Last updated: August 11, 2021

Welcome to our big cold smoke generator test 2021. Here we present all the cold smoke generators we have tested in detail. We have compiled detailed background information and added a summary of customer reviews on the web. We would like to make your purchase decision easier and help you find the best cold smoke generator for you. You will also find answers to frequently asked questions in our guide. If available, we also offer interesting test videos. Furthermore, you will also find some important information on this page that you should definitely pay attention to if you want to buy a cold smoke generator




The most important information in a nutshell

  • Cold smoke generators are mainly intended for preserving food such as meat or cheese at low temperature.
  • As a barbecue accessory, a cold smoke generator adds a smoky flavour to meat and vegetables.
  • Cold smoke generators are time-consuming tools for smoking, but they give food an irresistible, smoky flavour.

Cold Smoke Generator: Our Picks

Advisor: Questions you should deal with before you buy a cold smoke generator

What is a cold smoke generator?

The cold smoke generator is a tool for preserving food via cold smoke. It is also known for enhancing the flavour of grilled food. Food treated in this way can still be enjoyed weeks later. Due to the low temperatures, this process can last a few hours, but also days and weeks. This depends on factors such as the thickness or the type of food to be smoked.

Long preparation, but all the longer enjoyment: smoked fish is just a taste of what cold smoking has to offer. (Image source: pixabay.com / wasi1370)

Of course, this is only one way to cold smoke different types of meat, fish and cheese. In addition to the cold smoke generator, economy smokers in grid design as well as simple smoking boxes are popular. These types of device may require their own accessories. In addition, they are usually more suitable for a certain type of smoking wood than for others.

How does a cold smoke generator work?

The first step to the answer lies in how cold smoking works in general.

The ideal range for the smoking temperature is between 15 and 25°C, depending on the time of year.

The generator itself usually consists of a metal cylinder into which the fuel is filled. This is ignited manually via special holes on the bottom and side. The device is connected to various types of grills and smokers via a side smoke outlet using a silicone hose. With one wood filling, a very good cold smoke generator can be operated for 8 to 14 hours. In contrast to the smoke box or the economy fire, this device requires a membrane air pump for operation. Under certain circumstances, the cold smoke generator is suitable for hot and warm smoking.

What wood do I need for the cold smoke generator?

The most popular fuels for smoking are smoking chips, smoking shavings and finally smoking flour. The former achieve the best results in terms of smoke aroma when used in conjunction with the cold smoke generator. The chips are mainly used in the barbecue sector, usually on charcoal and gas grills. The type of wood is still decisive for a certain smoke flavour that suits the grilled food.

One of the few moments when the word "liquorice shavings" sends everyone into joyful anticipation. Because the choice of classic to exotic smoke flavours is huge. (Image source: unsplash.com / Paul Green)

The spectrum of flavours on offer is rich. They range from mildly sweet to fruity to the savoury American "bacon smoke". Here we have prepared a small selection of which wood goes best with which type of meat.

  • Cherry: Fruity-sweet smoke aroma, suitable for all types of meat.
  • Beech: Common smoking wood, smoke flavour not too intense, suitable for all types of meat and fish.
  • Hickory: Typical wood for American barbecue. Sharp and smoky taste, suitable for all types of meat.
  • Lilac: Fine, "flowery" flavour, used especially for seafood and lamb.
  • Alder: Smoky flavour not obtrusive, slightly sweet. Good choice for fish, poultry and light meat in general.

Smoking chips and flour, on the other hand, are hardly suitable for the appliance because of their finer structures. The permeability for oxygen is too low for a sufficiently efficient heat and smoke formation with both types of wood

What does a cold smoke generator cost?

Of all the product types presented here, the classic cold smoke generator with a metal tube is the most expensive. Economy fires and especially smoke boxes are much cheaper. Of course, the prices vary depending on the brand and supplier. Top cold smoke generators such as the "BIG-Old-SMO" from Smo-King can reach prices of up to 199 euros. The "Mustang" model from Grillpaul, on the other hand, starts at a recommended retail price of 99 euros. These two models thus represent the average price range of devices between 100-200 euros.

What alternatives are there to the cold smoke generator?

There are three particularly popular alternatives to the cold smoke generator placed outside a grill, smoker or smoker. Each of them requires a different level of skill to operate. They also have different price levels and some have individual accessories. In this overview you can see all this at a glance:

  • Economy brandy: The economy brandy is the classic counterpart to the pump-roast. Depending on the type of grill, you place it under the grill or on the charcoal grate. Smoking powder is usually smouldered in the meshes made of grid wire, which are usually made of stainless steel. Economy fires reach prices between 15 and 40 euros, depending on brand, size and design.
  • Smoker box: This inexpensive smoking utensil impresses with its simple design and flexibility. The lids of the aluminium or stainless steel boxes have slots for the smoke. The box achieves the best results with a filling of smoking chips. Depending on the external conditions, one filling is sufficient for only 20 to 60 minutes of smoke. Smoker boxes are available for 10 to 30 euros, depending on the model and brand.

https://www.grilltiger.de/raeucherbox-test/

  • Aluminium tray: The aluminium tray is the cheapest tool for smoking, whether bought or homemade. Self-made bags for smoking chips (with wooden filling) cost about one euro.

The commercially available aluminium foil bag is already filled with smoking chips and immediately ready for the grill or oven. The variety of smoking wood types on offer is the only clear advantage over the handmade version. If you are technically inclined, there is also the alternative of building your own.

Decision: What types of cold smoke generators are there and which is the right one for you?

What distinguishes a cold smoke generator and what are the advantages and disadvantages?

Cylindrical cold smoke generators are usually driven by a 230 volt diaphragm pump. These are infinitely adjustable depending on the power requirement. This means that the degree of smoke development from the filled-in smoking chips can always be controlled. And thanks to the pump power, these devices ultimately produce the most smoke.

Advantages
  • Best temperature regulation
  • Smoke control via membrane pump
  • Stronger smoke formation than with economy firing
  • Up to 14 hours smoke duration/filling
Disadvantages
  • Only smoking chips useful
  • Comparatively expensive
  • Rather for large grills

Cold smoke generators are also famous for their incomparably good temperature regulation. This is reliably maintained at the optimum level throughout the entire smoking process. In particular, larger gas barbecues with a lockable lid can be turned into smokers with the help of this device. Kugelgrills, on the other hand, need less smoke, for example. These possibilities for more flexible and effective smoking in large quantities come at a comparatively high cost.

What distinguishes a cold smoke generator with a smoke pipe and what are the advantages and disadvantages?

A bottom-mounted smoke tube has the apparent advantage of more intensive smoke development immediately after starting a membrane pump. The smoke takes a direct route out there without rising up through the smoking wood.

Advantages
  • True cold smoke
  • Hardly any soot pollution
Disadvantages
  • Longer start-up time
  • Little smoke output at the beginning

However, true cold smoke only arrives at high-altitude pipes. As it rises, the smoke cools and is not emitted directly above the embers. In the latter case, the optimal temperature for the process could never be reached. In addition, the flue pipe cannot become clogged with soot particles in this way. It takes a little longer for the maximum smoke output to be reached with the discharge ducts positioned high.

Purchase criteria: You can compare and evaluate cold smoke generators based on these factors

Dimensions

A large number of smoke generators in a wide variety of designs means that there is a great need to coordinate dimensions. First of all, you should be clear about which smoking device you want to buy accessories for. A vertical generator with a diaphragm pump will not fit under a grate. In order to be able to direct the smoke into the cooking chamber of a grill, the grill needs openings. This could be the opening for a rotating spit, for example. A separate stainless steel flex pipe can be used to distribute the smoke more evenly. The set-up is clearly demonstrated in the following video: For barbecues without such devices, such as a charcoal-based kettle barbecue, the smaller economy fires are recommended. But here, too, the dimensions of the potential purchase candidates must be compared with those of the smoking areas.

Capacity/burning time

The optimal use of the capacity of a cold smoke generator depends on the personal use of the device. The more smoking wood a generator can hold, the longer it can smoke. The time given for the smoking duration is based on completely filled combustion chambers. We want to give you some idea of how long a unit will work and with what volume. Here is a short list of approximate guide values:

  • 0.65 litres = approx. 1.5 hours smoking time
  • 1.25 litres = approx. 4 hours of smoking
  • 2.3 litres = approx. 8 hours of smoking
  • 4 litres = approx. 14 hours of smoking

Note that all containers should be cleaned after each use. Larger containers with more capacity also mean more maintenance work.

Consumption of smoking materials

Keep an eye on the remaining fuel during your smoking sessions! Units with diaphragm pumps allow you to adjust the output to your desired performance. This, of course, is the main factor in the wear and tear on your resources. The burning time is a guideline indicator of how long the smoking process can be left unattended. When buying, therefore, also look for information on this.

Temperature regulation

To keep the temperature at a constant optimum level during cold smoking, several factors need to be considered. These include:

  1. Outdoor temperature: In summer, it is particularly difficult to keep the temperature below the critical point of 27°C. If you don't want to miss out on smoky preservation during this time, you should do it at night.
  2. The possibility of refilling smoking wood during the process.
  3. Regulating the supply air: Too much supply air fans the smouldering embers increases the risk of too high temperatures

Facts worth knowing about the topic of cold smoke generators

How do I set up a cold smoke generator?

You can disassemble and assemble the generator version with a diaphragm pump. Many commercially available models have a simple plug-in system. Some parts can also be screwed together on the underside. The most important components are:

  • Tube body
  • Injector
  • Diaphragm pump

As the name suggests, the tube body is the central metal tube to be filled with the smoking wood. A diaphragm pump delivers air to the injector via its connecting hose.

An injector is usually a metal tube with a diameter of about three millimetres.

Since the air exits the injector tube at high speed under these circumstances, air from the combustion chamber is also sucked in there.

How do I ignite a cold smoke generator?

The embers in cold smoke generators are usually lit manually by hand. Depending on the design, different methods are available. The smoking wood is filled into the cylindrical tubular body of a pump generator. There is usually an opening with a flap on the underside.

Know your appliance: In grills, smoke accumulates under the bonnet and turns it into a smokehouse. (Image source: unsplash.com / Ruben Bagues)

There, the coarse smoking chips can be ignited, ideally using a stick lighter. This can take a few seconds. Alternatively, this is done via holes drilled in the side of the outer wall of the cylinder. With the economy fire, the watered fuel lies open under the barbecue or smoked food. Ideally, this should be fine smoking powder with a grain size of 0.5-1.0 mm. You can light the filling with a tealight at the open end of the slow-burner. Alternatively, a gas burner is also suitable.

The material should glow, not burn! It is advisable to monitor the formation of the embers for the first 10-15 minutes.

Depending on how much smoke is needed, the amount of flour plays a role. When the economy fire is full, the material should be heated at several, evenly distributed "ignition points". This reduces the smoking time considerably, but ensures a more intensive pass. Learning-by-doing is the order of the day!

How do I react to too much smoke in the cold smoke generator?

Before buying a smoker, you should ask yourself which one has the right dimensions for your project. For example, you don't need a smoke box of gigantic dimensions to treat normal barbecue sausages or small chunks of bacon.

Getting the right amount of smoke is a matter of practice. So don't give up and keep trying until you get the right amount of smoke. (Picture source: 123rf.com / 45089249)

To do this, you must learn to use your resources correctly. In economy fires, the smoke development seems very sparse for beginners. Here you should not forget that the smoke accumulates in the oven or grill. However, if you want to smoke particularly thick meat intensively, a full economy firing is recommended.

How do I react to too much condensate in the cold smoke generator?

Smoked meat that comes into direct contact with condensate takes on a bitter taste. We present the best measures to counteract this at this point:

  1. Check the temperature in the smoker/grill. Remember: 15 to 25°C is optimal.
  2. Make sure there is a large enough exhaust opening in the oven/grill.
  3. Organise a porous concrete block to let the moisture be absorbed by it. Let it dry again afterwards.
  4. For generators with diaphragm pumps, drill a hole in the larger connecting hose. Make sure that the hose forms a loop. This allows the liquid to collect at the hole and escape.
  5. For economy fires/membrane generators: Open the opening for supply air completely. The exhaust air just enough so that the smoke does not build up.

If you would like to have these tips explained in more detail, we have prepared an information video for you:

How do I smoke ham with a cold smoke generator?

When making smoked ham, the cold smoking method is the most common. Because of the low temperatures, the ham will remain raw. It "only" takes on a smoky flavour. We have already learned that a variety of wood types provides for a corresponding range of smoking flavours. It is therefore only legitimate to ask which wood is best suited for which ham. We have prepared an overview table for you:

Wood type Which ham?
Spruce/fir Black Forest ham
Alder Tyrolean ham
Beech Mild smoked ham
Fruitwoods Mild smoked ham with a fruity note

Now that the method and wood have been chosen, you should finally visualise the step-by-step procedure for smoking ham. This is how it works:

  1. Curing: Make a marinade and put the meat in it.
  2. Smoking: Now place the meat in the smokehouse/grill. Depending on the type of ham and its texture, the number of hours of smoking may vary.
  3. Be patient: The process will take several days.

As an example, we would like to show you how to make your own salmon hams with a video:

How do I smoke trout with a cold smoke generator?

Smoking trout is similarly time-consuming to smoking ham. Here, too, the smoking temperature should never exceed 25 degrees Celsius. This is why it is only recommended for autumn and winter. Fillets are best suited here. Of course, we will guide you through the steps to smoked trout in this example:

  1. Drying by dabbing the fillets
  2. Treating the salmon trout with spices: salt, brown sugar, oregano, ground pepper (on the meat side)
  3. One day later: rinse off the sugar-salt mixture, dry with kitchen paper.
  4. Air dry the fillets
  5. Cold smoke (again for about 1 day, with several hours of airing)

Image source: 123rf.com / 27155361

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