Reverse Flow BBQ Smoker | What it is and review of the Oklahoma Joe

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  August 20, 2020

Always the latest smoking tips & tricks?

Subscribe to THE ESSENTIAL newsletter for aspiring pitmasters

We'll only use your email address for our newsletter and respect your privacy

I love creating free content full of tips for my readers, you. I don't accept paid sponsorships, my opinion is my own, but if you find my recommendations helpful and you end up buying something you like through one of my links, I could earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more

You’ve probably heard about reverse flow smokers recently and started trying to figure out what the hype is all about.

In fact, there are a few differences when it comes to using a reverse flow smoker in comparison to your classic smoker.

Especially since they are often referred to as the superior alternative to a traditional offset smoker which can end up burning your food if you’re not savvy or careful.

Since they feature a thorough smoke flow and an even temperature distribution, they work great in creating perfectly smoked meat every time.

We’ll share our favorite one with you, but in the end, you can decide what’s best for you after we explain everything in detail.

grilled skewers

Why are reverse flow smokers popular?

I kept running into issues with hot spots while barbecuing, and you might relate if you’re having the same issue.

How to buy a bbq smoker video x
How to buy a bbq smoker video

Mastering the art of different temperatures across your grill isn’t for everyone, and it might cost you a lot of burnt meat. A common issue with classic smokers is that it takes trial and error to smoke the meat perfectly, every time.

What is the best reverse flow smoker?

So, I did my research and decided to give reverse flow BBQ smokers a try since I read they are able to distribute the temperature evenly.

After some product research, I ended up buying this Oklahoma Joe’s Longhorn Reverse Flow Smoker available on Amazon and I haven’t looked back ever since.

I need a barbecue made with high-quality steel in order to retain the heat better. I also need a large grilling area since I like to entertain all my family and friends when they come over. And you know how it is, they all have their own preferred meats, which means I need plenty of space just like this grill provides.

Now, if you’re not prepared to spend so much into a reverse flow BBQ smoker or are more of a casual barbecuer and don’t need as much grilling space, Oklahoma Joe’s also features a smaller (but equally professional) reverse flow BBQ smoker.

So if you’re looking for the same level of quality, but at a lower price, look no further than Oklahoma Joe’s Highland Reverse Flow Smoker.

Whatever your situation is, look no further than Oklahoma Joe’s quality products. However, in order to better help you choose which one would work best for you, I’ll share their common specifications and grill dimensions. This way, you can decide if you have the need for one or the other.

Our top 2 picks

Reverse Flow Smokers Images
Oklahoma Joe’s Highland Reverse Flow Smoker oklahome joe's highland reverse flow smoker(view more images)
Oklahoma Joe’s Longhorn Reverse Flow Smoker Oklahoma Joe's Longhorn Reverse Flow Smoker(view more images)

Now you might be interested in acquiring either of these reverse flow smokers and start showing off your skills.

However, it’s also important to understand how these BBQ smokers work and how you can get the best out of them. After all, you want to make sure you don’t run into the same old issues with some of the other bbq smoker brands.

In this article, I’ll explain the science behind reverse flow BBQ smokers and how that makes them different from standard offset smokers.

This will also help you decide which of the above better suits your needs and will help you embark on the road to reverse flow barbecuing.

What is a reverse flow smoker?

It is a barbecue smoker that is different from the offset smokers. The reason is that it forces air to go deep inside the smoker, which results in more uniform air temperature inside the smoker.

Here’s a basic rundown of how a reverse flow smoker works.

First, heat exits that part known as a firebox on the side and moves under a drip pan all the way to the far end of the smoker.

Next, it enters the smoking chamber and moves through to the cooking chamber part. At this point, the air moves in the opposite direction.

Finally, it exits from the stack area on the firebox side of the smoker.

This type of smoking device ensures a more even temperature distribution and smoke flow. Therefore, it is a good tool if you want flavorful smoked meats for your next family get together.

Like I mentioned above, these smokers have an extra plate underneath the cooking surface. Heat drafts from the firebox and into the cooking chamber then draw down under a baffled-flue to the end.

At that point, the flow reverses (which gave it its nickname) and then drafts back over the top of the heated baffle-flue.

Is a reverse flow smoker really better?

If you are a stickler for perfectly cooked meat every time, then yes, the reverse flow smoker is excellent.

It is better than your other smokers because it maintains an even temperature, which makes cooking easier. Therefore, it’s hard to burn food, and it ensures a great smoke each time.

Many pro smokers call Oklahoma Joe’s Longhorn Reverse Flow Smoker a superior alternative to most other smokers – both reverse and offset. Still not convinced? Keep reading below…

What makes a reverse flow smoker different than a standard offset smoker?

Heat in offset smokers may vary across different spots on the grill which creates “hot spots” inside the chamber. This can be a big problem, especially if you’re not experienced, like me.

This is the biggest reason why I stayed away from them. However, some people prefer this since it gives them a chance to smoke some meats faster or slower depending on where they place them within the chamber.

On the other hand, reverse flow smokers have a steel plate inside the cooking chamber which lets heat pass underneath the grill at its highest temperature and then over it at a slightly lower temperature.

Reverse flow smokers allow heat to be evenly distributed across the cooking chamber of your BBQ smoker.

This protects the meat from intense heat while also directing it under and then back over the meat before exiting through the chimney.

This extra plate and the location of the chimney on these smokers means that smoke remains inside the pit for a longer period of time.

This feature makes it perfect for slowly smoking large meats. And yes, grilling using a reverse flow smoker usually takes longer since you don’t have those “hot spots”.

Those speed up the cooking in most cases, but with the reverse flow smoker, your meats will be smoked more evenly, producing better results.

Now in order to better understand what makes reverse flow smokers better, in my opinion, it’s useful to know what the design does or “how it works”.

What other features does the reverse flow smoker have?

The heated baffle or flue is designed as a water and grease tight griddle or pan. The cooking racks are then positioned on top of the of that griddle.

Remember that heat is used twice and this sears the fat on the welded griddle. And what do you get with this? Meat that is moist, tender, and full of flavor, without all the extra fat.

Apart from guiding the direction in which the smoke flows, the steel plate also helps by blocking the direct, harsh heat from overcooking the meat that is in close proximity to the firebox.

It also creates a more even cooking temperature since it acts as a heat sink and like we said earlier, it doubles as a grease and/or watertight pan.

But don’t just take my word for it, check out what other reviewers are saying. Some have even shared pictures of their deliciously smoked meats on this barbecue, so you can get a general idea.

What are the benefits or pros of a reverse flow smoker?

I have already pointed out multiple benefits that will make your barbecuing experience much easier. However, it’s always good to sum them up and point out the benefits.

Are there any disadvantages to using a reverse flow smoker?

In terms of the flavor and taste of the food, no there are no major disadvantages to using a reverse flow smoker.

On the other hand, a possible issue is that the steel plate of the smoker is welded in place in the smoke and food chamber. This makes it hard to clean so it can become full of debris and grease.

As well, you can experience something called a restricted airflow problem. This means that your food becomes over smoked, thus it tastes a bit bitter.

The main downside to a reverse flow smoker is that you can’t control the airflow, it moves in a set direction through the smoker.

How do you use a reverse flow smoker?

Before you begin to smoke your food, make sure to season and marinate your meat ahead of time.

Now, it’s time to light the charcoal in your smoker’s firebox. We recommend you use briquettes or chimney starter to make things easy. Pros prefer to use lump charcoal, so if you can, use that. At this time, add your woods to give more flavor to your food.

For optimal cooking, place a thermometer at each end of the cooking chamber, this will make it easy to check the temp at all times.

You want the smoker to reach 225 degrees F, so adjust the sliding vents of the cooker. Once you’ve got the right temperature, place your meat and other food on the grill and close the lid.

Now, let the food slow cook for at least 2 or 3 hours, depending on what type of meat you’re smoking. As the food cooks, keep refilling the firebox with charcoal.

We recommend you heat up the coals in the chimney starter and then transfer them to the firebox.

Here’s a video explaining how to use a reverse flow bbq smoker:

Top Pick: Oklahoma Joe’s Reverse Flow Smokers – Longhorn and Highland

Char-broil Oklahoma Joe’s have always been recognized for their high quality and value. The same remains true for their reverse flow BBQ smokers line.

They have two of the leading reverse flow smokers on the market, the Highland Reverse, and the Longhorn Reverse, mentioned at the beginning of this article.

Both smokers have proven to be a solid, long-lasting investment. As a result, it is bound to make your barbecuing experience easier and better.

Both smokers also give you full and accurate control over your barbecue’s temperature. This is due to the multiple dampers and the professional-grade thermometer included with your smoker.

They are also made of heavy-duty, 2.5mm thick painted steel. This allows them to retain heat, so their build creates the perfect environment for reverse flow cooking.

Many reviewers have even decided to make some modifications themselves. You can take your smoker to the next level, by adding 2 more thermometers.

Or, try using different sealants, and adjusting the position of pieces when putting the smoker together.

Several people note that this ability to easily upgrade your smoker to your personal preferences is what makes it the best option in the market.

I, personally, decided to implement one additional thermometer just to make sure I have everything under control. This way I can easily adjust the fire for the best grilling results.

On top of this, they both feature a large and easy to clean firebox.

As well, they have two storage shelves and a heavy-duty cart with wheels strong enough to move this barbecue as far as you want it to. It also has a 2-year warranty.

We’re pretty sure it will last through the years. I still haven’t had a single issue with mine.

Oklahoma Joe’s Longhorn Reverse Flow Smoker Review

Best reverse flow smoker with baffle plate: Oklahoma Joe's Longhorn

(view more images)

This smoker is for those looking for an excellent smoking device that gives great flavor results. It is a tad bit challenging to master but it offers superior performance.

With this smoker, you can make the most of the reverse flow system and actually adjust and control the temperatures.

The reason is that it has removable baffles, a very big charcoal basket, and a somewhat flexible configuration. So, it offers you some control over the smoking process.

Notable Features:

We recommend this specific smoker because it’s ideal for smoking all kinds of BBQ meats, including ribs and brisket. This smoker is great because it moves the coals into a separate enclosure.

Then from there, the smoke is vented into the cooking chamber. The end result is even heat, a better cooking experience, and more flavor.

Finally, Oklahoma Joe’s is an established and popular brand in the BBQ industry.

They’ve been manufacturing great smokers and grills since 1987, and have consistently high ratings and customer satisfaction.

Check it out here on Amazon

Final Words

To wrap things up, reverse flow smokers are the perfect solution for every struggling BBQ aficionado. Stop fighting your BBQ and let it work with you, instead.

Oklahoma Joe’s line of reverse flow smokers is the best to help you achieve this cooperation.

Or check out our guide to the best smoker accessories you can buy to start grilling.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.