Making great barbecue requires the right combination of fuel, meat, equipment, and skill. The right wood or charcoal will give you the appropriate temperature for smoking while providing the distinctive flavor you want for your meat. Quality meat is essential; all the cooking skill in the world can only do so much to an inferior piece of meat. And as for you, the expert behind the tongs, it’s essential that you know what you are doing. You need to make the most of your experience and learn from every session at the smoker.
If one of these elements is not up to snuff, the final product will never overcome it. A good smoker is definitely a big part of the equation, and many chefs are now using offset smokers with reverse flow. It’s always a good idea to seek advice from a barbecue expert before you start buying anything. These smokers offer several advantages over other types.
Easier Temperature Management
Probably the hardest thing to do when smoking meat is maintaining the right temperature throughout the smoking chamber. There is a delicate balancing act between the quantity of wood, the opening in the damper, and the flow of smoke through the chamber. Just as it goes with traditional grilling, you can end up with hot spots and cool spots if you don’t manage everything properly. The result is a piece of meat that is overcooked in some areas, undercooked in other areas, and probably not cooked correctly anywhere.
Most of the time, this problem occurs when the meat must be placed directly over the heat. Reverse flow smokers use a barrier under the meat to divert the heat and smoke away from the bottom of the meat and instead allow it to cook from the top down. This movement helps to even out the temperatures, and the diverter (known as a baffle) absorbs heat and distributes it more evenly. This results in a more consistent temperature level throughout the chamber and a better final product.
The Option to Grill
If you buy a dedicated smoker, that’s all you have. You will be able to do a great job with barbecue, but you won’t have any options beyond that. You will still have to invest more money and space for a grill if you choose to do the traditional burgers, steaks, and chicken breasts from time to time–and who doesn’t? That extra purchase puts a real crimp in your budget.
Many offset smokers utilize a standard grill setup with a smoke chamber added on. This gives you the option to smoke when you want to and to grill when you want to, without spending hundreds of dollars on another piece of equipment. In addition to the flexibility of a smoker-grill combination, you will also have less expense for maintenance. It is much easier to clean and maintain one piece of equipment than two.
Who doesn’t want to make it easier to produce delicious meat? Doing a good job smoking meat is mostly about managing the temperature in the smoker. If you get it too high, the meat cooks before the flavor materializes. If you run the smoker at a cool temperature, cooking time becomes too long. For serious pitmasters, managing the fuel level is second nature. They know when extra wood is needed, and they can get the right amount into the fire at the right time. If you don’t have years of experience, you probably don’t have quite the “feel” for temperature that a pro does.
For the home barbecue operation, simplicity is key. The learning curve is fairly steep, so you need equipment that is a little more forgiving in your learning process. An offset smoker has a separate smoker box where the wood is burned. This means that it is less disruptive to open it and check the fire than when the combustion is taking place directly under the meat.
Juggling two cooking operations at the same time can be tough, but it’s a situation you’ve probably encountered. Most barbecue events feature more than one type of meat. You may want to do a pork shoulder at the same time as a turkey, a brisket, or some sausage. Because all these meats will smoke differently, it can be tough to get them all prepared at the same time.
This problem is easy to solve with certain models of offset smokers. They have multiple smoking chambers, each of which can be managed to create optimum conditions for whichever meat it holds. The result for you as the chef is that you can get everything prepared the right way at the same time.
An offset smoker with reverse flow is a great way to cook delicious barbecue at home. It offers several advantages over having separate grilling and smoking setups, giving you better meat with less hassle and expense
Image credit: Offset Smokers via pr2is/Shutterstock