If you love that rich, smoky flavor to your barbecue, the chances are you will need to know how to use an offset smoker. The weather is fantastic, and you have invited the whole family over for a barbecue, but your new toy looks a little daunting. You have bought the best offset smoker, but where do you start?
With so many models and makes on the market, you took the time to find the machine that suits you best. Furthermore, you can’t wait to tuck into some deliciously flavored food. However, you can’t help but look at your new cooking workhorse without wondering how to use an offset smoker.
How to Use an Offset Smoker
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Like all new additions to the household menagerie of machines, a barbecue with an offset smoker represents a fantastic investment. Especially if you experience pleasant weather and you like to entertain. But as you take your new toy out of the box, you find yourself scratching your head as you ponder how to use an offset smoker.
While they may look a little intimidating, once you know the basics, nothing can stop you! By placing briquettes into the firebox and lighting them, the smoke will start to form. When you add your food to the cooking chamber, the food begins to smoke as it cooks gently. A little patience as you enjoy the company of your guests will reward you with deliciously flavored food with a rich, smoky taste.
What Is an Offset Smoker?
When you wonder how to use an offset smoker, it helps to understand how the cooker works.
An offset smoker is a classic style barbecue with a firebox attached to the side. Charcoal or briquettes placed inside the firebox heat up and produce smoke. The heat and the smoke feed into a separate cooking chamber where you place your food.
The heat from the fire chamber cooks your food gently, while the smoke imparts a fabulous smoky taste to your cooking.
Also, the cooking chamber can have multiple shelves for you to place your food, making it a truly versatile cooking station.
How does an offset smoker work?
By adjusting the air intake and exhaust vents, you can control the heat and smoke flow into the cooking chamber.
Open vents mean more oxygen. Therefore the fire will burn hotter. However, it is worth noting that food placed nearest to the firebox will find themselves exposed to a more intense heat than in the rest of the cooking chamber. Consequently, food nearer the firebox will cook quicker.
How to Use an Offset Smoker, Explored
Before you cook up a feast, you must prepare your equipment for use. By following the initial process, the taste of your food will significantly improve. Also, the seasoning of the smoker will help to maintain your cooker.
Season your smoker
New smokers benefit from this treatment in particular. Begin by wiping down the smoker with warm soapy water. Get out the hosepipe and rinse the cooker down to remove all dust and grease.
Let the smoker dry out before moving onto the next process.
Spray the interior
Use a vegetable oil spray to spray the inside of the cooking chamber. Ensure you coat the surface thoroughly.
Light the firebox
Open the vents on the firebox and burn some briquettes for at least 30 minutes. Allow the fire to die down and the smoker to cool.
As a result of this process, the interior of your cooking chamber will fare better during the cooking process. Think of it as a similar method you use for a new stir-fry pan. The seasoning produces a durable surface, which will last longer than if it remained un-seasoned.
You can now start your cooking extravaganza!
The temperature inside the cooking chamber will vary. As a result, you need to understand the temperature fluctuations and account for them during the cooking process. We all know how badly cooked food can have disastrous effects on our health, so take precautions to ensure your food turns out perfect.
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Buy temperature probes suitable for placing inside the cooking chamber. It helps if you use at least two, one for near the firebox while the other can sit the other end.
Mount the probes on the grills, or better still, use probes affixed with wires so you can place the tips directly into the food.
The probes will show you the temperature of the food at the most extreme points inside the cooking chamber. This is vital to ensure food cooks properly, but it will also give you an indication of when the food is ready.
The temperature gauge on the top of the cooking chamber’s lid shows the temperature on top of the grill, rather than inside the chamber where the food cooks. Therefore, the probes will give you a safe and accurate reading of the temperatures inside your food.
You Can Vent
The vents in the firebox will control how much heat and smoke feeds into the cooking chamber. Consequently, this may take a little practice until you get it just right.
Open the vents
Oxygen needs to feed into the firebox, so open the vents. Also, you need to open the vent on top of the chimney so smoke can escape.
The vents, also called dampers or baffles, control the heat and smoke within the cooking chamber. Consequently, you need to adjust them during the cooking process.
Light the Briquettes
Light a chimney starter of briquettes and allow them to burn until they glow. Also, you should see a layer of ash over the burning coals.
Load the firebox
Spread the burning coals inside the firebox. Make sure you wear gloves and stay safe as you deal with the hot coals.
You can add extra flavor to your smoke by adding logs of hardwood, hickory, mesquite, and applewood. Experiment with different types of wood as each one will impart a distinct flavor into your cooking.
Whatever you chose, close the firebox and prepare to cook your food!
Don’t use wood to fuel the firebox entirely, as you will find it more challenging to regulate and control.
The Correct Temperature
Using the probes, monitor the temperature inside the cooking chamber until it reaches its optimum temperature.
Keep the firebox and cooking chambers closed while you pre-heat the chamber. An offset smoker needs to reach a temperature between 225 to 275 degrees Fahrenheit to achieve the best cooking results.
Arrange Your Food
Place your food on the trays inside the cooking chamber. Make sure to insert a probe into the food nearest the firebox, and also at the opposite end.
Maintain the temperature
Check the temperature every half-hour or so, topping up the firebox with charcoal as necessary. Additionally, you can add more wood.
You may find the temperature fluctuates, so open the air vents on the side of the firebox to help it get going. If you require an intense heat, you can also open the chimney vent.
You will only need to open the vents for a very short time to increase the temperature. Therefore, keep a close eye on your cooking and the temperature and close the vents as soon as it reaches temperature.
Lowering the heat
Conversely, if you need to reduce the temperature inside the cooking chamber, then close the vents. Also, you can open the cooking chamber lid for a minute or so to adjust the temperature quickly.
How to Use an Offset Smoker, Answered
When you bought your new cooking equipment, you wondered how to use an offset smoker. However, with our handy tips and tricks, you will soon find yourself cooking up a storm!
With the addition of hardwood and fruitwoods, you can impart a delicious flavor to your food. Experiment with the different types of wood to see what suits you best.
Have you ever used an offset smoker? Perhaps you have your favorite flavors? Why not comment below how you like to use yours and share with us some of your favorite recipes?
Featured Image via Flickr