Buying your first
The time has come – you’ve been thinking about it, sneaking looks at websites on your break times, and hiding spare change under the mattress. You’re Buying Your First Offset Smoker.
Buying your first Offset Smoker - Why?
First of all, they look cool. As silly as that sound, the looks are important, especially if you’re planning on getting into catering. Your clients will have a certain image in their minds when they book you and if you don’t match that then you’re less likely to get booked or recommended in the future.
Secondly, there is typically a lot of real estate in an offset smoker. If you’re just getting into smoking, the need for this will become clearer very soon! If you’re looking at getting into catering or competition BBQ then naturally, the more real estate the better.
Thirdly, you can cook on wood. Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking on charcoal and some pitmasters will actually use both in their offsets. However, if you’re a purist then an offset will give you the opportunity to cook on nothing but wood.
Finally, an offset gives you greater control over the heat within your cooking chamber than a vertical smoker. This is especially the case for traditional, or standard flow offsets as you can use the tuning plates to direct the heat precisely where you want it.
Buying your first Offset Smoker - Which one?
There are three standard sizes of smoker before you start getting into some serious catering-sized rigs. They are 16-inch, 20-inch and 24-inch. Yes, even in Australia the diameter is described in inches. The 16-inch can be very attractive for weight and cost reasons, but the pick of the bunch is the 20-inch.
When the low’n’slow bug bites you, and it will, it won’t be long before you outgrow a 16-inch. The standard-length 20-inch is the most versatile size, useful for competitions and smaller catering gigs. For perspective, you can easily get two monster sized 9 kilo briskets on the bottom rack of a 20-inch and 3 full racks of pork ribs on the top. More if you’re creative. If beef ribs are your thing, you can comfortably get 8 – 10 3-bone plates of beef ribs downstairs and another 4 or 5 upstairs. Of course, you can get longer smokers too, which will allow you to cook more.
Buying your first Offset Smoker - What to look for?
There are three things to look for when buying your first offset smoker. The first thing is the list of extras. If you’re looking at getting into competitions or catering, make sure you can customise the name plate on the top of the smoker. Remember: branding!
Speaking of branding, all manufacturers will have developed their own themes and styles. Be sure to find a smoker that matches the themes and styles of your team or business.
More importantly, you need to make sure you check out the quality of the welds. They need to be firstly strong and of course have a quality seam – no gaps! The longer the seam the better too: you don’t want the seams looking patchy. Secondly, they need to be neat and tidy. Again, it comes back to looks, image and presentation.
Thirdly is the most overlooked element of a smoker, the paint. It’s easy to look at a smoker and say ‘Yep, it’s black’. But you need to remember that these things are going to get very hot and most likely live their lives outside in the weather. The paint needs to be high quality to withstand both. Otherwise the paint will fall off and rust. The best advice is to ask around and see who’s had one for a while. Check theirs out and see what it looks like.
Buying your first Offset Smoker - Final Advice
The last piece of advice for those of you buying your first offset smoker is to shop around and buy the best you can afford. You’ll pay for quality and by doing so you’ll avoid drama and have smoother, more enjoyable cooking experiences. And let’s be honest, low’n’slow is all about enjoyable cooking experiences.