Smokai Cold & Hot Smoke Generator Review in Detail

Being a super keen guy on curing and smoking all kinds of stuff, I’ve spent hundred’s 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 (New Zealand company, but there produces are made in China) for about 10 years. Many don’t know, but like the jet boat, 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 invented, and have 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 copy cats 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 alot 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 there way better then 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 for the meantime.

Smok’in Dry Cured Pork 2% Equilibrium Cured – 6 hrs Maple Wood

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 2 x3 hour session. Half filling the 1 L was sufficient in doing this.

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 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 brulee/blow torch style lighter (or a camp stove angled toward the lighting hole – I do not advise this method, eyebrows were burnt/trimmed using this DIY method). The same for a pellet tube-like below,

Same technique I have used to burn eyebrows with pellet tubes.

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 take the gas bottle out – this is an easy smoker cold or hot. Using the grills I can hang salami, bacon, dry-cured anything – easy. Just place smokai on the bottom and remove the grease tray. Needs to be a calm morn or night though.

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

Fire-Man” Ham (no nitrates hence the brown inside of pink look).

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.

Knob on pump to control air flow 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 talk about alot in the bbq 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 then what I think.

304 Stainless steel for the Smokai, makes is heavier and stronger. All parts fit together snug.

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 cool 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?

Pros
  • Control of Smoke
  • Consistent Outcomes
  • Cleaning is Straightforward
  • Attaches to Various Smoking Chambers – i.e grill, wine barrel, wooden box (see below)
What it’s all About – Cold Smoked Hungarian Dry Cured Salami (24 hours 3x 8 hours) & Chunk of Dry Cured Bacon (Juniper and Garlic) – 8 hours
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 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 there site,

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!

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