When you buy an offset smoker, you have no idea about their cooking process and setup. You feel confused and try to seek the best methods. In this content, we will guide all the strategies step by step. We will explain to you how to use an offset smoker, its uses and will provide information about the benefits of every smoker’s part.
Some Important steps before cooking
1. Select the surface
If you want to cook on your patio or any other place, first select a leveled surface for cooking. After selecting the surface, check all the components of the smoker. Check from side to side, top to bottom, and then the inner parts of the chamber.
2. Select fuel source
The next step is to select which fuel source you will use.
I usually use different kinds of charcoal. The first type of charcoal is briquettes, which are little pieces of uniform shape, and the second type is lump charcoal. So the difference between lump and briquettes is that briquettes are pressed charcoal pieces. They got filler added to them, and they usually burn a little cooler and a little longer, but they leave a lot of ash.
So they are not so quite as efficient. The lump charcoal is made from pieces of wood that are turned into charcoal, and then they burn. They burn much hotter and cleaner. You will also get some wood flavor smoke from the lump charcoal. So it is an excellent choice to go with this lump.
I usually like to cook with wood splits for my offset smoker. I mostly use applewood as fuel. Applewood is suitable for cooking chicken and pork, good for these two types of meat. Also, I use Maplewood, which produces milder smoke and is also suitable for pork and chicken. You can use it for beef also.
You can also use Oakwood as fuel. I typically use this for cooking beef briskets. Its smoke is just a little bit stronger than an apple or maple. So it is a good wood for cooking beef. So, any hardwood or fruitwood you will use is good for your smoker.
Tips for beginners: How to use an offset smoker?
The offset smokers are probably the most difficult to set up and maintain, but they produce the best BBQ. I’ll tell you in this article step-by-step everything you need to know so you can start, keep and cook in one stress-free effort.
Many people don’t have any idea about how they should manage fire in a cheap or expensive offset smoker. Using a small offset smoker, especially thin metal, is much more complicated than using something like a 500-gallon smoker in the backyard. The 500 gallon is much easier to burn up clean fire because there is much heat in the coal bed that you can put in big pieces.
How to manage fire in an offset smoker?
Here we will discuss the process of how to start the fire? Or how to maintain the fire temperature and the smoke correctly, and then we will discuss what to do when you are done with the fire, and you need to walk away, so take a chimney of lump charcoal. I prefer lump charcoal. I think it burns a little hotter and works better to light the wood, and then also there are no adjuncts or fillers or binders or anything like that besides just pure charcoal.
Now to light it, I have my starter. You can use different types of starters like Little White cubes. Most people use tumbleweeds, but you can use anything here. Our focus should be to light the chimney. We will get this thing lit and put the coal over the top of it, and after about 15 minutes, we are ready to go. Now flames will come out from the top of the chimney and will start to get white ash on the coal.
Now pour it into the firebox and start to add wood. When you buy a bag of wood, you may find some difficulties, like the big size of wood, so you should cut it into pieces according to the appropriate size for the smoker. Now add these woods according to your food requirements. Make your fire hotter than you want, then let it cool down to cooking temperature. There are two reasons behind it.
- You know that you will not have a wild swing up when you put your meat on first.
- The second is to build a bigger coal bed to maintain that fire for longer.
Essential steps after adding fuel to the firebox
- After adding fuel to the firebox, we will open the door to the firebox and the entrance to the cooking chamber to avoid white smoke deposited on the grates.
- If there is too much oxygen inside the chamber, there is no problem, but problems can be created in case of oxygen deficiency.
- The open lid firebox helps to make a healthy fire and produces clean smoke to make tasty food. After this , I want to get the air to start drafting through this thing, so i’ll close the firebox and the main chamber to heat up. When the metal body heats up, it will prepare better because the hot air from the firebox will come if we do not allow the metal to heat.
- One beneficial tip is that if you feel your wood heavy, place it on the lid of the firebox because it contains some water. Once they get hotter, they ignite more easily.
- After that, you have to monitor the temperature. You should adjust it according to the food requirements. Mainly we adjust it in the range of 250 to 275 degrees. In my experience, I found digital probes for temperature adjustment are much more helpful than an analog thermometer.
Why do we use a water pan in our offset smoker?
Water pans are almost a polarizing thing in the BBQ world. Many people think that you’ll make a moister BBQ by using a water pan. While that isn’t necessarily true, there are several advantages of using a water pan.
- The first and most obvious advantage is that you will find a very large thermal mass by introducing a large body of water into your cooking chamber. The water pan will help to keep your temperatures from spiking, as well as helps the cooking chamber to recover heat after opening and closing your lid.
- The second advantage is that steam is much better at transferring energy than air as the water boils and becomes steam. It is interesting because if you generate enough steam, you will notice the bark on your protein will set quicker than it would normally. The reason is that steam is much better at transferring energy into your protein.
- The last advantage is that it helps keep the outside of your meat moist. With a water pan, where you would normally have to spritz, you may find that you don’t need to do it as often. The biggest downside of using a water pan is that you need to remember to clean it up immediately after the cooking.
Smoker vents open or closed
Once you prepare the entire bed of all in the firebox, adjust the temperature for about 15 minutes, then stick a thermometer in it and let for about thirty minutes to heat the whole system and keep the smoker vent open. Now we will check the effect of the open vent and close vent on the system; after heating the system, half-open the main cooking chamber to adjust the temperature according to your needs. But if there is a significant temperature difference, close the one-fourth-part of the vent and now check your temperature.
Again for more adjustment, you can close or open the vent, but the setup will be entirely the same. I performed two experiments in which first I opened the full vent, and then I closed the half vent and did the second experiment. I was shocked to see the amazing results. In halfway shut, it held temperature at 200F to 203 for half an hour straight. There were no fluctuations in temperature.
But in the wide-open case, I was at 300F; it bounced up to 310F, then it dropped to 285F. There were lots of fluctuations in temperature going on. With half-shut, with no function, more charcoal was leftover. Why did this happen? It is due to less air pulled drawn out of this smoker, which is in the case of the half-shut vent, so there were no fluctuations in the temperature, but in the case of the full open vent, more air pulled out, due to which many changes occurred.
Why do we use tuning plates in an offset smoker?
The tuning plates are used to adjust the temperature and distribute the temperature evenly to all the parts of the smoker. Also, for managing the airflow so that one side of the smoker receives the same amount of heat as the other side of the smoker. In my experiment, I adjusted biscuits all across the grates to see how evenly the cooker is distributing heat, and so ideally, what happened was the entire biscuits were cooked at precisely the same rate.
However, what might happen is that the one closer to the firebox will cook more quickly, and the one closer to the exhaust will cook slowly. I performed this experiment twice, with no tuning plates in it at all, to see how evenly it cooks, and then by putting in the tuning plates. In my first experiment, there was no significant difference between the temperature of the analog thermometer located in the cooking chamber and the digital thermometer located near the firebox.
I found only the temperature of 10F, which is not more significant. If you have a big temperature difference like 80F to 90F, you should use tuning plates. I kept the smoker vent open in the cooking process because the more excellent the maintenance of airflow, the faster the cooking process will be.
How to clean an offset smoker?
The most crucial point after cooking is to clean your offset smoker. You should know about every step. Here I will guide you to clean your offset smoker in the best way and in less time. I used many offset smokers, and I always kept them clean during cooking. They were not so messy, but they had to clean after cooking. So in the first step, open the door of the main cooking chamber. You will see, some meat pieces and cooking ingredients are attached to the grates. Before cleaning the central section, wear some gloves.
Take all the grates out of the firebox, cooking chamber, and even the bottom grates and set them aside. Take a water pipe and spray on all of it. Make sure that you do not have your smoker in a concrete area. After washing and cleaning all the grease and rendered fat, put all the grates back in the main chamber and firebox. Now you have two options; you can open all the doors and let it air dry or you can use fire to dry it.
Seasoning process of an offset smoker
Now, after cleaning, our smoker is ready for the seasoning process. Our offset smoker is very similar to the cast-iron skillet. If you want it to be super clean, then you should season it with some oil. It will help prevent any rust from building up and make your smoker last longer.
You can use just some spray oil, and it does not matter what kind of oil you are using. You can utilize some oil and put it in a spray bottle. Now spray inside and outside of the smoker. If there is a place that likes to rust the most, it is the bottom of the firebox. So, you have to spray there. By cleaning and seasoning your offset smoker in this way, you can use it for a longer time.
How to smoke meat on a charcoal grill?
To smoke your meat on a charcoal grill, first set your grill in such a way that a water pan on the side grates and charcoal on the other side. Start lighting your fire Make sure your water pan over there to the one side is very stable because if it falls onto the fire or your hot coals, a volcanic explosion of ashes will happen. You can also use wood as fuel. I have some hickory nuts soaked in water. Ensure you wash your wood, and water makes it smolder on the hot coals and smoke instead of catching on fire and burning.
Charcoal is ready. Now put your pieces of meat on grates and add your wet wood or hickory nuts to charcoal to create smoke. Close the main chamber. Now open the chamber and wrap out the piece of meat. Set the temperature according to your food requirements. Now, after completing the whole process, you will get your tasty smoked food on the charcoal grill.
Beginner mistakes of using an offset smokers
I see many beginners making the same mistake repeatedly when it comes to smaller smokers, and today we’re going to know about mistakes and give you all information for making great BBQ on your pits. The number one skill is the art of fire management. Once you learn how to make that fire burn clean and hold the temperatures you want, nothing is out of reach for your BBQ.
People like to think that the only way to run an offset stick burner correctly is to try to run your fire using only wood splits and that any other way is wrong. I’ve seen this result in smaller offset smokers, that their fire is constantly going out because they can’t build a big enough fire to allow it to run on its own. When it comes to smaller offsets, start by loading up your firebox with a full chimney of lit charcoal.
We should not care if it’s charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal; what you should care about is that you start with a full coal bed ready to burn whatever smoke wood you put in there. A full coal bed means you don’t have to throw big wood splits that may not burn cleanly in the firebox. You could even keep your fire going with chunks of wood at this point. If you start with a full chimney of charcoal, running your BBQ pit will be more accessible, and the whole experience will be more enjoyable.
Setting up and using an offset smoker isn’t easy but by following all the above-detailed tips and methods you can do this efficiently and you, ‘ll know all about How to use an offset smoker in an easy way.