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Best Offset Smokers: Quality, Ease & Results

BEST OVERALL

Oklahoma Joe's Highland Offset Smoker
Oklahoma Joe's Highland
4.6/5

BEST QUALITY

Yoder Loaded Wichita
Yoder Loaded Wichita
4.9/5

BEST BUDGET

Dyna-Glo Wide Body Vertical Offset Smoker
Dyna-Glo Wide Body
4.3/5

BEST VALUE QUALITY

Meadow Creek SQ36
Meadow Creek SQ36
4.6/5

BEST XL

Meadow Creek TS120P
Meadow Creek TS120P
4.8/5

BEST COMPETITION

Yoder Cimarron
Yoder Cimarron
4.8/5

When all you want is what should be a simple, traditional smoker, shopping for one gets overwhelming fast!

There’s a huge price difference between a really cheap and a really expensive offset smoker. To get something that works alright do you need to spend thousands of dollars? Our answer is, no.

While the bottom end of the market options will leak smoke, are very hard to control, and will be looking worse for wear sooner than you’d think, you don’t have to take out a second mortgage to buy a decent offset smoker.

In this review of the best offset smokers, we share our favorites covering a wide budget range.

There is a bit of a lack of middle-ground offset smoker options. In fact, read below and you’ll see that we recommend going pretty cheap or investing in a really great one.

But, if you are on a more limited budget, we have rounded up the best offset smokers under $500 and under $1000 without the distraction and temptation of the top end models.

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How We Tested the Best Offset Smokers

A lot of wood was chopped and brisket was smoked in order for us to test the best offset smokers on the market.

We assessed cheap, mid-range, and more expensive models with the aim of finding the ones that are the best quality and easiest to use all while delivering the all important, best results.

Cooking ribs on the Oklahoma Joe Highland offset smoker

The offset smokers reviewed here, plus the ones that didn’t make the cut, were evaluated on:

An offset smoker is quite reliant on how well it’s built to function as it should.

As such, we have paid attention to the thickness of the steel used, quality of the welds, tightness of the firebox to the cooking chamber, and the seal of the lid as part of our assessment.

With no electrical components to break, an offset smoker is meant to be a barbecue that can last for 20 years plus as long as you look after it properly.

But, a lot of the cheaper models on the market just aren’t made to last. Poor quality finishing and thin metal is more likely to warp and rust leading you to have to replace it after even a couple of seasons.

Not every smoker recommended here will last 20 years. Don’t expect that kind of durability from the cheaper ones, but, for their price, we’ve tried to find the most durable models. We’ve been cooking on our Oklahoma Joe for 8 years so far and it’s still going good.

Because the temperature on offset smokers is manually regulated, having a reliable thermometer built into it’s lid makes your job easier.
Built-in thermometers were tested for accuracy. Consistency was required at a minimum. But do note, a thermometer is an easy and cheap part to replace if it’s not reading correctly.

Offset smokers are not set and forget smokers. They require careful and frequent tending to and anyone using one will have to learn basic fire management skills which will come with time and experience.

But, the thickness of the steel used and quality of the dampers will also impact how easy or hard it is to adjust and maintain a steady temperature.

You will see notes on how well each smoker does at retaining heat in the reviews below.

If you’re a newbie to offset smoking, don’t expect to bust out a perfectly done brisket the first time you cook. In fact, we’d recommend starting on some easier to cook cuts of meat so that you can focus on learning about fire management and the quirks of your particular smoker first.

In the reviews below, you’ll see us comment on how well the meat can turn out once you’ve built up a bit of experience and worked out the quirks of your particular offset.

Most of the smokers here have been tested for smoking performance only. It’s assumed that because of the reliable nature of grilling directly over a wood or charcoal fire, if grilling grates and charcoal pans are included, their high heat performance will be as expected.

Please also be aware that we have not personally used some of the more expensive models recommended here.

We have, however, had the opportunity to see these smokers in action and have made our recommendations based on our observations as well as the experience of other real-life users.

Table of Contents

Best Offset Smokers: Our Top Choices

Do it right and grab yourself one of these tested and approved offset smokers. There’s something to suit all budgets.

BEST OVERALL

Oklahoma Joe's Highland

4.6/5

BBQ type: Offset

Material: Painted steel

Grates: Porcelain-coated

Capacity: 619 sq inch

Heat range: Smoke & grill

Dimensions: 33.5″D x 57″W x 53″H

Price guide: $$

Model: Highland

Warranty: 2 years

The Oklahoma Joe’s Highland offset smoker isn’t listed as our best overall because it is the best. Instead, we’ve given it the number one spot because for most people, this smoker gives the best mix of quality, usability, and price that’s out there.

Crafted from heavy-gauge steel, this unit gives you a sizeable 619 square inches of cooking racks in the main chamber. And, while that’s more than enough for a whole brisket and a few pork butts, it’s not so much that it’s hard to heat.

Smoking on the Oklahoma Joes Highland offset smoker

Maintaining a steady temperature is doable with the multiple, quality dampers which are easy to adjust. And, although it will leak a bit of smoke, we don’t think it’s significant enough to affect the results.

In cold weather, we do find that the Highland does need considerably more fuel to maintain a good temperature than during summer. And, you’ll need to be out there checking on it more often. The steel just isn’t thick enough to retain a good amount of heat. Still, it is workable and for the price, really not a bad compromise.

Smoking on the Oklahoma Joe's Highland Offset Smoker

The removable front shelf is handy, the cool-touch handles work well, and the heavy-duty cart makes it easy to wheel this smoker around by yourself.

In the offset firebox you’ll also find an additional 281 square inches of space to grill over the coals.

But, if size is your priority, or the Highland’s unavailable because it’s often not, simply go for the Highland’s big brother, the Longhorn with a slightly larger 751 square inches of cooking space instead of 619.

Either way, this smoker is perfectly capable of making some great food. And, while it’s not the best quality out there, there’s nothing that’s better value if all you want it a decent and affordable stick burner.

Pros
Cons
BEST QUALITY

Yoder Loaded Wichita

4.9/5

BBQ type: Offset

Material: Painted steel

Grates: Stainless steel

Capacity: 1,610 sq inch

Heat range: Smoke & grill

Dimensions: 34.5″D x 78″W x 58.2″H

Price guide: $$$$$

Model: Loaded Wichita

Warranty: Lifetime

If you don’t want to cut any corners and get an offset smoker that’s got it all, the Loaded Wichita by Yoder Smokers is top-notch.

It’s made in the US with a lifetime warranty, crafted from 1/4″ pipe and plate steel with a nice 1,268 square inches of cooking space split over two levels plus the firebox grate.

It’s a huge step up from cheaper offsets, including the Oklahoma Joe’s Highland, and gives you a forever smoker that you can truly master.

Yoder Loaded Wichita Offset loaded up with chicken

Everything about the Loaded Wichita is well thought-out and top quality.

The heavier-gauge steel provides better heat retention and insulation making temperature control a whole lot easier than on thinner, draftier offsets. The welds are strong. The dampers move easily and hold in place so you can dial in the heat to exactly where you want it.

Even the baffle plate is better designed with smaller holes near the firebox and larger ones further away to help the heat transfer evenly from end to end which you can check with the two built-in thermometers that do measure accurately. There’s also an integrated probe port to feed meat thermometer wires through without getting damaged.

Probe port on Yoder Loaded Wichita

The slide out top rack can be removed if you’re cooking something extra tall like a small pig.

Included in the price, you do get a charcoal grate to grill and sear in the firebox. But, if you want to convert the large cooking chamber to a grill, you do need to grab the extra charcoal grate to do so.

At the end of the day, I know the Loaded Wichita is expensive. But, they just don’t make them like this anymore. The investment really does get you a much better smoker that you should never have to upgrade. Most people say that they should have bought one sooner and I’d have to agree, if an offset it what you want, this thing is spectacular.

Pros
Cons
BEST BUDGET

Dyna-Glo Wide Body Vertical

4.3/5

BBQ type: Offset

Material: Painted steel

Grates: Chrome-coated

Capacity: 1,890 sq inch

Heat range: Smoke

Dimensions: 21″D x 43.3″W x 50.2″H

Price guide: $$

Model: DGO1890BDC-D

Warranty: 1 year, paint 90 days

For an absolutely huge cooking capacity for a really low price, the Dyna-Glo Wide Body Vertical Offset Smoker lets you cook your heart out without the big investment.

This thing isn’t very well made, some of the firebox paint will flake off probably within the first few cooks, and it will leak a bit of smoke. But, the leakage is totally alright by our standards, it won’t ruin your cook, you can smoke some really great food in here.

Food smoked in the Dyna-Glo Vertical Wide Body Offset

In terms of usability, the Dyna-Glo gets up to temperature pretty quickly. You’ve got two vents through which to adjust the temperature, one on the firebox and one on the chimney. There’s little indents on the firebox vent which can make it pop out and move slightly which is a bit annoying.

Because the metal is so thin, you will need to be quite hands to manage the temperature on this thing, especially in the cold, and I wouldn’t rely on the built-in thermometer to give you an accurate reading. Grab a meat thermometer, even a cheap one that we’ve tried and tested and it’ll help you dial in the heat for really good meat.

Using the Dyna-Glo Vertical in really cold weather

We do like that this Dyna-Glo comes with a porcelain-enameled charcoal box in the firebox. This holds your charcoal that much tighter for a better burn and it’s durable enough to withstand the heat.

We do find that on long smokes, we have to empty the ash from the firebox mid-cook. It’s a bit annoying but we’ve got a metal bucket we sit nearby to dump the hot ashes so they don’t clog up the airflow, making it hard to hit a good temperature.

Nevertheless, you’ve got an absolutely huge 1,890 square inches of cooking space to play around with.

And, we love how it’s set out on six easy to pull out racks. This wide body version also comes with a rib rack and sausage hanger.

Rib rack and sausage hanger in Dyna-Glo Wide Body Offset

You can fit a whole brisket easily on a rack, ribs are no problem as well. In our opinion, it’s well worth the little bit of extra cash to go wide and not ever have the problem of large pieces of meat not fitting on here.

Perfect for cooking a lot without spending a lot, for the price, the Dyna-Glo Wide Body is well worth it’s few flaws.

Pros
Cons
BEST CHEAPER QUALITY

Meadow Creek SQ36

4.6/5

BBQ type: Offset

Material: Painted steel

Grates: Stainless steel

Capacity: 507 sq inch

Heat range: Low and high

Dimensions: 56.5 H x 61.5 W x 29 D

Price guide: $$$$

Model: SQ36

For a US-made, high-quality offset smoker that’s cheaper and better value than the rest, the Meadow Creek SQ36 is unbeatable.

Made to order in New Holland, Pennsylvania by a family-owned business, you won’t find anything that’s anywhere near this solid or sturdy in your generic line-up of hardware store offset smokers.

You’re looking at 13-gauge, painted steel with stainless steel racks with a heavy-duty firebox rack to give it a tank-like feel. The slide-out ash pan plus ball valve drain make clean-up really easy. And, the calibratable thermometer is a useful step above the rest that means you won’t ever be complaining that the barbecue isn’t reading right.

The 507 square inch capacity isn’t huge. But, it’s big enough to cook two whole briskets or four pork butts at once. And, if you were dreaming of bigger, there’s an optional second rack you can get that takes the total cooking real estate up to a generous 950 square inches.

Smoked ham on the Meadow Creek SQ36

The temperature control on the SQ36 is good and easy.

Like all offsets, you’ll still need time to learn about how to control the fire and where to set your vents. But, the quality is there for you to master and the smoke distribution is great thanks to Meadow Creek’s smoke distributor panel.

Another thing worth mentioning about this one is that you don’t need a lot of charcoal for low and slow cooking. I’d recommend starting with maybe a half chimney full of coals instead of loading it up. This should give you a good long run for smoking.

Fire size for smoking in the Meadow Creek SQ36

In the cons column is the fact that if you smoke in the rain (which unfortunately must be done sometimes), water leaks in through the back hinges. Ideally, it’s best if you’ve got somewhere undercover but open use this smoker.

To grill on it, you’ll need to grab the add-on charcoal pan as well. It’s not included in the price.

Nevertheless, for a great quality offset smoker, Meadow Creek give you value, quality, and some really great meat.

Pros
Cons
BEST XL

Meadow Creek TS120P

4.8/5

BBQ type: Offset

Material: Painted steel

Grates: Stainless steel

Capacity: 1,753 sq inch

Heat range: Smoke & grill

Dimensions: 90″L x 49″W x 75″H

Price guide: $$$$$

Model: TS120

Warranty: 25 years

For anyone who wants to make sure there’s always going to be enough room on the smoker, the Meadow Creek TS120P is huge!

Like you’ve got 11 feet of cooking space. You could cook for a couple of hundred people, smoke a small hog, or batch process meat from your latest hunt. I mean, there’s smaller versions available. But, in the right backyard, this smoker can be quite a feature.

On both included stainless steel, pull out racks, you’ve got a total of 1,753 square inches of cooking space. But, keep in mind that because of this size, you’ll need a considerable 25 – 30 pound of charcoal to get this thing going.

Meadow Creek TS120 Offset Smoker loaded up cooking

It’s size isn’t the only thing that’s good about the TS120P though.

They’re handmade and actually built to last.

Meadow Creek put so much effort into every single detail of these, the workmanship is impeccable. Smooth welds, tight fits, positive-lock latches on the doors, easy slide out cooking grates, a stainless steel calibratable thermometer, and extra large tires with heat guards that make it really easy to roll this cue around. Even to just look at, this smoker is quality and it should last a lifetime.

Quality of the stainless steel slide out cooking grates, welds and latches on Meadow Creek TS120P

It’s a reverse flow smoker design. That means that the smoke gets pushed through the cooking chamber twice, once below the meat and another as it rolls back over to exit out of the chimney nearest to the firebox. This creates more even heat distribution and gives you food that much more flavor. Learn more about reverse flow smokers and how they work.

Like all offset smokers, you will still need to stoke the fire frequently. We find the temperature easy to regulate on a Meadow Creek though. The dampers are easy to slide into place and you don’t get spikes and dips in the temperature as long as you’re feeding that fire.

Meadow Creek TS120P with doors open

If you want to set it up for grilling, you can do that with the optional charcoal pan. Grilling on here is a heap of fun and it’s nice to be able to invite the whole neighborhood.

The only negative I’ll warn you of is the painted exterior.

It’s high-heat and the finish is beautiful. But, unless you go for the insulated firebox as an additional extra, the firebox paint will need redoing over time. It’s just not possible for any paint to withstand that high of a temperature. The insulated firebox does make the whole unit more efficient in terms of fuel usage though which is something that we value and would recommend adding on, especially since the smoker is so large.

Pros
Cons
BEST COMPETITION

Yoder Cimarron

4.9/5

BBQ type: Offset

Material: Painted steel

Grates: Stainless steel

Capacity: 2,225 sq inch

Heat range: Smoke

Dimensions: 47″D x 88″W x 61″H

Price guide: $$$$$

Model: Cimarron

Warranty: 5 years

For true smoking enthusiast who’s got the budget to go for that extra something special, check out the Yoder Cimarron.

This thing is legit a competition-quality offset smoker that’s so big you can use it for catering. But also, how good would it look set up in any backyard?!? I mean, there’s no mucking around with the Cimarron, it’s the real deal and there’s absolutely no denying it.

Made from 1/4″ thick steel with an insulated firebox for better winter performance, fuel efficiency, and protection against paint flaking, the main cooking chamber has 2,225 square inches of cooking space split over two grates. It’s more than large enough to batch cook your latest hunt, or be the one to cook restaurant-quality barbecue for quite a crowd.

Yoder Cimarron heat management system with stainless racks

No corners have been cut when it comes to building one of these smokers. Made in the USA and set into an easy to move, competition cart, we feel that the price is actually very reasonable for the craftsmanship you’re getting.

Look after your Cimarron properly and it’s something you can hand down along with your secrets to your kids and they’ll want it too, this thing is impressive.

With two, highly-accurate temperature gauges positioned at opposite ends of the smoker, and Yoder’s patented heat management system that helps you to get even temperatures across the pit, this smoker isn’t hands-off, but it’s well set up for perfect results.

There’s an integrated probe port for you to feed meat wires without them getting damaged, a storage door, stainless steel side shelves, and built-in tie downs if you do ever want to load your Cimarron up for a comp or other event.

But, wherever this thing is set up, one thing is for sure, it’s a real head-turner that says you’re serious about great food.

Pros
Cons

What is an Offset Smoker?

An offset smoker, also known as a horizontal offset smoker or barrel smoker, is a type of barbecue smoker that consists of two main chambers: a larger cylindrical cooking chamber and a smaller firebox attached to one side.

The cooking chamber is where the food is placed, while the firebox is where the wood or charcoal is burned to generate smoke and heat.

Most people think of offset smokers as the most traditional type of smoker. They’re capable of producing very high-quality, competition worthy smoked meats but are arguably, the most difficult type of smoker to use.

Old Texas offset smoker

There are generally two different configurations for an offset smoker; a traditional setup and a reverse flow one and you can tell whether a barbecue is a traditional offset smoker or a reverse flow by looking at the chimney position.

On a traditional offset smoker, the chimney is set furthest away from the firebox. Reverse flow smokers feature a chimney that sits closer to the firebox showing that the smoke has been pushed through and back through the cooking chamber before being vented.

Read our guide on what is a reverse flow smoker to learn more.

How Do Offset Smokers Work?

  1. Firebox: The firebox is located on one side of the smoker and is used to build and maintain a fire. Wood logs, charcoal, or a combination of both are burned in the firebox, producing smoke and heat.

  2. Smoke and Heat Flow: The smoke and heat generated in the firebox then flow horizontally into the main cooking chamber where a flat, often perforated piece of metal, sits below the cooking grates to diffuse the heat and smoke. This indirect heat and smoke are what cook the food in the cooking chamber.

  3. Cooking Chamber: The cooking chamber is where the meat or other food items are placed on grates. The heat and smoke from the firebox circulate around the food, slow-cooking it to perfection.

  4. Chimney: At the opposite end of the cooking chamber, there is typically a chimney to allow smoke and heat to escape. This design helps maintain a consistent temperature throughout the cooking process.

To control the temperature of an offset smoker, you simply adjust the air intake and exhaust vents. When the vents are more open, the increased oxygen allows the fire to burn faster and hotter.

Some models also feature an additional vertical cooking chamber that the smoke passes through before exiting the chimney to increase the cooking capacity.

Offset smoker with horizontal and vertical cooking chamber

Can You Grill on an Offset Smoker?

While offset smokers are primarily designed for low and slow smoking, some models can be used for grilling as well.

A firebox grilling grate may be available or included to let you sear food directly over the fire without having to change your smoking setup. And, sometimes a charcoal grate or pan can be used inside the main cooking chamber to convert the entire cooking space to a large grill.

Advantages of Using an Offset Smoker

Offset smokers are loved for a lot of good reasons including:

Offset smokers are capable of producing some of the smokiest and richest meats. That’s why they’re often used in competitions and restaurants.

Most offset smokers have a large cooking area that means you can efficiently cook a lot of food at once.

Offset smokers often come with a grilling grate that can sit above the fire in the firebox to grill. This makes the perfect setup for reverse searing while you’ve got the smoker running but is also great for whipping up a steak for lunch while you’re waiting for the brisket.

Alternatively, the cooking chamber can sometimes be converted to a large charcoal grill for times when you want to be able to whip up a quick meal for a lot of people.

Offset smokers can be run on charcoal or real wood. And, while charcoal can be quite expensive, it is possible to source cheap or even free wood to run an offset smoker.

Just be aware that not all woods are suitable for burning in a smoker. Check out our guide on the best woods for smoking for more information.

A good quality offset smoker can last years with proper care and maintenance.

There’s nothing mechanical or electronic to break, just a basic box setup that can be all you need to smoke or grill on for literally a few decades.

Disadvantages of Using an Offset Smoker

Although offset smokers are often talked about as if they’re by far the best type of smoker out there, like anything, there are disadvantages to using one. These include:

Offset smokers are not set and forget. To run one properly, keeping the temperature fairly steady throughout the cook, you’ll need to be out there every 30, 45, or 1 hour tops, checking the fuel and adjusting dampers.

There’s a reason top pitmasters and competitors are proud of their offset smoking abilities. It takes practice to learn how to use an offset smoker well.

But, if it’s something you want to do, you too can learn how to smoke really well with one of these things. You’ll just need a bit of time and the right resources.

Offset smokers are reliant on the thickness of the metal to retain heat and help to keep a steady temperature.

The thinner metal that’s often used on cheaper models can make this a really difficult type of smoker to use in cold weather. It can be done but, you will need more fuel and to be even more hands on with temperature management.

Offset smokers aren’t as simple as pressing a button or igniting the gas. They take a while to start and get going properly.

What to Look for When Buying an Offset Smoker

Regardless of the size, shape or degree of fanciness, if you’re looking to buy a quality offset smoker, keep an eye out for these features:

For greater heat retention and a more even cooking environment, choose a thicker metal.

¼ inch is generally considered to be the gold standard when it comes to offset smokers. It’s less likely to warp and isn’t as affected by adverse weather conditions.

Obviously you’re not going to get steel this thick on a cheaper offset smoker. But, try to go as thick as you can.

A lot of cheap offset smokers are known to leak smoke like a sieve which means you’re losing a lot of the good stuff and won’t have as much flavor in your meat.

You want the firebox to seal well to the cooking chamber and there to be a quality gasket around the firebox and cooking chamber door to minimize opportunity for smoke to get out.

The damper is what you move to adjust the temperature. Check that they’re easy to slide open and closed and stay in position to make temperature management easier.

Being able to quickly and accurately see the ambient temperature of your smoker so that you can make any necessary adjustments is essential to getting good results.

Models with multiple temperature gauges can also be useful to help you see how the temperature varies across the pit.

Having a bigger smoker isn’t always better. Larger smokers do use more fuel and take longer to heat.

But, in saying that, you do want to make sure that the firebox is large enough to fit logs if you want to smoke with real wood.

Also consider how much food you want to be able to cook at one go. You don’t want to need to upgrade your barbecue because of a lack of space a few years down the track.

How strong are the legs and wheels? Does it have strong hinges and latches? It’s important that your new smoker is durable so it can handle it’s own weight and a bit of wear and tear.

Is a charcoal grate for the firebox included? Are there charcoal racks to convert the cooking chamber to a charcoal grill?

Make sure you have a good look at what’s included with your new offset smoker and, if it’s not included, what else you can get for it.

Large, swing open firebox doors can make it cleaning out the ash easier, as do ash trays that slide out.

You also want a baffle plate that’s easy to take out and scrape down when required, and a drain for the grease to funnel into and be cleared out easily.

With no electrical components and a durable build, you can expect a good long warranty from a quality offset smoker.

FAQs About the Best Offset Smoker

If you want a quality smoker that can last for years and produce top-notch, competition and restaurant quality meats, an offset smoker can be a great choice.

Just keep in mind that you do need to tend to the fire frequently. Offset smokers are not set and forget. But, that’s part of the beauty of them. You’re out there, really barbecuing, and if you enjoy the experience, they’re an awesome investment.

A lot of pitmasters do use an offset smoker that allows them to cook a lot of meat with real wood.

Learn more about the history of offset smokers and which iconic barbecue joints use them.

There’s a big difference between a cheap offset smoker and one that works well.

In addition to considering the normal questions of how much cooking capacity you need and how much you want to spend, scroll up for more information about the build quality and features to look out for to make sure you’re getting one that’ll make great food and last for many, many years.

1/4″ thick is considered to be the gold standard when it comes to the gauge of steel that should be used in an offset smoker.

Any offset smoker can run off of either charcoal or real wood. And, although charcoal is probably the most commonly used fuel in one, real wood is preferred by pitmasters for it’s flavor, controllability, and burn time.

Even if you’re using charcoal as your main heat source, adding some wood chunks can do wonders for the flavor you’ll achieve.

Not all types of wood are suitable to cook with. You’ll want a seasoned hardwood to burn in your offset smoker. We talk more about what’s best in our wood selection guide.

Jared Brown BBQ Expert Burning Brisket

Jared Brown, an avid lover of all things meat has a fearless enthusiasm for experimenting with anything that's grilling, smoking or outdoor cooking. With a wealth of experience across a range different barbecue types, Jared's got a real knack for helping others make a decision they're happy with, ensuring they find the perfect fit regardless of conventional notions of the 'right' choice. This unique approach has made Jared a trusted guide in the world of barbecue.

About Burning Brisket

Burning Brisket is one of the leading, independent authorities on all things barbecue. Family-owned and run, it's our mission uncomplicate the art of smoking to help you enjoy making incredible food at home for your family and friends to create memories over.

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