occurred during shipping. 
  3. You will then apply a coat of oil or paint to ensure that the inside and outside remains well protected while the flavor is being penetrated into the wood itself. 
  4. If you are using wood chips during your smoking process, soak them in water for at least an hour before placing them inside of your barrel smoker.
  5. This not only helps with adding moisture to thin cuts of meat but also ensures that your food doesn’t taste “ashy.” 
  6. After this, place your meat on a wire rack about an inch above any water/liquid found on the bottom of the cooker so as not to ruin it.
  7. Now place your meat into position and immediately cover the barrel smoker with the cap or a piece of aluminum foil.

Combine all of the above listed items for a mouthwatering-smoky finish to your meat and vegetables. Whether it is bacon, chicken, pork or any other meat, we think you will agree that our method really helps make all meat taste great!

Tips on using barrel smoker

  • Smoking food with a barrel smoker is the best way to truly enjoy the art that is barbecue. There are very few other methods that can give you the same smoky and delicious flavor.
  •  You can use a variety of meats, veggies and other foods in your barrel smoker. Here are the best tips and tricks for smoking with a barrel smoker.
  • Depending on your smoker and the length of smoking you want to accomplish, you may want to leave the lid or door of your smoker open to let some of the heat escape.
  • This will help keep your wood from burning too quickly. 
  • If you find that your wood is burning faster than you’d like, consider adding a few more coals. This will increase the temperature and will ensure that your food doesn’t get over smoked.
  • You may find that once you start smoking, you end up with some meat cook faster than others due to size or thickness. While some cuts of meat cook faster then others, don’t worry about it if it happens.
  • Just take this opportunity to cook those smaller pieces of meat longer and allow the larger ones to cook less if need be.
  • If you are using a brine or rub for your meat, remove it at least half and hour before you plan on placing the meat in the smoker. Depending on the size and shape of your barrel smoker, this can be a great way to smoke different cuts of meat at once. 
  • To keep an eye on how your barrel smoker is working, simply use a grill thermometer. Always remember that less is better.
  • You can always add more wood or charcoal if you need to, but you should stay away from opening up your barrel smoker if you do not have to as this can cause the temperature to fluctuate. 
  • As long as smoke is coming out of the barrel smoker, it’s going to taste great! However, it’s recommended that you never let it go out as this can cause burning which will ruin the flavor of your food immediately.
  • If this happens, simply start adding more charcoal until smoke begins again.

How to use a smoker with wood chips?

For those of you just getting started in the smoking arena, figuring out how to use a smoker with wood chips may seem difficult but it’s actually quite simple. What makes using a smoker with wood chips so difficult is the actual use of them.

Smoking meat really isn’t that easy, be prepared for some trial and error as you figure out exactly how long to smoke meat for, what temperature and even how much smoke works best for you.

 The biggest key to using wood chips is how often you add them. If you’re smoking meat from start to finish without adding any new wood then it will take a very long time for your meat to reach the desired temperature.

The general rule of thumb is to that wood chips should be added every 45-60 minutes, this allows enough time for the smoke flavor to melt into the meat while not overpowering it like fresh wood chips can.


We hope you enjoyed this article around how to use an offset smoker. It’s important to do your research before investing in a smoker so that you can know exactly what to look for when you are buying. 

We hope you found this article to be helpful and we would love to hear if it has helped you make a more educated decision on which smoker is right for you.

IIf you enjoyed this article ,then don’t forget read our article on can you cook burgers on an offset smoker Thanks for reading!

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