All those who’ve tried smoked foods know that they taste incredible.
From smoked meats such as sausages, fish, ham, bacon, and turkey, to smoked cheese, butter, garlic, olives, honey, vegetables, and so much more, there’s nothing quite like it.
There are 2 ways to smoke your food: hot smoking and cold smoking.
Hot smoking refers to cooking food close to a heat source at a certain temperature while it absorbs smoke. The result is delicious smoked food that is hot and ready for eating.
Cold smoking, on the other hand, refers to smoking the food without actually cooking it and is oftentimes used as a curing method to preserve food while giving it that trademark smoky flavor.
You can cold smoke a variety of food items, the most common ones being cold smoked meats, and in order to get the perfect smoky flavor, you need to invest in something called a cold smoke generator.
So, what are the best cold smoke generators? The best cold smoke generators are easy to use and maintain, are compatible with cold smokers, and allow you to smoke foods while operating at temperatures less than 85°F so that the foods aren’t heated and cooked.
Read on for a detailed buyer’s guide on how to choose the best cold smoke generators and our top picks of the 7 best ones!
What Is Cold Smoking?
Cold smoking is a process that can be used in combination with curing to both preserve foods and add a unique flavor to them. The smoke makes the food dry, prevents it from going bad for a long time, and gives it a nice, smoky flavor.
You may use traditional smoking methods, aka hot smoking, to impart the desired smoky flavor to your food, but for foods that may be prone to spoiling if heated too much, you’ll need to cold smoke them.
Cold smoking has been used since the early days before the concept of refrigeration came into being and is a great way to preserve foods and make them more delicious.
It can be done on different scales, from small enclosures to big commercial setups where entire rooms are dedicated to cold smoking. Regardless of how big or small the setup is, the process of cold smoking remains the same.
To cold smoke meat, you need to first cure the meat to prevent bacterial growth and remove moisture. Next, the meat is exposed to smoke that adds in the flavor and locks the cure.
The secret to cold smoking lies in smoking the meat without overheating it, and the food must be maintained below a specific temperature, usually 85°F, which is achieved by separating the curing chamber from the smoking chamber.
What Is A Cold Smoke Generator?
A cold smoke generator refers to an attachment that is filled with wood to produce smoke for cold smoking.
It is used in place of the firebox with a charcoal or pellet grill and adds just the right touch of flavor to your food without any excess heat.
Cold smoked food is utterly delicious and has a flavor profile that you should definitely add to your culinary palate.
However, to achieve the perfect smoky flavor, you need to have the right tools at your disposal, and that refers to cold smoke generators that supply ample amounts of high-quality smoke without producing much heat.
With hundreds of options available in the market, it can be a little difficult to find the best one for your needs. There are a few key features you need to look for that include:
Type Of Smoke Generator
Cold smoke generators come in two main types: passive cold smoke generators and active cold smoke generators.
Passive cold smoke generators are one of the oldest food preservation methods used by our ancestors and are nothing more than a few wood chips or pellets slowly burning inside an enclosed container.
They produce delicious, flavorful smoke without any excess heat and are compatible with pretty much any smoker, grill, or even box.
Active cold smoke generators are a more modern development in smoking technology and they use the same types of fuel as passive generators with a fan or air pump for proper smoke circulation.
They come with advanced temperature settings, controlled smoking speeds, and several other useful features, and are great for people who prefer setting things up and letting them run on their own.
Due to their complexity and wide range of features, active cold smoke generators are substantially more expensive than their older counterparts and often include a setup process that requires you to read a manual to get things going.
Type Of Fuel
There are different types of cold smoke generators and there is a wide range of fuel available for them.
Out of the lot, wood-based fuels, such as wood chips, chunks, and pellets, are the most common, with wood powder being the best option for quality smoking.
Wood powder, although expensive and difficult to find, is the best in terms of smoldering.
Wood chips and chunks, on the other hand, are inexpensive, easily available, and provide excellent smoke, although they burn at a higher temperature.
Like wood powder, wood pellets were once difficult to find, but with the growth in demand for pellet grills, they are now easily available and offer a great middle-ground in terms of the cost and availability of wood chips and chunks.
Smoking Run Time
Smoking run time refers to the maximum number of hours a cold smoke generator works and produces smoke in one go.
Most cold smoke generators have a smoking run time of about 2 hours, which is enough to cover an entire batch of food and is also the safe limit for cold smoking.
If you’re looking to prepare multiple batches in an assembly line or for huge parties or commercial purposes, you may need a cold smoke generator will longer run times, which you may be able to find in several models.
Ease Of Use
The most basic cold smoke generators are easy to use and can be set up by simply pouring some fuel into them and slowly smoldering it. Once the fuel starts to burn, all you have to do is occasionally check on it. It’s as simple as that!
With more advanced models and added features, the complexity, complications, and set-up time may increase.
Some active cold smoke generators may also require an electric hookup to power up and permanent mounting atop a smoker or grill.
The upside to using the more advanced models is that, once they have been set up, they are a lot easier to use and require minimal input from your end.
When choosing the right one for your needs, keep in mind how often you need to cold smoke your foods and where you plan on keeping the smoker.
Cold smoke generators are available in a variety of shapes and sizes, and before investing in one for your cold smoking needs, you need to check its compatibility with your existing cold smokers, grills, and other cooking vessels.
That being said, it is extremely important to evaluate your use and existing equipment and choose a cold smoke generator according to your needs.
Some models easily fit into your existing grills but need a hole drilled into them, so that is something you need to consider, especially if you are looking for a larger volume.
These are usually the more advanced active cold smokers with a long smoking run time, an electric power supply setup, and advanced controls.
For individuals who require smaller volumes, passive portable smoke generators that can fit into cooking trays are a good option.
The 7 Best Cold Smoke Generators
If you are a BBQ lover, which we believe everyone is, a cold smoke generator could be a great addition to your outdoor cooking and smoking repertoire.
It is an affordable tool that gives your meats and other food items a delicious, smoky flavor and enhances everything it comes into contact with.
From basic models that cost hardly $20 to more feature-rich ones that can cost up to $200, there are several great options out there for you to choose from. Here are our top picks of the 7 best cold smoke generators!
|Smoke Daddy Big Kahuna Cold Smoke Generator
|Great for both hot and cold smoking
|Smokehouse Smoke Chief Cold Smoke Generator
|Portable and electrically-powered
|A-Maze-N Pellet Tube Smoker
|Convenient and easy to use
|A-Maze-N Sawdust Maze Smoke Generator
|Shaped like a maze and smokes up to 8 hours
|Lanney Pellet Tube Smoker
|Hexagonal 12-inch-long passive cold smoke generator
|Cave Tools Pellet Tube Wood Smoker Box
|Larger than other passive cold smoke generators
|Masterbuilt Cold Smoke Generator
|Automatically heats up wood chips with the push of a button
1. Smoke Daddy Big Kahuna Cold Smoke Generator
The Smoke Daddy Big Kahuna cold smoke generator is great for both hot and cold smoking and enables you to smoke a wide variety of foods.
Made with heavy gauge precision machined aluminum for durability, it comes in different sizes and configurations and can be attached to your grills or pellet smokers to give your food the perfect smoky flavor.
A perfect choice for high volume cooking and best for smokehouses and large BBQs, it has a smoking run time of 3-4 hours and can be used with a standard-sized grill.
With an adjustable rate of airflow to the pump, it generates a lot of smoke and can be refilled without having to relight or open the smoker. It also comes with a stainless-steel cleaning brush for easy cleanup and maintenance.
If you’re someone who likes to cold smoke their meats, fish, cheese, and vegetables, this smoke generator from Smoke Daddy is an excellent option for you.
2. Smokehouse Smoke Chief Cold Smoke Generator
An electrically powered cold smoke generator that runs on 110AC or 12VDC power, the Smokehouse Smoke Chief cold smoke generator can be used with pellet grills, gas grills, charcoal grills, smokers, and several other outdoor cooking devices.
It is incredibly versatile and can be attached to any of these devices with ease. It can be used to smoke different types of foods including meats, eggs, cheeses, salts, and beans.
It works by filling up the tube with fuel, preferably wood-based fuels, and connecting it to a power source. It sits mostly next to the grill and uses less fuel to cold-smoke foods.
Its portability allows you to carry it and use it anywhere, provided you have the required power source, with a single cup of pellets giving you a smoking run time of around 3-4 hours.
3. A-Maze-N Pellet Tube Smoker
An incredibly simple and easy-to-use passive cold smoke generator, this pellet tube smoker by A-Maze-N has no heating elements, fans, or blowers.
All you have to do is fill it up with pellets, place it in your smoker, and light it up.
While the wood pellets smolder away, the resulting smoke will waft through the holes of the tube smoker and flavor your food in the process.
Although it lacks the advanced features of modern and more complex cold smoke generators, its simplicity and functionality make up for it. You can use it to turn anything into a smoker without having to drill, mount, or plug it into something.
With up to 4 hours of smoking time from a single load, the tube has an oval cross-section that prevents it from rolling and is recommended for people who are just starting out with smoking.
4. A-Maze-N Sawdust Maze Smoke Generator
Similar to the Tube Smoker, this Sawdust Maze Smoke Generator by A-Maze-N is one of the simplest passive cold smoke generators out there.
All you have to do is load the stainless-steel smoking tool, which looks a lot like a maze for pet rodents, with sawdust of your choice and ignite it from one corner.
For more smoke, you may light it from both ends as well.
Since the wood is in such fine pieces, it will gradually smolder away for hours, up to 8 hours in certain cases, until all the sawdust is gone.
Its clever and effective design allows it to burn for a prolonged time and generate a good amount of smoke for your favorite foods.
5. Lanney Pellet Tube Smoker
A 12-inch-long passive cold smoke generator, this pellet tube smoker by Lanney is made using high-quality 304 stainless steel that is both anti-rust and heat-resistant.
It is hexagonal and works in the same way as any other tubular cold smoker.
Once filled up with pellets, or other types of wood-based fuels, and lit up with a blowtorch or lighter, it will smolder for hours at a time.
It comes with a few handy extras, such as a set of hooks that allow you to suspend it from various parts of your grill or smoker, and a cleaning brush.
It also comes with a silicone sauce brush to make it easier for you to prepare your foods and clean the smoker once you are done.
A great and inexpensive option for beginners as well as experienced individuals, the Lanney pellet tube smoker allows you to cold smoke meats, fish, eggs, cheese, and several other things to perfection.
6. Cave Tools Pellet Tube Wood Smoker Box
This pellet tube wood smoker box by Cave Tools is a passive cold smoke generator that is shaped like a long square tube.
It is capable of both hot and cold smoking and is made using durable and corrosion-resistant stainless steel.
In addition to that, its size stands out from other passive cold smoke generators since it is a lot larger and has enough fuel capacity for more than 8 hours of burn time.
It runs on wood pellets and produces a large amount of smoke, making it incredibly useful for larger smokers and bigger batches.
Cleaning it is as easy as using it, where you can practically just hose it out to clean and let it dry. Refilling it and maintaining it is also super easy, making it a great option for beginners as well as professionals.
An inexpensive cold smoke generator that offers simplicity and great ease of use, this works wonderfully for those looking to cold smoke multiple batches on a smoker or grill.
7. Masterbuilt Cold Smoke Generator
One of the most popular external cold smoke generators in the market, this one by Masterbuilt adds a great smoky taste to all your favorite foods including cheese, fish, bacon, and jerky.
Used for both hot and cold smoking, it can be connected to a digital smoker and starts smoking with a simple press of a button.
Incredibly user-friendly, it is one of the best options for beginners since it automatically regulates the temperature to burn the wood chips and offers a “set and forget” feature.
For smokers that do not have a holder for the generator, it can be mounted with a drill where, once fitted, the smoke will seamlessly pass from the cold smoke generator into the smoker or grill to flavor your favorite foods.
The heat generated inside will not affect the temperature of the smoker or grill, which is a great feature to look for in cold smoke generators.
Compatible with all types of wood chips, it can smoke for up to 6 hours and is completely self-regulated. It also features a tray at the bottom that collects the ash from the wood chips, making it very easy to clean once the kit cools down.
Cold Smoking Safety Tips
Cold smoking is an age-old method for preserving foods, and while it is incredibly easy to do, there are a few safety considerations to take note of.
Temperature control is the most important to consider when cold-smoking meats and other raw foods.
The “food danger zone” refers to the temperature range between 40-140°F since it creates the perfect environment for bacteria to grow.
According to the USFDA, any food that has been sitting within this temperature range for more than 2 hours must be discarded immediately.
That being said, since temperatures for cold smoking lie within that zone, you must limit the time your food is left at those temperatures and follow a few basic precautions, especially when cold smoking raw meats:
- Avoid cold smoking when the outside ambient temperature is above 40°F as it becomes challenging to maintain the temperature of the smoker.
- Use extreme care when handling meat and cure it as soon as you buy it.
- Find a reputable and trustworthy butcher to supply your meat.
- Store your cured and cold smoked meat properly in a sealed container.
- Do not use random wood you find lying around as it may be sprayed with pesticide and be poisonous.
Now that you know all about buying the best cold smoke generators, along with our picks of the 7 best ones, here are a few additional questions we thought you might have!
What is the best wood for cold smoking?
Even though all types of wood can burn and produce smoke, some are superior to others when it comes to cold smoking.
Hardwoods, including cherry, apple, oak, hickory, beech, and alder, are some of the best types of wood for cold smoking and you can choose one depending on your preferred flavor.
You may also combine different types to get a unique flavor.
The key to note here is that since cold smoking aims at producing large amounts of smoke and less heat, you must smolder the wood instead of lighting it up.
What types of food can be cold smoked?
From meats to salmon, cheeses, butter, sauces, honey, and different types of vegetables, the sky is the limit when it comes to the types of food you can cold smoke.