Just think about it: heat moves upwards – it’s basic physics! So, with that being said, you’d think that a traditional vertical smoker is better to cook with than a horizontal offset, right?
Well, not exactly.
In fact, it actually turns out that the Offset Smoker vs. Vertical Smoker topic is one that divides many opinions.
So, to help you form your own, we’re going to delve deep into the offset smoker vs vertical debate and take a look at how each of these barbecues works, as well as what the pros and cons of both are.
Besides, the sooner you decide which barbecue is best for you, the sooner you’ll be cooking delicious meat on it!
Let’s get smoking!
What is an Offset Smoker?
Offset smokers feature a small firebox that is able to filter heat and smoke upwards, through to a large cooking chamber. By doing this, the smoke and heat are able to then exit through a little ‘chimney’ that most often is positioned at the end of the barbecue, furthest away from the firebox.
Although, this isn’t always the case. Some offset smokers feature a ‘reverse flow design’ and have an additional baffle plate. It’s essentially a thick steel plate with holes in it that sits just below the cooking racks in the main chamber.
The additional baffle plate works to distribute the heat more evenly throughout the entire cooking chamber, and also to filter the smoke more slowly so that you won’t need to constantly rotate the meat.
Reverse flow offset smokers are super easy to tell apart from standard offset smokers because their chimney is usually positioned at the end of the cooking chamber closest to the firebox.
The reason for this is so that the smoke and heat will be able to pass through the meat, which enhances the taste and evenly cooks the meat.
Offset smokers can be run on a pure wood or pure charcoal fire. You can even add wood chips for a smokier flavor!
If you’re most used to using a charcoal grill, this is going to feel pretty familiar.
What is a Vertical Smoker?
On the other hand, a vertical smoker is any smoker that’s vertically orientated.
Vertical smokers utilize a range of fuel types including vertical offset smokers, water smokers, charcoal vertical smokers, electric vertical smokers, and even propane smokers (but not to be confused with propane grills).
However, if you’re searching for an offset smoker vs vertical smoker comparison, we’re going to focus mainly on vertical smokers that use the same fuel type as standard offset smokers.
So, with that being said, vertical smokers that use charcoal as a fuel type consist of a design that is, essentially, a little vertical box or cylinder where you can either place your fire at the bottom of the cooking chamber itself, or in a separate firebox that’s joined to the cooking chamber by an internal damper.
Unlike offset smokers, vertical smokers work by drawing the heat and smoke directly upwards through cooking racks, allowing the smoke to exit at the top of the drum.
Single chamber vertical smokers also often have one or two extra pans that sit right above the fire, which can be used to hold water and wood chips to help you enhance the ‘smoky’ barbecue taste.
Like we mentioned above, vertical smokers can be run using a variety of fuel options, although they are designed to run best from a charcoal fire with wood added for enhanced smokiness.
If you are looking for a pellet smoker we have a great article “Best Pellet Smokers” so you can find the perfect pellet smoker to fit your needs.
Pros & Cons of Using an Offset Smoker
Pros of using an offset smoker:
- Many people believe that offset smokers help to achieve that authentic ‘smoky’ barbecue taste that gets infused into their meats and other foods.
- Offset smokers often have a large cooking capacity.
- They are most ideal for big cuts of meat as offset smokers feature a large grate.
- Thanks to their dual chamber, it’s super easy to add more fuel as and when needed.
- Most double as a grill either in the firebox or by switching out the cooking chamber grates to make a large charcoal pit
- Doesn’t require electrical power so they can be set up and used anywhere.
- Offset smokers are deemed to be the more affordable option out of the two kinds of barbecues.
Cons of using an offset smoker:
- Though offset smokers are known as the ‘traditional’ barbecue, they’re more difficult to use than vertical smokers.
- Offset smokers require constant tending to while in use.
- When used in colder climates, offset smokers lose their heat very quickly.
- Offset smokers use more fuel than vertical smokers.
- Standard offset smokers often have varying temperature levels from one side to the other. Therefore, meat requires frequent turning and re-positioning.
Pros & Cons of Using a Vertical Smoker
Pros of using a vertical smoker:
- Vertical smokers are known for helping to infuse a delicious, smoky flavor into the meat, so they’re the most popular choice for competitive cooking.
- Just like offset smokers, vertical smokers also have a large cooking capacity.
- Thanks to the vertical design, vertical smokers have a smaller footprint than offset smokers.
- Most vertical smokers have a dual-door design, which makes it easy to add fuel while cooking.
- Vertical smokers use much less fuel than offset smokers.
- The meat cooks faster in vertical smokers than offset smokers.
- Portable design and easier to travel with than offset smokers.
- Ideal for use in cooler climates.
Cons of using a vertical smoker:
- Most vertical smokers cannot be used as a grill, while some offset smokers come with one.
- Adding, removing, and rotating meats and other kinds of foods is trickier as opposed to wider, open offset smokers.
- Some vertical smokers do not have a dual-door design, which makes adding fuel difficult and often requires moving meat around in the process.
- For smaller vertical smokers, cooking larger cuts of meat can be particularly difficult to fit, and ribs often need to be hung from additional hooks instead of racked, which can lead to unevenly cooked meats.
There’s almost an equal number of pros and cons for both vertical or horizontal smokers. So, as a result, it’s hard to pick a clear cut winner.
However, with the help of the information from this article, we hope that you’ve discovered which kind of smoker will suit you better.