Consumers always want something that would bring them the best results. So, when confronted with choosing between an offset smoker and a reverse flow smoker, they would surely want to make a wise choice. They would like to know which between the two brings in the best smoking results.
I likewise found myself confronted with this dilemma of choosing between an offset smoker and a reverse flow smoker, and like many others before me, I tried to study the design of offset and reverse flow smokers. I found out that the main difference between the two is in the handling and flow of heat.
A visual assessment of the designs of each of these smokers shows that the reverse flow smoker got a better design. This innovative design allows for an even distribution of heat. Moreover, the reverse flow smoker was conceived to correct the apparent limitations and mistakes in the heat-flow dynamics of the traditional offset smoker.
What is a Reverse Flow Smoker?
The offset smoker has been around for almost 40 years. Most probably, the oilfield workers in Texas and Oklahoma were the first ones to have invented the offset smokers, turning steel drums into smokers and grills. They based their design on the traditional brick pits. The reverse flow smoker, however, is an improvement over the offset smoker.
Since the offset smoker has apparent limitations when it comes to heat distribution, some designers of smokers conceived of a way to distribute heat evenly within the smoker. Thus, the reverse flow smoker was born. The reverse flow smoker has a design that forces smoke and hot air under an additional metal place. This metal plate is referred to as baffle.
The baffle allows the air to reverse flow toward the escape vent along the firebox side. The steel plates inside the cooking chamber run parallel to the cooking surface, directing the heat flow from one side to another.
Using the reverse flow smoker, you can stock with wood chips the firebox and go about your other business without worrying much about overcooking the food. The baffle plate helps block direct heat so as not to overcook meat nearest the firebox. It also creates an even cooking temperature. Lastly, you can use it like a greased pan that sears fat.
What is an Offset Smoker?
The offset smokers come in two types: the traditional ones and the Texas-style. The conventional offset style is the more common type of offset smoker. The cooking chamber and the firebox consist of two apparent entities.
The heat comes from the firebox and moves along the cooking chamber. Then, it exits to the other end. The firebox connects to the cooking chamber, and an exhaust pipe is located at the opposite end to vent out smoke and heat.
A Comparative Analysis of Offset & Reverse Flow Smokers
The apparent advantage of the reverse flow smoker is its more consistent temperature. Yet, the offset smoker can provide an excellent airflow that offers a clean burn. For this reason, some pitmasters favor the offset smoker over the reverse flow for its hot zones and cooler zones. These zonal variations allow them to choose the appropriate zone for various types of food and cooking. Below are some basic comparative points between these two types of smokers:
Since the offset and the reverse flow smokers have different internal designs, they also offer different cooking styles. The reverse-flow smoker, for example, is best for cooking from bottom to top because the low heat emanates from the plate.
The offset smoker, however, has a horizontal flow of heat. Thus, the meat is smoked from the top downward. The law of thermodynamics, of course, says that hot air rises. So, without the induction plate, the hottest part of the offset smoker is the top part.
Cleaning Up Process
The baffle plate of the reverse flow smoker sits underneath the grill grate. The plate is rigid. Thus, it is a challenge to clean up the grease afterward. You may be forced to utilize a scraper and elbow grease to clean up your reverse flow smoker. So, when it comes to ease of clean-up, you might as well go for offset smokers, for they are much easier to clean after every session of smoking.
The control of temperature is crucial to the smoking process result. So, the better the control afforded by a smoker, the better you can cook. The reverse flow smoker, of course, allows for an easy setup of temperature. But with the offset smoker, you need to be watchful of the temperature.
With the reverse flow smoker, you need to stock and light the wood chips and adjust the temperature quickly. It is like a set-and-forget type of smoker. On the other hand, the offset smoker requires you to pay more attention to the temperature. You need to monitor the heat inside and adjust the fire more often.
The smoker gets its heat from the smoldering charcoals. The wood chips you lay on top of these charcoals add flavor to the meat you smoke. With the reverse flow smoker, you only need to get the briquettes burning and lay the wood chips on top of these burning briquettes. You need not check on them more often.
On the other hand, the offset smoker doesn’t come with a baffle plate. As such, you may light the fire and tend to it during the cooking process to ensure that the amount of heat is right.
The good thing about the reverse flow smoker is that it can maintain a consistent temperature throughout the smoking chamber. The heat coming from the flame travels throughout the cooking chamber and radiates from the plate. This even radiation creates consistent and constant heat throughout the cooking chamber. So, you can expect evenly cooked meat from the reverse flow smoker.
On the other hand, the offset smoker features both cool and hot zones. These zones allow you to position the meat or anything you like to smoke, either in the hot or not-so-hot zones. It may take more skills to grill or smoke in this setup. But some pit-masters enjoy the challenge. For example, if you got small meat cuts, you could place these cuts in the cooler zone. If you have thicker meat cuts, you can put these cuts in the hot zones.
When Does Each Smoker Excel?
Knowing the pros and cons of the reverse flow and offset smokers would allow you to see why some smokers would prefer one over the other. It will help, however, if you know when the reverse flow smoker and offset smoker excel:
When to Use Offset Smoker?
Experts would advise you to use the offset smoker when you need much airflow. The airflow in the offset smoker is pretty much patented. It moves from the firebox to the cooking chamber and out of the vent.
You can likewise use it if you want clean smoke. Besides, if you’re going to cook various types of food that necessitate different temperatures, you can rely on the offset smoker. Lastly, you can use it when slow smoking sizeable meat.
When to Use Reverse Flow Smoker?
You can use the reverse flow smoker if you engage in a slow and low heat cooking method throughout the whole cooking process. It is also recommended if you don’t want to move your meat or rotate your meat.
You can also use it if you are new to smoking. Plus, if you’re going to provide your food with added flavor, you can use the reverse flow smoker with a greased pan.
Which is Better Between These Two Smokers?
After reading the pros and cons of using each of these two smokers, you will now have a general view of which to choose between the two smokers. You only need to consider your needs to figure out which is the appropriate smoker for your needs.
If you want to have temperature zones in your smoker and prefer clean smoke, the offset smoker will be best for you. Yet, there is a learning curve in the mastery of the offset smoker.
Moreover, you must be wary of time and the duration of the smoking or grilling process to ensure that the results will be palatable and delicious for you and your guests.
If you are the type of guy who wants a consistent temperature throughout the cooking chamber and you don’t have the patience to monitor the temperature constantly, then the reverse flow smoker will be best for you.
Of course, if you’re an experienced cook, you will surely love the thrill of using the offset smoker because you can exploit and take advantage of the hot spots for cooking different food.
Smoking food is not an easy process. It is not a set-and-leave process. Moreover, it requires meticulous planning, starting with the food you will choose to smoke, the rub you will use to flavor the food, the choice of wood chips, the monitoring of temperature and time, and many other minute details that you need to attend to. Thus, the smoker you will use will factor in the results of your smoking food.
When choosing, of course, between the offset and the reverse flow smokers, you need to know their pros and cons and figure out your needs and requirements. There are subtle differences between these two smokers, and knowing their pros and cons will help you determine the right smoker for your smoking needs.