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It’s actually quite surprising how cheap a basic cold smoking setup is, There are some variables for cold smoking, but generally, doing it at home is easy.
Hopefully, I can highlight the best options depending on what you want to cold smoke and where you are on the cold-smoking journey.
I started cold smoking about 15 years ago, talking to a traditional Dutch butcher who got me interested. He started showing me all the bits and pieces, with his setup. It was quite a shock at how simple it was.
So I did a whole bunch of research on different types of cold smoking equipment. After reading a few books, it was crazy how simple it can be, a lot of people think it’s something way more complicated than it is.
How Much Are Cold Smokers? The simplest setup can cost less than $10 USD. This will basically smoldering burning wood with airflow. Adjustable cold smoke systems cost approximately $80-$150 USD. A Smokehouse building can cost $200 or more to design a wood structure for cold smoking.
You can even make your own cold smoke system incredibly simple, just like the Dutch butcher I mentioned. He had that large steel double-door container, then lit it and left it.
Most designs incorporate a different burning box to the smoke chamber area, so make sure the temperature is below 30°C/86°F to avoid cooking the meat.
In his setup, the chamber was large enough to not raise the heat whilst cold smoking (often in winter and under 50F/10C).
One important aspect of cold smoking that is often overlooked is having high enough humidity, especially cold-smoking meat. This post is about cost, if you want the full rundown beginner’s guide to cold smoking, I wrote a post here.
Here is a list of the options from experience, I’ve tested for cold smoking various foods (table and times for cold smoking different food).
Cold Smoking Setup Options
|Cold Smoking Setup
|Approx. Cold Smoking Time
|Varies (Trial and Error)
|Varies (Trial and Error)
|Maze Cold Smoker
|Smoke Generator with Chamber (ie. smoke box, beehive, old fridge)
|Smokehouse with a Smoke Generator
|Smokehouse with Tunnel/Ducted Smoke
Simple Cold Smoking Setups
- Sieve Method – simplest, a bit of trial and error
- Pellet Tube – simple, same principle as Sieve
- Maze Cold Smoker – simple,
Adjustable Cold Smokers
- Smoke Generator with Chamber
Structural Cold Smoker
- Smokehouse with a smoke generator
- Smokehouse with tunnel/ducted smoke
Just a quick note, that I have played around with using these simple setups as hot smoking or low and slow DIY setups, since hot smoking is just cooking with some form of thin blue smoke, temperature control being the key to success with various methods.
Sieve Method Cold Smoker- Simplest
Cost $5 approx.
Buy a sieve, push it inside out and you have a DIY cold smoker. I friend does this and it works great, I will take a picture of it and post it. But here is a crude drawing:
You place the sawdust/wood pellets around the donut area. The smoke gets plenty of oxygen from the holes in the sieve. All you need is an enclosure with a bit of airflow. So easy!
Having some form of decent lighter to get it going is important, like a creme brulee torch or a butane torch burner like the picture below.
Pellet Tube Cold Smoker – simple, same principle as Sieve
One of my favorites, you can get normally 6-12 inches. There are a few that have extendable aspects to them as well.
Getting the tube (or maze) lit is the only bit to really master. It would help if you had a propane torch (creme brulee torch works well) to get things started after 30-60 seconds of direct flaming. You just let it burn for at least 6 minutes and blow it out. I wrote some info on the pellet tube I like, check out that page here.
Don’t even bother trying to get it lit with a normal everyday lighter, you need a torch for a blue flame type of heat.
They are also the same as motorbike perforated exhaust baffles that look like this:
Maze Cold Smoker
Similar to the above methods, this type of cold smoker I find definitely can have a longer burn time, so great for cold-smoked bacon. If you can get plenty of good smoking sawdust, this can be the business. However, there are some that are designed for pellet burning also.
Depending on the wood, you can get a much longer burn out of it. Cherry wood seems to have a longer burn than a lot of the other fruit woods.
It is versatile, though you may have to play around a bit with placement if you are using it for low and slow or in a cooking/smoking environment for a few reasons.
- Pellet can ignite on a grill, keep indirect
- Some propane smokers or BBQ gas grills may not provide adequate oxygen to keep the maze smoker going.
I go into a bit of detail about these types of smokers, check out some tips and recommendations here.
These are really cool devices, they use the so-called ‘Venturi’ effect, which pulls the smoke through the device.
You have a variable controller with the air pump, so you can adjust the flow of cold smoke being pushed through.
You use a torch just like the other methods to get it going. But since there is some ‘draw’ from the pump, it is easier to get lit. I have used normal lighters, but it takes quite a bit longer – don’t even bother if it’s windy.
They normally come with a drill bit, so you can make a whole if needed. I did this for an old kettle grill, then attached it for cold smoking.
If you want a full rundown with the pros and cons, I wrote a page here on these.
Full Cold Smoking Smokehouse
There are so many ways you could put together a smokehouse the basic way is having a smoldering fire going in a different tunneled area, then the ‘cold’ smoke just drifts through into the smoking chamber.
There is a good free resource from the LSU College of Agriculture that covers the basic plans whether you are basing it on one of the styles below. Click each of the links to go straight to the plan for details.
Here is the basic concept from the LSU Wooden Barrel Design, basically you can just scale it bigger.
Most important factors for success:
- Fully cured (saturation or equilibrium curing), if doing meat
Just want to touch on each of these briefly to give an overview if you’re new to the cold smoking process.
If you want more info and a long post I wrote on the methods and basics of cold smoking, check out the post here.
Here is a video all about cold smoking I made: