Timothy Woods
Published by Timothy Woods
Last Updated On: August 26, 2022

Everyone in the barbecue community knows that a barbecue 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 horizontal offset smoker.

Stick burners is a top notch barbeque smoker that uses only one log splits or sticks as an accelerant and heat source. Typically, the firebox door is hung low and offset from the main cooking chamber with a smokestack opposite.

Offset smokers do not use charcoal, gas, propane, or electricity to achieve the perfect smoke, unlike pellet grills.

Quick Summary

  • Some find a stick burner a challenge to master because the cook is responsible for the burn's temperature control 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 is and how to use one, such as how to control temperature and we’ll throw some other information on the fire to keep your interest burning.

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

Smoking grill outside

Unlike an average barbeque, which has the fire or heat source directly under the grill, stick burners have a firebox end from the grill in the main cooking chamber and hanging lower on the barbeque.

Because of this, more people from the barbecue community sometimes refer to it as a horizontal offset smoker.

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

Before using stick burners, ask yourself this question: Does smoked meat taste best from offset smokers who only generate smoke and heat from burning wood?

If your answer is ‘Yes,’ then this smoker is for you! If you are happy with the results, you are already producing from a smoker that generates smoke and heat from different sources.

Keep at it with that smoker until you are ready to move to this smoker!

Because the heat distribution is not directly under the grill but offset, meat is cooked by convection in the cook chamber. This usually results in smoking 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:

Pellet / Propane / Electric / Charcoal smokers Stick burner smoker
Produces heat and smoke from the same source No Yes
Requires starter fuel Yes No
Has a thermostat Yes No
It 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 the fire produces.

For barbecue enthusiasts, doing these with offset smokers is an integral part of fire management to ensure consistent temperature without adding more fuel.

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 Reverse Flow Offset Smokers Pose?

BBQ cooking outside

Many people find it challenging to use an offset smoker when transitioning from a standard smoker to or great barbecue.

The most common challenge is keeping the fire burning clean and keeping the consistent temperature at the right level throughout the cook.

Watch out for these three pitfalls when using an offset smoker:

  • Don’t over-smoke the meat.

A too thick log will take much longer to light and produce too much smoke for your purpose. A recommended stick size of 3” in diameter will ensure each piece lights quickly and makes 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 fire’s intense heat; add the new one when the coals are still hot enough to light the new wood quickly.

Again, fire management and a consistent temperature are necessary to get the best results and avoid too many hot gases from accumulating.

  • Don’t suffocate the fire.

Fires without enough oxygen can give the meat a creosote flavor. Check vents regularly to ensure good air enters the grill.

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 an offset smoker.

Practice will make perfect and once you have mastered the basics, there will always be new recipes and techniques for keeping the clean fire at just the right pit temperature.

You need not rush anything since something as easy as managing the lighter fluid or the air entering the smoker can make a difference.

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 offset 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 smoking meat under the cooking grate level to catch any drips and dispose this after the cook.

2. Turn up the humidity

Help keep the cooking 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.

Consider tuning plates if you have extra money since they are an excellent choice for grilling more meat.

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 by placing a stainless 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 offset smoker allows for modification this can be a permanent fixture, but if not, a temporary aluminum plate may also work. It all depends on your desired cooking style.

Why Are Offset Smokers More Expensive?

Barbeque grill cooking steak and seafood

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

Firstly, because more daring barbeque masters often prefer a stick burner, they are in less demand.

Not every manufacturer sports a stick burner in their range of offset 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 smokers are often made with heavy-duty materials, specialized or custom-made parts, and built using proper stainless steel thickness by artisans with love and patience.

In most cases, a thick steel or thinner steel can make a difference for your pork ribs and the way you cook meat in general.

Lastly, because this 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 get the best flavor of barbequed meat because it uses only log splits or sticks as both the accelerant and heat source.

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

It 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 of the best brands here.

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