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Last updated: November 08, 2022
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Cold smoking is an incredibly simple way to add unique and exceptional flavors to your cooking. In contrast to hot smoking, cold smoking foods doesn’t cook them but still imparts just as much flavor and color. By operating at temperatures less than 85°F, the best cold smoke generator allows you smoke foods like sausages and cheeses that will spoil if heated too much. While you could improvise a cold smoking contraption, using a cold smoke generator will ensure that you get reliable results and don’t spoil your food in the process.
In order to help you find the best cold smoke generator, we considered a number of features. First, we looked at both electric and non-electric, mesh grid cold smokers, which can keep you more or less involved in the smoking process. We also looked at what types of fuel each cold smoke generator is compatible with, since wood dust, chips, and pellets all produce smoke with different flavor qualities. Finally, we considered how long each smoker is designed to operate for.
We spent tens of hours researching the best cold smoke generators and poring over customer reviews. The result is our list of the four best cold smoke generators, highlighted in the table below. Continue reading for detailed reviews of each cold smoker, complete with pros and cons. Our buying guide covers everything you need to know about choosing a cold smoke generator. Finally, we sum up our three overall favorite cold smoke generators on the market today.
More features: suitable for both cold and hot smoking; for a smoking area of 6 cu feet and larger; uses a 1-1/8-inch mounting hole
Smoke Daddy created this large electric smoker specifically for cooks who want extended smoking times and to smoke with larger containers. The fuel container holds up to six cups of wood chips and chunks, so it can operate for between two and four hours – perfect if you want to turn the smoker on before bedtime and retrieve your food in the morning.
The large fuel and smoke volume this cold smoke generator produces is also ideal if you have a large grill or smoker as your smoking container. However, keep in mind that the smoke generator uses a 1-1/8-inch mounting hole, so you may either need to drill a hole in your container or fashion a tubing system to deliver the smoke. Beyond that, users found that the cold smoke generator was incredibly simple to install and operate.
Another advantage to this smoke generator is that, since it is mounted outside of your container, it can be used as a makeshift hot smoker with a barbeque. Simply turn the grill on to low heat and turn the cold smoke generator on, and you’ll achieve the same heat and smoke effect of a standard hot smoker.
The only issue that users had with this smoker – and they noted it was a minor one – is that the smoke generator does not work with pellets or forced-air grills. Pellets don’t allow enough air flow within the fuel chamber, while forced-air grills can actually blow the smoke out of the container.
Why did it make our list?
Smokes for 2–4 hours
Can double as a hot smoker with a grill
Easy to operate
What is not ideal about it?
Requires drilling a hole into your grill or smoker
More features: suitable for both cold and hot smoking, for the larger BBQ and smoker up to the size of a refrigerator, uses a 1-1/8-inch mounting hole
The Big Kahuna from Smoke Daddy is essentially the smaller cousin of the vaunted Magnum P.I.G., our Editor’s Choice. This cold smoke generator features the exact same design and functionality, but is slightly less expensive and has just a three-cup fuel volume. Like the Magnum P.I.G., this smoker runs on any type of wood chips or chunks, but won’t accept pellets or sawdust – not an issue for the vast majority of users.
The smaller fuel volume means that the smoking time is limited from one hour to 90 minutes, so you’ll likely need to refresh the wood chips in this smoker even when smoking foods like cheeses that only take a few hours. If you prefer to load the smoker and walk away, the larger Magnum P.I.G. may be a better choice. However, an advantage to the small fuel volume of this smoker is that it’s ideal for quickly hot smoking meats as you cook them on the grill to add a little extra flavor.
The mounting system on this cold smoke generator is the same as for Smoke Daddy’s other electric smokers. It requires drilling a 1-1/8-inch hole into your grill or smoker, or else using tubing to feed the smoke into the container. Most users did not have any issue with this setup and found that the cold smoke generator worked with any non-forced-air grills.
What are our favorite features?
Great for quickly hot or cold smoking
Works with all wood chips and chunks
Easy to operate
What could be better?
Maximum 90-minute smoking time before refilling
Requires drilling a hole into your grill or smoker
More features: stainless steel construction, suitable for any BBQ grill or smoker
The LIHAO Pellet Smoker Tray is a well built stainless-steel corrosion-resistant smoker tray which offers great value for money. The tray is designed to save space with a round shape that allows you to place more sawdust in it to reduce the spending per session. The smoker tray is easy to use, simply fill it with your favorite wood pellets and place it in the BBQ. There is no requirement to make this process harder than it needs to be, this tray is convenient and very versatile. The full dimensions of this tray are 8.58 x 7.32 x 2.24 inches.
This smoker tray is suitable for grills and BBQ smokers alike and a 17cm cleaning brush is supplied with the product. This generator works for cold and hot smoking for your favorite fish, meats, and cheeses. We were surprised at the volume of great smelling smoke that this tray produces and it really is a flexible solution for a modest investment. The tray is well built, but it’s not indestructible and some basic care and maintenance are required. The full care instructions are included and with a little diligence, this smoker tray should provide years of service.
Why is it special?
This smoker tray is capable of hot and cold smoking.
This has a round space-saving design.
The tray can hold more sawdust for efficient smoking.
This is a simple smoker tray to use.
What are the flaws?
An owner’s manual that demonstrates the full potential would have been helpful.
Users that prefer wood pellets may encounter some challenges due to the coarseness.
This cold smoke generator from Smoke Chief is designed to be extremely efficient, producing up to three hours’ worth of smoke on just a single cup of wood pellets. Users also loved that the smoke generator can accept pellets, rather than chips or chunks, since it is often easier to find a wide variety of wood pellets for sale.
The smoke generator itself is small and is designed to mount into your grill or smoking cabinet with a 3/8-inch hole. While this means that many users won’t have to drill a new hole into their barbeque frame, users did find that the narrower pipe diameter meant that it could quickly become clogged with ash. This was a major issue for many users depending on the type of wood they used, although reports on clogging with this smoke generator were mixed. Since the smoker can mount to a grill, it can be used either as a cold smoker or for hot smoking.
One nice feature of this cold smoke generator is that it can be plugged into either a standard wall outlet or a 12-volt DC outlet, like that found in most cars. That means this cold smoker can easily be used on the go, such as for camping or tailgating, without a portable generator.
This non-electric cold smoke generator from Nak operates by creating a maze of wood chips and dust. All you have to do to start the cold smoker is light the of at the end of the maze, and then the smoke-producing smolder will slowly work its way to the wood at the center. All told, this is the best option for long overnight smoking because it can produce consistent smoke for as much as seven hours.
This smoker is also the simplest to use with any type of container, since you don’t need to drill a hole or permanently install it in any way. All you have to do is place the smoker in the bottom of your container – although this does require that you have a decent amount of airflow in your grill or smoker since there is no built-in fan as for electric cold smoke generators. Also make sure you have enough distance between the smoke generator and your food, since the flame itself will produce some heat and raise the temperature in your container.
Keep in mind that since this smoke generator relies on a self-sustaining flame rather than an electric heater, your wood chips need to be bone-dry for the smoke generator to function properly. This can be problematic for people who live in wet climates and requires more care when storing your wood chips and dust.
What do we love it for?
Smoking times up to seven hours
What were we disappointed with?
Requires very dry wood chips and dust
Requires some airflow in container
Things to Consider
Now that you’ve learned more about our four favorite cold smoke generators, how do you choose between them? And why would you opt for a cold smoke generator over a traditional hot smoker in the first place? In our buying guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about choosing the right cold smoke generator for you.
Cold vs hot smoking: What’s the difference?
The biggest difference between cold and hot smoking is that hot smoking cooks your food at the same time as it flavors it with smoke. If you’re smoking raw meats, that cooking process is good – it makes the meat safely edible. But on the other hand, if you’re trying to smoke foods like sausages and cheeses, even low heat can actually cause the food to spoil or melt it.
Cold smokers operate at temperatures below 85°F so that spoilage isn’t an issue. Since most foods that are cold smoked are eaten raw, such as cured fish or cured sausage, getting the temperature right is important. Most cold smokers, electric or non-electric, are designed so that the flame stays low and cool and is placed away from the food.
Essentially, cold smoke generators give you all the flavor and color of smoking, without any of the unwanted cooking.
Features to consider while choosing a cold smoke generator
While cold smoke generators all operate on the same principle of creating a lot of low-temperature smoke and very little heat, there are important differences to know about when choosing a cold smoke generator. Here, we’ll cover the features you need to consider and how they can affect your smoking.
Smoke generator type
Cold smoke generators are available in either electric or non-electric versions. Electric cold smokers use an electric heating element that gets just hot enough to cause the fuel inside the heating chamber to smoke. The advantage of electric cold smokers is that they require very little fuss, no matches, and can typically work with any type of container.
Non-electric cold smoke generators, like the mesh grid smoker from Nak, are designed to be lit with a match. These smokers operate by forcing the initial flame to advance it’s way through a maze of fuel, prolonging the smoke-creating burn for upwards of six hours. Non-electric cold smoke generators take a little more fuss than electric smokers, but they are still relatively simple to use and are very inexpensive.
Fuel you can use
Although wood is the common fuel for all electric and non-electric cold smoke generators, the cut of wood that different smokers accept vary. For example, the manual Nak cold smoke generator requires relatively fine bits of wood – small wood chips and wood dust. On the other hand, most electric cold smoke generators require larger wood chips, and the Smoke Chief unit actually uses even larger wood pellets.
All of these fuel types are easy to obtain, so this will likely not be a major factor in determining which cold smoke generator is best.
The smoking time is the amount of smoldering time that the cold smoke generator is designed to produce from a full load of fuel. Most electric cold smokers, like the Smoke Daddy smoker, produce only a few hours of smoke from a load of wood chips – which is enough to thoroughly smoke most types of cheeses and sausages. In addition, electric cold smoke generators are relatively straightforward to refill if you need to smoke for longer.
The smoking time of non-electric cold smokers depends on their design, but mesh grid smokers like the model from Nak can produce smoking times of more than seven hours.
The dimensions of your cold smoke generator can be important if you plan to place the smoker inside the cooking container with your food. This isn’t necessary for any of the electric cold smoke generators we reviewed, since they use mounting systems to funnel the smoke from the generator into your container. On the other hand, if you have a non-electric cold smoke generator that will sit inside the smoking container with your food, you will need to make sure that the dimensions of the smoker will fit inside your intended container.
You can use any type of wood, as long as it is cut up into pellets, chips, or dust according to the fuel requirements of your cold smoke generator. Keep in mind that different types of wood impart different flavor and color qualities on your food – for example, apple wood is a popular choice for cold smoking cheeses because of its somewhat sweet flavor.
Cold smoking is appropriate for any types of food that don’t need to be – or shouldn’t be – cooked before eating. Cheeses and cured foods, such as sausages and dried fish, are common food choices for cold smoking. In addition, it is possible to cold smoke vegetables to give them different flavors, or to cold smoke nuts, hard boiled eggs, or even olive oil.
If you are using a grill or smoker as your container for cold smoking, you may need to drill a hole depending on the type of cold smoke generator you opt for. The Smoke Daddy smokers use a 1-1/8-inch mounting hole to deliver smoke into the container, so you would need to drill a hole this size if you do not already have one. Alternatively, you could use tubing to deliver the smoke from the generator to the container without drilling a hole. Note that if you use a non-electric cold smoke generator like the model from Nak, the smoker is placed inside your container so you will not need to drill a hole.
Our three overall favorite cold smoke generators were the Smoke Daddy Magnum P.I.G. and Big Kahuna and the LIHAO. The LIHAO has a space saving design that is easy to use. It can be used with grills and smokers and is compatible with hot and cold smoking. With a little care and maintenance, you should be able to use the LIHAO for many years to come. The Smoke Daddy Magnum P.I.G. and Big Kahuna are both excellent cold smoke generators featuring a similar design. Both can be used for either cold or hot smoking, but need to be mounted to your grill or smoker by drilling a hole. We feel that the Magnum P.I.G. is the overall best cold smoke generator thanks to its larger fuel volume, which allows you to smoke for up to four hours on a single load of wood chips.