Smokai Cold & Hot Smoke Generator Review in Detail

Writer / Enthusiast / Meat Curer | About Tom

For decades, immersed in studying, working, learning, and teaching the art and craft of meat curing, now sharing his passion with you through his content.

(Last Updated On: December 11, 2022)

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 in’s and out’s 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 actually received 2 of the generators, I could see straightaway 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.

UFO vs Smokai – same 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 this sneakiness of these copycats!).

I spent a lot of time unblocking the UFO smoke generator over the years though….

I’ve used other methods and still do, a simple 1 piece of charcoal/wood in a pile (not very controllable but works) and pellet tube or maze smoking of course. But after trying all the other techniques out there, 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).

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 photos, because they’re way better than mine!
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 unbias 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 half load I’ve found with the 1L classic, but I don’t have the pump set on minimum smoke either. Of course, less airflow less smoke 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 easy, 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’s going to smash through the wood. It produces an abundance of smoke if you want it!

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) – same results.

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

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.

This is because every time I use the UFO smoker, I would need a blow torch style lighter, couldn’t light it with a stnadard lighter.

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

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 4 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 smokai smoker though!

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

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.

The dial on the pump to control 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 what I think.

304 Stainless steel for the Smokai, makes is 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.

Easy to take out and clean, a big upgrade to the UFO which is all fixed in place. 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 onto vege garden or into compost in.

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

Check out the Smokai Options.

Why Get a Smoke Generator Compared to Other Cold Smokers?

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

Here is a video I did whilst sipping a glass of Sangiovese!

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 looking for one like it’s 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, hope it’s untreated wood!)

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

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

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 direct from their site.

What is all about, varies petite dry-cured salami
Writer / Enthusiast / Meat Curer | About Tom

For decades, immersed in studying, working, learning, and teaching the art and craft of meat curing, now sharing his passion with you through his content.



  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’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?


    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.


      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

  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!
      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.


    1. Author

      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!

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