If you enjoy experimenting in the kitchen or simply want to impress your guests when you entertain, consider one of these portable smoke infusers. They offer a quick, easy way to add smoky notes to meat, fish, fruit, cheese and even drinks. Unlike regular smokers, these units are handheld, relatively inexpensive and you can use them indoors.
You can use smoke infusers with wood chips, dried herbs or spices for different flavors. The best choice is the PolyScience Breville Gun Pro, which has a removable, stainless steel smoking chamber and comes with a 17.5-inch extender hose. Other models with various features and accessories also are worth consideration.
Most smoke infusers operate in a similar way. They are composed of a small chamber you fill with fuel and a battery-powered fan that sucks the smoke from the chamber and blows it through a flexible tube. The smoke is added to the food using various techniques.
The type of fuel in a smoke infuser determines the smoke’s intensity and flavor. The most common fuel is wood chips. Lighter wood such as maple or apple results in a delicate, sweet smoke. Darker wood such as hickory, mesquite or oak imparts a richer, heavier flavor. Alternatively, you can experiment with other aromatic fuel sources such as herbs, spices or tea leaves.
Since these smoke infusers are designed to be small, handheld and portable, batteries power most of them. The fuel needs to be ignited by hand because the burn chamber doesn't heat up automatically. A candle lighter with a long neck is the ideal tool to do this.
The burn chamber is where the fuel is ignited, so the chamber should be durable. Stainless steel or aluminum are the best choices because they are resistant to corrosion. The burn chamber should be removable, which makes it much easier to clean after use.
Smoke infusers generally have simple controls, allowing you to use them with one hand. Look for a model with a variable fan-speed selector; this regulates how much smoke the infuser produces and how quickly it uses up the fuel. You need a high fan speed to ignite the wood chips. A low speed helps maintain a steady flow of smoke.
Most infusers have a range of accessories. The most common is a glass dome that fills with smoke that you place over a plate of food for 10 to 15 minutes. Spare filters, additional chips, cleaning brushes and storage bags often are included at little extra cost.
A basic smoke infuser can be as low as $30. However, most recognized brands range from $50-$100. A kit with batteries, a range of accessories, spare chips and filters generally costs around $150.
What you need to know: This handheld infuser has an adjustable fan speed and comes with a 17.5-inch hose, replacement filters and two packets of sample wood chips.
What you’ll love: Its removable, stainless steel burn chamber is dishwasher-safe.
What you should consider: It doesn’t include a dome or any smoking accessories.
What you need to know: This budget-friendly option is compact and comes with a cleaning brush and a velvet storage bag.
What you’ll love: It has an elegant brushed aluminum body and includes a downloadable recipe guide.
What you should consider: It doesn't have a removable burn chamber, so cleaning is more difficult.
What you need to know: This 14-piece kit includes a smoking dome, a tall cocktail dome and seven flavors of wood chips.
What you’ll love: It has a dual-speed fan with a simple one-button operation. Its one-piece metal head is strong and durable.
What you should consider: The extension hose is a little shorter than on other models.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Chris Gillespie writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.