You have probably heard that reverse flow smokers are the best way to smoke meat, but what are the best reverse flow smokers to get? This guide will tell you which ones and why they are worth it.
To get the best reverse flow smoker look no further than Oklahoma Joe. That is the name that will keep you ahead of the smoking game.
The Oklahoma Joe Longhorn Reverse Flow Smoker has the perfect combination of gas and charcoal with two cooking chambers totaling 1,060 square inches, a 751 square inch main chamber and 309 square inch firebox. It has multiple heat dampers that aid in the ease of heat control and 4 baffle plates that create a more even distribution of temperature and smoke. It’s made with solid heavy gauge steel and porcelain-plated cooking grates that make this the best reverse flow smoker.
Oklahoma Joe is a name you can count on for smokers and the Longhorn is their finest offering. This guide will take you through what a reverse flow smoker is, how to use one, and why exactly they are worth it.
If you are serious about smoking, everything you need to know is right here. You should be able to taste the smokey flavor and fall-off-the-bone goodness right now.
What Is A Reverse Flow Smoker
A reverse flow smoker is currently hailed as the best equipment for smoking meats. Their design allows for superior smoking as compared to a regular offset smoker.
The reverse flow method was developed in the Southern United States and is associated with the deep smoky flavors of Southern-style barbecue.
The key is the evenly distributed temperature and thorough flow. The reverse flow smoker is basically an offset smoker but with a few alterations. When you look at the two in comparison it is easy to see why the reverse flow smoking method gives tastier results.
There is an additional metal plate in a reverse flow smoker that protects the meat from excessive heat.
This plate also directs the smoke created below and then back over the meat to apply an additional layer of smoke before it is vented through the chimney. It is this reverse flow of smoke back over the meat that sets these smokers apart from the rest.
How Does A Reverse Flow Smoker Work
A reverse flow smoker is a standard offset smoker with a twist. There is an extra metal plate that protects the meat from any direct and intense heat.
At the same time, it directs the smoke back over the meat before venting out the chimney. This allows the meat more exposure to the smoke, giving it a richer smokey flavor.
The firebox on the reverse flow smoker is mounted to the side just as with a standard offset smoker. The chimney is placed opposite the firebox to draw the smoke across your meat before venting it out. With reverse flow smokers, the chimney is located on the same side of the firebox.
As the smoke is created the metal plate pushes it through the cooking chamber and then it is drawn back through the chamber by the chimney.
The general idea behind the smoking process is the same for reverse flow and offset smokers. However, the additional layering of smoke you get with the reverse flow smoker gives you more intensity in terms of flavor.
Reverse Flow Smoker vs Offset
As similar as the offset and reverse flow smokers are, there are benefits and drawbacks to each type. Most noticeably, the reverse flow smoker will be more expensive, but you get a richer flavor in your meat.
In addition to this there are other factors to consider if you are looking at getting a smoker and cannot decide which is the best one to get.
In a reverse flow smoker, the baffle plate creates more even distribution of temperature and smoke. The traditional offset smoker is missing this extra plate which does allow the smoker to reach a temperature faster.
This can be a risk for hot spots however, and you will not get an even covering of smoke. Some meat may end up flavorless.
The missing plate in the offset smoker also allows for better airflow which can give you a cleaner burn. What you miss out on is the consistent internal temperature.
Cleaner burns are a good way to protect your meat, but reverse flow smokers prevent temperature spikes which are more of a hazard and can quickly damage your food.
Please refer to the table below for an easy side-by-side comparison.
|Reverse Flow Smoker||Regular Offset Smoker|
* Balanced and even
* Cleaner burn
* More consistent temperature
* Reaches temperature quickly
* Baffle also acts like a searing plate
* Hot spots can cook different meats at different temperatures
* Can use as a grill and smoker for versatility
* Better fuel efficiency
Is Reverse Flow Smoker Worth It
The Oklahoma Joe Longhorn reverse flow smoker is the best in the business, and it comes with a heavy price tag. This may leave you and others wondering if it is worth it.
The short answer is yes. You pay more upfront, but with proper maintenance, this smoker will last a lifetime. And you will get the best tasting smoked meats time and time again. The Longhorn will pay for itself in no time as there are numerous benefits to having this guy around.
Customers love the more even and intense flavor you get with the Oklahoma Joe Longhorn. There is never a risk of getting burnt meat as it is guarded by a protective plate.
The meat is never cooked too fast and never dries out. One of the most talked about features of this smoker is the ability to deliver perfectly smoked meat. To many, this is worth the price.
Reviews also show continued praise for the even temperature that the reverse flow smoker uses. There is no risk of sharp temperature spiked, even when adding fuel.
This is because there is no direct heat source for the meat. Another benefit these deliver is that you don’t have to turn the meat during the smoking process.
Because of the steady temperature, there is no risk to your meat. Another benefit that customers believe makes the reverse flow smoker worth every penny.
Is A Reverse Flow Smoker Better
If you are looking for a smoker, this is a question you will have. And the answer is yes. A reverse flow smoker delivers more intense flavor and even smoking.
When you pick the best Oklahoma Joe Longhorn smoker, you get your money’s worth and then some. It offers many advantages over the standard offset smoker, that will make your decision-making process simple.
Anyone looking to smoke meat is looking for flavor. That is the key. Reverse flow smokers give you an even distribution of smoke, so every inch of meat gets the same intense flavor.
Because the heat and smoke are evenly spread through the cooking chamber, you don’t need to worry about turning the meat. Just turn on the smoker and go.
The reverse flow smoker is also easy to design, build, and maintain. There is no need for the separate grease and water trays you find with most smokers.
The griddle pan used instead, helps add to your flavors. As moisture and fat render from the meat and collect on the pan, they filter back through the cooking chamber.
This protects the meat from drying out and seals in just the right amount of moisture and flavor.
Advantages of A Reverse Flow Smoker
By now it should be clear that a reverse flow smoker is the best way to smoke any meat. The decision to buy a reverse flow smoker is an investment, so it is important to have all the information. There are a number of advantages to getting a reverse flow smoker.
- Even Smoke Distribution: The smoke created is forced to the far side of the cooking chamber. It is then brought back across the meat before venting out the chimney. This gives additional exposure to the smoke in a more even distribution. In offset smokers, the smoke doesn’t always rise through right away leaving meat closest to the fire box untouched. The reverse flow smoker prevents this.
- Even Heat Distribution: All smokers have hot spots as a result of their design. The plate in the reverse flow smokers acts like a shield and reduces the hot spots, so they have less than other smokers. The plate also lets smoke pass under it so you get a more even distribution of heat through the cooking chamber.
- Less Spikes: The metal plate that reduces hot spots also reduces temperature spikes. These can be dangerous when smoking meat as it can dry out and burn the meat. The metal plate heats up before any heat even reaches the cooking chamber. If you happen to lose control of your fire, this allows you to get control back before heat reaches the chamber. This feature is great for beginner smokers that are still learning how to control temperature.
- No Trays: The metal plate at the bottom of the smoker once again provides an additional advantage. Because of this plate, you do not need a try to catch grease. Nor do you need one with water to control temperature. The design of the reverse flow smoker already has temperature control covered for you.
- Better Flavor, More Moisture: As the grease from the meat drips on the metal plate it is added back to the meat as it creates steam. In standard smokers, this grease (and flavor) is lost, but with a reverse flow smoker it returns to the meat adding more flavor and moisture.
- Faster Temperature Recovery: The metal plate holds your heat in the cooking chamber, so temperatures can be recovered faster. This is important when you have to open the lid to check on the progress. Heat gets released when you do this, but the plate helps to bring the temperature back up quickly once the lid is put back on.
Disadvantages of Reverse Flow Smoker
As amazing as the reverse flow smoker is, there are drawbacks too. It is important to know everything before making your decision. As with all things, there is good and bad.
Even with these drawbacks, the reverse flow smoker is still a recommended purchase and great investment.
- Over Smoked Meat: There is a risk of over smoking meat with a reverse flow smoker. Because of the even smoke distribution, it can be easier to overstock your food. By keeping an eye on your meat, you can prevent this. Because you can open the lid without affecting temperature too much, you really do not have to worry about over smoking the meat.
- More Fuel: Because of the extra metal plate, the reverse flow smoker requires extra fuel to keep the metal heated. With all the benefits that the extra plate provides, most customers feel the extra fuel is worth it.
- Harder To Clean: The grease that drips onto the metal plate at the bottom can collect and burn. While most is released back into the meat as steam, it can also get stuck underneath the plate. To help with keeping the plate clean, you can use aluminum foil to cover the plate. If any grease gets caught under the plate, it is removable. Not all reverse flow smokers have a removable plate, so make sure you get one like the Oklahoma Joe Longhorn to make cleaning up.
Who Makes The Best Reverse Flow Smoker
Char-Broil is the maker of the Oklahoma Joe Longhorn reverse flow smoker. Both names are well-known in the industry and well respected.
The company is known for their sturdy and reliable construction and effective designs. While the Longhorn is their top-of-the-line unit, they offer a number of equally reliable smokers to accommodate your needs and your budget.
There is no compromise on quality with Oklahoma Joe. You get the same quality construction and effectiveness in all models, regardless of price. There is no such thing as cheap and flimsy.
It is not hard to understand why Oklahoma Joe reverse flow smokers are popping up in yards all across the country.
When you want the best in reverse flow smokers, this is where you go, and this guide is full of reasons why.
Top Reverse Flow Smokers
If you are looking for the best reverse flow smoker, Oklahoma Joe is the name you go to. Their brand has a solid reputation and customer reviews that rave about their products.
Two of the top reverse flow smokers from Oklahoma Joe are the Longhorn and the Highland. Both are great for delivering you amazing smoky flavors. Each smoker has pros and cons.
To help you decide which of these is the best smoker for you, both the Longhorn and Highland are discussed in detail below.
Oklahoma Joe’s Longhorn Reverse Flow Smoker
Oklahoma Joe’s Longhorn Reverse Flow Smoker is the perfect choice for anyone that is serious about smoking meat. You get even smoking, even temperatures, and a setup that you can control.
If you want a more standard setup, you don’t need a different smoker. The removable baffles and flexible configuration of the Longhorn let you smoke your way, every day.
- 1,060 total square inch cooking surface which includes a 751 square inch main chamber and 309 square inch firebox.
- Series of 4 baffles to guide heat and smoke through the cooking area
- Top quality construction including heavy gauge steel and porcelain-plated cooking grates.
- Multiple heat dampers aid in the ease of heat control
- Customizable setup with removable baffles and optional smokestack
- Large stainless-steel fuel basket
- Clean-out door for easy ash removal
- Cool to touch handles
- Easy to transport with wagon-style wheels
You can use a charcoal grill for smoking but will not get the stable and indirect heat for perfect flavor. Reverse flow smokers are better designed to give you this. And no smoker does it better than the Oklahoma Joe Longhorn.
There are a handful of extras you get with the smoker that only add to its reputation. The extras include grilling grates for the firebox and the option to convert the whole cooking chamber into a charcoal grill if desired.
You also get an extra bung in case you want to add an additional temperature gauge and a charcoal basket to store coals close by for efficiency.
The 4 baffle plates sitting below the cooking grate are the key feature to this reverse flow smoker. As smoke rises from the firebox, it is guided under these plates before rising to fill the chamber.
This feature allows for completely even distribution of smoke and temperature to give you the best flavor. The Oklahoma Joe Longhorn gives even temperature too, so no hot spots for you to worry about.
Most people worry that reverse flow smokers are more difficult to use, but the Longhorn makes it as easy as possible to get the perfect smoked food.
The dampers are easy to maneuver for any small adjustments you need to make for precision temperature control. You also get a built-in thermometer to give accurate readings through the whole smoking process.
While reverse flow smokers can be more difficult to clean than standard smokers, the Longhorn makes this easy too. There is a large door that swings open from the firebox that makes it easy to clean out the ash.
The baffle plates are removable. A benefit for if you want to convert the smoker into a grill and for easy cleaning. The grates are porcelain covered so they are also easy to clean.
What I like:
- Even heat and temperature distribution
- Improved airflow
- Strong construction with high-quality materials
- Precise and accurate temperature control
- Easy to move
What I don’t like:
- Smoke can leak from joints and doors
Oklahoma Joe’s Highland Reverse Flow Smoker
The Oklahoma Joe’s Highland Reverse Flow Smoker is the perfect choice if the Longhorn Reverse Flow smoker seems to be too much for you. It has many of the same features and comes from the top brand in the industry.
As a more affordable option, the Highland stands out amongst other lower-priced smokers thanks to its heavy steel construction and effective design. You get great value for your money and here’s why.
- 619 square inches of smoking space and 281 square inches of grilling space in the firebox
- Side venting chimney for improved air flow
- 4 removable baffles to guide heat and smoke through the cooking area
- Top quality construction including 100% heavy gauge steel body construction and porcelain-plated cooking grates.
- Multiple heat dampers aid in the ease of heat control
- Customizable setup with removable baffles
- Clean-out door for easy ash removal
- Large wheels for easy transport
You get some of the same wonderful extras with the Oklahoma Joe Highland, including the ability to transform it into a traditional offset smoker or large charcoal grill.
There is a charcoal basket to improve burn efficiency and an extra bung for adding a second temperature gauge.
In the smoker world there is a clear divide in terms of your options. You can buy super expensive, heavy duty units or super cheap and flimsy units that will not make it through one season.
The parent company of the Oklahoma Joe line, Char-Broil, is known for their exceptional quality.
And the Highland may be a more affordable unit, but quality is not compromised. You get the sturdy construction you need at a price you can afford.
It is the perfect solution for bridging that gap between super cheap and ultra-pricey. You get exceptional smoking, easy-to-use dampers, and precise temperature control.
The Highland works with the same reverse flow process as the Longhorn, allowing smoke to be redirected for maximum smoke coverage.
You can also choose to convert your reverse flow smoker into a traditional offset smoked by changing the placement of the chimney. The Highland gives you two options for this. This is great for when you want to use different temperature zones.
Don’t forget the charcoal basket, made from heavy-duty steel. This will make your life easier when it comes to cleaning and loading. It also boosts fuel burning efficiency as it keeps all your coals closely packed together.
When you have an efficient burn like this, you will have lower running costs. Since the perfect smokey flavor takes time, this is something you will appreciate.
What I like:
- Even cooking and smoke distribution
- Improved air flow from side-exit smokestack
- Precise and easy-to-control temperature
- Accurate in-built temperature gauge
- Improved burn efficiency, reducing running costs
- Strong, sturdy construction
- Easy to move
What I don’t like:
- Can leak around the joints and doors
- Runs very hot which can peel paint
Cooking On A Reverse Flow Smoker
There is nothing quite like the smell of smoked meat. It gets the taste buds going and your mouth watering. Everybody dreams of being able to create that perfect smoke flavor and a reverse flow smoker is the perfect way to do this.
You can cook all types of meat on a smoker and use any seasoning and wood. The possibilities are endless with your Oklahoma Joe reverse flow smoker.
How To Cook On A Reverse Flow Smoker
You want to season your meat ahead of time for the best flavor. Trim all excess fat away as well as any connective tissue for brisket or pork.
If you are seasoning ribs, you need to remove the tough membrane front he back first. Rub all your meat down with the seasoning of your choice. You can use a paste or a dry rub. Then leave the meat overnight in the refrigerator.
Light the charcoal in your firebox. You can also add hardwood for a more intense flavor. Place a thermometer at each end of the cooking chamber.
The good news about the Oklahoma Joe Longhorn is that a thermometer is already built in. Make sure the sliding vents are adjusted to create and maintain a steady 225-degrees Fahrenheit.
Your meat will go on in the cooking chamber and close the lid. Slow cook the meat until it is tender. You can check it often to make sure the temperature is steady.
The Longhorn reverse flow cooker allows you to open the lid without risking excessive heat loss. So, you can keep a good eye on your food. The average cooking times will vary depending on what you are cooking:
- Back Ribs: 2 ½ to 3 ½ hours
- Spare Ribs: 4 to 5 hours
- Pork Shoulders: 12 to 14 hours
- Brisket: 12 to 14 hours
Best Wood For Reverse Flow Smoker
Smoking your own meat means you can choose your flavor. There are hundreds of meat and wood combinations possible.
You can mix heavier meats like beef and pork with hardwoods while delicate chicken and fish go with lighter hardwoods.
There are also woods to avoid such as soft woods like cedar and pine. Once you have your reverse flow smoker, the next step is picking the best wood to use.
- Oak is one of the most used woods for smoking and is the best place to start for beginners. You get a medium to strong flavor that is perfect for brisket, beef, lamb, and sausages.
- Hickory is a versatile choice, but you need to be careful. Too much hickory can give meat a bitter flavor. When used in the right amounts, hickory is a sweet and savory flavor perfect for larger cuts of meat, all red meat, and poultry.
- Maple is a subtle flavor giving meat a sweet, light smokiness. Use this for poultry, game, and smaller cuts of pork. It is usually too subtle for thicker meats like beef.
- Mesquite is a very intense flavor and should be used for grilling rather than smoking. The flavor is strong and unique so used in small quantities. Mesquite is best for red meat.
- Pecan is a rich, sweet, and nutty flavor that is best used in combination with another wood. Add it to oak or hickory for your brisket, ribs, and roasts.
- Apple is sweet and mild and takes a while to penetrate the meat. This will take several hours to achieve a decent flavor and is best used on lighter meats like poultry, pork, and wild fowl.
- Alder also has a light and sweet profile that is perfect for smoking fish.
- Cherry is fruity and mild and best mixed with hardwoods like hickory. You get a great complimentary taste for chicken, turkey, and ham.
Cleaning A Reverse Flow Smoker
Cleaning can be a challenging task if you don’t pick the right reverse flow smoker. The good news is that the Oklahoma Joe Longhorn is designed with easy cleaning in mind.
When it comes to getting the most from your smoker there are routine maintenance steps you need to take. After all, you made an investment and you want to get the most from it.
Each time you use the smoker, you will want to complete the following when you are done:
- Remove all ashes as they can hold in humidity that will allow rusting. Sweep them out of the smoker once they have completely cooled. Make sure you dispose of them in an air-tight metal container.
- Remove all sauces or marinades from all surfaces with a cloth
- Use a nylon bristle brush to clean the grates
- If there is any food or grease buildup in the chamber you can use a putty knife to remove it
At least once a season, you will want to perform a more thorough cleaning of your reverse flow smoker. This is best done before you store the smoker away and first thing when you bring it out from storage.
- You can leave the inside of the chamber along as this helps retain some of the seasoning from before.
- Perform a clean burn to remove any residues. Just load the smoker with coal, light it up and let it burn with the vents open. Once this is done and the smoker has cooled, you can move to the next step.
- Wash the smoker using warm water and a degreaser detergent. Then allow it to air dry completely.
- Treat any rust spots by using a wire brush or steel wool.
- Check the thermometer calibration. Do this by sticking it in boiling water to see if it reads correctly for your elevation point.
- Wipe all surfaces with beef tallow or lard, build a fire and run the smoker at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for a few hours.
Helpful Tips To Find The Best Reverse Flow Smoker
You know the name and styles to look for but there are a few additional tips to consider when choosing the best reverse flow smoker.
- Do you want vertical or horizontal? You run the risk of temperature differences with horizontal smokers unless you get a reverse flow smoker
- Charcoal, Wood Burning, and Both? Charcoal burns hotter but can be more challenging to control temperatures. Wood takes longer to set up but is ideal for slow smoking and better flavor.
- Powder-coated steel finishes are worth getting as they are durable as well as heat and corrosion resistant.
- Wire grate options matter. Steel and cast-iron grates are highly durable but require a great deal of maintenance. Porcelain-coated grates are also tough but easier to clean. Porcelain can ship if you are not careful. When it comes to steel, the quality will impact its performance and ability to get hot.
Every season can be smoking season. Who would not want the smells and flavors wafting through their house all year?
You can get this by getting the best reverse flow smoker and the Oklahoma Joe Longhorn should be the first unit that catches your eye. Don’t settle for less and compromise the great tastes and flavors that come with smoked meat.
You pay a little more, but the return is more than worth it. This guide has given you all you need, so grab your favorite meat and wood and get smokin!