For BBQ enthusiasts and pitmasters alike, cold smoking holds a special mystique. Instead of roasting and searing delicious meats, you rely on the natural properties of cold smoke to provide enhanced flavor to all kinds of tasty treats.
Cold smoking isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve always wanted to try your hand at making smoked cheeses or some incredible cold smoked salmon, it can be worth it.
Today we’re reviewing the best cold smoke generators on the market to help you find the one that fits your needs best.
- 1 Best Cold Smoke Generators
- 2 What is Cold Smoking
- 3 Cold vs Hot Smoking: What’s the Difference?
- 4 What Can You Cold Smoke?
- 5 Cold Smoking Safety Tips
- 6 Buyer’s Guide to Buying the Best Cold Smoke Generator
- 7 Final Thoughts
Best Cold Smoke Generators
Different pitmasters and bbq enthusiasts have different needs for cold smoking. There are many different choices available, including ones designed for small scale use by casual cooks and those that provide a lot more smoke, over a much longer period of time, for folks doing a lot of bbq.
Our list encompasses both sides of the market, with excellent products at entry level prices mixed in with top of the line models of some of the best cold smoke generators money can buy.
Smoke Daddy Cold Smoke Generator
The Smoke Daddy is exceptionally well named, as it really is the mac daddy of cold smoke generators. They offer a line of different sizes and configurations to fit a range of different grills and smoker, all with the same level of excellent build quality and performance.
The largest one, the Smoke Daddy Magnum P.I.G., gives you two to two and a half hours of run time on a single fill of the reservoir. Even better, they’re designed to run on inexpensive and widely available wood chips.
If you’re the kind of pitmaster who likes to harvest your own wood, that’s the kind of compatibility you’re looking for. Other cool features about the Smoke Daddy is its ability to run as both a hot or cold smoke generator.
It’s also compatible with any grill, smoker, or other containers it can be mounted vertically. There are some definite tradeoffs.
To start with, even the smallest unit, the Smoke Daddy 8-inch Cold Smoke Generator, still requires you to drill a hole into your grill and permanently attach it to it. It also requires an electrical outlet to plug the air pump into.
Once you’ve got it going, though, it’s one of the best ways to get consistent cold smoke for smoking anything you like. If you’re someone who frequently likes to cold and hot smoke meats, fish, cheese, or anything else, the Smoke Daddy line of cold smoke generators is an excellent option.
Smokehouse Products Smoke Chief Cold Smoke Generator
The Smokehouse Products Smoke Chief Cold Smoke Generator is an active smoke generator useful for guys who like to grill but want to try their hand at cold or hot smoking. It’s more compact than some other active cold smoke generators and is easier to use out of the box than some.
It relies on a combination of a smoke chamber and an adjustable air pump to force that smokey goodness into your grill, smoker, or another container. If you’re using a grill you will need to drill a hole in the side for it, but unlike a lot of active smoke generators, you don’t have to permanently mount it.
The design of Smoke Chief allows you to set it up next to your grill and put it away when done. Every part of the generator, from the combustion chamber to the air pump, is contained within a compact metal housing.
It runs on widely available bbq pellets for a hassle free fueling process—one thing we did notice was the buildup of creosote in the access tubing. We were able to run it for over an hour before we noticed any decline in smoke production, but some users have reported problems after just 10-15 minutes depending on what fuel type you’re using.
All in all, the Smokehouse Products Smoke Chief Cold Smoke Generator is a good but not perfect product. It works well for its intended purpose but does require a bit more monitoring than we would like.
A-MAZE-N Maze Pellet Cold Smoker
The A-MAZE-N Maze Pellet Cold Smoker is an innovative smoking product designed to produce lots of rich smoke without a lot of heat. It uses grill pellets for fuel and relies on the maze-like design of the stainless steel body.
All you have to do is fill it up with pellets, light up one end, and close up your grill. It’s actually that simple. The pellets will smolder around the turns of the grill to produce a surprising amount of smoke for up to 12 hours. Not bad at all considering how little it costs.
What’s even cooler is how versatile it is. Because it’s nothing but a metal grate pan you can place it in any cooking device you like. We’ve seen people put them on a cookie sheet in a cardboard box with some cheese and eggs next to them and get a pretty great cold smoke going.
If you want to be able to cold smoke anywhere, anytime, the A-MAZE-N Maze Pellet Cold Smoker is a great way to do it. It’s inexpensive, easy to use, and produces a tremendous amount of smoky flavor for your food.
A-MAZE-N Oval Expanding Pellet Tube Smoker
The A-MAZE-N Oval Expanding Pellet Tube Smoker takes is a more compact and travel-friendly passive cold smoke generator. Basically just two perforated metal tubes that nest into one another, it still provides slow and consistent production smoke at a very low temperature.
The build quality matches the company’s popular Maze cold smoke generator just in a more portable fashion. What’s really cool is that you can actually control the amount of smoke produced more precisely. While extended, the smoker measures 18” and can smolder for up to six hours. At 12” it runs for just four hours.
If you’re someone who loves taking your grilling and smoking out camping, this is a great way to do it. It’s lightweight, durable, easy to use, and incredibly affordable.
Cave Tools Pellet Tube Wood Smoker Box
The Cave Tools Pellet Tube Wood Smoker Box is a passive cold smoke generator capable of both cold and hot smoking. It’s shaped like a long square tube and has enough fuel capacity for 8+ hours of burn time.
It runs on wood pellets and is made from durable and corrosion-resistant stainless steel. One thing to keep in mind about this design is its size.
It’s a lot larger than most other passive cold smoke generators and produces a ton of smoke. That can be good if you’ve got a larger smoker, but for smaller purposes, it can waste fuel for no added benefits.
Cleaning it was simple, you could honestly just hose it out and dry it off if you like, as is refilling it and maintaining the proper smolder.
The Cave Tools Pellet Tube Wood Smoker Box is an inexpensive and workmanlike solution to cold smoking. It produces a ton of smoke and offers a long run time for those looking to do multiple batches of food or to hot smoke on a traditional grill.
Lanney Pellet Tube Smoker
The Lanney Pellet Tube Smoker is a 12” long passive cold smoke generator. It’s made of long-lasting 304 stainless steel and comes with some handy extras for the budding pitmaster.
The smoker itself is hexagonal in shape and works the same way other tubular cold smokers do. Once it’s filled up with wood pellets and hit with a blowtorch or butane lighter, it will smolder for hours at a time.
Those extras we mentioned? They’re actually really cool. Not only does it come with a set of hooks to suspend it from different parts of your grill, it also includes both a cleaning brush and a silicone sauce brush. They make it easy to take your bbq to the next level.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive and no-nonsense way to cold smoke meat, fish, eggs, or other delicious food items, the Lanney Pellet Tube Smoker gets the job done.
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What is Cold Smoking
Cold smoking is the process of flavoring different types of food with the delicious smoky taste of non-cooking temperature smoke. Instead of a grill or smoker at a cooking temp, you get cool smoke below 85℉ that provides a rich, smoky flavor without cooking it.
Cold vs Hot Smoking: What’s the Difference?
While it may not look it to the layman, any BBQ aficionado or professional chef can tell you that there’s a vast difference between cold smoke and hot smoke. Hot smoking is what most people think of when you mention smoking BBQ or meat.
You get a grill or dedicated smoker up to about 225-275℉ and slowly cook meats and other dishes. Cook is the keyword here. Hot smoking, while still considered low-temperature cooking, does actually cook any food you put into it.
Cold smoking does not. It provides anything, and we mean anything you put inside your smokebox with a delicious smoky flavor without cooking it. If you’ve ever had a good smoked gouda or smoked salmon on your bagels this was how it was made.
What Can You Cold Smoke?
Theoretically, you could cold smoke just about anything. The most popular are salmon, trout, cheese, butter, and vegetables, but so long as a food is solid enough to place into a smoker you can imbue it with a rich smoky flavor.
Our personal favorites are cold smoked kielbasa and delicious cold smoked salmon for lox.
Cold Smoking Safety Tips
Cold smoking has been used for millennia to help preserve food, but there are some definite safety considerations to take into account.
First and foremost, temperature control is critical. Most experts recommend that cold smoking only be carried out when ambient outside temperatures are at or below 40°F. Any higher than that and it becomes challenging to maintain the proper temperatures within your smoker.
You’re likely familiar with the ‘food danger zone’. If not, it’s the temperature range between 40°F and 140°F where bacteria and other pathogens reproduce rapidly. FDA and USDA food safety rules recommend disposing of any food that’s been in this temperature zone for more than two hours.
One problem for us is that the entirety of cold smoking lies within that zone. That being said, it is possible to cold smoke safely so long as you follow basic precautions and limit the time food is at those temperatures.
Buyer’s Guide to Buying the Best Cold Smoke Generator
Cold smoking is one of the best ways to add a delicious smoky flavor to a wide range of food. The best cold smoke generators are easy to use and maintain while not breaking the bank or significantly adding to the temperature of your food.
Cold smokers can be one of the most affordable bbq tools you can find. Basic models cost under $20 yet provide all the smokey goodness most home pitmasters need.
If you’re someone who wants to smoke up a lot of food you can get more powerful and higher-capacity top of the line models for around $200.
Type of Smoke Generator
There are two key types of cold smoke generators. These are active and passive.
Passive Cold Smoke Generators – Passive cold smoke generators are actually one of the oldest food preservation methods used by humans.
They’re nothing more than a small number of wood chips, pellets, or powder slowly smoldering inside an enclosed container. They produce flavorful smoke without a lot of heat and can be used in pretty much any grill, smoker, or even box.
Active Cold Smoke Generators – Active cold smoke generators are a much more recent development in smoking technology. They combine the same fuel types as passive generators with an active fan or air pump system to circulate smoke.
They’re great if you’re a ‘fix-it and forget it’ kind of cook who wants to set things up then let them run. Even better, some of the most advanced offer temperature gauges, controlled smoking speeds, and a whole host of other useful extras.
The big downside to active cold smoke generators is their cost and complexity. Most are substantially more expensive than passive models. Even worse for some, there’s often a setup process and the need to read a manual to get things running just right.
Different cold smoke generators require different types of fuel. The most common are wood chips/chunks, wood pellets, and wood powder.
Wood powder is arguably the best from a smoldering standpoint but is both harder to find and more expensive. Wood chips/chunks are widely available, inexpensive, and still provide excellent smoke, but often burn at a hotter temperature.
Wood pellets were once nearly as difficult to find as smoking wood powder, but the growth of pellet grills has made them much more ubiquitous. They’re a great middle-ground between the inexpensiveness and availability of wood chips/chunks and the performance of wood powder.
Smoking Run Time
Run time isn’t as important as you’d think for cold smoke generators. As we mentioned above, the maximum time you should cold smoke food is for two hours. So long as your cold smoker runs for two hours, you’re set to make a full batch of food.
If you’re looking to assembly line multiple batches, you may need longer run times from more advanced active cold smoke generators.
Ease of Attachment/Use
The most basic cold smoke generators are shockingly easy to use. You pretty much just pour some fuel into them and light them up. Once they’re smoldering your work is done other than occasionally checking in.
As you get into more advanced generators the complications and set up time start to mount. Some active smoke generators require permanent mounting onto a grill or smoker and need an electric hookup to boot.
The upside is that these are often a lot easier to use after the initial setup. Keep in mind both where and how often you plan to cold smoke. It may be better to have a slightly more involved startup every time with a passive or portable active smoke generator than installing/attaching one then running more smoothly.
Cold smoke generators are a great way to expand your ability to BBQ different foods without hitting your pocketbook.
If you’re just starting out, a passive generator lets you try your hand while master chefs will love the high-capacity of an active smoke generator.
Figure out how much you plan to smoke and what you want to smoke it in, and it’s easy to find the best cold smoke generator for your needs.