For serious smoking, it’s often asked, should I buy an offset smoker or a Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM)? Both options are good choices, but, when it comes to smoke profile, ease of use and cost, there’s a few major differences that will help to steer you in the direction that’s right for you. This article takes a good look at the offset smoker vs WSM debate to help you decide which one to buy.
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What is an Offset Smoker?
An offset smoker is a classic in the world of smoking. Also called a horizontal smoker, barrel smoker, stick smoker, pipe smoker or side firebox smoker, they’re usually a pretty simple design consisting of a smoking chamber connected to a small firebox. The smoke and heat from the charcoal and/or wood fire moves through the cooking chamber to give what’s inside a low and slow treatment that’s often thought of as the holy grail of barbecue.
But, achieving gold standards on an offset smoker isn’t without a bit of effort. Cooking on an offset smoker takes a good 8-12 hours to do a large cut and you’ll need to keep a close eye on the temperature, stoking the fire throughout. If you’re out and about the yard or having a lazy Sunday with family and friends though, it can be a heap of fun too.
What is the WSM?
The Weber Smokey Mountain, or WSM, is Weber’s only dedicated smoker. They’ve basically taken their ever-popular kettle grill and added a middle section of pipe plus a water pan to convert it into a vertical smoker that’s efficient, affordable and easy to use.
Running on charcoal with wood chunks for flavor, the WSM has become a crowd favorite and has even managed to work itself onto the competitive circuit with results that, although different, do rival that of an offset smoker.
Due to it’s design, the WSM cooks faster than an offset smoker and doesn’t require quite so much babysitting. But, they generally have a smaller capacity and enthusiasts will argue that they can’t create the same complex smoke profile that an offset smoker can do.
But, lets take a look at the pros and cons of both options…
Offset Smoker Pros
- Unrivaled smokey taste
- Large cooking capacity
- Can be used with pure wood or charcoal/wood combo depending on taste preference
- Many can be used to grill over the firebox as well as smoking
- Some can be set up as charcoal grill in the main cooking chamber
- Has separate firebox so you can add fuel without disturbing smoke in the cooking chamber
- Durable type of barbecue if looked after properly
- Wide range of price/quality options to suit budget
- Vertical design smokes more quickly than offset style
- Efficient fuel usage
- Takes up minimal ground space
- High quality, durable build
- Easy to use making it suitable for beginners
- Separate fuel door so you can add fuel without disturbing smoke in the cooking chamber
- Available in 3 sizes depending on your needs
- Double cooking grates do offer reasonable amount of cooking space
- One of the best value for money smokers
- Long warranty
Offset Smoker Cons
- Requires tending to fire every hour or so to maintain target temperature
- Better suited to more experienced smokers (or be prepared for the learning curve)
- Can be harder to maintain temperature in cooler/wetter weather conditions
- Most offset smokers are painted steel which can flake and/or rust if not looked after properly – but, it’s pretty easy to fix
- Cheap offset smokers are poor quality, won’t last and will leak lots of smoke and heat
- Limited cooking capacity
- Not suitable for grilling
- Doesn’t create as strong of a smokey flavor as an offset smoker
- Can’t hang the lid off the side so you need to find somewhere suitable to put a hot piece of metal when it’s time to take the meat out
Offset Smoker Vs WSM Comparison
Suitable for smoking and grilling (some models)
Suitable for smoking
Small to very large cooking capacity
Small to large cooking capacity
$200 - $550
Runs on wood or charcoal
Runs on charcoal with wood chips to create smoky flavor
Low-moderate running cost depending on what type of fuel is used
Moderate running cost
No power required
No power required
Generally not portable, but, you could load on the back of a truck
Portable because of it's small size. But, also breaks down into 3 sections if needed
Which Offset Smoker is Similar to the WSM?
To help you decide whether an offset smoker or the WSM is for you, we wanted to show you how the Weber stacks up against an actual offset smoker.
In terms of price, capacity and build quality, the Oklahoma Joe Longhorn Reverse Flow Offset Smoker is a good alternative to the WSM. So, the table below shows the stats and features of both of these side by side.
The OJ Longhorn Reverse and the 22" WSM
Heavy-gauge steel with porcelain-coated grates
Porcelain-enameled steel with stainless steel grates
751 sq. in. smoking of cooking space + 309 sq. in. grilling
726 sq. in. of cooking space
2 year warranty
10 year warranty
Our Verdict on Offset Smokers vs the WSM
Both offset smokers and the Weber Smokey Mountain are great choices for a backyard smoker. And, in our minds, there’s nothing that compares to the true smokey flavor of an offset smoker.
However, if you don’t want to spend all day managing the fire, or have a tight budget, the WSM offers excellent quality and durability in a smoker that’s almost set and forget. It also uses less fuel (if you don’t have free wood) and is portable making it an affordable and easy option that’ll get a heap of use over the years.