A rich smoky flavor wrapped in super-juicy, tender meat is the reason smoking beats grilling on a barbecue every time. But now begs the question, which is better at indirect cooking and smoking between pellet grill vs offset smoker?
Well, for someone with a sharp tongue, you’ll be able to tell which cooking was done in either of the appliances. No, you’ll certainly enjoy food cooked on either system. But the cooking experience and the final taste will be a little different for reasons we shall see shortly.
Verdict: Pellet Grill is better for Indirect Cooking
- A pellet grill has easy-to-use controls
- A pellet grill can have a user-settable timer
- A pellet grill can be compatible with a rotisserie kit
- A pellet grill delivers consistent cooking temperature
- A pellet grill has built-in WiFi & mobile app support
Pellet Grill vs Offset Smoker: Summary Features & Specs
The following is an example of an offset smoker and pellet grill you’ll find in the market today.
|Pellet Grill vs Offset Smoker|
Traeger Grills Pro Series 575 Price
Dyna-Glo Vertical Offset Smoker Price
|Title||Traeger Grills Pro Series 575 Wood Pellet Grill||Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker|
|Type of Fuel||Pellets||Charcoal|
|Power Source||Plugin||Hot Coal|
|Main Cooking Area||Approx. 418 sq. inches||Approx. 784 sq. inches|
|Secondary Cooking Area||Approx. 154 sq. inches||Approx. 281 sq. inches|
|Cooking grates Material||Porcelain-enameled steel||Porcelain-enameled steel|
|Hopper Capacity||18 lbs.||25-pounds|
|Control Type||Physical Dial||N/A (use dampers)|
|Temperature Gauge||YES (digital)||YES (digital)|
|Standard (Free) Warranty||3 Years||1 Years|
Offset Smoker Mini-Review
An offset smoker is a kind of grill that cooks your food at low temperatures while using indirect heat. It usually comes in varying designs, including a horizontal/ barrel shape (like the Oklahoma Joe’s model above) and in other cases vertical style.
Regardless of the design, an offset smoker is relatively basic in features and controls. It also comes with the hopper for the charcoal and wood outside the cookbox.
So, after you’ve lighted your fire, the heat and smoke will always reach the food through the funnel connecting the two chambers.
However, you can still use an offset smoker for normal grilling with direct heat. The first way to do that will be with the secondary cooking rack included in the firebox, as with Oklahoma Joe’s Highland.
But if your offset smoker doesn’t have such an arrangement, you could improvise on the main cookbox. It’s all an easy process, whereby you only need to pour your charcoal lumps under the cooking grids.
Pellet Grill Mini-Review
Unfortunately, a pellet grill doesn’t have that option to improvise for direct grilling. As the name advertises, it usually does the cooking with hardwood pellets that burns as they drop into the fire pot.
If you fancy the science of it, a pellet grill has an auger that pulls the pellets into the fire pot based on your temperature setting. Then the fire pot has a hot rod igniter to start the fire burning.
Similar to a hybrid grill smoker like Masterbuilt 800 or 1050 series, a pellet grill usually has a built-in induction fan. And this helps push the heat from the burning pellets to the cooking chamber while also stoking the fire.
Even portable pellet grills like Cuisinart CPG-256 and Green Mountain Davy Crockett Sense also have this blower fan. Thus, it might be tricky to use for camping if you don’t have a power source to plug your machine.
Pellet Grill vs Offset Smoker: Crucial Differences to Know Before Buying
Technically, a pellet grill is more or less an improved, more sophisticated offset smoker. You can expect to pay up to $1,500+ on high-end brands like Traeger, Pit Boss, and Broil King.
It’s still possible to find a nice, smart pellet grill under $500 with even built-in WiFi connectivity and app access. But for such sophistication and at that budget you’ll mostly manage to grab the compact, portable models. The other full-range selections within that price gap usually don’t have such capabilities.
However, a decent full-range offset smoker can cost you as low as $150 or less. Then the premium local brands like Dyna-Glo could cost you up to $400 and $500.
The cooking accessories you receive with either pellet grill or offset smoker usually vary with brands. A set of cooking grids is pretty standard in either case. But others like a baking stone, frying pan, plus grilling tools are separate purchases.
Some pellet grills like the Broil King are also compatible with select rotisserie kits to slow-cook your bird while also self-basting. But you’ll also have to buy it separately.
If your grill or smoker doesn’t have the predrilled holes for the system, you’ll have to cook your chicken or turkey on the main grids. They are spacious enough for that even with the hood closed.
Build & Design
First, you’ll find pellet grills and offset smokers in either the horizontal style or vertical design. Many bloggers talk a lot about the former. But you may prefer the vertical model, especially when looking for a space-saving unit.
As for the build quality, different brands of pellet grills and offset smokers come in varying construction materials. Most of the selections I’ve been going through recently seem to have a steel body (heavy-duty) and porcelain-enameled cooking grates.
The porcelain coating on the grates is usually over steel and cast iron wires, both of which are highly susceptible to corrosion. Thus, you must care for them well to retain that coating- avoid scratching with other metallic objects or dropping them on solid floors.
Type of Fuel
Well, one of the major differences between an offset smoker vs pellet grill is the type of fuel they use to burn. In an offset smoker, we have a firebox for charcoal lumps or briquette, but you could also use it with wood blocks.
The dedicated firebox isn’t the biggest, for sure. But as mentioned earlier, you could add your coal in the space below the main cooking grates, which is relatively more spacious.
As to lighting your offset grill, the process is pretty much similar to a charcoal grill like Primo or Kamado Joe. You first light up a chimney of lump charcoal, then damp them in the firebox to form the bed of your fire. No electricity is required, which is really handy as you can enjoy your BBQ anywhere.
As for a pellet grill, electricity is a key requirement. It has an electric motor to help the auger drip-feed the pellets into the fire pot, where we also have the igniter. The igniter is an (electric) hot rod and it’s the part that lights up the pellets to form a bed to start the fire.
Unlike an offset smoker, the hopper of a pellet grill is only outside the main cookbox on the horizontal systems. The vertical and portable designs also have their hopper separate from the main cookbox. But then, it’s within the main housing to meet the space-saving specs.
FYI: pellet grills only have the electric hot rod (igniter) in the fire pot. Hence, the reason I’ve mentioned earlier you can’t do cooking with direct heat.
The Pellet grill and offset smoker are relatively similar in this part. They’re both primarily for indirect-heat cooking and smoking.
However, the offset smoker is the best if you want to enjoy a rich, classic smoky flavor. You have the option to cook your meat with either pure wood-only, charcoal-only, or charcoal+wood chips. The heat and smoke will flow from the firebox to the cooking chamber, where it circulates around your food before escaping through the chimney.
Sad to say, though, smoking with an offset smoker is a slow-cooking method that could have your food in the cookbox for 4-8 hours. So, you may have to improvise with hot charcoal under the grates if you wanted to have your food ready faster.
Also, this means you could use your offset smoker for grilling, searing, frying, baking, roasting, and braising. But these are things possible in a pellet grill as well. Even without direct heating, the likes of Broil King get as hot as 600+°F, which is enough for some searing.
As for the smoking, though, a pellet grill doesn’t reach a rich smoky flavor as with an offset smoker. Instead, the pellets come in various types of hardwood that can mask your meat with unique flavors.
Ease of Use
A Pellet grill is usually easier to operate than offset smokers. It has an integrated control panel that you use to set the desired cooking temperature. (You can expect an offset of plus/ minus 10-15°F).
The best part, a pellet grill’s able to maintain a consistent temperature across the entire cookbox. You don’t even have to babysit it, trying to make the adjustments to maintain the right temperature. And more sophisticated brands have preset programs to perform common tasks like smoking, roasting, or searing.
As for the Offset smoker, we don’t have any control buttons or dials. The dampers of the firebox and the lid for the cookbox are what you use to control the desired temperature.
So, you’ll need to babysit your offset smoker to play around with it when the ambient temperature or wind changes.
Furthermore, the side closest to the firebox always gets hotter than the other end. And as a newbie, this means there’s a learning curve before you manage to cook or smoke more proficiently.
Both pellet grill and offset smoker are great if you want a BBQ without burned or charred meat. Of course, the offset smoker will require having the hot charcoal under the cooking grates when you need roasting or searing. But both systems are primarily designed for indirect cooking, only that how they do it is relatively different.
An offset smoker is intensely good if you’re looking to prepare food with a higher traditional smoke intensity. It can take up to six hours for your food to cook, and you’ll need to keep playing with the temperature dampers.
Meanwhile, a pellet grill has the option to set your desired cooking temperature to slow-cook your food while you do other things. And the best part, the latest brands have built-in WiFi that makes it possible to remotely track your cooking via an app.