Offset Smoker Vs Vertical Smoker

Are you contemplating which is better, offset smoker vs vertical smoker? Worry not, you are at the right place, as this article will compare them thoroughly.

The comparison that is offset smoker vs vertical smoker has been prevalent in the BBQ community for quite a while. Each side has its own points, but people new to this scene may find it confusing.

To make things easier, we have put together this article to introduce you to the differences between the two. We hope that you can make use of it and select the more suitable type of smoker for your own situation.

Vertical Smoker

Despite us usually calling them vertical smokers, the correct name should be vertical water smokers. This name originates from their utilization of the water pan. And some people still prefer to call these upright drum smoker variations bullet smokers due to their shape.

How Do Vertical Smokers Work?

A vertical smoker always consists of three parts, the usual smoking compartment, the heat source, and the water pan.

The smoking compartment is almost always placed right at the top, holding the foods you want to grill. Most of the time, this compartment has two layers of grating, both made from stainless steel.

A typical vertical smoker

Directly below it is the water pan, which will moisturize the air within the smoker. As a result, the meat will also be juicier, as there is no dry heat affecting it. This juiciness is even more distinguishable if you use the slow smoke method.

The final part is the heat source usually referred to as the firebox. It is where we put the fuel and light them. Without it, the smoker does not work.

Offset Smoker

Also known as stick burners, barrel smokers, horizontal smokers, etc., they are what we automatically assign with the word “smoker.” They originated from the oil fields of Texas. So, it’s not an overstatement saying that they have been a part of BBQ since their conception.

How Do Offset Smokers Work?

To start an offset smoker, you must first light the fuel within the firebox up. The fuel can be either wood, gas, or coal, dependent on your preference. Then, the heat will go through the small hole connecting the firebox with the chamber to get to the chamber.

At the chamber, this heat will slowly cook the meat, but you need to regulate it regularly.

The Difference Between Vertical Smoker And Offset Smoker

Now that we know all the basics of vertical and offset smokers, let’s delve into their differences.

Space-Saving Capacity

Both of these choices offer quite a huge variety of sizes for you to choose from. However, the vertical variant often has a more space-saving design, thanks to their smoke compartment being vertical. This compactness makes storing these smokers much less of a pain.

Due to the offset smokers lying horizontally, there is just no way that offset models can take up less space. As a result, they aren’t good choices if you don’t have a large garden.

Smoking Capacity

There is not much of a difference between the size of the chamber for both types of smokers. The distinction lies in the way each of them loads the meat in.

For vertical smokers, there is a rack with some shelves that you will place the meat on from the bottom up. The offset smokers, on the contrary, usually give you only one huge horizontal shelf to put the foods.

As you can guess, vertical versions are much more difficult to work with. If you want to fit a big piece of food, like a rack of ribs, you have to remove some shelves. For this reason, vertical smokers are more suitable for smoking smaller cuts of meat.

Offset smokers can take on much larger pieces of meat.

The broader platform of the horizontal smokers lets you fit meat of any size. That’s not all; there will still be enough room for you to manoeuvre, allowing the meat to get proper positioning.

Grilling Capability

Smoking alone can never let you enjoy the full experience of a BBQ party, as grilling is its soul. However, getting a separate grill may prove to be too much of additional investment. That is why many people turn to versatile smokers.

If you are one of them, then the offset smoker is the best choice. Almost every single offset smoker comes attached with a charcoal grill. After all, this grill can make complete use of the fuel for the smoke, reducing the waste.

The vertical smokers, on the other hand, cannot serve you the same way. Its vertical design, while perfect for smoking, is inherently incapable of functioning as a grill. For this reason, seeing a vertical smoker with an inbuilt grill is only a pipe dream.

Energy Efficiency

As we have mentioned above, the vertical design of bullet smokers is incredibly good for smoking. The reason for this analysis lies in the fact that heat is always faster traveling upward than sideways.

The offset smokers’ design means that horizontal is the only way for the smoke to travel to the meat. And this is the reason why almost all types of offset smokers place the firebox a little bit lower than the body. Even with this design, it still takes much longer for the smoke to arrive.

It takes a while for the smoke to reach the meat with offset smokers.

We can confidently say that if energy efficiency is what you are interested in, the vertical smoker is the way. The difference in energy needed for offset smokers is simply too high.

Heat Distribution

No one wants to spend so long smoking the meat only to find out that their final result is overcooked. Nonetheless, it is still a prevalent issue that vertical smoker users must face.

Heat rises from the ground up, losing power the higher it goes. Knowing this mechanism, it’s not hard to imagine that the bottom parts will receive a lot more heat. If you are not careful, there may even be a risk of the meat placed lower being burnt.

You do not have to worry about this issue at all if you use the offset smoker. All the foods are, after all, on the same height level. As such, there is no huge heat difference to speak of.

Pros And Cons Of Vertical Smoker


  • Almost all variants offer an integrated digital thermometer
  • Compact design making storage much easier
  • Very fuel-efficient
  • More affordable
  • Quick heat transfer speed


  • Not much cooking space
  • Fast to lose heat
  • There is only one entry point
  • Almost no temperature controllability

Pros And Cons Of Offset Smoker


  • Indirect heat, aiding in the temperature control process
  • Incredibly easy to operate
  • The reverse thermal circulation variant is the best at slow smoking
  • One huge smoking tray capable of fitting almost any cut of meat
  • Even heat distribution across the smoker


  • It takes a while to heat up properly
  • Heat transfer speed is not satisfactory
  • Taking up a lot more space than vertical smokers
  • Not as usable in cold climates

Final Verdict

The final conclusion of this offset smoker vs vertical smoker article is that each has its own strengths. And in the right circumstance, both of them can satisfy their users.

If you are not that serious about smoking or your home does not have much space, vertical smokers will suffice. Furthermore, these smokers are typically more affordable and easier to move around. They shine the most if you want to smoke for a small family.

Offset smokers are undeniably good at smoking huge chunks of meat. You can even fit a whole pig in an offset smoker. They also let you control the temperature more, thanks to their adjustable ventilation system.