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A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.
A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling,
passed on from his father and grandfather to him.
When cooking meat for a large family barbecue or picnic, the pellet grill and offset smoker models are both fantastic options.
Nothing beats the taste of charred, freshly cooked chicken breasts or braised brisket. Both these grill styles produce juicy and flavorful meat, from smoky pulled pork to well-rounded, succulent lamb chops.
However, there are also quite a few critical differences between a pellet grill and an offset smoker. Before you rush off to buy either of these models, it’s crucial to consider these differences and to make sure you’re investing in the grill design that’s perfect for you.
Here, you’ll find a breakdown of the differences between the pellet grill and the offset smoker, from the contrasting cooking methods to the distinctions in running costs and fuel efficiency.
Pellet Grill vs. Offset Smoker Overview
Pellet grills and offset smokers are two distinctive types of barbecues that offer something different in terms of fuel source, cooking method, and meat flavor.
An offset grill is a traditional model for smoking meat. It has two connected, barrel-shaped containers and smokes meat across a horizontal plane. One barrel is smaller than the other called the firebox, and it sits a little below the larger barrel.
You fill the firebox up with charcoal or wood chips, set a controlled fire, then close the lid. The smoke from the fire rises and moves into the main cooking container, where it moves horizontally across the meat. This smoke cooks and flavors the food before leaving through the chimney at the far end of the oven barrel.
Offset models produce rich, smoky meats because they tend to take a while to heat up and operate at a leisurely pace. For that reason, these smokers are perfect for slow-cooked meats. They’re also ideal for cooking large, fatty hunks of meat. The slow-cooking method helps to tenderize the cuts over time, while the extra fat works to keep the meat from drying out.
Pellet grills take specialized hardwood pellets as their fuel source. You feed the pellets into the firebox on the side of the cooking container. An electric motor then pushes them into the small fire burning right underneath the cooking container’s center.
You can easily manage the grill’s temperature; you simply have to set the temperature at which you want to cook the meat. The auger automatically feeds the pellets into the small firebox at a reasonable rate to reach and maintain this temperature.
The smoke from the small fire moves up into the cooking container, where it circulates in a convection heat pattern, before escaping through the chimney in the top corner of the oven.
As you might imagine, pellet grills cook meat more quickly than offset smokers do: they also tend to barbecue meat more evenly. That’s because the electric motor in the firebox tightly regulates the main chamber’s temperature, cooking all the pieces of meat equally.
People often consider the pellet grill an upgraded version of the offset smoker. While this is a debatable point, it’s difficult to dispute that a pellet grill is easier to use.
If you love the subtle, woody taste of properly barbecued meat, then an offset smoker is perfect.
This traditional way of smoking uses a flavorful fuel source to cook meat slowly at lower temperatures, infusing the joints and cuts with a smoldering, rich flavor.
Pellet Grills and Offset Smokers Go Head to Head
There are several factors to consider when deciding whether to get either a pellet grill or an offset smoker. Both types of barbecues produce tasty and flavorsome meat, but there are some critical differences between them.
Cooking Style & Flavors
Each model has a different style of cooking, and, in each case, this affects the taste of the meat. The pellet grill works like a convection oven, cooking meat with a well-rounded, juicy flavor. This meat will also taste less smoky than that from an offset model.
The offset barbecue burns through charcoal and wood to smoke the meat through a horizontal plane, so it tends to excel at slow-cooking meat at a low temperature. This model produces meat that has more of a traditional barbecue flavor. It’s smoky and succulent and tends to feel more tender than the meat from a pellet grill.
It’s worth noting that many pellet models don’t double up as grills. It’s often difficult to get their temperature high enough for effective grilling. This problem doesn’t occur with offset smokers, since you can put down a grate and grill directly over the firebox if you want.
The pellet grill’s calling card is its unrivaled level of control when it comes to temperature. The built-in automated temperature regulation ensures no significant fluctuations in the heat-levels within the cooking container. This regulation means that the meat cooks evenly and quickly.
The offset grill has no automated temperature regulation system. You have to manually do this by lifting the firebox lid to gauge the fuel source’s temperature, raising the cooking container, and checking the meat itself. This regulation method takes practice. Some grillers love being in complete manual control of the cooking process while others prefer the mechanical design.
The precise temperature regulation and convection fan method of the pellet grill means that it’s very efficient for fuel usage. This efficiency is due to a lack of fuel waste wasting from unnecessary and unpredictable internal temperature fluctuations. Pellet grills also tend to be well insulated and resistant to external conditions, meaning they retain heat well, and you’re not wasting fuel trying to keep them hot enough as you cook.
Offset smokers take longer to cook meat, and in that respect, they’re less fuel-efficient. This more traditional mode of smoking doesn’t tend to cook meat as evenly as the pellet grill: you’ll sometimes find temperature disparities within the cooking container itself, depending on which cut of beef is nearest to the firebox.
With an offset smoker, you also have to check up on your meat more. Whenever you open the lid, you’re subjecting the cooking container to a potentially drastic temperature change. This means you’re likely to waste fuel trying to maintain a suitable internal heat level.
Affordability & Cost of Upkeep
Generally, a pellet grill costs more upfront than an offset smoker. The automated regulation and convection fan features drive up the starting price.
Both the pellet and offset grills have relatively high running costs. However, while the offset model has a higher cost of upkeep, it’s not as fuel-efficient as the pellet grill. On the other hand, you’ll be paying electricity costs with the pellet model.
Wrapping It Up
Both the pellet grill and the offset smoker are great options when it comes to buying a high-quality barbecue for large family events and parties.
If you want to produce meat with a classic braised and smoky taste and don’t mind waiting, go for an offset grill. If you prefer a less smoky, more well-rounded flavor, then opt for a pellet model.
If you like being in charge of your barbecue and enjoy standing over it and keeping track of the cooking process, then an offset grill is your best bet. If, on the other hand, you’d rather let the grill do most of the work while you go off and catch up with your friends and family, then consider a pellet model.
There are lots of reasons to buy these two types of grills. Carefully consider the features you’re looking for in an outdoor meat cooker, you’ll find a model that suits you and your family perfectly.