Serious cookouts need serious equipment! Offset horizontal/ barrel smokers produce some of the richest and smokiest meats, and you can cook loads of food all at once.
You’re also in complete control of the heat and smoke flow, and you can add fuel and/or wood chips without disrupting the the smoke and heat by opening the smoking chamber.
Offset barrel smokers are ideal for smoking any of your traditional low-and-slow cooked meats, such as brisket or ribs.
But they’re also great for smoking just about any type of meat, like your much loved Thanksgiving turkey!
Best Offset Smokers Under $1000 - Comparison Table
Best Offset Smokers Under $1000 - Our Reviews
Unlike your traditional horizontal offset smoker, this one has a vertical cooking chamber. This is meant to capture the absolute maximum smoke flavour, and also means that you can stack more meat for smoking into relatively smaller space (the dimensions are 21 x 43.3 x 50.2 inches).
This smoker features 6 separate smoking racks all together. They are height adjustable and provide a total of 1890 square inches of cooking space.
It comes complete with a charcoal and ash management system, inclusive of charcoal chamber, charcoal grate and a large removable ash pan. The charcoal chamber keeps briquettes stacked tightly for increased fire from your charcoal.
You can check on the temperature with its stainless steel temperature gauge with "Smoke Zone" indicator, then adjust the temperature as required using the steel smoke stack’s adjustable flue.
Although it’s designed with charcoal fuel in mind, you can also use wood should you so wish.
You can protect your smoker from all weather conditions with a custom fit cover available on Amazon.
If you know your offset smokers it should be no surprise to you that we’ve featured a reverse flow smoker amongst our top 5. (If you don’t know much about reverse flow smokers, don’t worry, we talk about them in our Frequently Asked Questions section.)
This particular reverse flow smoker uses a series of 4 baffles, which help to guide the heat and smoke along the main cooking space, for a consistent even heat and a mouthwatering smoky flavor.
You don’t have to use it as a reverse flow smoker if you’re nervous about using it that way at first. The optional smokestack locations mean you can switch between reverse flow smoking and traditional offset smoking as you please. If you don’t feel you need the baffles you can just remove them.
It features a large cooking surface area, with 751 square inches of cooking surface, along with an extra 309 square inches of cooking surface within the firebox chamber if you so wished to use it.
It’s made from high-temperature, heavy-gauge steel and the wire grates are porcelain coated. We were really impressed with the build quality - more on that in our FAQ section.
The firebox chamber bears a large stainless steel fuel basket and clean-out door for easy ash removal.
It has a professional built in temperature gauge for accurate heat monitoring, and you can adjust the temperature as you wish using its multiple dampers.
It has a large charcoal basket which makes for a more efficient burn, easier tending and quicker clean-up.
We also like that it has cool touch handles - you do not want to burn your hands!
#3. Runner Up
Oklahoma Joe's Highland Offset Smoker
This is one fine offset smoker! It features 619 square inches of cooking space which should be enough room for a large 10-14 pound brisket, two racks of St. Louis style ribs, or three large chickens.
We were really happy with this smoker’s build quality - more on that in our FAQ section.
There's a really convenient access door on the firebox to make it easy for stoking and adding wood without disrupting the meat smoking process.
It features multiple dampers, for that minute by minute temperature and smoke control.
It also sports two shelves - perfect for keeping all your accessories to hand.
Why not check out the video for this product on Amazon which demonstrates just how easy to use this product is?
What we love about this smoker is that it has a 3 piece smoking chamber, which helps eliminate air loss and maintain a good high temperature.
It features 739 square inches of primary cooking surface - more than enough to cook your meat for all your family. Big enough for about 36 burgers easily.
Despite its relative affordability we were more than happy with this smokers’ build quality.
The firebox can double as a charcoal grill, and it holds an ash drawer for easy cleaning and ash removal.
The porcelain-coated grates are rust resistant, easy to clean and are really built to last.
We couldn’t get over the price on this offset smoker - talk about affordability!
At 30 inches in smoking chamber length it's perfect for family use and even when having a few friends over, with 438 square inches of cooking surface in the main chamber alone.
We’re happy with the build quality. For example there’s the heavy duty lid, and the manufactures’ promise that the paint won’t flake.
There’s a large capacity charcoal pan, which can hold 5 pounds of charcoal at one go, and the lifting handles mean you can adjust the height of the charcoal for better heating. There’s also a side door for easily adding charcoal.
It has a professional built in temperature gauge and you can adjust the temperature as you go along by fine tuning the adjustable dampers
Customers find it easy to assemble and easy to clean.
Best Offset Smokers Under $1000 - Buyers Guide
This buying guide assumes that you have a sufficiently big back yard or cooking area for a standard sized offset barrel smoker, and that where you live or cook has the right weather conditions for offset smoking.
For the purposes of this buying guide, we will only look at offset barrel smokers and not smoker grill combos, as we feature these separately on another article on this link.
A well-constructed offset barrel smoker can sometimes cost you around 1000, which is expensive we know, but balanced against the fact that cheap models are notoriously unreliable and leaky, you may be well advised to pay that little bit extra for that durability and quality you get in a more expensive model.
Build quality covers several factors. The first of which is whether your offset smoker is made from a heavy gauge metal. ¼ inch thick steel is generally considered the gold standard. Thicker metal naturally makes for thicker insulation.
Using a heavy duty smoker ensures that you minimize heat loss and keep the temperature as consistent as possible throughout the smoking chamber. If you were to use an offset smoker made with lightweight metals, they will bleed heat along its length, leaving you with a hot zone and a cold zone - less than ideal!
You also need your offset smoker to be rust proof, as rust causes thinning of the metal which in turn leads to heat loss and those dreaded cold zones. So when we’re saying the smoker needs a good paint job, it's not because we’re vain - it needs to be furnished with a quality paint job done with high heat paint.
Another factor which is often wrongly overlooked is the quality of the seals on the product. Both the cooking chamber and the firebox need to seal well - AND the seal between the two chambers. Quality seals aid better temperature control, improve smoke retention and even reduce fuel usage. On the flip side, although you need the smoker chambers to seal well, you still need to be able to open them!
For an offset smoker the temperature is controlled by controlling the flow of oxygen, so you can’t have a vent that's too small or too hard to adjust or you’ll end up with an inconsistent temperature - and consistent temperature is the key to good smoking.
In terms of internal venting, since heat likes to rise, your firebox needs to be physically lower than your cooking area.
For the ultimate in good ventilation, you could do worse than look into a reverse flow offset smoker - more on that in our FAQ section.
When it comes to offset smokers, size does matter! You have to have room for it in your backyard AND you have to have enough room in your smoker to cook for everyone at your cookout. You want a smoker with plenty of space in the cooking space for racks and/or hooks to cook a reasonable quantity of food at a time.
Ensure that the firebox is large enough to fit your chosen fuel - logs and split wood won’t fit in all offset smokers
Good models often feature a solid shelf or grate between the smoker legs, making use of the dead space to keep larger items off the ground.
A built in temperature gauge is absolutely essential. Luckily this now generally comes as standard. All the offset smokers that we have reviewed all feature a calibrated built in temperature gauge.
This is particularly handy for ascertaining when the grill has gotten up to the right initial temperature, so you can work out how long to keep your meat in the smoker for.
Some people like to check the temperature of at both ends, but to do this you don’t want to be opening the smoker, and simultaneously releasing all the heat and smoke, if you can help it. And that’s where the built in temperature gauge proves its worth.
If you really are concerned about having different temperatures at either side, some offset smokers come with 2 built in temperature gauges.
In addition to the built in temperature gauge, you will also likely want to invest in meat thermometers which probe right into the meat - this is great for checking how well done your meat is.
Ease of maintenance
It’s no good having an expensive offset smoker if you’re not going to adequately look after it.
We would argue that buying a compatible offset smoker is an absolute must - if you only purchase one other accessory for your smoker, make it this one. Do not subject your beloved smoker to the weather and rust.
One feature of many offset smokers is that of a removable grease pan, that you can just remove and swill, ready for the next cookout.
Offset smokers can be fueled by either charcoal or wood. With a wood fuel you get to choose the flavoring you prefer, pairing certain wood chips with certain meats.
FAQs on offset smokers
How do offset smokers work?
Once a fire has been lit in the firebox situated just to the right and a little ways down from the cooking chamber, the smoke travels across, not just to heat up the meat, but also to infuse it with all that lovely smoky flavor. Excess smoke is then released form a small chimney usually situated on the left hand side.
To control the temperature of your smoker, you will need to adjust the ventilation. Having more vents open allows more oxygen in, which in turn allows the fire to burn faster and hotter.
With the firebox being offset from the cooking chamber this helps keep direct heat away from the food, which helps to prevent food on the bottom racks from cooking too fast.
What is a reverse flow smoker?
A reverse flow smoker has only one additional part - a large metal plate that sits inside and directs the smoke back over the meat again for that extra bit of smoke, before it's vented through the chimney.
Can you grill in an offset smoker?
There are ways you can grill on an offset smoker, such as placing a charcoal fire directly below the cooking grates and grilling directly over the coals. But if you are considering doing a combination of smoking and grilling on a regular basis, why not take a look at our smoker grill combos article, available on this link.
How do you keep a smoker at 255 degrees Fahrenheit?
We’re going to level with here - with an offset smoker you can’t just set it and forget it. Once you’ve set the fire in the fire box, all loaded with your fuel of choice, you need to wait for the desired temperature to be reached, which you can check using the built in temperature gauge. Once that has been achieved you will need to repeatedly monitor the built in temperature gauge, and adjust the vents and dampers accordingly to get the desired result.
Can you have too much smoke in a smoker?
The short answer is yes. Too much smoke can leave your meat tasting too bitter. You may not think it but smoking is definitely a case of less is more.
Ideally you will want to see thin wisps of smoke coming out through the smokers’ chimney. For a wood fueled smoker, this can usually be easily achieved by using about two ounces of wood, having the vents and dampers slightly open, and adjusting from there.
We also recommend smelling the smoke during the smoking process - if the smoke smells bad, the meat will taste bad.