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, te 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.
Offset Smoker vs Vertical Smoker Comparison
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:
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Pros of a vertical smoker
Cons of an offset smoker
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.