Controlling the fire in your smoker might be tricky. So here’s an Offset Smoker heat management guide, full of tips for all levels of pitmasters…

Offset Smoker Heat Management (How To)

Using an offset smoker might be more labor intensive than other types of smokers, but it is definitely worth it. Here are a few tips you can follow as you go through the process of cooking on your offset. Have enough charcoal and smoke wood ready, then dive right in!

Tip #1: Getting the pit hot

You’ll need a nice steady coal fire to get started, so don’t get stingy. Let the firebox door(s), smokestack and dampers open to help the fire grow. Once you feel comfortable with your fire, place a piece of firewood on top, close the door -but let the damper open!- and monitor the temperature of the main chamber.

Tip #2: Maintaining the fire

The key to Offset Smoker heat management is keeping an eye on the charcoal fire. Check every 15-20 minutes and adjust whatever is needed.

  • If you notice it is dying down (the temperature is dropping), add another chunk of wood. Leave the firebox door cracked open until the wood has caught fire. Make sure to add wood as regularly as needed!
  • If the heat is rising too high, try closing the dampers a little to dim the fire.

Tip #3: Correct meat placement

Temperatures are not constant in the main chamber of an offset smoker. The side closer to the firebox will always be hotter than the side facing away from it- you could experience temperature differences of up to 50°F. Therefore, you should be mindful of where you place the meat you are cooking, and possibly adjust the spot depending on how the cook is coming along.

Tip #4: Pay attention to the smoke

You have definitely heard of “thin blue smoke”. Some pitmasters describe it as an elusive, almost magical phenomenon. And, while experience and practice definitely will help you achieve it, it is not an impossible feat for the aspiring pitmaster.

Thick white smoke (the bad kind) is a result of the smokewood not burning properly. To amend this, you can do one of two things: One, allow some oxygen into the firebox by adjusting dampers/door. Two, by poking the fire a bit, not unlike you would do with your fireplace.

Hopefully these tips (and the great video we linked to) will help you master your offset smoker.


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