Home Buyers Guides Offset Smoker Vs Pellet Smoker: What’s Best?

Offset Smoker Vs Pellet Smoker: What’s Best?

by Burning Brisket
Offset smoker vs pellet smoker

If you’re shopping for a new barbecue but can’t decide between a traditional offset smoker and a trendy pellet smoker, I hear you!

While they both look similar, they run off different fuels, cook slightly differently and are in a whole different boat when it comes to ease of use. And, that’s before you even consider their different price points. But, if you’re tossing and turning, this article will give you all the information you need to compare the offset smoker vs pellet smoker so that you can make the best decision for your new backyard edition.

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What is an Offset Smoker?

An offset smoker, also known as a horizontal smoker, barrel smoker, stick smoker, pipe smoker or side firebox smoker, is one of the most traditional and basic types of barbecues. Most simply consist of a small firebox that’s connected to a larger barrel or box where the cooking takes place.

But, in this case, basic is definitively not a bad thing! Offset smokers are renowned as the gold standard when it comes to smoking. They’re ideal for cooking meat and other food at low temperatures for a long period of time and, do so, as the heat and smoke from the fire pass through the cooking chamber and out through the chimney.

Offset smokers can be run on a pure wood fire, or a charcoal fire with the addition of wood chips to create that authentic smokey flavor.

What is a Pellet Smoker?

A pellet smoker, also known as a pellet grill, is kind of like a modern-day, electronic upgrade of the traditional offset smoker. They look similar and even work in round about he same way. But, the fire in a pellet smoker runs on 100% pure hardwood pellets that are drip fed into the firebox as is needed to automatically maintain the temperature that you set on what’s usually an LCD display panel.

So, unlike the offset smoker, pellet smokers don’t require so much babysitting to low-and-slow a brisket to perfection. But, they do require access to power and, hard-core enthusiasts will say that the results from a pellet smoker are slights less smoky and a bit more moist than what you get off a traditional smoker.

However, pellet smokers are becoming a popular choice on the competitive barbecue circuit so you can’t argue too much with being able to make competition-worthy meats so easily at home.

Offset Smoker Pros

  • Gives that true, authentic barbecued taste with the best barbecue bark
  • Ideal for cooking lots of food
  • You can grill over the fire in the firebox or simply arrange charcoal in the bottom of the cooking chamber for a bigger grill up
  • You can add more fuel through the firebox door so you won’t loose valuable heat and smoke
  • With a bit of maintenance, a quality offset smoker should last for years and years to come
  • They’re generally cheaper than pellet smokers
  • Doesn’t require electricity so you can grill anywhere without any hassles

Pellet Smoker Pros

  • Set and forget technology means you can barbecue AND get some of those jobs ticked off the list
  • Automated temperature control means you won’t get temperature dips and spikes which poorly affect your meat
  • It’s very hard to burn meat and end up with that bitter, charred taste
  • Some have WiFi so you can control your barbecue right from your phone
  • Ideal for beginners, but, the pros are using them too
  • Convection fans circulate the heat for an even cook and creates the ideal environment for baking and roasting too
  • Some pellet smokers can be used to grill as well
  • Can be very efficient in terms of fuel usage

Offset Smoker Cons

  • It takes some time and practice to learn how to cook well on an offset smoker
  • You’ll need to check on the temperature of your smoker regularly during your cook and manually adjust the fire when necessary
  • Cooking on an offset smoker in cooler/wet climates can be VERY hard due to difficulty controlling the temperature
  • Many models are painted steel which are susceptible to rusting if the paint starts to flake, but, this can be fixed reasonably easily

Pellet Smoker Cons

  • Requires electricity to run so you might need an extension cord or inverter if you’re cooking on the go
  • Generally more expensive to buy than an offset smoker
  • Often turns out food that’s a bit less smoky tasting than that cooked on an offset smoker, but, this can be a pro, depending on your taste preferences
  • Lots of pellet smokers CAN’T be used for grilling as the temperature just can’t get that high

Offset Smoker Vs Pellet Smoker Comparison

 Offset SmokerPellet Smoker
Type of cookingSmoking and grillingSmoking, roasting, baking and grilling (in some pellet smokers only)
Cooking capacitySmall to very largeSmall to super-sized
Price range (USD)$100-$2,000+$300 - $5,000+
Fuel typeWood or charcoal with wood chipsPure wood pellets
Running costHighModerate
Requires power?NoYes
Portable?Yes, but, will be difficultSome portable models available

Some of the Best Offset and Pellet Smokers Compared

To help you decide where you are in the offset vs pellet smoker debate, here’s a run-down of the best budget, mid-range and high-end smokers currently on the market.

But, for the full details and more reviews, check out our articles on the best offset smokers or the best pellet smokers.

The Best Budget Offset and Pellet Smokers

 Char-Griller Smokin Pro Offset BarbecueZ Grills ZPG-450A
best offset barbecue on a budgetZ Grills ZPG-450A
Price range (USD)$$$
Features* Painted steel smoker
* Cast iron grates
* Timber handles and racks which can get hot
* Lightweight cart
* Removable ash tray
* Thermometer with 'smoke zones' to give you an idea of what temperature to shoot for
* Digital controller keeps temperature within 10°F of target
* Efficient fuel usage with approximately 1 pound per hour
* Waste oil collector speeds up clean up
Type of cookingSmoking and grillingSmoking, roasting, baking, grilling
Cooking capacity580 sq. in. smoking + 250 sq. in. grilling450 sq. in.
Warranty1 year3 years
Buy Now on AmazonBuy Now on Amazon

The Best Mid-Range Offset and Pellet Smokers

 Oklahoma Joe's Longhorn Reverse Flow Offset SmokerTraeger Pro Series 34 Pellet Grill
Oklahoma Joe's Longhorn Reverse Flow Offset SmokerTraeger Pro Series 34 Pellet Grill
Price range (USD)Under $800Under $800
Features* Heavy-duty 2.5mm painted steel barrel and firebox for excellent heat retention
* Reverse flow set-up for a more even cook
* Multiple dampers for easy heat control
* Sturdy cart with storage racks
* Built-in thermometer
* Cool-touch handles
* Powder-coated stainless steel to reduce the chance of rust
* Digital Pro Controller that takes 60 temperature readings per second to keep your cook +/- 15°F of your target
* Strong cart with all-terrain wheels
* Hopper Clean Out feature lets you change pellets easily and even while you're cooking
Type of cookingSmoking and grillingSmoking, roasting, baking
Cooking capacity751 sq. in. smoking + 309 sq. in. grilling884 sq. in.
Warranty2 years3 years
Buy Now on AmazonBuy Now on Amazon

The Best High-End Offset and Pellet Smokers

 KBQ C-60 Barbecue PitMemphis Grills Pro Pellet Smoker
KBQ C-60 BBQ Smoker PitBest high-end pellet grill
Price range (USD)Under $2,000Under $4,000
Features* Full stainless steel design
* Trademarked Inverted Flame Firebox creates perfect, blue smoke without any effort
* Dual convection fans circulate heat for even cook
* Thermostatically controlled heat level
* Large cooking capacity split over multiple racks
* Small footprint
* Hand-made in USA
* 100% graded stainless steel construction to last without rusting or flaking paint
* Double-walled design for exceptional heat retention
* Oven-quality gasket to minimize leaks
* Dual-fans to distribute the heat around, reducing the need to turn meat
* Extremely efficient pellet consumption
* Comes with a perforated insert so you can grill too
* Dual pellet hopper means that you can easily mix flavors
* WiFi compatible so you can control the temperature form your phone
* Has space for up to 3 meat probes (1 included) so you'll know exactly when your food is done
* Plenty of storage in stylish cart
* Also comes in a built-in model for outdoor kitchens
Type of cookingSmokingSmoking, roasting, baking, grilling
Cooking capacity960 sq. in.562 sq. in. or 834 sq. in. with optional grates
Warranty2 years3 years on electronics, 7 years on all other parts
Buy Now on AmazonBuy Now on Amazon

For full reviews of these barbecues and more, check out our articles on the best offset smokers and the best pellet smokers.

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