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.
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).
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:
|Model||Size||Max Burn Time|
|Bullet||1/2 Litre||4 hours|
|Classic||1 Litre||8 hours|
|Magnum||3 Litre||24 hours|
|Monster||4 Litre||32 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!
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 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!
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.
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
- 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.
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.
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!
Awesome, yes it nice having something with control over smoke. I’m keen on those Polish, Hungarian and Czech/Slovak styles too!
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?
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.
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.
Nice one, its definitely my go to smoker these days! Cheers Tom
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?
I’ve used all sorts of thinks in smokai, but the recommended size works very well, as mentioned wood pellets are fine too.
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.
I mainly used Traeger or other brands of smoking wood pellets- pecan, hickory, apple etc.. Cheers T
You mentioned that you use pellets but it also sounds like they are more difficult to light. So, how do you light your pellets?
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