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Cardboard box cold smoker


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On my courses I often get asked by students about cold smoking as they would like to try but that they think it required a lot of specialist equipment. This is not the case and it can be very inexpensive to start. 

One of the simplest and cheapest cold smokers is a large cardboard box. These are easily obtained free of charge from your nearest supermarket or discount store.

Cut the lid flaps off the top of the box and ensure that the bottom is firmly taped.

Turn the box over so that the solid "bottom" is now at the top.

You now need to cut 2 holes....

The first at the bottom to let the air in


And the second it at the opposite end at the top to let the smoke out



Next we need to build the inside of the smoker. This is done by using 6 bricks and 2 or 3 wire cake cooling racks. The photo below shows a mixture of bricks and flower pots.


To create the smoke we need to make a smoke generator. This is made from a cheap kitchen wire sieve

Cut off the wire handle and push the mesh back through to form a circular trough



Fill the trough with sawdust, chips or pellets, leaving a small gap at one side. Using a candle or a blowtorch light the wood on one end and until it is smouldering and it about to produce a flame.


Place the smoke generator in the smoker. Here it is shown under the smoking racks but it is better if it can be placed at one end.

Add your food to the racks...


... place the box over the smoker and you are ready to smoke


Total cost - £4

  • Box - Free
  • Bricks - Free
  • Wire racks - 3 x £1 = £3
  • Kitchen sieve - £1


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10 hours ago, Genevieve said:

How do you maintain the low temps? Or do you just cold smoke in colder weather? I've been wanting to do a nova lox style salmon smoke, but everything I've read says it should be cold smoked for multiple days.

Hi Genevieve

The cardboard box smoker is obviously an entry level option and is dependent on the outside temperatures. Here in the UK they can usually be used overnight for most of the year to keep the temperatures down - though in warmer parts of the world overnight temperatures may even be too warm. You will see from my last photo that it is being used at night. For short smokes (say cheese) if the ambient temperature is too warm then you can also place a tray of ice inside the box.

For traditional smoked salmon you do not need to keep it cold when it is smoked. Commercially it is smoked at ~24 C (75 F) for up to 24 hours as this helps to reduce the water content in the fish to the required level. Whilst it is smoking it is also important to keep a good air flow through the smoking chamber. When curing traditional smoked salmon the main preservative is dehydration and you are reducing the final weight of the fish by ~18% by removing the water. This is initially done during the brining stage (which is performed chilled) but then it is completed during the smoking stage. I produce and sell a lot of smoked salmon and so you may find this post interesting.

"Traditional" Smoked Salmon and Trout

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