Among smoking fans, there is always a need to go for the best equipment on the market, as it is always nice to get value for your money. A good smoker means deliciously cooked meat which is every smoker’s goal, and that’s why Vertical smokers vs Offset smokers are a hot topic of debate among fans.
But if you’re just a beginner, it might be really confusing to see the difference between these two types, so you might be wondering which one to select. And if you go to the market, you might be overwhelmed by how many different types of smokers are available for purchase. Sounds familiar? We guess so, as we all have been there. But you should stay calm since we’ve got you covered – in this post, we will do the ultimate comparison (on how they work and ultimately what sets them apart) and come to a final verdict.
So let’s start with…
Vertical smokers usually have a simple and very easy to use design. It allows for heat inflow properly and cooks meat using the laws of heat transfer and water. They are also quite affordable comparing to other types, and moreover – they are among the cheapest smokers available. You can get one for under $150 in case you’re looking for an affordable solution.
How Vertical Smokers Work
Vertical smoker consists of three parts namely the heat source, water pan, and the smoking compartment. The smoking compartment sits at the top and it’s the part of the smoker that holds food to be grilled. Usually, it’s a stainless steel plate. There are two layers of steel great on a vertical smoker.
The compartment directly below is the water pan. The water pan is important to moisturize the air in the smoker. This prevents the dry heat of the fire to smoke the meat and cause dryness. Also, this makes the meat softer when you smoke using low heat – especially when you do it over weeks or days.
The last part is the heat source. This compartment holds the fuel such as gas, wood, and charcoal. This is where the heat is mostly regulated and controlled.
Vertical smokers have a small size which makes them portable compared to other smokers. They need little power to operate and they are cheap, and that’s why beginner smokers can try out this smoker grill as their first. Their portability allows them to take up little space. Also with their small size, they tend to be more efficient than larger smokers as they won’t need much fuel to operate.
If you are just picking up grilling as a hobby, vertical grills are a good affordable start. It is also nice for small families that won’t need a large and expensive one to throw big grill parties. And for those living in tight apartments so they can have no problems with storage.
The first thing you’ll find disturbing about vertical smokers is the small space for cooking. Although the size gives it an edge in portability, it takes away points for cooking space. In addition, food can only be removed and placed via one entry and exit point. This further raises an issue for accessibility.
Also, vertical smokers lose heat fast. First, they lose heat because of the number of times you need to open the lid to check on the meat. Further, the smoker only has two layers of grates for smoking. You would need to open the first layer to check on items on the second layer. This contributes further to heat loss.
Note that: The heat loss issue is fixed by the addition of digital thermometers although many aren’t familiar with it!
The vertical smoker has also been faulted for having limited temperature control. This can be seen in some models such as the Brinkmann which has no adjustable vents. It is crafted to perform at the ideal smoking temperature range. But this is hard to work around until you really get the hang of it.
Offset smokers usually have a simpler design than vertical smokers. It consists of a firebox and the cooking chamber. The firebox contains the heat source. Some heat sources include chopped wood, gas, and charcoal. The cooking chamber is the part that holds the meat or other food you’re smoking. Most times, it is designed in a barrel or box shape containing a sliding door and a smokestack.
Both parts of the offset smoker are connected. The heat coming from the firebox enters the cooking chamber. The heat is regulated by the air intake valve.
How Offset Smokers Work
To use offset smokers, you first light up the fuel (coal, gas or wood) in the firebox to create heat. This heat enters the cooking chamber through a small hole that connects the chamber to the firebox. The heat reaching the chamber is what cooks up your meat or other food you are cooking.
Remember to always regulate the heat so it your food doesn’t get burnt!
The smoker is designed to prevent any heat situations that can spoil your meat. The smokestack is the channel where the heat and smoke escape through. Some smokers are designed with a metal sheet at the bottom of the cooking chamber. This sheet causes a reverse flow thermal configuration. This sheet allows for proper temperature distribution in the chamber. Some of the heat is channeled back to the fuse box while some escape through the smokestack.
Offset smokers allow you to smoke your meat to near perfection. Those with top-notch design, for example, those with reverse thermal circulation are your best bet. Choose a smoker that has specs that suit your needs – such as size and weight among other attributes.
Another advantage the offset smoker has is the cooking chamber. The chamber has a large cooking space and can take a huge volume of food. The smoker also helps cut down energy consumption and therefore reduces the cost of maintenance and operations.
Due to the design, it is usually difficult to tell the difference between a good smoker and a bad one. Although, the presence of a reverse thermal flow circulation is a good quality to look out for in an offset smoker. Cheap offset smoker might be easy on your pocket, but they would affect your cooking. As, unfortunately, cheap smokers are hard to operate and this will make your cooking sub-par.
In some poorly designed smokers, the temperatures near the firebox are around 98’6°F. This is usually hotter than the cooling chamber and the transfer of heat is weak. These smokers are also made with thin metal sheets which allow heat to dissipate easily. You are likely to spend a lot of money on fuel with these poorly made smokers and your meat would be unevenly cooked. So be careful and read some reviews before purchasing one!
As we discussed two different types of smokers you might realize that these smokers both have their own benefits and disadvantages.
- In general, you should go for a Vertical smoker if you want portability, as it can be maneuvered easily, plus they are usually cheaper. They are smaller, which means they don’t require a lot of storage space. But it might be a huge disadvantage as well, in case you’re cooking for a big party.
- If you want to cook a lot of meat, then you can save energy, fuel and resources using the Offset smoker – it’d be more sustainable. But choosing one might be tricky for an inexperienced smoker.
Just as we said above, they each have a unique function. So when choosing the one that is right for you such factors as taste preference, space, size and also price should be considered. Our final advice would be – get the smoker that meets your needs the most. It might be hard to choose and even confusing, but believe us: if you’re reading this guide, it means that you are ready to jump in this rabbit hole.
Fallon Chan is a food and lifestyle photographer and blogger.