This guide will show you everything you need to know about cold smoking, what to look for in a good cold smoker, and then 5 of the very best for you to consider as your next purchase.
You’d be forgiven for associating outdoor cooking with fire. From grilling to smoking, most forms of our favorite past time involve exposing meat to high temperatures to give us the smoky, charred taste that we all know and love so well.
But it’s not the only way to prepare food. If you’re looking for a new way to try outdoor cooking then you’ve come to the right place. Cold smoking could be your next adventure.
1. Smokehouse Smoke Chief Cold Smoke Generator
We’re in the age of convenience, and this generator offers exactly that. It’s electronically powered, and can be run from a plug socket or off batteries. This makes it great to use at home, or on the go.
It’s clearly designed to be as flexible as possible, and can be used in almost any smoker chamber or even your grill chamber.
It runs off wood pellets, and can run for about 3 hours off one cup. This is very efficient.
It has a heating element inside it that sets the pellets to smolder, and maintains a slow and even supply of smoke.
It’s a very easy piece of equipment to use, doing away with any need for a lighter or starters. It can get on the go quickly, and is reliable enough to leave running for several hours.
2. Smoke Daddy Big Kahuna
Big in name, and big in output, this generator from Smoke Daddy is able to put out impressive amounts of smoke with little effort.
It can be used for cold and hot smoking alike, which is what makes it such a powerful little fire box.
It has adjustable airflow settings, so it’s important you know what you want from your smoke, but if you’re a seasoned pro then you’ll love the learning curve there is with this box.
It doesn’t have the same ease of portability as other smoke generators, and you will need to fix it to your smoker.
3. Amaze-N Pellet Tube Smoker
This is a much simpler model in comparison to some of the others on this list. It’s not electronic, so doesn’t need to be plugged in anywhere, and doesn’t feature any fans or hi-tech flow systems.
Instead, you just need to fill its small chamber with wood pellets and light it. Your smoke will then pass through its air holes and slow add smoke to your food.
Some people might worry about just how stripped back this might be in comparison to other models, however this does make it really easy to use, portable, and doesn’t require you to start drilling holes in your existing smokers chambers.
Its small size does mean that it can probably only really cold smoke relatively small amount of food, and it may burn quicker before it needs refilling (about 4 hours). However I do believe that in most instances it’ll be enough for users.
4. Amaze-N Sawdust Maze
This is another much simpler model, although its maze-like appearance is definitely intriguing to say the least!
However this is more than just a gimmick. Its more elaborate design actually means that it’ll burn for longer, and will create an even flow of smoke.
It has enough capacity to fit a lot of wood dust, and has an average smoke time of about 8 hours. This is seriously impressive given its analog design in comparison to its digital counterparts.
5. Nak Cold Smoke Generator
Rounding off my list is this brilliant budget pick from Nak.
Presented with another maze-like design, you light it at one end and allow the chips to slowly burn through to the center.
Despite its more modest price, it can burn for up to an impressive 7 hours, and is compatible with almost any design of smoker.
It doesn’t have its own built-in fan, so you will have to ensure that air flow in your smoker is good. You will also need to make sure that the wood chips are perfectly dry, as it doesn’t have its own electric system to ensure the wood is burning at all times.
What is cold smoking?
Cold smoking is a traditional means of preserving food to help preserve it. Widely used before the invention of the freezer or refrigerator, it helped prevent certain types of meat from spoiling too quickly. And in an era where we needed to stockpile food in order to survive, learning the technique was quite literally the difference between life and death.
The process involves low heat smoldering in close proximity to meat to help provide smoke. This smoke is what helps dry the food out, but the aim isn’t to transfer heat itself.
The meat is usually hung, often from hooks, so as to expose all surfaces of the meat to the smoke. The smoke then has several hours, or sometimes days, worth of time to permeate and penetrate the meat.
One of the reasons it works so well is because exposing it to cold smoke help dry meat out, which reduces the impact of bacteria in the flesh.
Not only this, but it also tastes fantastic. If you’ve ever smoked salmon or ham, then you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
Its long exposure to smoke allows the smokey flavors to get into almost all levels of the meat’s flesh, and lock in.
As time has gone on, people have evolved the skill by using different types of chambers and woods to help enhance the flavors even further.
Hot smoking vs cold smoking
I think there’s sometimes a lot of confusion here because the two approaches sound like they should in essence be almost the same, with just temperature being the key factor dividing the two.
This isn’t necessarily true though.
Hot smoking is a method of cooking, while cold smoking is a method of preserving.
In hot smoking, we see the coals and wood chips located much closer to the food, allowing the food to cook at about 225°F for a few hours.
In contrast, cold smoking is not just far lower in average temperature (often around 80-90°F), it also locates the source of the smoke much further away from the meat.
Best woods for cold smoking
While all wood can create smoke, not all wood is suitable for meat smoking.
If you get your wood choice wrong you can overpower the flavor of your meat, and even make it inedible.
Hardwoods are the perfect choice for meat smoking, and are available in a variety of types and flavors. For example, applewood, cherry, and mesquite.
All of these can be used for cold smoking, but what should help you decide is what meat you’re cooking. Different types of wood match differently with different meats, so first decide what you’re cold smoking before deciding on your wood.
For example, pork matches much better with fruity sweet woods like apple, while beef goes better with more intense, earthy woods like mesquite and hickory.
Another key consideration is to use wood that is better running as embers or a smolder. This usually means that we want wood pellets rather than big logs or chips, which tend to burn much hotter and shorter.