How a pellet tube smoker works is pretty simple, but there are quite a few different ways that you can use it that I love. I’ve had a lot of fun playing around with pellet tube smoking both cold smoking and hot smoking on various different types of smokers.
I looked around for ages trying to find the right type of material to make my own pellet tube, but after a while, I just decided to order one online (give you a summary below).
There are a few tricks that I’ve learned over the years and I will talk about a few of the basics as well, the ins and outs.
I remember many years ago, learning from a Dutch butcher who was producing all sorts of glorious cold-smoked goods (& cooked hot smoked). He had a giant double metal door cold smoking smokehouse. All he did was get a pile of untreated sawdust that he got from a furniture manufacturer (deciduous wood)
Obviously the right wood and untreated with chemicals, he lit the sawdust pile and left it. In winter this is how he would smoke everything from bacon through to dry-cured salami. He had decades of experience, but a pellet tube is basically a similar principle with a little bit of structure.
How Does a Smoker Tube Work? Filling a pellet tube with wood chips or pellet wood. You ignite one end of the tube with a butane torch. Blow out flame, place tube in the smoking area, and pellet tube will smoke and smolder for 2-5 hours depending on length.
Pellet Tube Smokers – In Detail
Ok here is a rundown of the above summary.
How Do I Use a Pellet Smoker?
Fill the pellet tube with wood pellets or wood chips, smaller sized wood is better. Sawdust is a bit too small, I have all sorts of smoking woods. I used wood chipped grape wood but it went out often. So I mixed it with apple wood pellets and it burned very nicely.
So pretty much you just get one end of the pellet tube lit with a decent lighter. You can’t use a normal lighter to do this you have to get a Brulé torch or butane torch.
You always light the pellet tube vertically, then once it’s probably lit and the wood is going with some embers burning. You can place the pellet tube horizontally. Here are some pics to give you a better idea of the process, the learning curve is pretty easy.
Something like this.
When I have run out of gas in the torch I use, sometimes I have used a gas grill burner or a camping stove (but I fully don’t recommend doing it this way, it’s a little bit dangerous, better to use the right tool for the job).
You do need to have the flame burning for of at least five or six minutes sometimes longer depends on if it’s windy or not – and what type of wood.
Most of the instructions I’ve seen say roughly about 7 to 8 minutes of letting the open flame burn, you just learn as you use it.
Then you blow out the flame, and you have a quality smoky flavor! I’m going to deep dive into the techniques that I’ve used, the main thing I’ve used a pellet tube for is cold smoking.
I’ve also used a pellet tube for low & slow in-direct smoking on a gas grill.
Lastly, I’ve used a pellet tube to boost the amount of smoke in my pellet smoker.
DIY Pellet Tube – How to Make a Pellet Smoker
Before I bought my pellet tube, I thought I would try and make one. Since I looked at it and it seemed a pretty simple construction, basically a perforated metal tube.
The best thing I have found was a motorcycle exhaust baffle, so I went around some motorcycle shops and asked. They directed me to some exhaust and mechanic type places.
But the standard car exhaust baffle was too large and diameter and also the perforations were to spread out. I thought this would not allow as much oxygen to fuel the fire and let the combustion burn cleanly, They were also a bit “industrial” for a bit of backyard smoking action.
So after too many hours of trying to locate a specific motorcycle size baffle, as I said I just ordered one online (below will highlight my research). I was actually quite surprised how reasonable the prices were too.
How Much Does a Tube Smoker Cost?
Most I realized that most the time thereunder $20. But I think you do need to check that at least 304 stainless steel. There was one in a BBQ store I saw for $40, it was branded.
Choosing a Pellet Tube Size and Shape
Now as simple as a perforated piece of metal sounds, there are just a couple of factors that make a pellet tube a little bit more functional I feel.
Probably the most common ones I found online were round, but some friends had already purchased these and told me they can be a bit of a pain since they roll around if you using them on gas grills for instance.
If you go for a pellet tube that’s flat on one side then it provides better footing position for stability.
I checked out a telescopic one, which was pretty cool. But it was in the shop and the price was a little too high I felt. It seems most of the time you either have six-inch or 12-inch sizing, and I have seen a 4 inch as well.
I imagine a 4-inch pellet tube would only be good for a very short term smoking boost. You may get 1-3 hours depending on the type of smoking wood fuel you use.
(I wouldn’t believe any smoke tube gets 8 hours from 12″ length.
Some of the stronger harder types of smoking would like oak, the squeaked or Hickory – tend to burn slower so there is some variation, but not 8 hours in my experience.
Different Types of Pellet Tube Smokers
Here are the best I have seen below, basically, 12 inches with a flat side, had a lot of decent reviews and work very well.
I did a bit of research, and you can find the top picks I wrote a bit more about – check out the page here.
Pellet Tube in Smokers (Using Various Smokers)
DIY Cheap Kettle Grill Smoker
Now you can see here a picture of a pellet tube underneath a incredibly cheap kettle grill, this was one of the first prototypes for using a pellet chewed, yes I know it looks pretty rough but it did the job very nicely.
Producing these fine cold-smoked venison loin and cold smoked pancetta.
An easy addition to an electric, gas or pellet grill smoker – pellet tube or maze style smokers I have really grown very fond of. Cold Smoking especially is a mystery to a lot of people, and of course, people are scared of what they don’t know.
What Food Can You Smoke in a Tube Smoker
I’ll put a few pictures below some of the foods that I’ve smoked with pellet tube from vegetables to salami and even some dairy products.
The possibilities are endless, most of the time you just see people smoking cheese and other people just copy the cheese smokers but you can do so much more with this simple but effective tool.
Maza Smokers are Similar
The other option is the maze smoker’s which work on a very similar principle. The way you get these smoking can vary, some use a simple tea candle placed at the start of the maze. Whilst of the ones you will need a Brulé torch/butane torch.
If you want a quick recommendation on a maze smoker, it’s on the same page as the recommended here.
If your looking for the 'ducks nuts' (that means a very good bit of equipment). A smoke generator can be used as a cold smoker, or adding smoke to indirect cooking which equates to a form of 'low & slow' bbq or making smoked ham and some much more.
The inventor of smoke generators was Smokai, it's a simple device that uses the venturi effect and a variable air pump to control the amount of smoke you are pumping.
I have a range of cold smoking options, and the Smokai is my favorite.
By far the smokai is the most efficient cold smoker I've come across because you have control.
It also burns very clean, which flavors the food exceptionally well. I've been using smoke generators for over 10 years, and this one is the ducks nuts.
Check out this review I did of the Smokai Smoke Generator here.
Thanks for dropping by, I’ve been passionate about meat curing for decades.
I Hunt, Fish, Forage, Buy, Butcher (Wannabe Norcini), Make, Savor (I’m not a Saviour), and love curing and smoking meat.
Learning and consuming in a circular fashion, I am always interested in what is happening around the curing and smoking world
Seeking the passionate behind the passion.
Awesome information. Thank you so much.
Thanks heaps, nice to get some encouragement! Happy pellet tube smoking. 🙂 Tom
how do you control the heat? i find it produces alot of heat
Heya, you don’t! I do my cold smoking at night when humidity is higher too (also important for cold smoking)
if it’s getting hot its too close to the meat chamber. Well under 20C or 68F is what I prefer for cold smoking. I use is underneath (2-3 ft) smokers, and let the smoke just curl up to the chamber holding the meat.
For hot smoking you are just adding to the area you are smoking ! Here is a post I wrote about Hot Smoking vs cold smoking!.
Will 2 smoke tubes work better than one
define better? Is it a large area?
More smoke sure?
bitter taste maybe
less is more with smoke my friend!
Im putting together a cold smoking theory, equipment, guide ebook as part of the online whole muscle curing course, register on this page if you want to hear about when its out – in about 2-3 weeks.
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Thanks for all the info. I intend to use a pellet smoker inside my grill to cold smoke bacon. My question is, how long can I cold smoke without having to take it out to refrigerate? Without worrying about the meat becoming unsafe?
Heya, for me it’s overnight under 60F or 15C. If it’s cured properly, then the salt has done most of the leg work!
Going to try smoke tube with my new pellet grill this weekend. Was thinking of mixing pellets with wood chips to get that authentic smoke flavor but still get a good burn as the flame /heat transfers across the tube. Would you recommend soaking the wood chips or is that unnecessary with this method?
Nope, they won’t burn very well in the tube. Also, the only soaking I do is if I am doing a whole pig on a spit, since soaking wood just delays combustion – it does NOT help the smoke or make the smoke last longer, trust me…..
If spit roasting, it introduces some moisture to the piggy…..
You might need to play around with ratios, to get a good burn, I have used a bunch of chips and pellets and they can sometimes burn at different rates, or go out.
I still think less is more with smoke flavor, the worst is a bitter crappy tasting bit of food from oversmoking! My cold smoked bacon at home, I prefer about 6 hours total! But i know you are low and slowing/indirect hot smoking.