This is our review of the best cold smokers for 2023 to help you select the ideal option for you.
For many people, grilling is an activity that brings a lot of joy and satisfaction. There’s nothing quite like the smell of smoke and the sizzle of meat on a hot grill. However, grilling is not the only way to cook food outdoors. Many people enjoy using cold smoking to preserve and enhance the flavor of meat, fish, and other foods. In this article, we’ll explore cold smoking, what it is, how it’s done, and the top cold smokers.
What is Cold Smoking?
Cold smoking is a method where food is smoked at low temperatures for a long time. The aim is to impart flavor and preserve the food without cooking it. When you burn wet wood chips, sawdust, or pellets, it creates a nice-smelling smoke.
Cold Smoking for Food Preservation
In the past, people used cold smoking to keep food fresh by stopping bacteria and germs. The process removes water from the food, making it less appealing to bacteria. The smoke also has compounds that fight against spoilage. This method was very popular in areas with cold weather, where there wasn’t much fresh food.
Cold Smoking as a Way to Add Flavor
Today, cold smoking is more commonly used as a way to add flavor to food. By smoking food at low temperatures, it takes on a rich, smoky flavor that can be quite addictive. Cold smoking can be used on a wide variety of foods, from meat and fish to cheese and vegetables.
What it Isn’t – Cold smoking is not a cooking process
It’s important to note that cold smoking is not a cooking process. The temperature range for cold smoking is usually between 68-86°F (20-30°C), which is not hot enough to cook food. It’s important to know that cold smoking doesn’t replace good food handling and storage.
What Is A Cold Smoker?
A cold smoker is a device that is designed to cold smoke food. There are two main types of cold smokers: smokers and generators.
Smokers are machines that have a chamber for smoking food and make smoke in different ways. Traditional smokers can include offset smokers, vertical smokers, or drum smokers. In contrast, modern smokers can include electric or gas smokers. These devices are made to work at cool temperatures, around 68-86°F (20-30°C), so the food doesn’t cook but gets a smoky taste.
In practical terms, you can cold smoke in any smoker that can stay at low temperatures. Traditional smokers, like those used for hot smoking, can be used for cold smoking as well. But some of these modern smokers are designed specifically for cold smoking.
Smoke generators are separate devices. They create smoke and can be added to containers or smoking chambers. You can use different devices that produce smoke, like smoke guns or pellet smokers. These devices work with sawdust or wood chips.
You can use smokers and smoke generators in many places, like kitchens and barbecues. To choose the best cold smoker, consider your preferences, cooking needs, and budget.
Our Top Picks for Cold Smokers
- Masterbuilt Digital with Slow Smoke
- Bradley Digital 4-Rack + Cold Smoke Generator
- Landmann Smoky Mountain
6 Best Cold Smokers Reviewed
Here are our reviews for the best cold smokers available in the market:
We first start with the best 3 Generators:
- Quality / Construction Build: Stainless Steel
- Fuel Type: Electric + Pellets
- Dimensions: 9.5 x 4 x 12.13 inches
The Smoke Chief for us is the best cold smoke generator available. It not only provides a great smoker, but it is also the easiest to use.
What makes the Smoke Chief Cold Smoke Generator a good generator?
If you are in a hurry to get smoke quickly, the Smoke Chief generator will get you there the quickest. It almost comes out of the box ready to plug, add pellets, and smoke. It connects to any grill whether it may be gas, charcoal, electric, or even a smoker that just needs a boost.
The size is also very convenient, so setup is easy. You just need to have the grill close. Just do note, that you may need to do some work in your grill in order to let the smoke in without letting too much escape.
The Smoke Chief Cold Smoke Generator and other smoke generators all have a common flaw. They don’t cook food on their own; they only add smoke to the cooking process. This means that you need a separate cooking apparatus like a grill or smoker to pair with the Smoke Chief.
Another downside to think about is that it has a thermal protection mode. This mode can sometimes interrupt the smoking process. In addition, it uses pellets to make smoke. These pellets can cost more than regular wood choices. Lastly, there isn’t a timer function, so it’s not as convenient for users who like hands-off cooking.
- Quality / Construction Build: Aluminum and Stainless Steel
- Fuel Type: Electric + Wood Chips / Chunks
- Dimensions: 11 x 3.5 x 12 inches
The Daddy Big Kahuna is our runner-up choice for the best cold smoke generator.
What makes the Smoke Daddy Big Kahuna a good generator?
The Smoke Daddy Big Kahuna is a standout cold smoke generator for several reasons. It can connect easily to gas, charcoal, or old smokers that don’t work anymore. This allows barbecue lovers to cold smoke using any type of grill. Even reviving old equipment and enhancing their cooking skills.
The Smoke Daddy Big Kahuna comes in different sizes for different smoking needs. Whether you’re hosting a small party or a big barbecue, you can pick the right size to fit your needs. The smoker can use wood chips or chunks for different smoke flavors and strengths. This lets them customize their cold smoking.
Although the Smoke Daddy Big Kahuna has many benefits, there are a few things to think about. This cold smoke generator doesn’t cook food. It adds smoked flavor to dishes. This means you’ll still need to have a separate cooking source to prepare your meals. While it enhances flavor, it doesn’t handle the cooking process.
Setting up the Smoke Daddy Big Kahuna can be trickier than other cold smoke generators. To fix it vertically, you may need to put in more effort and adjust it, which makes it less easy to use. Lastly, I want to mention that the Smoke Daddy Big Kahuna is pricier than most options.
- Quality / Construction Build: Stainless Steel
- Fuel Type: Pellets
- Dimensions: 12 x 2 x 2 inches
If you want extra smoke but your on a tight budget, then the Amaze-N Pellet Tube Smoke could the the choice for you.
What makes the Amaze-N Pellet Tube Smoker a good generator?
The Amaze-N Pellet Tube Smoker is an outstanding cold smoke generator for many reasons. One of the main reasons it’s popular is because it’s affordable for everyone, from beginners to experts at grilling. And even though it’s affordable, this product always gives your food a great smoky taste.
Another standout feature is its endurance. This clever device can produce smoke for 4 hours while cold smoking. So you don’t have to constantly watch it or refill it. This smoke machine is perfect for smoking food slowly, like meats and cheeses. Additionally, it can be used to add smoke to different grills, improving the grilling experience for everyone.
The Amaze-N Pellet Tube Smoker has a few downsides worth noting. It’s mainly made to add smoke to an electric smoker, using an outside heat source. Not all grill setups or people who want to smoke food cold will find this limitation ideal.
Additionally, this smoker produces less smoke than other smokers and generators. This could affect the intensity of smoky flavor in your dishes. For some users, it can be difficult to light the pellets and keep them smoking while cooking. This can be frustrating for those looking for a hassle-free smoking experience.
Generators are good if you already have a grill or chamber to adapt for cold smoking. However, if you don’t have this, these are our top 3 recommendations for the best cold smokers:
- Quality / Construction Build: Stainless Steel
- Ease of Use: High
- Fuel Type: Electric + Wood Chips
- Size / Cooking Capacity: 711 square inches in 4 racks
- Dimensions: 19.88 x 20.47 x 33.26 inches
The Masterbuilt Digital with Slow Smoke is our choice for the best cold smoker.
What makes the Masterbuilt Digital with Slow Smoke a good smoker?
The Masterbuilt Digital with Slow Smoke is a great smoker that has many advantages. One great thing about it is its large cooking space, which is the biggest among the options we looked at. If you enjoy hosting parties or cooking large amounts of smoked food, this smoker is perfect for you. It’s great for social events.
Ease of use is another hallmark feature of this smoker. The digital panel has controls to power on/off, set cooking temperature, and timer. This simplifies smoking, even for beginners. The design allows adding wood chips without opening the door and losing heat. It’s game-changing. This feature makes cooking easier and keeps the temperature stable. So the food cooks better and tastes great.
Although the Masterbuilt Digital with Slow Smoke has many benefits, it’s important to think about its drawbacks. One negative point is that the internal temperature may experience fluctuations during use. This is due to the system´s mechanism for automatically setting temperatures.
The newer model’s construction is said to be slightly worse than the older one, with thinner metal. This change in construction might affect the smoker’s durability over time. In addition, some people think the chip tray is too small for cooking big pieces of meat for a long time. But you can solve this problem easily by buying a bigger cast iron smoker box. You can find these on Amazon. They have dimensions like 1.38 x 5.13 x 8.12, so you have plenty of space for long smoking sessions. This also makes the smoker more versatile.
- Quality / Construction Build: Stainless Steel, Carbon Steel, Steel
- Ease of Use: High (up to 9 hours without refueling)
- Fuel Type: Electric + Brisquettes
- Size / Cooking Capacity: 572 square inches in 4 racks
- Dimensions: 34 x 20 x 18 inches
The Bradley Digital 4-Rack + Cold Smoke Generator is our second choice for the top cold smoker.
What makes the Bradley Digital 4-Rack + Cold Smoke Generator a good smoker?
The Bradley Digital 4-Rack + Cold Smoke Generator is highly regarded for several compelling reasons. The big size is a big advantage. It can hold lots of meat or dishes at once. This is a great option for people who like to host parties or cook a lot of smoked food.
One of its standout features is its ability to infuse exceptional smoke flavor into meat. The Bradley Digital 4-Rack always makes great smoke. So your smoked dishes will taste amazing and cook perfectly. In addition, the design is easy to clean, which makes maintenance after cooking simpler. This feature improves the experience and is great for those who want convenience and quality.
The Bradley Digital 4-Rack + Cold Smoke Generator is convenient because it uses briquettes. You can smoke for up to 9 hours without refueling. However, this reliance on briquettes limits fuel flexibility compared to other smokers.
A big problem is that there isn’t a built-in thermostat, so it’s hard to control the cooking temperature. This manual temperature control can be less precise. Some users have also noted suboptimal heat retention. This means temperatures change during long smoking sessions. This could mean you need to pay more attention and make more adjustments.
- Quality / Construction Build: Stainless Steel, Iron
- Ease of Use: High
- Fuel Type: Electric + Wood Chips
- Size / Cooking Capacity: 431 square inches in 3 racks
- Dimensions: 26.7 x 16.6 x 13.2 inches
The Landmann Smoky Mountain is our choice for the best budget cold smoker.
What makes the Landmann Smoky Mountain a good smoker?
The Landmann Smoky Mountain smoker has many innovative features that make it great. You can easily monitor the smoking process through the front window without opening the door. This helps maintain the temperature and smoke levels inside. By enhancing ease of use, you can effortlessly monitor your dishes as they develop a smoky flavor.
This smoker stands out because it gives great smoke flavor without needing more wood or water often. This means you can smoke for a long time without needing to constantly pay attention or make changes. Additionally, we believe that the Landmann Smoky Mountain is one of the top electric smokers in its price range. It’s a great choice for those who want professional-level smoking without a high cost.
Although the Landmann Smoky Mountain smoker is popular, it does have some drawbacks. One challenge users might face is keeping the temperature above 250°F constant. This can be difficult with this smoker. The smoker may have limited uses, especially for those who need higher cooking temperatures.
Another issue is the absence of a door gasket, which can lead to smoke escaping from the cooking chamber. However, this is a quick fix. Lastly, each time you open the door to add wood, a lot of heat is lost. Changes in temperature can affect how long it takes to cook something. So if you need to refill, do it quickly.
For a quick comparison of all the main characteristics, see the table below:
|Smoker||Type||Size / Cooking Capacity||Fuel Type|
|Smoke Chief Cold Smoke Generator||Generator||N/A||Electric + Pellets|
|Smoke Daddy Big Kahuna||Generator||N/A||Electric + Wood Chips / Chunks|
|Amaze-N Pellet Tube Smoker||Generator||N/A||Pellets|
|Masterbuilt Digital with Slow Smoke||Smoker||711 square inches in 4 racks||Electric + Wood Chips|
|Bradley Digital 4-Rack + Cold Smoke Generator||Smoker||572 square inches in 4 racks||Electric + Brisquettes|
|Landmann Smoky Mountain||Smoker||431 square inches in 3 racks||Electric + Wood Chips|
Cold smoking vs Hot smoking
Hot smoking and cold smoking are two ways to smoke food. They use different temperatures and techniques. In simple terms, hot smoking and cold smoking differ in temperature and purpose. Hot smoking cooks food with smoke, while cold smoking only gives food a smoky flavor. Cold smoking is typically used for foods that do not need cooking.
What is Hot Smoking?
Hot smoking is a cooking method that uses smoke and heat to cook food while also infusing it with smoky flavor. To use this method, smoke the food at temperatures between 165-225°F (74-107°C) until it’s safely cooked, usually around 145°F (63°C) for most meats. Hot smoking uses higher temperatures, fully cooking the food and making it tender. It also adds a smoky flavor.
There are different kinds of hot smokers: offset smokers, electric smokers, gas smokers, and pellet smokers. These smokers cook food at higher temperatures.
What is Cold Smoking?
Cold smoking is a way to add flavor to food using only smoke, not heat. In this method, the food is kept at temperatures lower than 85°F (30°C) for a few hours to a few days. It all depends on how smoky you want it to taste. Cold smoking is often used for foods that don’t need cooking, like cheese, cured meats, fish, and vegetables.
There are different kinds of cold smokers. Some examples are smokehouses, smoke generators, and other special devices. These devices make smoke without making heat.
What to consider when buying?
To buy the best cold smoker, there are several points to consider:
Buyers should consider the type of cold smoker that best fits their needs. Offset, vertical, and drum smokers are good for big smoking projects but can be hard to use. Electric and gas smokers are easier to use and control. However, they may not have the same smoky flavor as traditional smokers. Pellet smokers and smoke guns are versatile for smoking food but may need extra equipment.
Ease of Use
Buyers should consider how easy the cold smoker is to operate, clean, and maintain. Electric and gas smokers are usually easier to use. They usually have digital temperature controls and need less attention than traditional ones. Smoke generators can be easy to use but may require additional equipment to work with.
The quality of your grill will impact 2 key variables: Durability and Insulation.
The construction material will be the main variable to determine durability. For the smoker’s body, stainless steel is usually the best option. Look for the metal gauge to be graded 12 at most. Ideally, look for a smaller gauge (thicker metal). For the grates, look for stainless steel or porcelain-coated cast iron.
Why is good material important? Even good-quality steel will eventually rust. So a bad-quality build may do the job for a few years, but it may not last long. A thick, quality metal will last long before it starts to weaken by rust at some point.
The material and its thickness will determine your smoker´s insulation. Good insulation is needed to hold the heat, which is especially needed in low and slow techniques. This type of cooking is the strength of smokers.
The most common types of fuel for cold smoker are wood, charcoal, pellets, gas, or electric. Each fuel type has its advantages and disadvantages, such as ease of use, cost, and smoky flavor. The easiest cold smokers are electrical. Generators vary in the fuel, with some using pellets and others chips.
Size, Weight, and Portability
Electric and gas smokers are usually lighter and easier to carry than traditional smokers. Smoke generators are often small and portable. But they sometimes need extra equipment to use them.
You should consider the price of the cold smoker and whether it fits your budget. Traditional smokers are usually pricier than electric or gas smokers. Smoke generators’ prices vary based on features and quality.
All of the points discussed above will impact the price of your cold smoker. The higher the quality and the number of features, the higher the price will be. As with most purchases, you´ll need to balance the price versus the value and benefits that you´ll receive. To choose a cold smoker, think about your needs, budget, and preferences.
What are the Temperatures for Cold Smoking?
Cold smoking is a method of preserving food that involves smoking at low temperatures between 20°C and 30°C (68°F and 86°F). The goal is to add flavor to the food while not cooking it, which is why the temperature should remain low. The best temperature for cold smoking depends on the type of food and how long it’s smoked. Salmon can be smoked for 12 to 24 hours at 22°C to 24°C (72°F to 75°F). Cheese can be smoked for 4 to 6 hours at 18°C to 20°C (64°F to 68°F). The temperature should not go above 30°C (86°F). If it does, the food will cook instead of smoke. This would defeat the goal of the cold smoking process.
What Foods can you Cold Smoke?
Many types of food can be cold smoked, including meat, fish, cheese, nuts, and even vegetables. Cold smoked foods like salmon, bacon, ham, sausage, cheese, almonds, and paprika are very popular. Beef, pork, and poultry can also be cold smoked. However, it’s important to control temperature and time to prevent dryaing the cooked meat. You can also cold smoke vegetables like onions, garlic, and eggplants for a special taste. Different types of wood can affect the flavor of smoked food. Try experimenting to find the best match for your favorite dishes.
Is Cold Smoking Safe?
When done correctly, cold smoking can be safe. However, it is important to note that there are certain risks associated with the process. If you cold smoke food for a long time at low temperatures, bacteria can grow if you don’t follow safety measures. To prevent harmful bacteria, use safe wood and ventilate the smoking chamber properly. To avoid cross-contamination, handle the food carefully before and after smoking it.
It’s also worth noting that cold smoking is not a method of cooking and should not be relied upon to fully cook food. Meat and fish should be properly cured or cooked before cold smoking to ensure that they are safe to eat. To cold smoke food safely and make it tasty, follow the guidelines and best practices.
Here are 3 to 5 safety tips to keep in mind when cold smoking:
- Use food-grade wood: Only use wood that is labeled as safe for eating.Avoid using wood that has been chemically treated or is not intended for smoking.
- Maintain proper ventilation: Proper ventilation is crucial for safe cold smoking. To avoid harmful bacteria, ensure the smoking chamber has enough airflow.
- Cure or cook food properly: To make sure meat and fish are safe to eat, cure or cook them properly before cold smoking. This is especially important for meats like bacon, ham, and sausage.
- Practice good hygiene: Make sure to wash your hands, utensils, and surfaces before and after smoking. This can help prevent cross-contamination and the spread of harmful bacteria.
- Monitor the temperature: Keep a close eye on the temperature of the smoking chamber to make sure that it stays within the safe range for cold smoking. Temperatures should not exceed 30°C (86°F) to avoid cooking the food. Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature and adjust as necessary
Can you make your own cold smoker?
Yes, it is possible to make your own cold smoker at home using some basic materials. A cold smoker typically consists of a smoking chamber, a source of smoke, and a ventilation system. Here is a simple method to make a cold smoker at home:
- A large cardboard box or metal container
- A hot plate or small electric smoker
- Wood chips for smoking
- A metal baking sheet or pan
- A wire rack or grate
- A thermometer
- Aluminum foil
- Duct tape or heavy-duty tape
- Cut a hole near the bottom of the box or container to act as an air intake. Make sure the hole is large enough to allow adequate airflow.
- Cut another hole near the top of the box for the smoke to escape. This hole should be smaller than the intake hole to create a draft.
- Line the bottom of the box with aluminum foil and place a metal baking sheet or pan on top of the foil.
- Place the hot plate or small electric smoker on the metal baking sheet or pan.
- Add wood chips to the hot plate or smoker.
- Place a wire rack or grate above the hot plate or smoker to hold the food.
- Insert a thermometer into the box to monitor the temperature.
- Cover the box with a lid or aluminum foil and seal any gaps with duct tape or heavy-duty tape.
- Plug in the hot plate or smoker and allow the smoke to start.
- Place the food on the wire rack or grate and smoke for the recommended time.
This is only one homemade cold smoker example. There are many different methods and designs available. Before making a cold smoker at home, research and follow safe and effective cold smoking practices.
How can I adapt my grill or smoker for cold smoking?
Adapting a grill or smoker for cold smoking is possible, but it requires some modifications to maintain low temperatures for an extended period of time. Here are some ways to adapt your grill or smoker for cold smoking:
- Create a separate smoking chamber: If your grill or smoker has a separate firebox, you can use it to make a separate chamber for cold smoking. Simply load wood chips into the firebox and place the food in the main chamber, away from the heat source.
- Use a smoke generator: A smoke generator is a device that produces smoke without generating heat. To cold smoke, attach a smoke generator to your grill or smoker to make a separate smoking chamber.
- Use a mailbox mod: A mailbox mod is a popular DIY method for adapting a grill or smoker for cold smoking. You can attach a small mailbox to your grill or smoker. It becomes a separate smoking chamber. The mailbox can be filled with wood chips and connected to the main chamber using a small dryer vent hose.
- Install a temperature controller: To keep a consistent low temperature for cold smoking, use a temperature controller. You can install one on your grill or smoker to keep the temperature within the recommended ranges.
Each method has its own challenges and may need some trial and error to get right. To safely cold smoke, follow guidelines and closely monitor your grill or smoker’s temperature.
What are the best woods for cold smoking?
For cold smoking, use woods that make mild smoke and burn at low temperatures. Here are some of the best woods for cold smoking:
- Alder: Alder is a popular choice for cold smoking because it produces a mild, slightly sweet smoke flavor. It burns at a low temperature and is commonly used for smoking fish, poultry, and pork.
- Apple: Applewood is another mild wood that works well for cold smoking. It produces a sweet, fruity smoke flavor and is often used for smoking cheese, poultry, and pork.
- Cherry: Cherrywood produces a sweet and fruity smoke flavor that is slightly stronger than applewood. It works well for smoking beef, pork, and poultry.
- Hickory: Hickory is a stronger wood that can be overpowering if used for cold smoking for too long. However, if used sparingly, it can add a nice smoky flavor to beef and pork.
- Maple: Maplewood produces a mild, sweet smoke flavor that is similar to applewood. It works well for smoking pork, poultry, and cheese.
Each type of wood has a different flavor, so it pairs better with specific foods. Try different types of wood to find the one you like best for your taste. Additionally, it is crucial to only use wood that is safe for consumption and free from chemicals or contaminants.
Our Top Choice
A cold smoker is very useful for adding smoky flavors to foods without using heat. It’s great for cheeses and fish.
We conducted extensive research to evaluate the best cold smoker in the market. We believe the Masterbuilt Digital with Slow Smoke is the best cold smoker. It offers exceptional smoking abilities. The Smoke Chief Cold Smoke Generator is the best for cold smoking. It’s versatile and easy to use, adding smoky flavor to different dishes.
Now that you have the best propane smoker for you, check out the essential tools you´ll need.