Best Offset Smoker Under 500? These 5 Are Top Performers

Best Offset Smoker Under 500

You’re not alone if you don’t want to or can’t afford to drop a couple of grand on an offset smoker. And, these days, nor should you need to! Yes, you need a reasonable quality of steel to last and not leak all over the place. But, an offset smoker is a basic setup that doesn’t need to cost a small fortune.

So, if you’re in the market for one and want to find some good options that won’t break the bank, they’re right here.

We set out to find the best offset smoker under 500. And, they’re all here in this review.

We’ve tried to include a little something for everyone. There’s a regular set-up option, reverse flow, vertical designs for maximum space, and, even a smaller option. But, everything here has made the cut because it’s good quality for the money, works well and has a heap of great user reviews behind it.

There’s also a couple of alternative options at the bottom. These still come in at under the $500 mark but don’t need the babysitting that offset smokers need.

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Oklahoma Joe's Highland Reverse Flow Offset Smoker

For an offset smoker that’s affordable, solidly built, and, gives you the benefit of more even temperature distribution, we can’t go past recommending the Oklahoma Joe’s Highland Reverse Flow Offset.

Made from high-temperature painted steel, it’s thick enough to hold a fairly stable temperature with a sizeable 619 square inches of cooking space inside. Use it as a smoker, set it up as a large charcoal grill, or, you can grill in the firebox as well. There’s lots of options.

But, the reverse flow design is why we love the performance of this smoker. The OJ’s Highland Reverse is the only offset smoker in the under $500 price bracket that gives you this setup.

What is it and why do we like it?

Inside the Oklahoma Joe’s Highland Reverse you get an extra baffle plate that sits below the cooking racks. It forces the heat and smoke to more evenly distribute throughout the cooking chamber, reducing the otherwise natural hot spot created by the firebox. This means you don’t need to worry so much about meat placement or rotating what you’re cooking for an even cook.

You can set it up as a regular offset smoker by removing the baffle and moving the chimney as well. So, there’s options. But, it’s especially great if you’re new to offset smoking.

Specs for the Oklahoma Joe's Highland Reverse Flow Offset Smoker

Fuel type: Charcoal

Barbecue material: Painted steel

Grate material: Porcelain-coated wire

Cooking capacity: 619 sq. in. primary, 281 sq. in. secondary

Model: 17202052

Price guide: $$

Assembled size (in): 53(H) x 57(W) x 33.5(D)

Weight: 180lbs

Warranty: 2 years

Pros of the Oklahoma Joe’s Highland Reverse Flow Smoker:

  • More even heat and smoke distribution than regular offset smoker thanks to the reverse, baffle plate design
  • Can be set up as a regular-style offset smoker as well
  • Large cooking capacity
  • Main cooking chamber can be used as a large charcoal grill
  • Grilling grate included in firebox
  • Very decently solid build, especially for the price

Cons of the Oklahoma Joe’s Highland Reverse Flow Smoker:

  • It will leak a bit of smoke around the doors. We didn’t think it was enough to worry about fixing. But, if you like a tight seal, grab a self-sticking gasket and high-heat silicone to apply when you’re setting it up
  • The paint will flake if the barbecue is run too hot. But, you can fix it by sanding it back and reapplying high-heat barbecue paint

Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Vertical Offset Smoker

It’s not a traditional barrel-style offset smoker. But, the Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Vertical Offset Smoker is by far one of the most popular choices when it comes to an offset model on a budget.

And, you’ll have change from $500 to buy some charcoal, wood chips and meat for your first smoke session too.

So, what’s the deal with this one?

Well, the Dyna-Glo Vertical gives you a huge 1,176 square inches of cooking space to play with without taking up much of your backyard. Plus, a lot of people find the vertical design easier to use because heat naturally rises, creating a magnificently even cook with more smokiness and moisture.

The racks are removable and adjustable so you’ve got lots of flexibility. And, temperature adjustment is fairly simple too via the smoke stack flue on top.

Included in the price you also get a quality porcelain-enameled charcoal basket. It’s awesome for holding the coals together for a more efficient burn. And, makes loading easier too.

Yes, the steel isn’t really thick so it’s not ideal for really cold weather. But, for the price, the Dyna-Glo Vertical gives you a whole lot of usability wrapped up in a convenient package. You can even get the wide body version if you want the extra width for ribs or brisket.

Read our full review of the Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Charcoal Offset Smoker here.

Specs for the Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Charcoal Smoker

Barbecue material: Heavy gauge steel

Grate material: Chrome plated steel

Fuel type: Charcoal or wood

Primary cooking capacity: 1176 sq in

Secondary cooking capacity: None

Total cooking capacity: 1176 sq in

Model: DGO1176BDC-D

Price guide: $

Assembled size (in): 50.2(H) x 35(W) x 21(D)

Weight: 57lbs

Warranty: 1 year

Pros of the Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Vertical Offset:

  • Very low price
  • Huge cooking capacity
  • Small footprint
  • Adjustable racks suit everything from ribs and sausages to turkey’s and pork butts
  • Vertical offset design makes smoking easy by providing naturally great heat regulation while holding moisture in
  • Comes with charcoal basket to make loading easy and boost fuel efficiency
  • Removable ash pan holds enough for long smokes and is easy to clean

Cons of the Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Vertical Offset:

  • Can’t be used as a grill
  • Prone to smoke leakages – grab a gasket kit if you want to seal it up
  • Cheaper chrome-coated cooking racks aren’t super durable

Oklahoma Joe Highland Offset Smoker

If you’re not fussed about the reverse flow design (read more about it here), and, like the idea of saving a few bucks, the Oklahoma Joe’s original Highland Smoker is a solidly performing contender that’s strong enough to see you through years of impressive barbecue.

It’s the same as the Highland Reverse we reviewed above. But, it doesn’t come with the baffle plate to reverse the smoke flow. And, there’s only one chimney placement for regular offset airflow.

But, you do still get 619 square inches of space to smoke or grill on, plus an extra 281 square inches to grill over the firebox coals.

It’s well-built, fairly easy to use for an offset smoker, and, temperature adjustment is simple thanks to it’s quality dampers.

Overall, the OJ’s Highland is a bargain buy that’s quality definitely feels a step above the price you’ll pay for it.

Specs for the Oklahoma Joe Highland Offset Smoker

Barbecue material: Painted 2.5mm steel

Grate material: Porcelain-coated wire

Fuel type: Charcoal or wood

Primary cooking capacity: 619 sq in

Secondary cooking capacity: 281 sq in

Total cooking capacity: 900 sq in

Model: 15202031-63

Price guide: $$

Assembled size (in): 57″(W) x 33.5″(D) x 53″(H)

Weight: 178lbs

Warranty: 2 years

Pros of the Oklahoma Joe Highland Smoker:

  • Moderate cooking capacity suits most mid-sized families with enough space left for entertaining
  • Great price
  • Solid build with steel that’s thick enough it won’t warp
  • Multiple dampers make it easy to adjust the temperature
  • Can be set up as a large charcoal grill in the main chamber, or, a smaller charcoal grill in the firebox
  • Quality porcelain-coated cooking racks are rust-resistant and easy to clean
  • Large door to make emptying and cleaning the firebox easy

Cons of the Oklahoma Joe Highland Smoker:

  • Will leak some smoke around the doors and potentially the firebox to cooking chamber junction too. You can seal it with a Lavalock kit if you’re worried. We haven’t sealed ours
  • If you run it too hot, the paint will flake. But, the fix is easy, sand back and respray with high-heat barbecue paint before curing again

Dyna-Glo Signature Series DGSS1382VCS-D Heavy-Duty Vertical Smoker & Grill

If you liked the idea of the Dyna-Glo Vertical we talked about above, but, want a better quality option that’s still under the $500 mark, Dyna-Glo also do a Signature Series Heavy-Duty Vertical Offset Smoker.

The steel is a thicker gauge for a more durable build, it still holds a huge 1,098 square inches of food, and, you can also grill on the 284 square inch grate in the firebox too.

Because it’s their premium model, you’re also getting pre-installed sausage hooks for hanging. Adjusting the temperature is easy. And, you get all the same benefits from the fact that heat rises into the vertical chamber to smoke evenly and efficiently.

Specs for the Dyna-Glo DGSS1382VCS-D Signature Series Vertical Offset Smoker

Barbecue material: Heavy-gauge steel

Grate material: Chrome-plated wire

Fuel type: Charcoal or wood

Smoking capacity: 1,098 sq in

Grilling capacity: 284 sq in

Model: DGSS1382VCS-D

Price guide: $$

Assembled size (in): 58.8(H) x 45.5(W) x 24.9(D)

Weight: 124.3 lbs

Warranty: 1 year

Pros of the Dyna-Glo Signature Series Vertical Offset:

  • Huge cooking capacity
  • Better quality build than Dyna-Glo’s basic Vertical Offset
  • Small footprint
  • Moveable cooking grates give flexibility
  • Also includes 5 pre-installed sausage hooks you can use to hang all sorts of meats
  • Fuel efficient design
  • Results are smoky and moist
  • Relatively easy to use
  • Slide out ash pan makes for easy cleaning

Cons of the Dyna-Glo Signature Series Vertical Offset:

  • Metal still isn’t thick enough to use in really cold conditions
  • Will leak smoke that you could fix with a Lavalock gasket kit

Dyna-Glo DGSS730CBO-D Barrel and Offset Smoker

A top-rated, budget-friendly alternative to Oklahoma Joe’s is this one, the Dyna-Glo Barrel and Offset Smoker.

It’s a little smaller in size than the Highland’s. But, you still get a reasonable 443 square inches of smoking space and 287 square inches of grilling in the firebox. That’s enough to cater to a family of four, while also leaving enough space for entertaining.

The Dyna-Glo Signature Series Barrel’s setup is a traditional style offset, not reverse flow. But, the steel is heavy-duty and more than reasonable for an offset smoker in this price bracket.

The dampers are easy to use, making controlling the temperature easy. And, you’ve got a bit of working space with the fold-down front shelf and bottom rack.

Specs for the Dyna-Glo Barrel and Offset Smoker

Barbecue material: Heavy gauge steel

Grate material: Porcelain-coated wire

Fuel type: Charcoal or wood

Primary cooking capacity: 443 sq in

Secondary cooking capacity: 287 sq in

Total cooking capacity: 730 sq in

Model: DGS730CBO-D

Price guide: $$

Assembled size (in): 59.84(H) x 52(W) x 33.86(D)

Weight: 123lbs

Warranty: 1 year

Pros of the Dyna-Glo Barrel and Offset Smoker:

  • More compact design than a lot of other offset smokers
  • Uses Dyna-Glo’s Signature Series heavy-duty steel for better heat retention and durability
  • Surprisingly even temperature distribution across the cooking chamber
  • Quality porcelain-coated cooking grates
  • Easy clean firebox
  • Folding front shelf reduces the amount of storage space you need

Cons of the Dyna-Glo Barrel and Offset Smoker:

Not Quite What You Were Looking For? Other Options...

Pit Barrel Cooker Classic

  • Thick, 18-gauge, enameled steel
  • Set and forget charcoal smoking
  • Large cooking capacity using included hooks
  • Top rated smoker
  • Great price!

Z Grills Pioneer 450B

  • Effortless, set and forget cooking over a real wood fire
  • Precise PID temperature controller
  • Quality construction
  • Even temperature throughout
  • Comes in well under $500 budget