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Offset vs Reverse flow offset

Newglide

Smoking Fanatic
343
248
Joined Jun 14, 2021
So I've had a pretty good year and thinking about upgrading.
I'm currently running an Old Country Pecos.
I'm not really sure what I want but the more I look the more I want.

One thing that I started looking at is the reverse flow off sets.
There are several out there that come highly recommended.
In my head it seems like the reverse flow will cook from the bottom up since the airflow comes from the firebox, under the plate and up and out.
Is that so or am I overthinking?
What about cleaning under the plate? Can grease and junk get under there?
What's the main draw to a reverse flow over a regular offset?
 

bill1

Master of the Pit
1,426
590
Joined Apr 25, 2015
IMO with the reverse flow you get the same smoke, just harvest the heat in the smoke a little better. So for the same cooking, I'd think you'd use a little less wood, and cook a little more uniformly, so I see no downsides and only good to the RF approach. But I'd be curious what those who have spent time on both have to say about it.
 

Marknmd

Smoke Blower
147
113
Joined Jun 22, 2022
I think you should define "regular offset."

Straight offset - no baffle plate, firebox on one side, chimney on the other. Radiant heat is strong on the firebox side which creates uneven heat in the cook chamber. Plenty of smoke runs across the meat.

Offset with perforated baffle plate - radiant heat is blocked somewhat, but so is some of the smoke. You get more even temps in the cook chamber end to end but miss some smoke because some of it passes underneath the plate.

Reverse flow with solid baffle plate - radiant heat is blocked somewhat, but all the smoke and convective heat is run underneath where it rises opposite of the firebox and then flows in reverse direction across your meat along with convective heat to the chimney on the firebox side. So your meat gets all the convective heat and also all the smoke with a minimum of radiant heat. Best of all worlds.

Cleaning wouldn't be any more difficult than with an offset with a baffle plate.

If I had the reverse flow option, I'd take it. I don't know of any drawbacks.

Good luck.
 

kevin james

Smoking Fanatic
422
308
Joined Jul 30, 2012
I have both, a 24x48 reverse flow, and a 24x48 traditional flow. My traditional flow is an "open pit" design which means no baffle, no tuning plates. The reverse flow is made from 1/4" steel and has a square firebox with a wood/coal grate, while the traditional flow is made out of 3/8" steel and has a round firebox where you run the fire directly on the floor.

I've had the reverse flow for exactly two years, and I just got the traditional flow four weeks ago, but I have already done multiple cooks on it and put it through its paces.

I know I am probably going to get hate or catch s***t for what I'm about to say because most here seem to be all about the reverse flow, but I don't care...this is my story and I'm just being honest. I have had nothing but problems on my reverse flow, to the point that it drove me to looking for something else. At first I thought it was great, and it appeared to run super clean (nothing but clear heat coming from the stack etc.), then I started trying to cook chicken and noticed it was putting a nasty grey color on the chicken skin. It also uses an insane amount of wood, requiring me to add a 16" long 3-4" diameter split every 15 minutes to maintain a cook chamber temp of 275. I tried everything thinking my problems were user error, or not cleaning it properly, or something with the wood I was using. No matter what I did my problems persisted. I talked to the builder several times and with the exception of the wood consumption, I did get things to improve a little, but it's still not right and I don't know if it ever will be. After two years of fighting with it, I have come to the conclusion it's an air flow problem with the design that is out of my control. It's actually back with the builder right now as I type this to retrofit it. We'll see if he solves the problem or not. What is interesting to me is that while trying to solve my issues with that cooker I talked to several people and heard from some other reverse flow owners of different brands that had similar problems. That is not to say that all reverse flows will have problems like mine. They definitely don't and I know and have talked with many that are super happy with their reverse flows. But it does seem they are more finicky, and if any of the calculations are off, you may have problems, while traditional flows seem at least a little more forgiving in that regard.

Going through all of that though really got me to thinking, and I think what it really boils down to in choosing what type of cooker is best for you is what type of cooking you like to do. For me, I'm all about Texas style brisket, cooked fat cap up, in the style of Franklin BBQ and all the other great Texas joints. For that reason what I really want is a cooker that cooks from the top down, not the bottom up. So a cooker that uses a baffle like the reverse flow or tuning plates is not going to cook the way I want. I didn't have enough experience to realize that when I bought my reverse flow. Frankly, I didn't know what I was doing.

While I have only had the traditional flow for 4 weeks, I've already cooked 3 briskets, 3 racks of ribs, 2 chickens, 2 boneless turkey breasts and a mess of home made sausage, and for me it has been a night and day difference. I haven't had any of the same problems with this pit, and it uses way less wood... about 1 16" long 3-4" diameter split every 35-40 minutes. In addition, while there is a hot spot on the firebox side, it's only about 6-8", and outside of that the rest of the cooking grate runs super even, and I have kept it anywhere from a 5-10 degree difference side to side. To be honest even my reverse flow runs 20 degrees hotter on the firebox side. My traditional flow has so much more air flow that it just renders fat in a completely different way. I also have realized I much prefer the round firebox running the fire directly on the floor, as the curve of the floor makes it easy to sit the splits above the coal bed in a way that encourages air flow without the need for a grate.... and that makes post cook cleaning faster and easier. All of this is however at a cost... My briskets tend to average 10 lb.'s after trimming, and they would take 8 hours like clock work every single time on the reverse flow, but that same 10 lb brisket takes closer to 11-12 hours on the traditional flow. All good though, as I cook my briskets the day before I intend to eat and use an overnight hot hold (in a sous vide bath) so it doesn't really effect me that much.

I'm doing a small BBQ business as a side hustle, and since I can't fit a bigger pit like a 250 through my side yard, I need two 24x48's to have enough capacity. Based on the experience I have had with both of these cookers, I have decided that even if the builder does fix the issue with my reverse flow, I'm going to sell it, as I just prefer the way the traditional flow pit cooks and just how it runs in general, so I'm going to buy a second one exactly like what I just got.

But that's just my story. In order for you to decide what is best for you, I would encourage you to think about what style of cooking you like to do, and whether that type of cooking would be better accomplished with a bottom up cooker, or a top down cooker.

My Reverse Flow
6-2-Edited.jpg

My Traditional Flow
Big-Phil-s-Blue-Smoke-Smoker-Pic-1.jpg
 
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civilsmoker

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
3,988
4,908
Joined Jan 27, 2015
It really comes down to personal cooking preference. Both will produce excellent BBQ.

A properly designed RF is a true radiant/convection cooker. Ie the plate and all the steel is heated and radiates uniform heat with hot hair blowing around the item cooked.

A properly designed off set is more of a true convection oven (some steel radiant as well) with a radiant zone, ie hot air flows past the item but you get a radiant zone next to the fire box.

What to avoid: thin gauge steel, poor design (Kevin’s RF above was designed very very poorly), and the belief one is better than the other....
 

kevin james

Smoking Fanatic
422
308
Joined Jul 30, 2012
It really comes down to personal cooking preference. Both will produce excellent BBQ.

A properly designed RF is a true radiant/convection cooker. Ie the plate and all the steel is heated and radiates uniform heat with hot hair blowing around the item cooked.

A properly designed off set is more of a true convection oven (some steel radiant as well) with a radiant zone, ie hot air flows past the item but you get a radiant zone next to the fire box.

What to avoid: thin gauge steel, poor design (Kevin’s RF above was designed very very poorly), and the belief one is better than the other....
I agree with you that my RF was designed very poorly. The problem is that often times when shopping for a smoker you are choosing between different builders none of whom are in your local area. That is pretty common where it's a situation of getting it shipped to you and all you can do is go off of pictures and ask questions, but you don't see it in person until your pit arrives. At some point you have to trust that this is literally what the builder does for a living and they know what they are doing. You can talk to people that own the same pit and get opinions, but that doesn't always pan out either. That was my exact scenario. Before I made my purchase I talked to a few different people that owned the same RF I bought, and all of them ranted and raved about how great it was and that they highly recommended this builder etc. Funny how all of those people scattered like cockroaches when I got my pit and had problems. Without naming brands, I will say I talked to several people who had the same types of problems with what I will just say is the original reverse flow, a very famous brand that claims to have invented the idea of the reverse flow in the first place.

You obviously have less concern over those types of problems if you build your own and can ensure every aspect of the design meets the proper specifications, but not everyone can do that for various reasons.
 
Last edited:

Newglide

Smoking Fanatic
Thread starter
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Joined Jun 14, 2021
Thanks everybody.
My Old Country cooks from the bottom up and I really don't like that. I'd rather have it cook from the top down. It would be great to be able to use the whole cool chamber but I know with a traditional offset that's not going to happen.
I'll keep looking around and see what sticks. I may just hold off until things start to level out. The prices of everything and shortage in supply have me rethinking if I want to do this right now. I know my OC and have made some good BBQ with it.
 

bill1

Master of the Pit
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Joined Apr 25, 2015
Kevin, thanks for your writeup. And good luck with that BBQ business! If you're working with your RF guy, you may want to mention the various design tools in this thread:
https://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t...-and-others-ready-to-use-rev5-6-19-15.172425/

You can do other searches here and most folks that follow Dave's Rx seem pretty happy. It's possible your guy may learn some new tricks there that will help HIS business and that he might implement in your repair/rework.

No need to apologize for your experience. Plenty of purists stick with the traditional flow...what Mark & I call more efficient heat usage in the RF others could call haste-makes-waste. Either way, I appreciated hearing your brisket cook time comparisons.

Another big variable (and topic of strong opinions) is the use of a water pan or not. If you're still having chicken disappointments when you get your RF back, you might try a cook with a water pan.
 

kevin james

Smoking Fanatic
422
308
Joined Jul 30, 2012
Thanks everybody.
My Old Country cooks from the bottom up and I really don't like that. I'd rather have it cook from the top down. It would be great to be able to use the whole cool chamber but I know with a traditional offset that's not going to happen.
I'll keep looking around and see what sticks. I may just hold off until things start to level out. The prices of everything and shortage in supply have me rethinking if I want to do this right now. I know my OC and have made some good BBQ with it.
If what you are looking for is a top down cooker, then what you want is a traditional flow open pit, which has no baffle or tuning plates.

Depending where you are located, you may want to consider Big Phil's new offshoot, Blue Smoke Smokers. He is located in Caddo Mills Texas and he only builds one model under this brand, which is a sister company to his main company Big Phil's Smokers & Metal Works. It is a traditional flow 24x48 simple back yard pit with a 24x24 round firebox. The pit is an open pit style with no baffle or tuning plates and is made from 3/8" steel in both the cook chamber and firebox. The end caps stack and collector are all made from 1/4" plate steel. The base model is $1,700.00 plus shipping, and includes a single cooking grate and Tel-True Guage, however you can add tons of different options. I would at least add the stack damper which is not standard, and the linseed oil treatment as it is a raw steel pit. Anything else is up top you. From my experience, the hot spot extends about 6-8 inches out on the firebox side, but from there I have found it to actually be more even side to side than my reverse flow. Sounds strange, but it's true.

Here is a link to his website: https://bluesmokesmokers.com/
 
Last edited:

kevin james

Smoking Fanatic
422
308
Joined Jul 30, 2012
Kevin, thanks for your writeup. And good luck with that BBQ business! If you're working with your RF guy, you may want to mention the various design tools in this thread:
https://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t...-and-others-ready-to-use-rev5-6-19-15.172425/

You can do other searches here and most folks that follow Dave's Rx seem pretty happy. It's possible your guy may learn some new tricks there that will help HIS business and that he might implement in your repair/rework.

No need to apologize for your experience. Plenty of purists stick with the traditional flow...what Mark & I call more efficient heat usage in the RF others could call haste-makes-waste. Either way, I appreciated hearing your brisket cook time comparisons.

Another big variable (and topic of strong opinions) is the use of a water pan or not. If you're still having chicken disappointments when you get your RF back, you might try a cook with a water pan.

Thanks Bill. The guy that built mine is EXTREMELY stubborn and prideful. He is not in any way going to be receptive to any recommendations in that thread. Not going to happen. He refuses to believe there is a problem with his design at all. In fact he tried to trick me.... he agreed to do certain modifications and took the smoker, then two days later he started sending texts saying he did his own testing and that in his opinion there are no problems with how it runs so he did not intend to do the work we agreed to as it "was not necessary". I finally had to tell him I am not interested in his "testing" or his opinion, because I have been fighting with this smoker for TWO YEARS and followed every suggestion he made, to no avail. I told him that at this point I had no intention of accepting the smoker back until he completed the work he agreed to, which he finally caved in and agreed to hold his end of the bargain. I should also mention that I did finally get to talk to two other owners after I noticed my problems and they both have the exact same problems, so it is not just me.

This guy has been an absolute nightmare. So much so that there is a small part of me that is ready to tell him to just keep the damn thing, I have no need for it as it doesn't run right and I can't even sell it without it working right, not with a clean conscience anyways. That would be cutting a loss of almost $3,500 though which would be a hard pill to swallow, but at least it would be out of my life and a weight lifted in that sense.

I have used a water pan on and off. It unfortunately did nothing in regards to the problems I had. It did cool the hot spot on the firebox side a little though. I guess you could say I am traumatized when it comes to reverse flow and will never ever own another. Although through time and experience I have determined it is not the best cooker style for me anyways, as I require a top down cooker that cooks with mostly convective heat, not a bottom up cooker that adds a lot of radiant heat. That does not excuse the issues with this pit though.
 
Last edited:
16
13
Joined Jun 7, 2021
Great question. I had the same dilemma a couple years ago. I was using a very worn cheapie chargriller with an add on firebox. It's true that it's usually too hot to smoke anything on the firebox side but it didn't do too bad of job when I used the center area. Tasted good with plenty of smoke.

A friend owns a BBQ restaurant and went from a big pit style to a very large reverse flow mounted on a trailer. Worked great and evenly smoked a ton of meat at one time. I figured I'd try a beginner style rf so I got an OKJ Highland. The stamped baffles were right under the grates and had various holes, slots and louvers. First cook was kinda overcooked on the bottom as it was directly over a quarter sized hole on the baffle and too much heat came through it. I quickly bought a nice solid baffle that sits quite a ways below the grates. Cooks more evenly now. Been a learning curve but I've got it working ok.

Comparing the two styles, I don't notice a huge difference in food quality. I'm not sure the smaller RFs are really able to take advantage of the flow benefits like a professional style, but to me the advantage is being able to use more of the cooking space without the hot spot a regular offset causes. Nice for smoking ribs without having to turn them around.

Both produce good results. Both go through a lot of wood. The OKJ does burn clean to the point where I choke it down a little to be able to see a little smoke. I'm not sure one cooks tastier food than the other or cuts time down. The nice thing is that the OKJ can be converted back and forth between standard and reverse flow very easily if I wanted to.
 

bill1

Master of the Pit
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590
Joined Apr 25, 2015
...I guess you could say I am traumatized when it comes to reverse flow and will never ever own another....
Yeah, this is supposed to be fun. When it becomes aggravation and trauma, it's time to change course.
And this is just a hobby for me. If you're considering a business venture, you need tools you trust.
I sure wouldn't just give it back to the seller, even if it seems pretty worthless to you now. See what he does for mods and if it's still not meeting your needs, try selling it used. Or...I think the catering business can vary a lot in the size of jobs. You may someday get a job where a 2nd smoker, even if 2nd-rate, may be of value to you. Plus, not being in a rush is usually the best way to sell a used item.
 

ConrodM

Smoke Blower
122
64
Joined Jul 1, 2020
I have both, a 24x48 reverse flow, and a 24x48 traditional flow. My traditional flow is an "open pit" design which means no baffle, no tuning plates. The reverse flow is made from 1/4" steel and has a square firebox with a wood/coal grate, while the traditional flow is made out of 3/8" steel and has a round firebox where you run the fire directly on the floor.

I've had the reverse flow for exactly two years, and I just got the traditional flow four weeks ago, but I have already done multiple cooks on it and put it through its paces.

I know I am probably going to get hate or catch s***t for what I'm about to say because most here seem to be all about the reverse flow, but I don't care...this is my story and I'm just being honest. I have had nothing but problems on my reverse flow, to the point that it drove me to looking for something else. At first I thought it was great, and it appeared to run super clean (nothing but clear heat coming from the stack etc.), then I started trying to cook chicken and noticed it was putting a nasty grey color on the chicken skin. It also uses an insane amount of wood, requiring me to add a 16" long 3-4" diameter split every 15 minutes to maintain a cook chamber temp of 275. I tried everything thinking my problems were user error, or not cleaning it properly, or something with the wood I was using. No matter what I did my problems persisted. I talked to the builder several times and with the exception of the wood consumption, I did get things to improve a little, but it's still not right and I don't know if it ever will be. After two years of fighting with it, I have come to the conclusion it's an air flow problem with the design that is out of my control. It's actually back with the builder right now as I type this to retrofit it. We'll see if he solves the problem or not. What is interesting to me is that while trying to solve my issues with that cooker I talked to several people and heard from some other reverse flow owners of different brands that had similar problems. That is not to say that all reverse flows will have problems like mine. They definitely don't and I know and have talked with many that are super happy with their reverse flows. But it does seem they are more finicky, and if any of the calculations are off, you may have problems, while traditional flows seem at least a little more forgiving in that regard.

Going through all of that though really got me to thinking, and I think what it really boils down to in choosing what type of cooker is best for you is what type of cooking you like to do. For me, I'm all about Texas style brisket, cooked fat cap up, in the style of Franklin BBQ and all the other great Texas joints. For that reason what I really want is a cooker that cooks from the top down, not the bottom up. So a cooker that uses a baffle like the reverse flow or tuning plates is not going to cook the way I want. I didn't have enough experience to realize that when I bought my reverse flow. Frankly, I didn't know what I was doing.

While I have only had the traditional flow for 4 weeks, I've already cooked 3 briskets, 3 racks of ribs, 2 chickens, 2 boneless turkey breasts and a mess of home made sausage, and for me it has been a night and day difference. I haven't had any of the same problems with this pit, and it uses way less wood... about 1 16" long 3-4" diameter split every 35-40 minutes. In addition, while there is a hot spot on the firebox side, it's only about 6-8", and outside of that the rest of the cooking grate runs super even, and I have kept it anywhere from a 5-10 degree difference side to side. To be honest even my reverse flow runs 20 degrees hotter on the firebox side. My traditional flow has so much more air flow that it just renders fat in a completely different way. I also have realized I much prefer the round firebox running the fire directly on the floor, as the curve of the floor makes it easy to sit the splits above the coal bed in a way that encourages air flow without the need for a grate.... and that makes post cook cleaning faster and easier. All of this is however at a cost... My briskets tend to average 10 lb.'s after trimming, and they would take 8 hours like clock work every single time on the reverse flow, but that same 10 lb brisket takes closer to 11-12 hours on the traditional flow. All good though, as I cook my briskets the day before I intend to eat and use an overnight hot hold (in a sous vide bath) so it doesn't really effect me that much.

I'm doing a small BBQ business as a side hustle, and since I can't fit a bigger pit like a 250 through my side yard, I need two 24x48's to have enough capacity. Based on the experience I have had with both of these cookers, I have decided that even if the builder does fix the issue with my reverse flow, I'm going to sell it, as I just prefer the way the traditional flow pit cooks and just how it runs in general, so I'm going to buy a second one exactly like what I just got.

But that's just my story. In order for you to decide what is best for you, I would encourage you to think about what style of cooking you like to do, and whether that type of cooking would be better accomplished with a bottom up cooker, or a top down cooker.

My Reverse Flow
View attachment 640639

My Traditional Flow
View attachment 640640
Hmmmm… me thinks he’s got a Millscale?! That’s a Beautiful Stick Burner!!
 

ConrodM

Smoke Blower
122
64
Joined Jul 1, 2020
Regardless….. Very Nice Smoker!!! I’m confusing my smokers. I saw the folding stack and meant to say Workhorse! Lol. Need to see some of your briskets if you have any pictures to share. Thanks
 

kevin james

Smoking Fanatic
422
308
Joined Jul 30, 2012
Regardless….. Very Nice Smoker!!! I’m confusing my smokers. I saw the folding stack and meant to say Workhorse! Lol. Need to see some of your briskets if you have any pictures to share. Thanks

Pics? Sure. Here's a recent brisket for you...

Brisket_on_the_Board.jpg

Brisket_Sliced.jpg

Brisket_Point.jpg

Brisket_Flat_Slices.jpg

Brisket_Point_&_Flat_Slices.jpg

Bend_Test_7-30-22.jpg
 

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