When it comes to BBQ smoked food and in particular a low and slow cook, the most important thing you will want from your choice of BBQ grill is the ability to maintain temperature and airflow.
We decided to try out the Landman Offset smoker as it was in a local sale for £89 but the actual RRP on these is more around £230 and price aside, we wanted to see if it was cable of smoking a more forgiving cut of meat. (Pork Shoulder)
our initial thoughts were that the build quality is ok, you’re not expecting an overly rugged stand or wheels, you really only are interested in its ability to smoke a good brisket and for you to hold that aloft and proclaim success.
This brings us to our first and really only negative aspect of this particular offset smoker, Maintaining Temperature
Firstly the supplied temperature gauge is around 30 Degrees off. To give you an example the reading shown below Is a little under 150 degrees Centigrade. However, using our “Meater” Temperature gauge the actual temperature is 83 Degrees Centigrade, this ultimately will result in your smoke being too cold and not rendering out the fats correctly or tripling your cooking time.
Secondly, there are endless airgaps smoke leaks out of this BBQ from every gap you could possibly imagine this results in reduced (not poor) airflow within the drum itself. However, you could spend time sealing these gaps to prevent excess leakage but is this really worth your time doing?
Thirdly, there is little heat retention within the drum, temperatures can fluctuate within a few minutes + – 40 degrees in most cases. This is only a result of the thickness of the metal and its heat retention. we chose to lay paving bricks wrapped in foil at the base of our smoker just to assist in its heat retention. It does help the fluctuation but not to an extent that it’s going to fix the problem.
The vents itself do a very good job of controlling the temperature. We were able to hold a temperature of 130 degrees centigrade and then open the vent door fully and we could get this up to around 300 degrees centigrade within a matter of minutes. Maintaining the low and slow with the door closed and the vent open seemed to just be too little, we found that we needed to open and shut the door to control airflow.
So is this a waste of time?
In short no, it’s not a waste of time and you should not feel down if you have just made this purchase. All this is going to do is make you work harder for your rewards. You will find that on an 11 hour low and slow you will need to have a much better way of monitoring temperature like a digital temperature sensor with alerts unless you want to sit in front of your fire for the duration.
What do I need to do?
Use a mix of charcoal and kiln-dried or seasoned wood. Don’t use logs the size that you would place on your fire as when this catch it will push the heat up far too much and you will be forever trying to regulate the temperature. the size you are looking for is about the radius of a coke can.
Make a small bed of charcoal and stack 2 layers of wood like Jenga, allowing enough airflow around the wood. when you first light this you will get up to around 250 degrees centigrade, Let it drop back to around 160 before you start adding other small logs to the fire.
At this point as you continue your smoke, start stacking 1 – 2 logs inside your smoker hood, this brings the logs up to temperature so when you are ready to place another log on, it is already close to catching. This will reduce the amount of bad smoke within your smoker and keep a consistent clean burn.
Keeping the temperature at a consistent 110 – 130 for a low and slow really is a mission, but as a reference, the type of fire you will want to maintain will be as below, here is a single log almost spent, at this stage another log laid horizontal to the existing log is key. This leaves enough air to create a small but consistent flame, this will however only last around 15-20 Minute and your temperature may peak and trough depending on the air allowed through the vent. (Note that we kept this slightly ajar for the majority of the smoke)
There will be times in your cook that you realise your temperatures are going to soar and there’s nothing you can do to get them back down. DONT start lifting the lid on your grill area, simply open the offset chamber and allow the fire to burn, you will notice the temperature will start to steadily return to normal.
Overall if you get this offset as a deal for under £100 then go for it, It will get you into smoking if you know how to build and maintain a fire, Its not our first choice of offset but with a little persistence you can get to know the way it manages heat and once you are comfortable with doing just that, then there is no reason why you are not going to get good results. Just remember to bring a good chair and a book as your going to need to strike up a relationship with your smoker.