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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 inveseting 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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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: Powder-coated

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

Maintinaing 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, simply go for the Highland’s big brother, the Longhorn with a total of 1,060 square inches of cooking space instead of 900.

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 offests. 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.

Dyna-Glo Wide Body Offset Smoker

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 slighlty 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 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.

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 distributer 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 somtimes), 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 craftmanship 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 tempearture 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?

Offset smokers are also called barrel, side firebox, horizontal or pipe smokers or cookers.

Most people think of them as the most traditional type of smoker and they’re capable of producing very high-quality, competition worthy smoked meats.

How Do Offset Smokers Work?

The most common type of offset smoker consists of two differently sized, sealed but connected cylinders or boxes. The smaller of the two boxes is most often called a firebox. It houses a charcoal or wood fire and is offset a little lower than the larger container. It’s positioned to force the rising smoke from the fire up and into the larger box also referred to as an oven or cooking space. From here, the smoke moves through the larger chamber, cooking the meat inside, before escaping through a chimney.

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

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.

Grilling in an Offset Smoker

Some offset smokers can be used as a barbecue grill as well by simply placing charcoal in the oven space and cooking on top of a grate.

Types of Offset Smokers

In a traditional offset smoker, the part of the cooking chamber that’s closest to the firebox is naturally the hottest. This can cause uneven cooking so most of the time, you’ll need to rotate the food or plan the positioning carefully to prevent some food cooking faster than others. The larger the offset smoker, the greater the temperature disparity there will be.

To help to reduce the need to rotate meat while cooking, you can also buy a reverse flow offset smoker. Although there are a few different ways this can be achieved, the most common of these is the addition of a steel baffle plate. This plate protects the meat from direct heat, acts as an even heat sink and allows the smoke to move around the barbecue more slowly, bathing the meat in more even heat and flavor.

You can generally 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.

For more detailed information about the reverse flow technology, check out our article, what is a reverse flow smoker?

What Can You Cook in an Offset Smoker?

Offset smokers are ideal for any of your traditional low and slow meats. This includes:

  • Brisket
  • Ribs
  • Pork butt or picnic
  • Large pieces of meat

However, offset smokers are also great for smoking or grilling just about any type of meat including sausages and chicken.

Offset Smoker Pros and Cons

As well as looking the part and producing some of the richest, smokiest meats, offset smoker advantages include:

  • They’re ideal for cooking lots of food at once
  • You can easily add more fuel and/or wood chips without opening the cooking chamber which disrupts the temperature and smoke levels
  • They’re relatively inexpensive to run
  • You can grill on them too
  • With the right maintenance, a quality offset smoker should last a lifetime

Although I’d say, what’s not to love about an offset smoker, disadvantages may be:

  • It takes longer to start and heat the barbecue than a gas grill
  • The low and slow style means cooking takes hours
  • It takes a bit of practice to master cooking on an offset smoker
  • Cooking in colder climates can be tricky
  • Offset smokers are large and take up a lot of space
  • They’re heavy and can be difficult to move

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:

  • Heavy gauge metal – 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.
  • Quality seals and dampers – Quality seals are essential to create greater temperature control, improve smoke retention and reduce fuel usage. Inspect the seals to check that there aren’t any gaps. Also make sure that the dampers seal well but are easy enough to slide open and closed.
  • Temperature gauges – Being able to measure the internal temperature of your offset smoker without having to open the lid is essential to create perfectly smoked meats. Look for a quality brand that’s going to give you an accurate reading for greater control. It’s useful to have 2 thermometers at grate level at either end of an offset smoker so you can see if there’s any temperature difference and adjust accordingly.
  • Sturdiness – 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 a bit of wear and tear.
  • Cover – Does the barbecue come with a cover or is one available as an optional extra? If you don’t have the space to store your barbecue undercover, you’ll need a waterproof cover to keep it dry and prevent rust
  • Warranty – A quality smoker should last a lifetime with a bit of love and care. Nevertheless, buying an offset smoker with a warranty will give you peace of mind when it comes to potential manufacturer faults.

Other Important Offset Smoker Features

  • Firebox sizeWhether you’re using charcoal with wood chips, logs or split wood, make sure that the firebox is large enough to fit your chosen fuel source.
  • Cooking chamber size – You don’t want to need to upgrade your barbecue because of lack of space so, carefully consider how much you’re planning on cooking when you’re first buying an offset smoker. Select an offset smoker that has plenty of space, racks and/or hooks to cook a reasonable quantity of food at a time. Moveable racks offer additional flexibility.
  • Footprint – How much room will your new offset smoker take up? Don’t forget to take into account the need for ventilation space around it.
  • Ease of cleaning – Are the cooking plates removable to allow for easy cooking? Is there a drain or plug that means you can simply hose out the inside of your barbecue? Does it come with an ash clean out tool? It’s more than likely that you won’t want to move your offset smoker to clean it so features that make scrubbing easy are a lifesaver.
  • Portability – Will you need to move your barbecue? If so, how heavy is it? Does it have handles and/or wheels that will help you to move it?
  • Accessories – Does the barbecue come with accessories? And, what accessories are available? You might want to buy extra racks, rib hooks, tools or a weather guard down the track.

Common Problems with Cheap Offset Smokers

With the rising popularity of smoking at home, the market has been flooded with inexpensive, entry-level offset smokers. If it’s all you can afford, buying any offset smoker is definitely better than no smoked meat but here are some of the most common problems you’ll experience using a base level offset smoker:

  • Poor seals – If the joins, doors and dampeners don’t seal properly, heat and smoke will escape from your barbecue. This makes it hard for you to control the temperature and can result in an uneven cook. It also means that you’ll spend more money on fuel trying to create a stable environment.
  • Made from thin metal that doesn’t retain heat well – Cheap offset smokers that are built from thinner steel simply can’t hold the heat as well as more quality offset smokers. You should still be able to cook good food on them, but you will need to use more fuel and watch the fire carefully to maintain an even temperature. This could be especially difficult in cooler or rainy climates.
  • Flaking paint – Entry level barbecues are often finished off with poor quality paint that can start to flake with high heat and/or time. Not only are paint flakes less than ideal to be in your food, your barbecue will be more prone to rust once its outer seal has begun to wear off.
  • Uneven heat and smoke distribution – Smoke and heat naturally move up, not sideways. Some cheaper offset smokers aren’t designed with such efficient smoke flow in mind. This can cause the side of the firebox that’s closest to the firebox to be much hotter than the other.  You’ll probably find that you need to keep rotating the meat you’re smoking to avoid some of it being done before the rest.

What is the Best Offset Smoker to Buy?

When buying an offset smoker, don’t just look at the best offset smoker to buy. Instead, aim to find one that perfectly matches your needs and your budget.

  1. How much do you want to spend? – Spending more on an offset smoker usually means better and longer-lasting quality but how much do you have available to invest in your purchase?
  2. What do you want to cook? – How much meat are you planning on cooking at a time? Ideally your barbecue will be large enough to cater for when you’re entertaining at home but not so big that you’re wasting fuel heating up more space than you regularly use.
  3. Where will you keep your new offset smoker? – Deciding where you’re going to put your new barbecue will help you determine how big it can be and whether you’ll need a cover and/or extra insulation to account for cold weather.
  4. Which offset smoker features do you want? – Take another look at the list of offset smoker features above and decide which features are must-have’s for you. Then it’s time for you to shop!

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.

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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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