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An offset smoker is an outdoor cooking tool that features a large grill and a small hopper on the side. The hopper is the piece that stores the charcoal or wood used for smoking. It has a hole on the side that allows the smoke to move from the hopper to the grill.
These smokers are popular with restaurant owners and in grilling competitions. As the design is a little different from the grills that you used in the past, you’ll need some help figuring out how to use yours.
Our handy guide will walk you through all the steps of using an offset smoker.
Set the Temperature
Before you do anything else, set the temperature on the smoker. You can use a lower temperature in the 100 degrees Fahrenheit, but you can also use a higher temperature in the range of 300 degrees Fahrenheit. This preps the smoker for the addition of your meat or seafood.
Add Your Charcoal
One reason why so many home cooks and professional chefs like offset smokers is because they can use either wood or charcoal. If you decide to use wood, place the pellets or pieces directly inside the hopper without soaking the wood first. Soaking the wood can make it hard to get the smoke that you need.
When using charcoal, place the briquettes inside the hopper first. Arrange the briquettes in a pyramid fashion. When you add a flame from a lighter or match to the top briquette, the flame will slowly spread to those on the bottom.
Some experts recommend using lit briquettes in your smoker. If you have a charcoal chimney, you can light the charcoal ahead of time. The chimney makes it easy to transfer the hot briquettes to the hopper.
Most offset smokers give you a few different ways to cook meats and other ingredients. You can use the grates inside, which are usually cast iron or steel, or you can use a rotisserie attachment. This slowly spins the meat in the smoker and ensures that the smoke reaches all areas of your food.
How to Add More Flavor to Your Meat
If you want to add more flavor, you can marinate your meat ahead of time. A brine will impart big flavor in poultry like chicken or turkey. You can soak the bird in a brine for up to 24 hours.
A dry spice rub can also add lots of flavors. When using a rub, mix your spices ahead of time. Apply a liberal sprinkling of the mix over the meat and rub into the flesh with your hands.
You may be interested in reading: How to Smoke Ribs in an Offset Smoker
Water Pan Basics
Some cooks find that their meat comes out dry and tough instead of juicy and moist. Using too much smoke and/or not enough water can cause this problem.
A good way to get tender and flavorful meat is with the addition of a water pan. If the manufacturer of your smoker did not include a water pan, you can make your own from any small bowl that you fill with water. Make sure that you use a heatproof bowl.
Place the bowl of water on the grate located right above the charcoal or wood in the hopper. The water increases the humidity level inside the grill and keeps your foods from drying out. Some smokers come with a water pan that sits on the grill.
Use Temperature Probes
One of the most important accessories that come with your offset smoker is a temperature probe. This looks like the same thermometer you would use with foods cooked in your oven. Most of these probes have a digital design that lets you instantly check the temperature of anything inside the smoker. You can even use one to check the internal temperature before adding any meat.
How to Properly Use the Temperature Probe
Insert the probe into the fleshiest part of the meat or the deepest area. You can check the temperature as the meat smokes to determine when to take the food out. This also helps you avoid smoking meats that are too dry or tough.
You can keep track of the internal temperature with the gauges located on the outside of the smoker, too. Those gauges tell you both the temperature inside the hopper and the temp inside the smoker. This helps you know when to add more charcoal/wood and when to add your food.
Once you understand the basics of using an offset smoker, you can experiment with yours. Try using different types of wood and charcoal and adding your own customized touches to make all the dishes you love.