Once you get used to grilling, a smoker is usually the next step to take your cooking experience to the next level.
You can grab an offset smoker for just a couple of hundred dollars but if you don’t make proper research, you may end with a model which lacks performance and needs lots of modifications to reach the optimal performance.
There are a few problems with cheap models, no matter which style you go for, with the main one being the problem to maintain consistent high heat and rust.
If you are planning to pick an offset smoker or you just want to improve the one you already have, then I am going to show you a couple of different customization you can do on your smoker to improve its performance.
Seal the Leaking
Most models, once you get them out of the box, come as a kit that you have to assemble. There are a lot of bolts and parts which you need to get together.
All those bolts, handles, doors etc. can lead to heat loss if they don’t fit perfectly together. And, on cheap models, parts that don’t fit perfectly is a very common issue.
What you can do to prevent heat leakings is to use a high-temperature silicon seal and apply it to these areas and create a better overall seal.
The ultimate goal is to get your smoker sealed and perform just like it was one single cut of steel, without any parts or assembly.
Upgrade the Support Legs
Once again, cheap smokers will probably have sturdy legs. You don’t want a model which is uneven to the ground and not stable.
In addition to that, what you can do, is to add some extra support to them by welding additional metal bars. If welding is too much for you, you can just bolt thin metal bars which will still help and increase the stability.
If you have a model with cheap plastic wheels and it doesn’t feel stable at all, then I recommend you to better remove them and set your smoker on a couple of concrete blocks.
Improve the Air Flow
If you have an offset smoker box, then this should not be a major issue for you.
Offset models have proper air flow and ventilation and there is no need for further modifications to improve it.
However, if you have a bullet style smoker, then it may require proper ventilation to maintain even cooking temperature.
These models come with small holes and vents but they usually don’t do the job right.
What you can do, is drill a couple of extra holes at the top and at the bottom of your smoker for better airflow.
This will also help you clear the ashes faster when you do the cleaning process.
Upgrade the Thermometer
Most offset smokers come with a built-in temperature gauge, usually placed on the top of the cooking chamber lid.
If you know how to properly use your smoker, this thermometer will do the job, even though they are not 100% accurate all the time.
You can purchase and install an aftermarket thermometer which will give you a more accurate reading of the cooking temperature, so you can cook your meat properly.
I suggest you pick a thermometer with longer probes that will extend deeper into the smoker. This type of thermometer will be more accurate.
Don’t spend a lot of money on aftermarket thermometer. You can get a decent model with LED display for under $20 on online markets such as Amazon or eBay.
Tighten the Bolts
Once you get your smoker out of the package box and assemble the whole thing, it feels stable and there are no sturdy parts.
But, over time, the usage and the heat, will make the parts to get loose, especially the bolts.
This is a pretty easy fix and what you can do, is to check and tighten the bolts which seem to become loose from the heat and usage.
This is a more common fix than other hacks mention in this article but it doesn’t cost anything to tighten up a couple of bolts. This can be done when you are cleaning your offset smoker, so there will be no need to disassemble any parts to check since you already dis-assemble them for cleaning.
With time, your smoker will start to get old and the surface may start to create bubbles which will eventually create rust and make the paint fall off. This is totally normal as the heat and the age-factor will impact the paint. You can extend its life if you properly maintain it but at the end, you cannot make your smoker last a lifetime.
If you start seeing signs of rust, then it is better to repaint it. I suggest repainting as soon as possible because if you leave it for a long period of time, the rust will develop even further and will expand to the whole surface.
What you can do is to give a try and use some rust resistant high heat enamel spray available on the market to protect it from rusting.
You should dis-assemble the smoker first, repaint the parts separately including the legs and other external parts and then re-assemble it together.
Repainting will give it a professional flat look and at the same time will protect it from further rust in the future.
Even though affordable offset smokers are not considered cheap, with prices starting at a couple of hundred dollars, if you decide to go for a cheap option, then you may need to still do some modifications in order to reach the optimal cooking performance.
With just a couple of dollars, some basic tools and a few minutes of your time, you can improve the performance of your offset smoker drastically by fixing the drawback that manufacturers have left behind.
They are usually easy hacks and everyone with some elementary DIY skills and a couple of basic home tools can do the job perfectly, without any assistance for expensive repairing companies.