What Are The Differences Between Reverse Flow And Offset Smokers

If you're trying to learn the differences between Reverseflow and Offset smokers this episode of the PitMaster Secrets podcast is for you!

What's the difference between a reverse flow smoker and an offset smoker? What is a traditional offset?  What is an open chamber offset?  Read below to find out my view on these designs.

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Reverse Flow Smokers

A Reverse Flow Smoker produces a very even cooking temp from left to right  and requires very little intervention from the cook. They usually cost more to build than the alternative styles of  traditional offset or Texas offset.  You may find  plans for both styles on Smokerplans.net which may be built from tanks, pipe  or flat metal.

On a Reverse Flow Smoker food is being cooked from the bottom up instead of from the top down like on an open chamber offset. It has a baffle plate which is installed horizontally in the cook chamber  from the firebox end all the way across until it gets to the opposite end of the smoker.  At that point, there is a gap which forces the air, heat, and smoke to go up and turn around 180 degrees, hence the name Reverse Flow.  The baffle plate radiates heat as well.

The smoke stack is set at “top dead center”.

The firebox on a Reverse Flow Smoker is placed low in the cooking chamber just a little below the baffle plate level. This design assures full air flow from the firebox until it reaches the baffle plate gap at the end of the smoker, as mentioned previously.

After a good fire start up, Maintaining  cooking temperatures in a Reverse  Flow is really very simple. All you need to do is use an air inlet damper and a smokestack damper to increase or decrease the amount of air that goes to your fire.

You can check out all of our Reverse Flow Smoker Plans By Clicking Here

Traditional Offset Smokers

This style smoker operates a lot like a reverse flow but the air doesn’t wait until the end of the horizontal baffle to go up.  It goes through the gaps you create by “tuning the plates”.  Radiant heat is at work to cook from the bottom up.

The tuning plate system consists of short tuning plates each one usually less than 10 inches long spread out horizontally in the cooking chamber under the main cooking grate.

The pitmaster tunes these plates with gaps between them. This controls the air flow and spread of heat. The setting of these tuning plates allows the pitmaster to control the temperature zones in the cooking chamber.

Unlike a reverse flow, the smokestack location on an offset smoker will always be at the opposite end of the cooking chamber from the firebox.  It is mounted about the level of the cooking grates.

Maintaining the temperature in a traditional offset is a bit more complicated than in a reverse flow smoker.  Everyone has their own way of doing it.  I usually close off the smokestack damper and adjust an air inlet on the firebox.  Some people open the cook chamber door a little.  It’s really up to you!

You can check out our Offset Smoker Plans By Clicking Here!

Open Chamber Offsets

Open Chamber Offsets or Texas Style Offset Smokers are very popular.  These are the least like a reverse flow smoker. It’s just a firebox, cook chamber, smokestack, and a throat baffle. You can cook a variety of meats on the same cooker because of the possible different temperature zones it may produce. Cooking happens from the top down on this type of smoker.  There is no baffle plate which runs horizontally through the cooking chamber.  Starting with the throat opening there’s a baffle put in to direct the air straight up quickly. (LIke a short horizontal piece connected to a scoop shaped piece that aims up)  The air then moves  across the top of the cooker and convects downward toward the smokestack on the opposite side.

The position of the firebox on an offset smoker helps to get the air moving straight up to the top of the cook chamber.  It is positioned at 50% or higher on the sidewall of the cooking chamber.

The smokestack location on an offset smoker will always be at the opposite end of the cooking chamber from the firebox.  It is mounted about the level of the cooking grates. To maintain temperature in this type of smoker you will vary the size of your fire, but opening and closing the smokestack damper is another method you will likely use.

Operating any offset smoker does require that you flip and rotate your meat, and maybe even move it from one side to the other if temperatures demand. Keep in mind, maintaining the temperature in an offset smoker is a learned skill.

To summarize, a reverse flow would be best if you're doing a lot of catering, fundraisers, or you're cooking for a restaurant or something, and you've got a lot of the same kind of food.  You're going to get a better result.

But if you're cooking a lot of different sized meat, like brisket and chicken  together, a traditional offset or open (Texas Style) offset will give you more flexibility.

I hope this information helps you! Over the years we've made over 200 sets of smoker plans.You can get plans for all different sizes of pits, cookers and trailers here. Take some time to browse this website, and get started on your build!