How to Grill on an Offset Smoker (It’s Easier Than You Think!)

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We are all aware that you can smoke your foods using a charcoal grill or a pellet grill.

But the question is whether you can do the opposite —  use your smoker to grill your foods?

We will be going through what an offset smoker is, and how it differs from a traditional smoker.

Then you’ll learn the tricks to using your offset smoker as a grill

grilling a lamb shoulder on my offset smoker

First You Need to Know How a Offset Smoker Works

You’ll immediately notice that these two chambers differ in size — one will be significantly bigger than the other one.

This is because the smaller one is just a firebox — it’s the main source of heat and smoke. While the bigger one functions as the cooking chamber — where the primary cooking takes place.

Connected to the cooking chamber would be the chimney vent. It’s usually situated on top of the chamber so that it’s not anywhere near the firebox.

how a offset smoker works - offset wood smokers

As a result, the offset smoker works by allowing all heat and smoke from the firebox to flow to the cook chamber before being expelled out the chimney vent.

While the structure of an offset smoker might differ from a charcoal smoker, they work fairly similarly.

With that being said, the exhaust vent for airflow can be found on the side of the smoker box instead of on the cooking chamber lid. While its location may differ, it still works the same way and is responsible for overall heat control and pit temperature.

The air vent is what allows you to control and manipulate the cooking temperature. So you just have to use the adjustable vents to make sure that you’re working with consistent temperatures.

Can You Grill Food With an Offset Smoker?

The short answer is ‘yes. You can use an offset smoker to grill your food! And why wouldn’t you want to? (

Considering its expensive price range, it’s highly unlikely that the missus will allow you to purchase both a grill and a separate smoker.)

An offset smoker differs from a pellet smoker, gar smoker, or electric smoker in that it can use both wood and charcoal as its heat source.

This is great if you’d like to add a more unique smoke flavor to your foods. For example, apple or maple wood can help add a sweeter flavor and for brisket, mesquite is a good wood to use.

To use your barbeque smoker as a grill you’ll only require a grill grate that fits over the cooking chamber or firebox to use it as a grill.

This is because a layer of charcoal must be placed at the bottom of the smoker pit or firebox. The grill grate is what keeps your cuts of meat suspended above the flame and allows for direct grilling.

If you can’t get your hands on appropriately sized grill grates, you can also use cooking racks. Just make sure that they’re big enough and are safe to be exposed to direct heat.

We especially love to use heat-resistant cooking grates. However, we find that they’re only big enough to fit over our smoker box. So you might have to look for a cooking grate that’s bigger if you’d prefer to grill over the cooking chamber instead of over steel fireboxes. 

And that’s about it. After this, you can just treat it like any other charcoal grill and cook whatever you’d like in this manner.

Using my offset smoker to grill lamb shoulder

How Is an Offset Smoker Different From a Reverse Flow Smoker?

If you’ve already gone ahead and done any research on offset smokers, then the term ‘reverse flow smoker’ might be familiar to you.

These are different types of offset smokers that come with reverse flow technology. Not all offset smokers are capable of this.

So, what’s the difference? Well, the distribution and circulation of heat in the cooking chamber of a standard offset smoker is known to be a bit uneven. This means that the cooking area closer to the firebox may receive a lot of heat and smoke. But the corner that’s the furthest away from the firebox may not receive enough heat or smoke. 

This is how smoke and heat smoke around an offset smoker

On the other hand, a reverse flow smoker comes with an additional metal plate that gets rid of this problem. This stainless steel metal layer guarantees that heat and smoke flow to all parts of the cooking chamber. Which helps the chamber maintain a more stable interior temperature. 

In essence, reverse flow smokers have improved smoke management and heat distribution.

It’s also important to note that you don’t need a reverse flow smoker to utilize your barbeque smoker as a grill.

The Clean Up Is Super Important

We do have one last tip that we’d like to share with you about your vertical or horizontal smoker —you need to clean your smoker.

In this respect, an offset smoker is no different compared to any other smoker or kettle grill. 

In this respect, an offset smoker is no different compared to any other smoker or grill. You’ll need to clean it regularly. This will help to maintain and preserve your smoker; making it last for as long as possible and that you always receive the greatest possible smoke. 

Allowing all of that ash, oil, and grime to accumulate on your offset smoker can eventually cause it to corrode. 

Cooking with a filthy smoker also affects the taste of your meat. Because a lot of the creosote that has built up over time will undoubtedly splatter on your meat, which is something that you’ll want to avoid at all costs. 

If you’re like us and want to avoid super big cleaning sessions at all costs — after all, who has 1-2 hours to spend just cleaning a cooking appliance? Then the only way to do that is to do it regularly. For example, we like to clean the ashtray and charcoal tray a couple of hours after our smoker has cooled at the end of each cooking session.

Just finished cleaning my offset smoker

We hope you found this article useful in learning how an offset smoker works, as well as how to use it as a grilling alternative.

 Remember that while your barbeque smoker might not come with custom grill grates, you can feel free to use heat resistant cooking grates.

Just make sure that they can be placed over the smoker chamber.

Smoke On!


Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!

You can read more on our About Us page.

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