Offset Smoker vs Vertical Smoker

Offset Smoker vs Vertical – Which is the better smoker to buy?

If you think logically, you'd think that a traditional vertical smoker is better than a horizontal smoker or offset smoker as most refer to them these days. But is that the case? To answer this question, I've compared the vertical vs horizontal smoker so you can easily decide which is the better style to buy.

As the love for smoked meats increases, manufacturers have been producing new innovative smokers to prepare the perfect meats. However, regardless of the innovations in design, the form factor of smokers is still limited to a vertical smoker design or a horizontal smoker design.

As the name suggests, vertical smokers have an upright design. On the other hand, offset smokers, also known as horizontal smokers, have a plane and level orientation. In the vertical smoker, the burner lies at the bottom while the offset smoker has its burner at the end of one side.

In this article, you will see all the differences, similarities, advantages, and disadvantages of both types of smokers. After you've read this post, you can decide which one will suit you better all on your own. Or you could take a look at some of our top recommendations for vertical or horizontal smokers.

The offset smoker and vertical smoker differ in many ways. Without knowing the differences between them, it will be hard to choose the option that best suits the types of meats you plan to smoke. Before we go any further, here's a brief overview of each smoker type:

Offset smokers

Also known as a horizontal smoker, consists of a smoking chamber connected to the burner at the side of the smoke chamber. As you burn the charcoal or wood, the smoke travels from the stove to the smoker and out the chimney. The main benefit of having an offset smoker lies in the convenience of letting you stoke the pellets or charcoal without having to open the cook chamber.

The two main types of offset smokers are regular offset smokers and Reverse Flow Offset Smokers.

Top Rated Offset Smokers

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Vertical smokers 

Vertical smokers, as the name suggests, are vertical in orientation with smoke and heat coming in from the bottom and out the top through a chimney. You can fuel this smoker with wood, charcoal, electricity, or gas. Some variants of vertical smokers are box smokers, drum smokers, and smoker ovens.

Most vertical smokers come with at least two cooking racks where you can place the pieces of meat or food. The smoke cooks the meat as it passes through the stands. In a vertical smoker, the smoke and heat travel only in one direction, that is from bottom to the top.

Now that you know the basics of each type, let's move on to the key comparisons of vertical vs offset smokers:

Top Rated Vertical Smokers

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Space-saving capacity

There are many sizes that you can purchase when it comes to both vertical and offset smokers. However, vertical smokers usually have a more compact design that can fit into small spaces. So if you do not have a large area to spare in your backyard or storeroom, it will be best to go for a vertical smoker.

The offset smoker takes up more space because the smoker lies horizontally. In addition to this fact, the burner at one end of the smoker also increases the space it takes up. Hence, these smokers need a lot of free areas to stand, at least in terms of width horizontally.

Grilling Capabilities 

The offset smoker works as a grill as well. Almost all the horizontal smokers have a charcoal grill on which you can grill any type of food. This addition makes this type of smoker a little more versatile as you can save money on buying a separate device to grill your meats.

On the other hand, you would either have to purchase a separate grill if you want to be able to smoke and grill meats. This is because vertical smokers do not come with an inbuilt grill. And since it has an upright design, it is only suitable for smoking meats.

Energy efficiency

A vertical smoker typically has a compact design and hence, does not require a large amount of fuel to heat the smoking chamber. On the other hand, the offset smoker usually has a larger smoke chamber. The horizontal design of this smoker poses an issue that may be something you need to keep in mind. That is the fact that an offset smoker takes more fuel to heat up. This problem happens since heat travels upwards faster than horizontally; however, this difference is hardly noticeable.

With that in mind, if you want a smoker that is more energy-efficient, you should go for the vertical smoker instead of the offset smoker.

Heat distribution

As most persons would know, heat rises from the ground up. And in a vertical smoker, the same applies to the heat generated from the fuel. As such, you will often experience situations where the bottom of the meat is overcooked.

In contrast, the horizontal smoker distributes the heat from the side and throughout the chamber. This heat distribution allows the meats to cook more evenly without you having to open the cooking chamber and flipping the meats as often. Moreover, if you opt for a reverse flow smoker, you will have smokier meats that often always taste better. This improvement is due to how the smoke flows in the reverse flow offset smokers.


In most cases, the vertical smoker is much more affordable than the offset smoker. So if you are on a tight budget, it will be better for you to go for a vertical smoker instead of a horizontal smoker. While the vertical smoker is more affordable, it does not mean that it cannot smoke well.

Offset smokers are often more expensive since they offer more than a typical vertical smoker. But the truth is, either option has affordable models that you can find in your budget. So price shouldn't be a factor you use to determine which type of smoker you choose between the vertical vs horizontal smoker.

Smoking Capacity


The smoking chamber for both vertical smokers and horizontal smokers does not differ much in size. However, the differences between them are in the way you load the meats. Vertical smokers offer a vertical rack with a few shelves that you can place the meat on to smoke. On the offset smoker, you have typically get one or a few horizontal shelves to put meats on.

So in terms of capacity, neither is higher than the other if you compare smokers with the same cooking capacity.

However, with the vertical smoker, the opening of the smoker is more inconvenient to work in. Since you'll need to stoop down or remove shelves to cook large pieces of meat, plus, you will have to use more effort in monitoring the meat. As such, I recommend smoking smaller meat cuts than you would on a horizontal smoker.

In contrast, horizontal smokers offer a broader platform and more space to maneuver in the grill, which will allow you to smoke larger cuts of meat.

The Winner: Neither type wins as they both have similar capacities; it only depends on which you'd find more convenient to use.


Both types of smokers offer high portability, depending on the model you get. So if you're looking at a vertical smoker or a horizontal smoker with the same fuel source, you can expect that there isn't an advantage in one over the other in terms of portability. You are more likely to see a difference in portability based on the brand.

However, most smokers today come equipped with wheels that will make it easy to transport.

Ease of refueling

Offset smokers have dual chambers, and thus, it does not take a lot of effort to refuel. On the other hand, vertical smokers without dual chambers can be very difficult to refuel. Moreover, with the vertical smoker, you will always end up having to open the cooking chamber, thus reducing the temperature inside.

As a result, you'll find the vertical smoker more inconvenient to use than an offset smoker. But you could find an offset vertical smoker which will solve this issue.

Pros of an offset smoker 

Cons of an offset smoker

  • Indirect heat inside the chamber aids in keeping the temperature low and controllable for a long time.
  • They are easy to use and operate.
  • Offset smokers are usually very portable, depending on the brand selected.
  • If you get a reverse flow offset smokers, it will be able to redirect smoke and heat before releasing it, thus smoking meat better.
  • It takes longer to heat up than other gas grills.
  • Smoking meats may take a little. As a result, cooking also takes more time
  • Not ideal for use in cold climates
  • They are usually large

Pros of a vertical smoker

Cons of an offset smoker

  • Most of the vertical variant comes with an inbuilt digital thermometer.
  • It comes with many shelves that allow you to smoke a few rows of ribs easily.
  • They usually have a compact design that will allow it to fit in tight spaces.
  • They are more fuel-efficient than horizontal smokers.
  • Depending on the space between each rack, you cannot smoke large cuts in it.
  • It is difficult to put in and take the meat out.
  • You cannot use most vertical smokers as a grill.
  • It is harder to maintain the temperature in the cooking chamber as you will have to open it each time to load fuel.

What are the main differences between vertical vs horizontal smoker?

The first and most obvious difference between the two smokers is that the vertical smoker stands up straight and has a vertical orientation. On the other hand, the offset smoker has a horizontal orientation. Moreover, it is easier to refuel the offset smoker than it is for vertical smokers.

Additionally, with a horizontal smoker, it is easier to control the temperature since you don't need to open the smoking chamber to add fuel. While with the vertical smoker each time you open the chamber, you reduce the temperature.


There is almost an equal number of pros and cons for both vertical or horizontal smokers. As a result, there is no clear cut winner when it comes to which one is better. However, with the help of the information from this article, you can look at the pros and cons and see which one will suit you better.

If it helps, my favorite smokers are listed here. And if you had to buy one today, I'd always recommend a reverse flow offset smoker or any horizontal smoker over the vertical ones.


What are the main differences between vertical and horizontal smokers?

Vertical and horizontal smokers vary in how they’re designed and used. Vertical smokers stand upright, with heat and smoke moving from the bottom to the top. They are often more compact and can be placed almost anywhere. Horizontal smokers, like the horizontal pellet smoker grill, use wood pellets as fuel and can do more than just smoke – they can also grill, roast, and bake.

Which type of smoker, vertical or horizontal, is more energy-efficient?

In terms of energy efficiency, vertical smokers take the lead due to their compact design, allowing them to operate using less fuel. However, the horizontal pellet smoker grill uses an automated electric feed system to burn the wood pellets, which simplifies temperature control and typically requires less fuel than charcoal.

Which is easier to use: a vertical or horizontal smoker?

The horizontal pellet smoker grill is generally easier to use, thanks to its automated temperature control. However, vertical smokers are often simpler to manage compared to regular offset smokers, but they require manual temperature adjustment and monitoring.

How does the cooking space differ between vertical and horizontal smokers?

Vertical smokers offer a compact design, making them more portable and requiring less space. On the other hand, horizontal pellet smoker grills, due to their larger design, need more space and an electrical power source.

Which smoker offers more versatility: vertical or horizontal?

The horizontal pellet smoker grill is more versatile, allowing you to smoke, grill, roast, and even bake. However, the vertical smoker focuses solely on smoking but often delivers superior smoked meat quality.

Which is more durable: a vertical or horizontal smoker?

In terms of durability, a high-quality vertical smoker can last for many years with proper use. Horizontal pellet smoker grills have more moving parts and require electricity, making them potentially more prone to breakdowns.

What kind of fuel do vertical and horizontal smokers use?

While vertical smokers use charcoal, wood, or a mix of both as their heat source, horizontal pellet smoker grills exclusively use wood pellets as fuel. They also require electricity to function.

How does the quality of smoked food differ between vertical and horizontal smokers?

The quality of smoked food can differ between these types. Vertical smokers, focusing solely on smoking, often deliver superior smoked food. However, horizontal smokers, with their versatility in cooking methods, still provide satisfactory results for both smoking and grilling.