What is a Reverse Flow Smoker? And, Do You Need One?

Have you ever heard of a reverse flow smoker and wondered what it is. Or do people you know have one and you have wondered how it works? Well people get really serious about their BBQ equipment and for a long time now people have been arguing between reserved flow smokers and offset smokers.

This article intends to explain to you what a reverse flow smoker is and how it works. It will also tell you whether you need one for your next BBQ.

What is a Reverse Flow Smoker?

A reverse flow smoker is a BBQ smoker that forces the air to travel further inside the smoker. This helps achieve a more even temperature inside the smoker, which helps smoke your food more evenly and better.

The reverse flow smoker is an adaption of the traditional offset smoker, it not only helps produce a more even cooking temperature but there is a more even distribution of smoke which helps give a better flavour. 

A reverse flow smoker is designed with a baffle plate, this is a metal plate which helps improve the flow of the smoke. It also blocks the direct heat from the meat that is closest to the firebox.

Therefore you don’t need to worry about your meat becoming overcooked. This metal plate also acts as a plate where the fat can drip onto. However the baffle plate might be welded in on some models,  therefore it can’t be removed, which may make cleaning a bit more difficult. 

The design of a reverse flow smoker isn’t without its faults. The reverse flow smoker takes a long to heat up because the smoke has to travel further.

Also not everyone wants their smoker to be one uniform temperature. That is, if you like to have different temperature zones to smoke different things at once, this may be a disadvantage for you.  

How Do You Use a Reverse Flow Smoker?

To use a reverse flow smoker, follow these simple steps:

  1. Prepare your meat early or the night before. 
  2. Light your charcoal and place it in the firebox with a few pieces of hardwood (the hardwood helps give you a more smoky flavor.)
  3. Adjust the vents until you reach 225 degrees fahrenheit. 
  4. Place your meat on the cooking racks and close the lid.
  5. Monitor the cooking temperature every hour.
  6. Adjust the vents or add more charcoal if the smoke or temperature starts to die down.
  7. Smoke the meat until it is tender. 
  8. Once they have reached their perfect temperature. Remove the meats and let them rest before serving.

The heat leaves the firebox on the side and travels under the plate to the far end of the smoker. The smoke will rise and enter the smoking chamber and travel to the other end of the chamber. Finally the smoke will exit the chamber through the stack at the top of the smoker by the top of the firebox. 

Reverse Flow Smoker vs Offset Smoker

There is a huge debate about which smoker is better and which one you should have. There are times when it is better to use a regular offset smoker than a reverse flow smoker. 

Offset Smoker:

A offset smoker is better when you want a smoker that gives you more airflow and a cleaner smoke. It also gives you the option to have different temperature heat zones, which means you can cook multiple things at the same time because of the different heat zones. This might be something you look for if you are cooking a BBQ for a big crowd. 

Offset smokers are more energy efficient and easier to run as they don’t need as much fuel. They can last a long time as long as you maintain the unit with care. However, offset smokers take a lot of practise before you can confidently use it.

They are also quite a large piece of equipment, which will take up a lot of space. So if you have limited space, this smoker may be difficult to use.

Not only are they quite big but they are also heavy. Trying to move this piece of equipment is quite difficult and in the end once you move it once you might not want to move it again. It is a bit of a chore. 

Reverse Flow Smoker:

Now compared with a reverse flow smoker there aren’t a huge lot of differences between them both. Except you are guaranteed a better and even temperature control with a reverse flow smoker.

A reverse flow smoker is much better for a beginner, it is easier to use and there is less to learn about it. With a more even temperature heat control, your meat won’t overcook and you’ll achieve more consistent results.

With an offset smoker, you have to keep checking not only the temperature, but you will have to keep checking your meat and moving them around to stop them from overcooking. 

The plate in the reverse flow smoker allows the fat to drip onto it, which then will give your meats even more flavor. This is as the fat drips off the meat, it will also smoke and enhance the flavors that are being created from the smoke.

However a reverse slow smoker isn’t without its disadvantages too. Like the offset smoker, the reverse flow smoker is just as big and bulky, which means you need to think about the space where you want to put it.

You also will want to consider how much you move it and if you really want to move it, because it is so heavy. 

The reverse flow smoker is designed for a more slow and low cooking method, so the smoking process may take longer than with an offset smoker. However you will know that your meat is properly smoked and you don’t have to worry about it being overcooked or oversmoked. 

Which is Better?

Both the offset smoker and the reverse flow smoker have pros and cons. Both are used to smoke meats. It really depends if you are a newbie to smoking or a veteran at smoking which will be better for you.

Both smoke meats well, but it also depends who you are cooking for. If you have a large crowd with different preferences then the offset might be better that time. However if you are cooking one or two large pieces of meat for everyone then the reverse flow smoker may be better.

What is the best Reverse Flow Smoker?

There are a lot of Reverse Flow Smokers on the market, yet there are two that always come up, the Oklahoma Joe Highland and the Lang 36’ Original.

The Oklahoma Joe Highland is made of 100% heavy gauge steel. It comes with a removable baffle, so this smoker can either be a reverse flow smoker or an offset smoker. You get the best of both worlds.

The Highland also comes with attachable grill plates, so you can grill and sear food over the flames’ heat. The Highland is seen as the best smoker, if you are a smoker newbie and just starting out in your smoking journey. It is also available at a quite affordable price. 

The Land 36’ Orignal is a bit more expensive than the Highland. Made of rolled steel in an all welded construction. Like the highland, the original comes with a bottom storage area to store your tools and prepared food.

Inside the original there are removable bottom racks and sliding upper racks. There is enough room in this reverse flow smoker to cook a whole piglet or 6 to 8 racks of ribs. The original is a step up in your reverse flow smoking journey, as it is a bit more pricey but still offers you a lot for your money.

Final Thoughts

The reverse flow smoker has a great design. The metal plate inside is what separates it from the offset smoker and it does make a difference.

The reverse flow smoker is a slightly better smoker as you are guaranteed a more even temperature control, which as a result will give you a better result with less effort.

The reverse flow smoker is ideal if you want to fill your smoker up with meats and walk away and not to have to worry about certain meats overcooking quicker than others. Not all reverse smokers can be grilled on so that is something you will need to check that your smoker comes with grilling plates.

Overall, the reverse flow smoker is great for beginners and those who want a more consistent smoker. They will be able to confidently smoke their meats and not have to worry about them overcooking anymore.