Cold smoking is nothing new. It’s still a common method used by people all over the world to preserve and add flavor to their food.
Done right, cold smoking allows the food to retain moisture, achieve better flavor, and keep safe from nasty bacteria. Executed the wrong way, it can leave you clinging to the toilet bowl for hours, or even spending a night in the hospital ER.
So with that in mind, we’ll walk you through some essential things you need to know about cold smoking in this article. And how it compares to your regular hot smoking or low n slow barbecuing. We’ll also talk about what foods you should cold smoke if you’re a beginner and a few tips to ensure that you do it safely.
That being said, let’s begin the article with the reviews of the five best cold smoke generators.
In A Rush? These Are The 5 Best Cold Smokers
- Smoke Daddy Big Kahuna
- Smoke Chief Cold Smoke Generator
- Lanney 12″ Smoking Tube
- A-Maze-N Sawdust or Pellet Cold Smoker
- Breville Smoking Gun Cold Smoker
Notice: The links above will direct you to either Amazon, BBQ Guys or Home Depot for more details and the latest information on the products.
Top 5 Choices For Best Cold Smoke Generator
Smoke Daddy Big Kahuna
The Smoke Daddy Big Kahuna includes a smokebox, an air tube, and an adjustable air pump. It’s the mid-size in the Smoke Daddy product line besides two other sizes (8 inches and Magnum P.I.G).
They all have the same design and components. The only feature that differentiates the three versions is the diameter of the smokebox, which determines the overall volume.
That being said, we really like the adjustable air pump. It allows you to control the burn rate and decide the amount of smoke that you want. Though you need a place to put it because there is no hook to attach it to the smokebox.
With one fill, the Big Kahuna can create smoke from 1 to 1.5 hours. And that’s if you use wood chunks or chips. You can also use wood pellets or sawdust for a longer burn but the manufacturer recommends against it. In fact, you can’t use sawdust at all.
The Big Kahuna is excellent at both cold and hot smoking. To use it, you have to drill a hole to the side of your cooker as low as possible. This is great because you only have to do it once. However, if you want a portable cold smoke generator, fuggedaboutit!
Now, you can attach this cold smoker to pretty much anything, from Traeger pellet grills, regular charcoal grills to even gas grills. It won’t be the case for a kamado grill, however Smoke Daddy does sell an adapter kit for it.
Made from thick gauge aluminum, the Big Kahuna provides a tight seal and is built to last. It also includes a stainless steel cleaning brush for your convenience. It’s a great add-on since you have to occasionally clean off the creosote along the wall and the ventilation spring.
- Available in 3 sizes
- Made from premium material to ensure longevity and durability
- Universal. Can fit to almost any grill and smoker (has adapter kits for ceramic kamados)
- Can be used for both cold and hot smoking
- Adjustable air pump to control the amount of smoke
- Cleaning brush included
- Not portable
- Can’t use wood sawdust. The manufacturer doesn’t recommend wood pellets
All in all, if you’re serious about cold smoking and want to do it regularly, the Smoke Daddy Big Kahuna fits the bill. To learn more about this cold smoke generator, please click on the button down below.
Smoke Chief Cold Smoker Generator
You don’t need any lighter or kitchen torch to start the Smoke Chief. In fact, this one is powered by electricity. It can run on the regular 110V residential outlet or a smaller 12V DC on your vehicle.
To use it, plug it in, fill the hopper, flip the switch, and voila. After 3 minutes or so, you have smoke coming out of the outflow tube. Unlike the Big Kahuna, you can only use wood pellets with this unit. Sawdust will clog up the machine while wood chips or chunks won’t burn at all.
With about one cup of pellets, you can have smoke for about 3 hours straight. Similar to the Big Kahuna, you can connect the Smoke Chief to any type of cookers. The one caveat is that you need to do some modifications if you want to attach it to a ceramic grill. However, Smoke Chief does have a separate adapter for that.
Speaking of attachment, the Smoke Chief’s outflow tube fits the rotisserie hole on most grills. However, in some cases, you might need to drill a hole or enlarge an existing one to make sure that the unit fits properly. For your information, the diameter of the tube is 0.5”.
- Electrically powered. Can use 110V AC or 12V DC
- Easy and fast lightning
- Long smoke time
- Fits on any grill/smoker
- Has ceramic grill adapter
- Might need to drill a bigger hole on your cooker
- Can’t work with wood sawdust, chips or chunks
- Needs an outlet
Overall, the Smoke Chief cold smoke generator is a great choice for anybody who knows what they’re doing with cold smoking. It’s also a bonus that you can bring this cold smoker with you on the go. If you’re new to cold smoking though, consider other options. This might not be the one since it’s quite an investment. Anyhow, you can know more about the Smoke Chief by following the link below.
Lanney 12” Smoking Tube
The thing we like about this smoking tube from Lanney is how simple it is. You don’t have to do any mounting or drilling. No power outlet needed either.
To use it, you just have to fill the tube with pellets, light one end with a torch, and get smoking. With its hexagon shape, the tube sits nicely between the grids of the cooking grate. That way, it won’t roll away or anything.
Furthermore, you can use it in any grill and smoker. In case you want to hang it, Lanney also includes two hooks for that. Now, one end of the tube actually has a closed cap so don’t worry about the pellets falling through either.
In terms of smoke time, the tube can go on for about 5 hours with a full load. It is made from 304 stainless steel that is not only anti-rust but also very durable. The tube can for sure hold up well against all the repeated uses.
Besides the tube and the two hooks, the whole package also features a silicone brush, a cleaning tool, and a user manual. The Lanney smoking tube can be used for both cold and hot smoking. Better yet, it’s also dishwasher safe.
- Portable, lightweight, and simple design
- No need to mount or drill
- Doesn’t require any power outlet
- Hexagon shape ensures the tube stays stationary
- Works with any type of grill
- Needs a lighter or torch to light pellets
- Only works with pellets, and possibly small wood chips
- Doesn’t blow smoke
We’d recommend this 12” Lanney smoking tube to beginners who just want to experiment with cold smoking. It’s lightweight and portable so you can also bring it with you anywhere, from camping to tailgating. Best of all, it’s very affordable. So what are you waiting for? Check it out today.
A-Maze-N Sawdust or Pellet Cold Smoker
The first impression about this A-Maze-N cold smoker is that it looks like a maze for your pet hamster. Similar to the Lanney smoking tube, it’s also lightweight (12.06oz or 0.34kg) which makes it easy to bring it on the go.
The maze has two holes on both ends so you can light your fuel from both directions in case you want a quicker burn. Speaking of fuel, you can use either sawdust or pellets. If you fill up the whole maze, you will have about 8 hours with sawdust while 12 hours for pellets. Pretty decent smoke time we might add.
The dimensions of the maze is 5” L x 8” W, which is neither too big nor too small. In fact, it’s a great size for any type of cooker. Besides, you don’t have to do anything to it either. No drilling, mounting, or anything extra. Simply place it in a corner of your grill’s cooking grate and let it do its job.
- 12.06oz in weight
- Efficient with fuel (12 hours with pellets, 8 hours with sawdust)
- Decent size that can be used in any grill/smoker
- No smoke blowing
- No self-igniting
This maze cold smoker from A-Maze-N is an excellent alternative to the Lanney smoking tube. It provides a longer burn if that’s what you prefer. Simple, efficient yet lightweight, we’d recommend this cold smoke generator to anyone, from beginners to the experienced. The green button below will lead you to more details, including the price, of this great unit.
Breville Smoking Gun Cold Smoker
The last one will be a bit different from the rest of the cold smokers on this list. Introducing the cold smoke gun from Breville.
This unit is battery operated. It comes with the gun itself and a removable extended hose. All you have to do is fill the burn chamber on the gun with your fuel of choice. And it can be anything, from wood ships and spices to dried flowers and hays.
Once you’ve done that, turn the unit on, light the chamber, and you’re ready to rock n roll. It’s that simple. Still don’t believe us, check out this video below.
Pretty cool, huh? Now, one thing to keep in mind that the Breville smoking gun isn’t designed for a long smoke. In fact, it’s best if you just want to quickly infuse your food with some smoke flavor. In terms of food, you can use it on anything, from cheese, nuts, to ribs and even cocktails.
Now, although it’s a gun, you don’t have to hold it. There is a built-in stand that keeps the gun stable. It is also very quiet and light (1lb or 0.45kg). That means you can bring it with you anywhere. Better yet, you can use it both outdoors and indoors.
It’s also very easy to clean. There is no need to use any tools to take the gun apart. You can clean it with a damp cloth. And if you prefer, the burn chamber is actually dishwasher safe.
Came with a 1-year warranty, the Breville smoking gun is a smaller yet versatile alternative to some of the traditional cold smokers here.
- Can be used for grilling and regular kitchen usage
- Easy to clean
- No tools to take components apart
- Small, light, and quiet
- Extended hose for more accurate aim
- Can’t handle long smoke
- Require battery change
We thought it’d be cool to include this smoking gun from Breville. This one is ideal for any level of outdoor chefs. It works great as a secondary cold smoke generator in case you think your food still needs that extra touch of smoke. If you’re also into mixology, definitely consider this one. For more details as well as the price of this Breville smoke gun, click the button down below.
What Is Cold Smoking?
Cold smoking is a technique used to preserve and add flavor to your food, depending on which type of wood that you’re using.
What happens is that the smoke dries out the food surface and coats it with a protective and anti-oxidant layer. Oftentimes, cold smoking is used alongside curing (fermented or salted), which also removes some of the moisture from the food and slows down the growth of bacteria.
Some food items can be cold smoked without the need for curing. However, meat does need both for safe consumption.
Throughout history, cold smoking is used as an effective way to prevent food from going bad, especially if it’s in short supply during the wintertime. Despite the invention of refrigeration, cold smoking is still alive and well. Today, cold smoking can be done in many ways, from homemade cardboard box to commercial smokehouse.
But no matter what the medium is, the concept and theory stays the same.
How Does A Cold Smoke Generator Work?
A universal cold smoke generator (or cold smoker) usually has a container and a pipe that connects it to the cooker of choice.
The process of cold smoking begins with a smoldering fire in the container (below 85F or 29C). Here, it creates smoke, which then flows through the pipe into the cooking chamber where the food sits or hangs.
Keep in mind that there isn’t much heat throughout the process. The reason is to prevent bacteria from growing as the food is held in the “Danger Zone” of 40F to 140F (4C to 60C). Some people even place a few ice blocks in the cooking chamber to keep the temperature from rising.
Cold smoking can take hours or even days. But once it’s done, the food can last for months on end.
You can use the universal cold smoker with many types of grill and smoker, such as Traeger, Weber and so on. It’s attached externally and the options for fuel are either wood chips, chunks, or pellets.
However, you too find other cold smoke generators that are in tube and maze form. These are used inside the cooker and usually less expensive. Their fuel of choice is either pellets or wood sawdust.
Here is a quick video from Pitmaster X showcasing a maze cold smoker in action.
Besides these two popular types, many manufacturers, such as Bradley and Masterbuilt, also sell adapter kits that turn their electric smoker into a commercial cold smoke generator.
Cold Smoking Vs Hot Smoking
Now that you understand cold smoking a bit better, let’s compare it to hot smoking and see what is the difference between the two.
Similar to cold smoking, hot smoking does add flavor to the food. However, the technique leans toward cooking rather than preserving it. The heat is closer to the food and generally way hotter (225F to 250F).
The high heat kills off the bacteria faster. In addition to that, it also helps the food get through the top end of the “Danger Zone” (140F) quicker. As a result, it only takes a few hours up to a day to finish the whole process.
And once it’s done, the food is consumed immediately. Whatever remains can be refrigerated for later use. However, it isn’t as long as in the case of cold smoking.
The Potential Risks Of Cold Smoking
In spite of all the amazing things that you can do with cold smoking, this technique does have some dangers if not done correctly. Let’s explore some of those risks.
As mentioned above, food is usually held between 40F to 140F during the cold smoking process. There is a reason why it is called the danger zone. Within this range, bacteria thrives and reproduces at a rapid rate. In fact, they sometimes double in a matter of 20 minutes.
This is usually the case for meat. Even though we can do some curing to prevent the bacterial growth from happening. But remember that curing just inhibits the growth, not eliminating it completely.
Because of this, it pays to be extra careful and monitor the entire process closely. Some of the common pathogens in cold smoking are botulism and listeria. These are often found in incorrectly cold-smoked sausage and fish.
The risk of listeria is higher than botulism. However, they both make you very ill and sometimes can be deadly. Therefore, it’s advisable that young children, the elders, pregnant women, and those who are chronically ill stay away from smoked fish.
Again, be extremely careful when it comes to cold smoking. Really know what you’re doing. Your life can be at stake here.
Top Tips For Cold Smoking Safely
To be honest, I never cold smoke meat myself. The only thing I have done is ice cream, nuts, and occasionally cheese. But I feel the obligation to ensure that my readers are safe if they attempt to cold smoke meat at home.
That’s why I have this little section to include some of the top tips for cold smoking safely. These are from my own experience plus others that I gather throughout the Interwebs.
- Before cold smoking, cure it. Although curing only slows down the bacterial growth, it’s better than nothing. The common ingredient is salt.
- When in doubt, consult the experts. There are books about this subject. Meathead from Amazingribs.com recommends Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing by Michael Ruhlman.
- Use two tongs when handling your meat. That is to avoid cross-contamination.
- Find a reliable local butcher or fishmonger. Before cooking anything, you need to make sure that the meat is of high quality. You will pay a bit extra but it comes with a peace of mind.
- Don’t smoke with just any random wood. Stick with hardwoods. Those are trees that bear a nut or fruit. Avoid evergreen trees. Those are softwoods. Moreover, don’t use wood scraps, such as broken furniture. They’re often coated with varnish.
What Foods Can You Cold Smoke?
You can cold smoke just about anything. However, if you’re new to it, I’d recommend starting with something simple like cheese. The reason is to learn about cold smoking without worrying about all the health risks associated with it.
Other foods that you can start next after you’re done with cheese:
- Ice Cream
- Fruits & Veggies
And once you know what you’re doing, then you can try cold smoking meat:
- Game Meat
Factors To Consider When Shopping For A Cold Smoker
The fuel for cold smokers is usually wood. And it often comes in these four types: chunks, chips, pellets, and sawdust. You often find that the last three are more common than wood chunks.
However, not all cold smoke generators can run on all three. In fact, they either run on two or only one.
Make sure to double check the burn time from the manufacturers. For the external cold smokers, the claim is often accurate. However, for the tube and maze cold smoke generators, they fall short occasionally.
This sometimes has nothing to do with the unit itself. It could be from the fuel that you’ve used. Or it could be that you might not follow the instructions outlined in the user manual.
Ease Of Use
With constant smoke passing through, it’s easy to see a lot of creosote remaining inside the cold smoker. This substance can hinder the performance of your unit. Therefore, consider if the unit is easy to clean. Is there any cleaning brush that comes with it?
Also, is the cold smoker self-igniting or does it require a lighter? Furthermore, do you have to drill a hole to mount it to your cooker or the unit can just stand on its own? Does it need a power outlet or battery in order to function?
For What Type Of Grill
The majority of cold smokers work with any type of grill or smoker. However, there are certain types, such as the kamado, that need some modifications before you can attach the cold smoker.
Keep in mind that kamado is made from ceramic, which is heavy and fragile. Because of that, look for adapter kits if possible. Most manufacturers sell one.
Although cold smoking carries some inherent risks, it’s still fun to explore that aspect of outdoor cooking if, of course, done properly. For beginners, it’s best to cold smoke non-meat items first. Once you’re good at it, then it’s time to experiment with meat. But whatever you do, always take all the necessary precautions before attempting anything.
And it’s also the end of this ‘best cold smoke generator’ article. I hope you find this article helpful.
Have you tried cold smoking before? If yes, what would be your advice for people who are new to it?
Let us know about it below. We can all learn from each other.