Culinary Arts

Offset Smokers

Aaron Franklin

Lesson time 04:33 min

Years of working exclusively on offset smokers has given Aaron a sense of what to look for—and avoid—when buying and modifying the cookers. Learn Aaron’s tips so your smoker functions at its peak.

Aaron Franklin
Teaches Texas-Style BBQ
Aaron Franklin teaches you how to fire up flavor-packed Central Texas barbecue, including his famous brisket and more mouth-watering smoked meat.
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[MUSIC PLAYING] - Over the years, cooking barbecue really has only meant cooking over live fire. It could be a pit in the ground. It could be in a green egg. It could be on a grill. But for me, I really like offsets. I think most people feel comfortable cooking on whatever they learned on. And for me, it was an offset cooker. It was a cheapo $99 offset cooker that I got at the sporting goods store. It wasn't very good. In fact, it was kind of terrible. It was really thin, but somehow I managed to make at least two good briskets on that thing. And it also helped me figure out what I wanted to change on that to build my own cooker that was a lot better-- more the way that I wanted it to. And that is how we ended up with these. [MUSIC PLAYING] And this is just a classic offset cooker, much like I started on, but it's a pretty souped up version of the first cheapie. Really, back in the day, I ended up building cookers because I just wasn't happy with anything that was on the market. You go to the store, you look to buy something, and maybe the fire box is really, really short, which I don't like. I'd like to be able to build the fire further back and then adjust where that fire goes. You know, maybe they have multiple shelves. Well, I don't really want that, because I don't want the piece of meat on top, dripping on the one that's below. So that doesn't work for me. And then if you go to buy one, and it's got a thermometer on the lid, well, I don't want it there. Because of all the heat's going to go right there, and it's going to read really, really hot. And it doesn't make any sense if the meat's down here. If the thermometer is on the door, every time you slam the door it's going to mess with the thermometer. Also with the smokestack, I don't want one that comes out here. I don't want one that comes out here. I want it to pull the heat across the grates a little bit. So I'd say between those four things-- fire box, single grate, thermometer placement, and make sure the smoke stack's coming up in the right place. It should be kind of in the range. I also think the thickness of the metal has a lot to do with it. You go to the store, and you buy just a cheapie kind of thing. It's usually made out of real thin metal. So if it rains or it's cold outside, you're building this huge fire. And by the time it gets down here, like, the end of the cooker is just ice cold. So it's nice-- like, this is quarter inch thick. This is quarter inch thick. It's not going to rest out too quickly. It's going to last a long time. If you take care of it, it's going to last forever, really. Then the fire box, likely, once you get a coal bed and you start to build it up, you kind of have enough heat retention in there to keep it warm so you're not always just, like, every three minutes throwing a piece of wood in there. You don't really have to struggle quite so hard. I think it's safe to say that the cheaper the cooker gets with thin metal, ...

The art of smoke and fire

Once a backyard hobbyist, Aaron Franklin is now the James Beard Award-winning owner of Franklin Barbecue, where the line for his famous smoked brisket is hours long. Now the Central Texas barbecue specialist teaches you his meticulous low and slow process for mouth-watering ribs, pork butt, and brisket. With perfectly seasoned cuts and optimal temperatures, you'll learn to handle an offset smoker like a true pitmaster.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

So much more detail compared to any videos out there. Really excited to get out get my smoke on.

Aaron Franklin IS in a league of his own, The Master of BBQ.

Covers the fundamentals in the right amount of detail. What to look for etc. There is no subsitute for experience, but this has really helped me start

This class with Arron is a true blessing. Thank you for sharing all your wisdom..


A fellow student

Hello guys. So I am trying to build my own offset smoker, I live in south America so buying one is actually impossible here, and i have a question, would it make a big difference if the cooker is octagonal and not circular? I do not know if the geometrical shape could mess up the wind circulation.

Robert S.

Hi There, I enjoyed the course! However I think it misses a part where Aaron is talking about mulitple cooks in one smoker. When you see the footage of his store, you see those huge smokers that have 24 briskets on it, but how does a smaler cooker handle mulitple briskets? Do you rotate them to equalize the head spread or do you work with different temperatures? Advice on this would be great, since I think about building my own smoker with a capacity of 3-5 briskets? Any hint on where to go for directions? Thanks in advance, Robert


I have a Oklahoma Joe's longhorn offset smoker. Its built pretty well, i did a few modifications to it but the one i cant figure out is like in the video the metal box in the cook chamber that the water is sitting on top of. Can anyone help?

James T.

I use a pellet smoker which works pretty well for me but after watching all of Aaron's videos that I can find I want to start using an offset smoker. I can buy one from the store but I really want to get a decent one that I can use for a long time. Any recommendations? I really like what I see with Aaron's but not sure of the cost, I was also looking at Oklahoma Joes but it seems a little less quality than what I would like.

Brenk J.

I got tired of waiting for Aaron to start selling his signature smokers (and the ones being built by his business partners are crazy expensive). I found a local pit builder and he's building one for me that's pretty close to what Aaron is cooking on in the videos. The only thing I can't figure out is what the piece of metal is that's inside the cook chamber, right next to the firebox (the container of water is sitting on it). Can anyone help me out? Thanks.

Calvin J.

Do you have any plans on how to build a offset smoker, that you can share?

Carl C.

Super good info! Special about placing where the gauge, why no 2 layers,...

Adam R.

I am waiting to see if i ever, if ever, get on his list to buy one of these. I haven’t seen one worth buying yet at the hardware stores. Maybe I’ll stumble across one that i like eventually. But i did take his advice to have fun with the POS you have, you really do learn a lot. And believe me mine is a POS. But my money will go into something that will last a lifetime and i don’t t have to go mod in a crazy way. I’ve already done it with my first.


Hey guys, make sure you join Aaron's Community! There you can discuss BBQ techniques and other class material, network with other BBQ-loving students, trade recipes and stay up to date on class contests & activities. Here's the link: