A man tending to a smoker made from a modified wooden barrel, with hot smoke wafting through the air on a sunny day outdoors.

Smokai Cold & Hot Smoke Generator Video & Review

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Writer / Enthusiast / Meat Curer / Forager / Harvester | About Tom

For decades, immersed in studying, working, learning, and teaching in the craft of meat curing, now sharing his passion with you through eat cured meat online resource.

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Being a super keen guy on curing and smoking all kinds of stuff, I’ve spent hundreds, if not thousands of hours smoking over the years (not just meat, either).

As I’ve learned many of the ins and outs of cold smoking over 20 odd years, like everything, I’m still learning. But it’s kind of become second nature, too.

Smokai is a New Zealand company, I was surprised to hear that large portion of their sales came from the USA or Europe (same as guys who buy courses through my blog).

I’ve been using a similar product from UFO Smoke Generators. Many don’t know, but like the jet boat, Guys in New Zealand also invented this type of smoker generator!

I ended up having a few chats with Tony, the owner of Smokai, about the differences in smoke generators on the market.

Then when I received 2 of the generators, I could see some gleaming differences in design as well, which I shall elaborate on.

The idea behind this post was to review and compare to make the best recommendation for a cold smoker or a smoke generator.

Here is the short answer.

What is the Best Smoke Generator Available? Based on Ease of Starting, Control of Smoke, Clean Burning, and Solid Design. Smokai has produced the best product on the market today.

Some people turn up here just to get the straightforward answer, and there it is!

The other guys on the market,

The Smoke Daddy is a US product that doesn’t burn cleanly, it has a lot of build-up and just isn’t thought through in terms of the type of combustion you want (in my opinion for cold or hot smoking). I’ve heard very average reviews and have stayed away from this.

UFO Smokers are a copycat of the Smokai, like a complete copycat. Definitely a lighter and less robust product as well.

There are a couple of other copycats around Europe as well.

Smokai vs ufo large
UFO vs Smokai – same but different.

Apart from a pump DIY fix, the UFO has done the job before the Smokai took over (I really only recently found out about the sneakiness of these copycats!).

I spent much time unblocking the UFO smoke generator over the years.

I’ve used other methods and still do: a simple 1 piece of charcoal/wood in a pile (not very controllable but works) and a pellet tube or maze smoking. But after trying all the other techniques, the Smokai is now my ‘go-to’ smoke generator.

Tony from Smokai was so confident about the products he sent me the classic & magnum to try out and review in detail, so here it is!

I’ve put one on a friend’s wine barrel, the 3L Magnum, and I’ve used the 1L extensively on my 5-burner gas grill and kettle grill. (I want to mount it to a modular old beehive box or an old curing chamber fridge I have – but yet to source the honey box).

Cold smoking wine barrel large
The 3L Magnum is a beast! Probably for wine barrel or bigger size – smokehouse suitable for sure. My partner being a photographer, you can always tell Monika’s photos, because they’re way better than mine!
Smokai 1 l smoke generator small
1L good for most home smoker setups I would say. The 1/2 L is for a very small area.

As always, this review is an attempt at being unbiased and honest.

Review Breakdown of Smokai Smoke Generators

First, some specs, then the nitty-gritty.

Specifications of Different Smokai Sizes

Sizes and Smoking Time Capacity:
ModelSizeMax Burn Time
Bullet1/2 Litre4 hours
Classic1 Litre8 hours
Magnum3 Litre24 hours
Monster4 Litre32 hours

I have the 1L (8 hrs approx) – I’ve been using pellets and the wood chips from Smokai – both Hickory and Maple. My mate is using the 3L magnum on his wine barrel.

It’s burning a little faster than 4 hours for a half load with the 1L classic, but I don’t have the pump set on minimum smoke either. Of course, there is less airflow, less smoke, and slower burning.

More recently, I’ve been cold smoking dry-cured pork – I like to do a 2x 3-hour session. Half-filling the 1 L was sufficient in doing this easily, and it burns very clean! Unlike some other smoke generators on the market..

Of course, since it has a variable air control, if you crank it up – it will smash through the wood. It produces an abundance of smoke if you want it!

Smokai with wood pellets
Running on wood pellets, a little harder to get started, but once lit – it’s away smok’in!

I also used hickory wood pellets, a different type of burning (burns hot) – the same results.

From what Tony has said, when buying a Smokai, wherever you are in the world, you choose a power supply depending on your place – most Smokai are sold in the USA and Europe.

Ease of Starting

It was quite a surprise when I started up the Smokai; all I needed was a normal lighter.

Specifically, this was with wood chips, not wood pellets. Wood chips are recommended 2-10mm, I think 3-6 mm would be the easiest to start.

Every time I use the UFO smoker, I need a blow torch-style lighter; I can’t light it with a standard lighter.

My thoughts are that the pump turned up too high on the smokai has more push-through and, therefore, a stronger venturi effect. It also draws in from the bottom only – I’m not sure, but this might be another factor why it pumps plenty of smoke and burns clean.

Smokai lighting with lighter small 1 rotated

It gets hot too, with wood burning inside it, keep this in with the mounting. It has a built-in bracket, and you just drill four nut/bolt holes.

Funny side story – I was actually pumping out a considerable amount of smoke (transparent smoking smoke). It was a clear blue sky, and my neighbors called the fire brigade. The firemen were impressed with my smoker, though!

I went around after and told the neighbors I would bring them some ham!

Smokai inside wine barrel large

Control of Smoke

This is the key, I love the pellet tube smoker for its simplicity, but when it comes to controlling – how much smoke, the smoke generator certainly wins.

Smokai 1 large 1
The Dial On The Pump Controls Airflow Through The Smokai

The air compressor that creates the venturi effect (smoke is ‘pulled’ into the smoking chamber) does the job. And when you wind it up to full power, it’s a crazy amount of smoke! Too much for most backyarders, for sure.

Clean Burning Wood

This is something Tony talked about, it’s a cleaner burn which means less of the undesirable things in the smoke.

You get the ‘transparent’ thin blue smoke that’s talked about a lot in the food-smoking community, “see-through” smoke, in other words.

And to be honest, different woods can actually give off different colors of smoke, too! Like yellow!

Solid Design

As simple as a tube with a pump on it sounds, I’ve come to think there is much more going on here than I think.

304 Stainless steel for the Smokai makes it heavier and stronger. All parts fit together snugly.

Cleaning A Smoke Generator Factor

The UFO does not detach easily, the smokai does.

It’s got some locking mechanism with the horizontal pipe – I find this a smart design for easy cleaning.

Removable pipe useful for cleaning and locks in large
Easy to take out and clean, a big upgrade to the UFO, which is all fixed in place. I have to poke it vigorously – luckily, I’m a good poker.

The main cleaning is just tipping out all the ash once it’s completely cooled down. I just empty it into a vegetable garden or compost.

Any residue you want to wipe up, the more you regularly clean, the better it will work.

Wine barrel cold smoking

Check out the Smokai Options.

Why Get a Smoke Generator Compared to Other Cold Smokers?

Pros
  • Control of Smoke
  • Consistent Outcomes
  • Cleaning is Straightforward
  • Attaches to Various Smoking Chambers – i.e grill, wine barrel, wooden box (see below)
Cons
  • Down Sides – Need Power
  • It’s an investment (but I expect 10+ years out of a smoke generator)

Attaching to Smoking Areas

You could attach these units to:

  • Wine Barrel
  • Old Fridge (like a curing fridge that you don’t use or have nicked the coolant pipe, yes I have been there and learned)
  • Smoking Cabinet or Wooden Box
  • Smokehouse
  • Kettle or Barrel Smoker
  • Beehive Box (I’ve been looking for one like its modular aspects)
  • Pellet Grill Smoker (careful due to pressure that is balanced for the burn pot in some models)
  • Play House that’s not used.. (someone contacted me through this blog and said they were doing a conversion; I hope it’s untreated wood!)

On the Smokai website, there are these mounting ideas – check them out too.

In summary, if you want a consistent smoker that’s built solid – this is a smart bit of equipment.

Just remember to regularly clean, like any cold smoker, you get craesote build up.

Now, my ‘go to’ smoke option for cold smoking or some hot smoking indirect low and slow styles as well.

Order one here from Smokai directly from their site.

Salami35 1 of 1
various petite dry-cured salami
Writer / Enthusiast / Meat Curer / Forager / Harvester | About Tom

For decades, immersed in studying, working, learning, and teaching in the craft of meat curing, now sharing his passion with you through eat cured meat online resource.


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Comments

  1. I happened across the Smokai website when I was looking for a smoke generator to attach to an old refrigerator smoker my dad built, probably 40+ years ago. The product seemed solid, so I ordered the magnum from Smokai. I found your review after receiving and attaching the generator this week. Not that I was too concerned about the quality of the product, but I was glad I found your review to confirm what I suspected about the product. I’ll be giving it a test this upcoming week by cold smoking some salmon and for smoke generation while smoking some Polish style sausage.

    Thanks for the review!

    1. Author

      Awesome, yes it nice having something with control over smoke. I’m keen on those Polish, Hungarian and Czech/Slovak styles too!

    2. I am interested in smokai but can’t get answers fom the company no telephone contact and they take for ever to get back to emails. And their response is usualy automated.
      What do you think about the bella?

      1. Author

        Haven’t used it, looks similar. Love the smokai I use, compared to some others it seems to burn/ smoke really smooth. I’d still go Smokai. Cheers Tom

  2. I’m attaching a 3L Magnum Smokai to an electric oven that I replaced. The smoke tube isn’t long enough, so I need an extension. I’ve ordered a stainless 6” steel tube to fit over it, but it has yet to arrive. My concern is removing the tube for cleaning and reattaching it. It’s a tight fit and somewhat difficult reattaching through the hole in the Smokai even when not hooked up the smoker yet. Hopefully it will loosen up with use. Thought?

    1. Author

      I’ve reached out to Tony who owns Smokai (good guy) and will respond here about his thoughts. Cheers Tom

      Response: I would suggest longer mounting bolts from the inside of the oven to the outside and secure with wing nuts so the whole Smoke Generator can be quickly removed. Also, to empty ash, it can just be tipped upside down.

  3. Thank you! I ended up mounting a black gas pipe on the end of the tube to extend it. A simple twist of the tube easily removes the Smokai as designed. I love this smoke generator.

  4. I just ordered a 1L Smokeai! But they can’t ship wood chips to the US. What size chips are best? Can I use the chips, like the ones Weber sells everywhere or do I need something smaller, like little pellets?

    Thanks.

    1. Author

      I’ve used all sorts of thinks in smokai, but the recommended size works very well, as mentioned wood pellets are fine too.

  5. What chips, available in the US, will for the Smokeai? Most of the ones I have seem are quite a bit longer than the 10mm maximum that Smokeai recommends.

    Thanks

      1. You mentioned that you use pellets but it also sounds like they are more difficult to light. So, how do you light your pellets?

        1. Author

          sorry late response, had no power for a week. To be honest, pellets are fine. The previous smoke generator I used was hard to light, I’ve found as long as the smokai is relatively clean. It will light easy with a normal ciggy lighter! Cheers T

    1. You can get the small chips for the Smokai in the US at Smokinlicious.com. Get the Minuto #6. They burn great. Excellent customer service if you have questions.

  6. what have you found works best for cleaning the Smokai? Anyone used oven cleaner, like they recommended on the Smokai site?

    1. Author

      personally, I use a small gauge wire, and then just take it apart at make sure everything is clear. Not worried personally about it being spotless. Would use toxic cleaners either

  7. Cleaning discovery: using bear mountain pellets, ended up with some serious buildup after a lot of use, including creosote, resulting in air flow obstruction in the horizontal tube. Couldn’t scrape it off, so disassembled and put in the self cleaning oven. Totally did the trick.

    1. Author

      Yeah, i poke a bit of small gauge wire through the blow hole and make sure the pipe is clean, the rest I consider flavor!

  8. just received my Smokai Magnum and mounted on my RecTec pellet smoker for more smoke. I used it for first time yesterday and didn’t use heat from RecTec but only smoke from Smokai. It worked great and smoke billowed out.

    Today I’m hot smoking a brisket. The Smokai magnum is barely producing smoke. Most of the smoke is coming out of the lighter holes. What am I doing wrong??

    1. Author

      from my experience, you’ve done nothing wrong.
      lots of smoke isn’t a good thing, clean burning combustion is important i think.
      The heat effects the smoke, so you don’t see it, but trust me its happening!
      Cheers
      T
      I’ve had to much smoke and meat has come out bitter – !FYI!

  9. I have just purchased the Smokai and I would like to also use it for hot smoking in my Kamado. Before I install it I am concerned that introducing the smoke will increase my temp in the kamado and my temp will run away with me? Have you tried this?

    1. Author

      Haven’t no, but the smokai doesn’t generate heat since you are blowing in cold smoke vapor cheers T ps check out the smokai site for details

  10. Thanks for the great review and vid. I was trying to decide whether or not to purchase. I’ve tried smoking tubes; but, they don’t stay lit in the BGE while doing a low & slow cook. Your review and vid pulled me over the edge, placing my order today.

    Also plan to order the attachment for my Weber to use when doing a quick weeknight cook.

    Thanks again.

    1. Author

      Thanks, yeah can’t beat the consistent clean burn, just remember to clean it. Any of these cold smokers build up creasote/resin. Also, depends on the wood pellets you burn. Cheers Tom

  11. I have the UFO and have been using it for a few years now. Here’s what I have learned which applies to any brand:

    CLEANING: I did have a problem where the volume of smoke started to drop off noticeably over timedso I phones the UFO guys and they said to clean it with oven cleaner, which I did and the result was amazing. So now, when I’ve finished, I tip out the remaining embers then immediately spray with the oven cleaner while it is hot. In minutes it is spotless then I just hose it down well.

    PELLETS: I only use pellets these days, I buy a 9kg bag on trademe, separate it into 1kg bags the vacuum seal it. I big learning for me was to dry it before smoking. Wood absorbs a huge amonut of water which will adversely affect the smoking action. I microwave it in 30 second bursts, agitate then nuke. ( I also use the wife’s hair dryer, but only when she’s not home). I find that the results with pellets are more consistent when compared to wood chips.

    Manuka Wood Chips: I found that it is easy to “over-smoke” with manuka wood chips and this tends to leave a very bitter taste on whatever you are smoking. I have also had batches that seem to be quite old and the quality varies a lot on all types of wood chip.

    Thanks

    1. Author

      Cheers,
      Yeah I’ve compared both- and still say Smokai (since everyone just copied them, I like to support the original!), higher gauge steel, and burns cleaner.
      Cleaning, yep part of the process
      Pellets, nuking them – interesting idea. I haven’t needed to go to that extreme. Any wood hold some moisture (its noticeable when comparing to gas based hot smoking or indirect hot smoking or low and slow)
      Manuka – over smoking can also occur from lack of ventilation or the size of the smoker too!
      Cheers
      T

  12. I adapted the Smokai to my Pellet grill and have trouble keeping it generating smoke into the grill, especially when the lid is closed. I did crack the lid and that helped but seem to keep babysitting the thing to keep it producing good smoke… any advice on use with pellet grills. If you close the lid it will push smoke back through the tube. I have it on the strongest air setting. I have a Pit Boss…

    1. Author

      Here there! I reach out to Smokai, Tony replied in detail: “It depends……….. the high heat from burning the pellets create pressure within the lid, the level of which depends on the size of the vent, the fan speed and of course the temperature. If the Pellet Grills fan blows into the grill directly opposite the position of the Smoke generator, this can impact the flow of smoke. The best course of action with pellet grills is to run the smoke generator on high, moderate the grill temperature (if needed) and ensure good airflow (if the venting is insufficient, propping the lid open ever slightly can help considerably….. in effect mimicking the slots you see on the back of most BBQ’s).

      Sometimes the very high heat vaporises the water particles within the smoke (creating that blue smoke people talk about), therefore making the smoke exiting the smoke generator very hard to see. People often think that because they can’t see the smoke, it’s stopped smoking. If the wood volume in the hopper is going down, it’s smoking.

      I hope this helps.

      Cheers,

      Tony”

  13. I contacted Smokai folk before buying to ask if the smoke generator would work in cold temperatures, because I live in Canada and like to use the bbq all year. They said they don’t recommend using it in cold temperatures (like minus 30) but I bought it anyway. It works great in the summer, and is useable in winter, but has some problems. The combustion of the pellets creates water vapour, which rises up through the pellets and condenses on the lid. Over time, the pellets absorb this moisture, swell up, and block the tube. The. The smoke stops. Also, the air pump doesn’t like the cold and started to make a lot of noise and work poorly. I can’t say they didn’t warn me! However, I am going to try using chips instead of pellets to help with the moisture problem, and I ordered a battery powered pump that I can put in a box with some hand warmers. That should do the trick. When the Smokai is operating in its RECOMMENDED weather, it produces great smoke and flavour both hot and cold. I did a brisket at Christmastime and it was perfect with lots of smoke flavour.

    1. Author

      Interesting, it gets alot colder your way then New Zealand! Pretty mild, I have noticed condensation on wooden lid before, has effected performance yet though. I’ve used various woodchips successfully. Found that using coarse sieves can help get a more consistent size woodchip. All the best, Tom

  14. Hello! Anyone installed one on a Memphis pellet grill? I’d love to have this product but wondered if there is any history with the Memphis brand? Thanks

  15. Hi Tom, Thanks for the review, really appreciated the information.

    I have a 3 burner Weber gas grill. The burners run parallel to the sides. If I install a 1L Smokai on the side, what would be the best location? Would it be towards the back, centered or towards the front? Would the smoke tube be above or below the grill grate? And since I will be using indirect heat, should the burner I use be on the Smokai side or the opposite side of the grill? I was curious about this last question because I wonder if the smoke tube being to close to a hot burner would negatively impact the flow of smoke. Thanks in advance for your input. Al

      1. Hi Tom, Thanks for the info, I appreciate it.

        I read your review again and see that you have attached a Smokai to a 5 burner gas grill. Can you please tell me the location of the Smoke, i.e is it centered on the side and is the smoke tube above or below the cooking grate. And, is the Smokai on the hot side or the cooler side when using indirect heat. Just trying to get the best performance out of the 1L as possible. Thanks again.

        1. Author

          Hey, I was a bit brevado and drilled a hole on a lower shelf. So I remove the grease pan. Then I sometime place wooden rods over some of then venting holes on the hood! Smokai on indirect side with food. Heat on other side. Windy day and make it challenging! All the best, Tom

  16. Cheers mate. Just added the 1L Smokai to an old stainless steel electric smoker box and it seems to work great. Only issue is it gets a little too warm in the box (up above 85F/30C) so I’m wary of using it to smoke fish (which is what I really want to do). Any thoughts? Thanks.

    1. Author

      You mean cold smoke the fish? Do it at night, is what I do in warmer months. Or wait until winter. If the smokai is external it shouldnt heat it up. If you havent, keep it out of the sun too! All the best Tom. When I really wanted to smoke something on warmer days, I used a tray of ice in smoker to drop temps.

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