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What is a Reverse Flow Smoker? And, Do You Need One?

What is a Reverse Flow Smoker?

Have you ever heard of reverse flow smokers and wondered what all the huff and puff was about? Reverse flow offset smokers are often talked about as a superior alternative to the regularly designed offset smoker. And, with a more even temperature distribution and thorough smoke flow, they are a great tool to create incredibly delicious smoked meat. But, we’ll let you decide what’s best by looking at what a reverse flow smoker is and how they work.

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Table of Contents

What is a Reverse Flow Smoker?

A reverse flow smoker is an adaptation of the traditional offset smoker. It works to create a more uniform cooking environment by forcing hot air and smoke under an additional metal plate, called a baffle, and back through the cooking chamber, reversing the air flow to escape through a smoke stack on the firebox side of the unit.

offset smoker vs reverse flow smoker diagram

In addition to improving the flow of smoke, a baffle plate helps to:

  • Block the direct, harsh heat from overcooking the meat that’s closest to the firebox
  • Create a more even cooking temperature by acting as a heat sink
  • Double as a grease pan, searing fat that drips onto it for even more flavor

Reverse Flow Smoker Pros

  • Consistent cooking environment = more consistent results
  • More even smoke distribution for greater flavor
  • Baffle plate reduces hot spot next to the firebox so you don’t need to move meat mid-cook
  • Less prone to temperature spikes after adding more fuel to the fire
  • Faster return to cooking temperature after opening the cooking chamber door
  • Improved flavor and moisture as the fat renders out of the meat, sears on the griddle pan and filters through the cooking chamber

Reverse Flow Smoker Cons

  • More uniform heat can be a negative if you like having different temperature zones
  • Restricted air flow can reduce the cleanliness of the burn
  • Takes longer to heat up because the heat and smoke have to travel further and the extra baffle needs to be brought up to temperature too
  • Slightly less fuel efficient than normal offset smokers
  • Most baffle plates are welded in and can’t be removed for easy cleaning (N.B. you can remove the baffle in the Oklahoma Joe’s Highland and Longhorn Reverse’s)
Reverse Flow Smoker Baffle Plate

How Do You Use a Reverse Flow Smoker?

  1. Prepare meat early, seasoning with your favorite dry rub (we love Rufus Teague). You can even leave seasoned meat in the fridge overnight.
  2. Use a chimney starter to help light charcoal and place in the firebox along with a few pieces of hardwood for a stronger smoky flavor.
  3. Adjust the dampers to reach around 225 degrees Fahrenheit (this temperature is spot on for most types of meat).
  4. Place meat on the cooking racks and close the lid.
  5. Monitor the temperature every hour or so, adding more charcoal (after starting in the chimney starter) and wood to keep the temperature steady. You might need to adjust the dampers as you go.
  6. Keep smoking meat until it’s tender. You can use smoke times as a guide, or, an internal meat probe to see when the cut has reached it’s optimal temperature.
  7. Remove meats and let them rest for 10 minutes before serving.

When Do You Use a Regular Vs Reverse Flow Offset?

A regular offset smoker is good when:

  • You want more airflow
  • You want very clean smoke
  • You want to make use of different heat zones

A reverse flow offset smoker is good when:

  • You want the same low and slow throughout the cooking chamber
  • You don’t want to move meat mid-cook
  • You’re a beginner
  • You like the added flavor you get from the fat rendering on the baffle plates
Best Offset Smokers Compared

FAQs About Reverse Flow Smokers

Q. Is a reverse flow better than a traditional offset smoker?

They’re different. The reverse flow design evens out heat and smoke distribution for a much more uniform cooking environment. Steadier conditions = more consistent results with less work.

But, a regular offset smoker is great when you want big air flow for a very clean burn. Or, if you like having different temperature zones to make use of the hotter area near the firebox and put the low and slow stuff further away.

Q. Is the temperature the same throughout a reverse flow smoker?

Unless a smoker has a convection fan to mechanically move the air like in a regular oven (see the Memphis Grills Pellet Smoker), it’s impossible for the temperature to be completely uniform throughout a smoker. You can expect the temperature to vary between 25 and 50 degrees F in a reverse flow smoker.

Q. How do I know if it’s a reverse flow smoker or regular offset?

Look at the smoke stack. If it’s on the side closest to the firebox, it’s reverse flow. If it’s furthest away from the firebox, it’s a regular offset smoker.

Q. Can you grill on a reverse flow smoker?

Just like offset smokers, some reverse flow smokers can be used to grill as well. Check out the Oklahoma Joe’s Longhorn Reverse that has grilling plates over the fire.

Q, What is the best reverse flow smoker?

We like the Oklahoma Joe Reverse Flow Smokers for their mix of size, quality, versatility and price. Check out the smaller Highland Reverse or the larger Longhorn Reverse.

The Best Reverse Flow Smokers

When it comes to the best reverse flow offset smokers, you simply can’t go past the quality and value of a Char-Broil Oklahoma Joe’s!

Oklahoma Joe's Highland and Longhorn Reverse Flow Smokers

✔ 100% heavy-gauge steel construction
✔ Great value for money
✔ Can be set up as a reverse flow or a regular offset smoker
✔ Side venting chimney improves air flow
✔ Grill plates for the firebox included

With two market-leading offset smokers in their range, the Highland Reverse and the Longhorn Reverse (larger version of the Highland), one of these bad boys is a solid investment that’ll not only make your barbecue BETTER, but EASIER as well.

The reverse flow technology made with multiple dampers and a professional-grade thermometer gives you the ability to control the temperature of your barbecue accurately. But, it’s also made from heavy-duty, 2.5mm thick painted steel which helps to retain heat, creating the ideal environment for an even, reverse flow cook.

Add to the mix a large, easy to clean firebox, two storage shelves and a heavy-duty cart with wheels that are definitely strong enough to move this ‘cue around and this baby will see you through years of smoking to come.