Updated: Jul 7, 2020
We get this question a lot because a lot of people have never heard of a reverse flow smoker. Before I answer that question, I am going to tell you what it is NOT. It is not a standard cross flow offset smoker. Unless you had some training in the subject, your first delve into smoking meat went something like this: You wanted to get into the hobby and you knew you wanted an offset smoker so you went out and bought one that may look something like this picture.
Am I right? The term offset refers to how the firebox is positioned in relation to the main chamber. The heat and smoke is to rise up and out of the firebox and proceed across the main chamber where the meat is and then exit out the stack on the opposite end. I'll bet everything that was on the grate at the right side closest to the firebox came out looking like a burned up meteor if you didn't watch it close. The meats at the left hand side of the grate took a lot longer to get done and at that point you decided there was a lot more to smoking meat than just putting it in the cooker and waiting. If that sounded like you there's good news. It was not all your fault.The design of the smoker above has a lot of temperature variances and the flow is not all that great. If you notice, the underside of the meat is a lot cooler while the top side is a lot hotter and all that heat wants to do is get up and out of that stack. The heat is intensified the most right where it enters the main chamber, that is why you ended up with burned meteorite style food.
Now comes the reverse flow smoker! The key to the reverse flow smoker is the gold colored line in the drawing above . That is the reverse flow plate. As you can see, the smoke and heat leaves the firebox just like the other one but it has to proceed to the other end of the cook chamber before it can rise up to get out of the stack, The flow must then "reverse" back to the other end of the chamber to get out of the stack. It makes sort of an S to get out of the chamber. Here's a quick tip: to be a reverse flow smoker, the stack has to be on the same end of the firebox. If you are looking at a cooker and the stack is on the opposite end, then it is not a reverse flow. That reverse flow heats the plate as it goes and causes the plate to put off an even radiant heat. Even heat means even cooking for your meat. It means faster cooking and it also means that all of the juices out of your meat that fall and hit that plate will smoke off and rise to the meat, giving it more flavor. If you notice on the left, the temperature is a little higher where it raises as it passes the end of the plate. There will always be some temp variance but the reverse flow design gets it a lot closer to even than the other design.
If you have never used a reverse flow, you are in for a real treat. We think once you try one of our smokers you will never want to go back to the old way of cooking!
Graphics courtesy of amazingribs.com
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