Timothy Woods
Published by Timothy Woods
Last Updated On: May 4, 2022

Everyone knows that a barbeque is an almost sacred ritual: bringing natural elements under your control and keeping meat at just the correct temperatures for just the right length of time to prepare food that satisfies your soul. If you know this truth in your bones, then maybe you are ready to explore using a stick burner smoker.

A stick burner smoker is a barbeque smoker that uses only log-splits or sticks as an accelerant and heat source. Typically, the firebox is hung low and offset from the main cooking chamber with a smokestack opposite. Stick burner smokers do not use charcoal, gas, propane, or electricity.

Quick Summary

  • Some people find a stick burner smoker a challenge to master because the cook is controlling the temperature of the burn throughout the cooking process rather than watching a thermometer, but don’t let this deter you, the rewards are great. 
  • We will look at what a stick burner smoker is, how to use one, and we’ll throw some other information on the fire to keep your interest burning too.

How A Stick Burner Smoker Is Different To A Normal Barbeque?

Smoking grill outside

Unlike a normal barbeque, which has the fire or heat source directly under the grill, a stick burner smoker has a firebox offset from the grill in the main cooking chamber and hanging lower on the barbeque.

Because of this, a stick burner smoker is sometimes referred to as an offset smoker.

To complete this type of smoker a smokestack is usually placed opposite the cooking chamber to infuse the cooking chamber with smoke.

Before using a stick burner smoker, ask yourself this question: Does smoked meat taste best from smokers that generate smoke and heat from burning wood only?

If your answer is 'Yes', then a stick burner smoker is for you! If, however, you are happy with the results you are already producing from a smoker that generates smoke and heat from different sources, then keep at it with that smoker until you are ready to move to a stick burner smoker!

Because the heat is not directly under the grill, but offset, meat is cooked by convection in the cooking chamber. This usually results in meat that is slow-cooked and smoked to perfection.

If you’re burning to get a stick burner smoker, these are the key differences to take into account between other common smokers and stick burner smokers:

  Pellet / Propane / Charcoal / Electric smokers Stick burner smoker
Produces heat and smoke from the same source No Yes
Requires starter fuel Yes No
Has a thermostat Yes No
Can be closed and left for a short while Yes No

Because a stick burner smoker does not have a thermostat, it will require constant attention, a keen ‘gut feel’, and a quick eye for how much heat and smoke the fire produces. With a stick burner smoker, prepare to invest yourself completely in the cook.

You need to be vigilant, regularly feeding and adjusting the fire, which means you will most likely be at the fireside for the entire cook, but a well-loved piece of meat usually tastes better, so it will be worth the effort!

What Challenges Do Stick Burner Smokers Pose?

BBQ cooking outside

Many people find it challenging to use a stick burner smoker when first making the transition from a normal smoker or barbeque. The most common challenge is keeping the fire burning clean and keeping the temperature consistently at the right level throughout the cook.

Watch out for these three pitfalls when using a stick burner smoker:

  • Don’t over-smoke the meat.

A log that is too thick will take much longer to light and will produce too much smoke for your purpose. A recommended stick size of 3" in diameter will ensure each piece lights quickly and produces just the correct amount of smoke.

  • Don’t wait until the fire has burned low before replenishing the wood.

Add a new split of wood at least once every hour. Watch the heat of the fire, be sure to add the new split when the coals are still hot enough to light the new wood quickly.

  • Don’t suffocate the fire.

Fires deprived of oxygen can give the meat a creosote flavor. Check vents regularly to ensure good airflow.

Three Smoking Hot Tips When Using A Stick Burner Smoker

BBQ cooking outside

Like all barbeques, each one has its own ‘personality’, and this is never more true than with a stick burner smoker. Practice will make perfect and once you have mastered the basics, there will always be new recipes and techniques for keeping the fire at just the right temperature.

Even so, these three tips will get you started on the path to the perfect smoked meal:

1. Decisively deal with the grease and fat

Besides being a fire hazard during the cook, these can be difficult to clean afterwards. If your smoker comes equipped with a built-in drip pan or drain, make sure these are working correctly. If not, place a pan at least the size of your meat under the grate to catch any drips and dispose this after the cook.

2. Turn up the humidity

Help keep the meat from drying out by placing an aluminum pan of warm water below the cooking grates inside the cook chamber for the duration of the cook.

3. Control the air flow

A jet of hot air to one area of the smoker can be a disaster. Evenly distribute the flow of heat and smoke by placing a steel baffle plate on the inlet vent.

This will force the hot air down before it rises and distributes more evenly in the cooking chamber. If your smoker allows for modification this can be a permanent fixture, but if not, a temporary aluminum plate may also work.

Why are stick burner smokers more expensive?

Barbeque grill cooking steak and seafood

You may have noticed that stick burner smokers are often more expensive than other smokers; this usually comes down to the reasons below: knowing why you’re paying a premium price may help soften the dent on your wallet.

Firstly, because stick burner smokers are often preferred by more intrepid barbeque masters, they are in less demand.

As such, not every manufacturer sports a stick burner smoker in their range of smokers. Those that do produce them do so at a higher expense.

Secondly, in some cases, a good quality offset smoker is a custom-made product. Because of this, these stick burner smokers are often made with heavy-duty materials, specialized or custom-made parts, and built using stainless steel by artisans with love and patience.

Lastly, because a stick burner smoker only has a single function: offset smoking – as opposed to other barbeques that can be used in a variety of ways – this unique instrument comes at the cost of specialized equipment.

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Conclusion

A stick burner smoker is an excellent smoker to use to get the best flavor barbequed meat because it uses only log-splits or sticks as both the accelerant and heat source.

With the firebox offset from the grill in the main cooking chamber and hanging lower on the barbeque, the barbeque smokes and slowly cooks meat to perfection.

A stick burner smoker requires attention during the cook as well as a close eye on the fire to keep it at just the right temperature, but you will not regret the results you get with some patience and the tips in this post!

Check out our round-up for the best stick burner smokers here.

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