Offset smokers look intimidating; however, they aren’t the best choice if you are a beginner smoker. Beginners are better off going with electric smokers or propane smokers. Once you can master the art of smoking in either of these smokers, you can graduate to an offset smoker.
This most significant challenge with an offset smoker is trying to regulate the heat.
How Do Offset Smokers Work?
Offset smokers contain two differently sized cylinders or boxes that are sealed and connected. The smaller box will hold the charcoal or wood. It is set a bit lower than the other box. It is offset so that the force from the smoke can rise into the other box that holds the food.
What Are the Benefits Of Using an Offset Smoker?
If you have been smoking in an electric or propane smoker for a while and you think you are ready to take the next step by using an offset smoker, there are a few benefits of using this type.
- You can cook a large amount of food at once. Offset smokers hold much more food than an electric or propane smoker.
- When adding fuel or woodchips, you don’t need to open up the cooking chamber. Opening the cooking chamber disrupts the temperature and smoke levels, which can affect the way your food cooks and the length of time.
- Offset smokers are relatively easy to run.
- Unlike electric or propane smokers, you can also grill on an offset smoker. This will eliminate the need to crowd your deck or patio with both a smoker and a grill.
- As long as you care for your offset smoker properly, it should last a lifetime.
Cooking With An Offset Smoker
If you have a bit of smoking experience, you should be ready to graduate to an offset smoker. If you want to be sure that your meat is fully cooked, that the smoky flavor is perfect and that it comes out moist, there are a few steps that you should follow.
1. Preparing Your Brand New Smoker
Before you can begin smoking, you need to prepare your smoker. Start by wiping it down with soapy water. Next, rinse the smoker to remove any dust or paint shavings that have been left behind. To prepare for your first smoke, you should spray vegetable oil all over the inside of the cooking chamber. Open all of the vents and light a fire in the box. Allow the fire to burn for 30 minutes. This will season the smoker.
You should never rely on the built-in thermometer at the top of the smoker’s lid. This thermometer will measure the temperature at the top of the grill rather than the area where the food is cooking. Instead, you should use two digital air probes and can be placed in the cooking chamber. You should use probes with attached wires so that they can be moved around. You should place one on each side of the food for the most accurate reading.
3. Open the Air Intake Vent and Chimney Vent
To keep the fire going in your smoker, it will need oxygen. Before you begin smoking you should open the intake on the firebox completely. You should also peon the vent on the chimney. This will allow the smoke to be released. During the smoking process, you will need to adjust the intake vent and the chimney to regulate the temperature in the smoker.
4. Lighting the Briquettes
Fill your chimney starter with charcoal briquettes and light them. You should allow them to burn until they glow and ash begins to build up. This process should take 15 to 20 minutes.
5. Coal and Logs
When your briquettes are ready, dump them into the firebox. You are going to want to add a nice smokey flavor to your food so you should add two flavored hardwood logs. Depending on the flavor you are striving for and the food you are cooking, you can go with hickory, mesquite, apple, or maple. When the firebox is loaded, close the lid on both the cooking chamber and the firebox.
6. The Optimal Cooking Chamber
While your smoker is heating up, you need to monitor the temperature until it reaches the desired temperature. It is best to smoke food at temperatures between 225°F and 275°F. While you are preheating the smoker, both chambers need to remain closed.
7. Putting Your Food On the Grill Grate
When placing your food on the grill grate, you don’t need to leave it out until it reaches room temperature the way you do with a propane or electric smoker. When cooking on an offset smoker, cold meat absorbs more smoke than room temperature meat does. When you have your food lined up evenly on the grill grate, close the cooking chamber.
8. Keeping the Meat Moist
A perfect piece of meat will be moist. The best way to keep the meat moist is to set a pan of water in the firebox. You can place a metal rack over the coals. This will cause the smoke to be moist as it flows into the cooking chamber. You can also add moisture to the meat by spraying it with apple juice, beer, or water. When you use both methods, you can be sure that your meat will come out moist and tender.
9. Regulating the Temperature
Now that your food is smoking, you need to regulate the temperature. You will need to check the firebox every 30 minutes to make sure that the fire is still going. If necessary, add more charcoal briquettes to the firebox.
To make room in the chimney for new briquettes, you can use a grill hoe to move the ashy coals to one side. To get the fire going strong, open the intake vent on the side of the firebox. If you need an to increase the temperature significantly, you can also open the chimney vent. As soon as your smoker is back to the desired temperature, close all of the vents. If the temperature drops, open the vents for a minute or two.
This is not a set it and forget it cooking method; therefore, you need to keep an eye on the smoker during the entire cooking process. Just remember, as a rule, opening the vents heats the smoker, closing them cools it down.
10. Adding Wood Chunks
You will need to replace your wood chunks every hour or so. You want them to smolder rather than burn, so you want to put the wood chunks next to the fire.
11. Letting the Meat Rest
When the meat is cooked, and you remove it from the smoker, you should set it on a platter for about 20 minutes. While the meat is resting, it will continue to cook.
The most important part of cooking with an offset grill is to monitor the temperature. It is essential that you keep a steady temperature throughout the entire cook. Your food will come out moist, delicious, with a great smoky flavor.