We get asked many questions in the barbecue business, but the most common question we are asked is the difference between a reverse flow smoker and a standard offset smoker. Not much is different appearance wise, or in the quality of the smoker; the difference lies in the heat dispersal within the smoker. We have created the below diagrams to help you visualize how heat moves through both types of barbecue smokers.
Standard Offset Smoker
As you can see in the above diagram, heat in the offset smoker varies, giving it “hot spots” within the chamber. Though some pit masters view this as a negative, most see this as an opportunity to grill multiple meats at different temperatures simultaneously. This also gives both competition smokers and backyard BBQ smokers the opportunity to smoke meats faster or slower depending on where meats are placed within the smoker. This is the perfect setup for those smoking multiple items for a large get together.
Reverse Flow Smoker
A reverse flow smoker has a steel plate within the cooking chamber. This allows heat to pass underneath the cook surface at its hottest and then pass over the food at a slightly lower temperature. Reverse flow smokers are able to maintain evenly dispersed heat throughout the cooking chamber of the barbecue smoker. With the added plate and the placement of the chimney, smoke is able to spend more time within the pit. This is perfect for slow smoking larger meats. Cooking time with a reverse flow smoker is usually longer since there aren’t any “hot spots” to speed up the smoking process, however meats will most likely be smoked more evenly.
Though there is much debate in the BBQ world over which type of smoker is the best, we view each as having their own pros. Depending on what you plan on using your smoker for, one type will be of more use to you than the other. Either way, you’re sure to have many delicious experiences.