Are you ready to start smoking fish, cheese, or maybe even whiskey concoctions? Or perhaps you just need to provide some heavier smoke in your Traeger? You’ve come to the right place! In this article we’ll cover the best cold smoke generators and how each one works. By the end you should have a perfect match for your needs, so let’s get started!
Comparing Cold Smoke Generators
Top 5 Quick Summary (If You're Short On Time)
- The top overall cold smoke generator is the Big Kahuna by Smoke Daddy. It can be installed almost anywhere and reliably produces powerful smoke from wood chunks or chips.
- Smokemiester also makes a cylindrical model that attaches anywhere, but it does not require power or have an air pump; it is designed to make its own draft.
- If you want to use wood pellets for fuel and don’t mind plugging your cold smoke generator into a power source, the Smoke Chief by Smokehouse Products is for you.
- If you need a cold smoke generator for small-scale projects, like making smoked drinks, check out MITBAK’s handheld cold smoking gun.
- For a simple design that slowly burns through wood pellets on its own, look into a maze pellet smoker, like this one from A-MAZE-N.
Best Cold Smoke Generators - In Depth, Pros, and Cons
If you need some more clarification on features and usage, keep on reading:
1. Smoke Daddy Big Kahuna Cold Smoke Generator Review
Smoke Daddy’s Big Kahuna is a versatile cold smoke generator that can be attached to almost anything. It’s especially effective for larger spaces, up to the size of a refrigerator. It holds about 6 cups of fuel, which is good for 3-4 hours. However, if you need to add more wood, you can do so without opening your smoker.
While this model is obviously appropriate for cold smoking, it can also provide additional smoke in a hot environment. For example, let’s say you have a pellet smoker that doesn’t produce quite as much smoke as you would like. This smoke generator will add a ton of smokey flavor.
As for installation, you will have to drill a 1-1/8″ hole, but washers and lock nuts are included. Make sure to drill the hole at the lowest point possible, as the smoke will obviously rise through your chamber.
Lastly, note that sawdust and pellets are not appropriate sources of fuel for the Big Kahuna – stick to straight up wood chips and chunks.
2. Smokemiester Smoke Generator Review
This Smokemiester cold smoke generator is similar in cylindrical design to the Big Kahuna above, but there are a few key differences. First, this model does not have an air pump, nor does it require any electrical power source. Instead, it creates its own draft to keep the smoke flowing.
Additionally, while wood pellets are not recommended for the Big Kahuna above, they are fine for this Smokemiester, in addition to chips and chunks. In fact, two cups of pellets are included with purchase.
Filling this model completely will give you up to eight hours of smoke (varies slightly by type of fuel). This can be used for hot smoking in addition to cold smoking if you install it on your grill or smoker. Speaking of installation, you will need to create a 1-1/8″ hole in your vessel of choice, but the hardware you need is included. Getting up and running is easy, and the lower lid acts as a damper to control smoke output.
3. Smokehouse Products Smoke Chief Cold Smoke Generator Review
Next on our list is the Smoke Chief. This cold smoke generator uses strictly BBQ pellets for fuel. With one cup of pellets, it smokes for up to three hours. It’s powered by electricity, so you will have to plug it in.
While you may notice that the Smoke Chief stands on four feet, and ideally it will sit next to your grill, it also comes with a hanger mount. Speaking of extras, a cleaning tool, measuring cup full of pellets, special plunger tool, and a 110AC to 12VDC power adapter are also included.
Using the Smoke Chief is simple; all you have to do is fill it up with pellets and plug it in. One common complaint with this model is that the pipe where smoke exits can get clogged with ash and creosote, so it needs to be cleaned often. Additionally, at 7 pounds, it is the heaviest of our top five, which may or may not be a concern for you.
4. MITBAK Portable Handheld Cold Smoking Gun Review
Now for a big left turn in the design category. This MITBAK handheld cold smoker is suitable for small, indoor projects. It’s not meant to connect to your grill or smoker like others in this list. In fact, it comes with a special dome lid that traps the smoke, which is pushed through a small tube.
This cold smoker uses small wood chips for fuel, and some are included with purchase. Note that this device has a rechargeable battery, so you don’t need to worry about being close to an outlet. To get smoking, all you have to do is add some wood chips and turn it on. From there, you can choose from three speeds of smoke, depending on the needs of your dish or cocktail.
The utility of this model completely comes down to your needs. If you need to add a little bit of smoke flavor to a relatively small dish or drink over a short time period, this is for you. If you want to preserve a dozen fillets of salmon from your recent fishing trip, obviously this portable, handheld device would not be suitable.
5. A-MAZE-N Maze Pellet Cold Smoker Review
This A-MAZE-N smoke generator has a smart, unique design. It is S-shaped, literally like a small maze, and wood burns slowly from one end to the other via contact. It’s easily the simplest of these five products, and doesn’t require any electrical power. You just need to light one end to get it started – a blowtorch is useful for this, but definitely not required.
Because of its perforated design, which aids airflow, this mini-smoker is only 12.6 ounces. It’s made of stainless steel, so you won’t have to worry about rust. While wood chips can be used with this model in a pinch, they don’t always burn consistently due to their irregular shape.
As for negatives, this will take up some space inside your grill or smoking chamber (5″ x 8″ footprint), and that also means you can’t refill it without opening your grill/smoker. However, you probably won’t have to worry about refilling it too often, since it produces smoke for over 10 hours straight.
The Difference Between Hot and Cold Smoking
Hot smoking is probably what you imagine when you think of a backyard barbecue: meats like brisket and ribs are hot-smoked, usually in the range of 225° – 275° Fahrenheit. The meat is typically done when it becomes tender in the 190° – 210° range.
Cold smoking is done at a much lower temperature; however, at 70° – 90° F, it’s not truly a “cold” environment. This process does not cook the meat, but it does help preserve it, often in conjunction with curing.
Another difference is smoking time. Cold smoking is typically done over a longer time period, with 12-24 hours being common.
What Can You Make With Cold Smoking?
The two most popular cold-smoked meats are bacon and salmon, without a doubt. Kielbasa and Lebanon bologna are two other meats that aren’t quite as popular, but are equally delicious. However, as mentioned below, cold smoking can be risky, so be extra careful if you attempt cold smoking meats.
Aside from meats, smoked cheese is always a winner (especially cheddar!), and the same goes for nuts, salt, hard-boiled eggs, and even tofu. But really, you can smoke just about any food, so experiment and see what works.
Smoke can even benefit cocktails. As you might imagine, smoke pairs great with barrel-aged whiskey.
What to Consider When Choosing a Cold Smoke Generator
There are four main types of fuel for cold smoke generators: wood chips, wood chunks, wood pellets, and sawdust. Some can use any type of wood, while other designs are more restrictive.
Note that while pellets can be more convenient, especially if you already own a pellet smoker, chips and chunks generally give off thicker, stronger smoke.
Also be aware that chips and chunks can produce some real heat, which obviously isn’t ideal for a cold smoking environment. That’s why many cold smoke generators are meant to be installed on the exterior of grills or smokers. Be careful using chips or chunks in close proximity to your food.
Fuel Capacity and Burn Time
Fuel capacity and smoking time vary greatly among cold smokers. Some produce smoke for just a couple hours, while others work for up to 12 hours! Pellets typically burn longer than chips or chunks, but as mentioned above, they do produce slightly weaker smoke. Like the saying goes, “The light that burns twice as bright, burns half as long.”
Are you planning on cold smoking close to an outlet? Do you mind running an extension cable? The are the types of questions to ask yourself if you’re planning on getting an electric-powered cold smoke generator.
Also remember that if you attach a device with electrical components to your grill, you will need to take extra care to shield it from the elements when you’re not using it.
Are you smoking cocktails or just a couple blocks of cheese? Or are you converting an old refrigerator into a cold smoker? Be mindful of the size of your space, and how quickly it lets smoke escape. Ideally your chamber will have some kind of dampers or controls to adjust airflow.
Dangers of Cold Smoking
If you’re considering cold smoking meats specifically, be aware of the potential dangers (specifically, botulism and various other pathogens). Or perhaps better yet, avoid it entirely.
What’s the problem with cold smoking? It is done in the so-called microbial “danger zone,” which is between 40° and 130° F. You’re never fully cooking the meat when cold smoking. While salt from curing can help fend off dangerous bacteria, some argue that this whole process is best left to the professionals. If you aren’t entirely sure of what you’re doing, stay safe and get your lox from the local deli or grocery store.
Note that this mainly applies to meats. While dangerous bacteria can proliferate in other types of food, there isn’t much of a risk smoking cheese, nuts, etc. Bacon is a unique situation among meats: it is cooked a second time after smoking, so it is more safe than other cold-smoked meats.
Summing Things Up
Cold smoking adds a whole new world of culinary possibilities to your backyard barbecues. Hopefully reading about the best cold smoke generators on the market has helped you narrow down the options. If you still have questions, feel free to ask them below in the comments. Or even better, tell me what type of cold smoking recipes you plan on making!