Reverse Flow vs Offset Smoker (Explained for Beginners)

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(Last Updated On: June 27, 2022)

I’ve been on”the “bbq block” long enough to inform you that there are many mixed and opinionated about which one is better to reverse flow smoker or the offset smoker. It’s either of the two, and there is no middle line. So, I thought it was essential to clarify how these two smokers work and whether one is superior to the other.

What I can say quickly is that both are equally efficient smokers. The main distinction between a reverse flow and an offset smoker lies in the flow and handling for heat distribution. In my experience with others, it is evident that a reverse flow will always be the preferred alternative. Why? It’s mainly to rectify the variations in heating temperature dynamics associated with an offset smoker.

Key Differences and Similarities

Here are in the detail all the main differences between a reverse flow smoker and an offset smoker:

DIFFERENCES Reverse flow smoker Offset smoker
Temperature distribution Uniform Uneven
Footprint Large Large
Smoke Dirty Clean
Ease of cleaning No Yes
Portability Heavy Heavy
Learning curve Minimal Huge
Energy efficiency No Yes
Airflow Minimal airflow Plenty of airflow
Position of stack Opposite end of the fire box Same end as firebox
Cooking time Longer Slightly faster

A traditional offset smoker also called a horizontal offset smoker – allows the heat to be introduced into the cooking area from one side. The heat is then spread through the meat before exiting the smoker through the exhaust vents on the opposite end. It can cause hot spots in particular parts of your chamber that can negatively impact smoking.

On the other hand, reverse flow smokers allow heat to be absorbed into the cooking chamber by way of one side. There is only one difference: the heat entering the cooking chamber is initially transferred to a plate made of metal. Then it is transferred back to the room to cook and in the opposite direction before leaving the section via the end of the firebox.

Simply put, a reverse offset smoker ensures optimal or even heat distribution within it. A regular offset smoker? Nope. Why? The location in which the firebox is placed within an offset smoker is likely to be extremely hot. This could result in overcooking or burning the meat inside that region if temperatures aren’t carefully monitored. That’s why the reverse flow smoker helps force hot air to flow throughout your cooking area. This method is designed to spread heat to the meat on its way out.

Reverse Flow Smoker vs Offset

Traditional offset smokers believe that the quality of your smoke greatly determines your capacity to control the temperatures of a smoker’s cooking. It’s all about whether or not you have an offset or reverse flow smoker.

Take a look at this video if you want to know more about the science behind the differences between offset and reverse flow smokers.

However, we shouldn’t let it be a matter of opinion. Let’s look at how each works in tandem, the pros and cons, and which one excels at. Ultimately, I would like you to form your opinion regarding the issue.

How to Use an Offset Smoker

If you want to use an offset smoker, then adhere to these instructions:

  1. Begin by igniting your coals, and then drop them into the firebox after they’re glowing. Be sure to place the coal on the opposite end of the firebox to ensure you don’t touch the flame each time you check on your smoker.
  2. Warm up your logs by placing them over the firebox so that they capture more smoke.
  3. Place the heated logs over your coal.
  4. Install your probe thermometer at the level of the grate
  5. Once the smoker has reached your desired temperature, let the vents in your chimney.
  6. You can place your food on the table.
  7. Check your firebox every 45 minutes, adding more wood if needed.

How to Use a Reverse Flow Offset Smoker

If you want to use an offset smoker with the reverse flow, You can take these steps:

  1. Start your charcoal, then put your firebox with the wood.
  2. Adjust the vents until temperatures are at the 225-degree mark. It would be best to employ a probe thermometer to determine the temperature.
  3. Set your meats on racks.
  4. Shut the lid.
  5. Check the temperature of the cooked food each hour.
  6. You can add more charcoal or alter the vents if smoke diminishes.
  7. Smoke meat till it’s tender.

You use almost the exact procedure when using an offset or reverse flow smoker, and the only difference is the capacity of both smokers to control temperatures.

Benefits of Offset Smokers vs. Reverse flow Smokers

Reverse Flow Smoker Pros

Apart from providing better heat distribution, Reverse flow smokers also offer the following advantages:

  • Enhancing the flow of smoke through your cooker’s chamber.
  • It prevents direct heat and harshness from cooking certain areas of your food (particularly the meat closest to the grill).
  • This allows for more uniform temperatures so that you can anticipate the same outcomes. This is the reason that new smokers can use.
  • The plate’s metal acts like a greased pan. The fat that drips out of the pan onto your meat adds flavor to it.
  • Even distribution of smoke for improved flavor.
  • There are fewer temperature spikes when you include more fuel in your smoker.
  • When you open the cooker’s door, the temperature will return to normal within a short time.

Offset Smoker Pros

Moving on Offset smokers; the unit can have many advantages like:

  • First, the offset smoker is considered more attractive than its reverse flow counterpart. It could be because it does not have features like the different metal pan used for the reverse flow smoker.
  • It is possible to cook a variety of food items that require different temperatures at the same time. This is a great option when you host a barbecue for a large group with diverse tastes.
  • Opening the cooking chambers is unnecessary if you’re ready to add fuel to your fire. Add it through the firebox. This means there is no disruption in smoking levels and cooking temperatures.
  • They don’t consume much fuel since they’re more power efficient and less expensive to run.
  • Grilling food is possible for offset smokers, making them very versatile.
  • They are built to last long, provided you take care of and maintain the equipment with diligence.

Reverse Flow Smoker vs Offset

Advantages of Reverse flow Smoker as compared to Offset Smoker.

Reverse Flow Smoker Cons

Although the advantages of having the reverse flow smoker are numerous, the device is not without its drawbacks which I’ll discuss in the following paragraphs:

  • If you’re cooking various foods simultaneously, which require different temperatures for cooking, uniform distribution of heat is an enormous drawback.
  • Airflow is generally limited by using a reverse flow smoker, making it challenging to clear burn.
  • It takes a bit of time to get heated up as heat must travel through the pan’s metal and then return to the cooker chamber.
  • It consumes lots of fuel.
  • Most metal plates are joined within the smoker with reverse flow, making cleaning them difficult.
  • Since they are more suitable for a slow and low cooking method, the smoking process can take a long time.
  • The bulky and heavy look.

Offset Smoker Cons

It’s hard not to be a fan of offset smokers due to the many benefits they bring. But reverse offset smokers have some cons of their own. These include:

  • The majority of offset smokers have the user with a steep learning curve. You’ll need lots of practice before you can master how to operate the device.
  • In colder regions, smoking could be tricky and require a lot longer time to warm up.
  • Most offset smokers are massive, which is an issue if you’re working in a small space.
  • As well as being bulky, They are also quite heavy. Transferring the unit from one location to another is quite a hassle.

When to Use a Reverse Flow Smoker vs. Offset Smoker

Once you’ve figured out each product’s advantages and disadvantages, let’s look at the circumstances the smoker’s shine.

Utilize a standard offset smoker in those conditions

  • If you need lots of airflows, you’ll need to get plenty of it.
  • Do you prefer clean, pure smoke?
  • Are you looking to cook different dishes which require various temperatures or zones?
  • Slowly smoking large pieces of meat.

Reverse flow smokers are recommended under those conditions

  • If you’re looking for an easy and slow cooking method, you can do it throughout the whole cooking time.
  • It isn’t a good idea to change or move your food to temperatures too high.
  • You’re just beginning to discover smoking. Check out the video below to learn more suggestions if you’re not a seasoned smoker.
  • Are you looking for a flavor boost from the fat that drips out of the pan that cooks grease?
  • If you are planning to cook a variety of food at the same time.


All you need is the information. Now it’s time to make a decision. Which one of these two smokers is superior? A smoker’s choice is based on many aspects like your personal preferences, cooking skills, your preferred cooking method, and the types of foods you’re cooking.

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