Two Men, Two Pits and a Blog

A-Maze-N Products LLC Cold Smoke Generators

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Stemming from a long-family lineage of engineers, I have come to adopt the motto over the years “Simple is the best design“.  The less moving parts in a device the better, for it cannot break if it isn’t there in the first place. Something that will stand the test of time, is often simple in design. Enter A-MAZE-N cold smoke generators. As simple as they get, and oh so very effective at doing what they do. Generating smoke.

A-MAZE-N Pellet Smoker

Many of the new pellet grills out there, have attachments for generating smoke, for to engage in cold smoking endeavors and what not.AMNPS5X8-2T But you will shell out a commendable wallet for such extravagances. On another plane, many a backwoods BBQ bloke has contrived his own cold smoke generator out of various odds and ends left about the house. And the contraption usually looks like something the police should maybe swing by and ask you about. But they work I guess. The simple gadgets from A-MAZE-N Products however, pretty much cut all that goofiness out, and just give you something elegantly simple, and easy to use. A product that will last a very long time. These generators really are kind of cool, and has something to do with cigars actually, and a bright idea from a guy named Todd Johnson.

Todd Johnson, a spare-time-meat smoking enthusiast and a fellow Minnesotan, was once upon a time in the construction business. A few years ago, he was working at a house around here of a retired police officer, who among other things, fancied to smoke the big, stinky cigars. Well one day Todd as looking at said cigars on the job site, how they glowed at the end when properly puffed, and how they burned right along kind of like a fuse. And then by chance,  he noticed a pile of saw dust residing on the floor near there. Something then clicked in the man’s mind, kind of like epiphanies sometimes do. We all should be so lucky to have such moments in life, and Todd I guess had his there in the officers house. And thus from stinky cigars and sawdust, the humble A-MAZE-N Cold Smoke Generator was conceived. Turned out to be a pretty good idea too. So good in point of fact, folks of high BBQ immortality, such as Steve Raichlen, said it was the 4th best BBQ gift idea of the year in 2012. Now if Steve Raichlen, the Obe Wan Kenobi of BBQ says this to be so, well, there is no need for us to elaborate any more here. But we will.

AMNTS-1We contacted A-MAZE-N Products to see about maybe reviewing some of their toys, and none other than the big man himself got back to us. Todd was very cordial, and prompt, and attentive, and frankly a hoot to talk to. Minnesotans are generally a friendly lot you see, and Todd is no exception. And quicker than we could smoke a brisket flat, that man had us a box of gadgets delivered to our door step. Check one star at least, for phenomenal customer service. We couldn’t have asked for better service, really. Them dudes were on top of it for sure.

Anyways, we will be looking at two A-MAZE-N products: The AMNPS 5 x 8 and the 12″ Tube Smoker, as seen aboveWhich ever one you go with, the first order of business is to bake the thing in the grill or oven for a half hour or so, to burn off the factory oils and what not.  After that, its ready to use. And using it is about as easy as lighting your grill.

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First let’s look at the AMNPS 5×8.   Or, A-MAZE-N Pellet Smoker as seen on amazon. Designed to use both with saw dust or proprietary smoking pellets. I filled the 5×8 maze with Pit Masters Choice pellets, almost, but not quite to the top, and lit off both ends of the maze with some hearty flame action. That’s the fun part of these gadgets. Getting to play with your blow torch. For a match or lighter just won’t cut it. But a business end of an ignited propane welder’s torch sure does the trick. Some folk have even used a can of sterno to light the pellets. It’s up to you, I suppose, and your pyromaniac instincts. We lit off both ends of the pellet fuse, one to double the smoke out put, and two,  because these things will burn for umpteen hours if you only light one end, and we didn’t have the time to wait up for it to be done.

The working principle of these devises reminds us a good deal of the Minion Method, a technique now employed by manycigar top-notch BBQ competitors. In the minion method, you get sort of a fuse deal going on too, where the lit coals gradually light off the unlit coals sitting up next to them. And those coals light the coals sitting next to them. And so on. Same principle seems to be at work with these smoke generators too, and go figure, big cigars.

After we got the 5 x 8 lit and puffing away, which only took about 45 seconds at each end of the fuse, we put it in the bottom of the big 22 inch Weber Smokey Mountain. The thing fairly bellowed with smoke. A tight blend of aroma quite pleasant, not to mention abiding, to a long time meat smoker. Placed a block of medium cheddar on the grate, and put on the lid. Cold smoking was underway. And it don’t get no easier.

Amazen Pellet Tube Smoker 12″

afterfocus_1374958814292_edit0Meanwhile, at his pit, our patron co-host worked the 12 inch tube smoker. First burning off the factory oils, then lighting one end of it, not unlike that there cigar again I guess. Tho he had a propane torch at the ready, he decided to try to light the tube with a chunk of smoldering ember plucked from his camp fire he had going.  The creative sciences we’re upon the lad, and the idea worked brilliantly he said, after a wee bit of nurturing and blowing. After the pellets were suitably ignited, and smoldering as they ought, he tucked the tube in main chamber of his offset pit. The pit temperature only raised a few degrees higher than the outside ambient , and the smoke did it’s thing with a sweeping and convincing ease. He did up some salt, cheese, and everybody’s meat-love – bacon!

We both found the burn time of these smokers to be impressive. They just kept smoldering away. Never going out, nor varying in their output of smoke, until all the pellets were expired. Solid performance, hour after hour. The 5×8, lit at both ends, looked like it would last about 4 hours. So, stands to reason if you just want to light only one end, you might get a solid 7 – 8 hours of premium smoking satisfaction. Not bad. The 12 inch tube smoker gave a good 4 hours of burn time, which is exactly that which they were rated to do. It also came pre-filled with oak pellets. A nice touch, we thought.

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The pellets for these smokers come in a rather distinguished variety. About every flavor you can think of, from: hickory and mesquite of course, and apple and peach, to more unique and exotic flavors such as sassafras, mulberry and savory herb! They sell saw dust too, which you can use in AMNPS 5 x 8, in all the usual smoke woods you can think of, but also in flavors you might not think of, such as: bourbon barrel, grapevine, and nectarine. Pretty cool. They certainly have no shortage of smokey goodness to select from. Check out their entire pellet menu here if your interested in seeing more.

The pellets we used were what they called, Pit Masters Choice, a blend of hickory, cherry, and maple.  Tho we both found those pellets to smell great during the smoking process, we also thought the smokey flavor imparted on the cheese was a wee bit too strong for our taste buds. However, on bacon it was outstanding. In retrospect, if we were to do cheese with these pellets again, we would definitely smoke them only half as much. (Two hours) Or only light one end of the AMNPS 5 x 8. At the end of the day tho, it’s purely a taste preference you’ll have to make for yourself, via some cold smoking experimentation. All of which is good times.

dust

These gadgets can also be used in traditional hot smoking. Just light them up, and tuck them down in a corner of your grill or smoker,  and they will act as your smoke source, giving you the illusion of a fancy pellet grill, at a mere fraction of the price. Just be sure they are receiving adequate air flow where ever you place them in your pit, less they starve for oxygen.

In conclusion, the smoke generators from A-Maze-N Products LLC are about as simple and effective as you can get. No moving parts, these will stand the test of time we believe, and are delightfully simple to use. The pellet and dust flavors are as prolific as they are diverse. And the customer service is on par with the best we’ve experienced in any business.  And all that for about 40 bucks. Not too bad if you want to get into cold smoking with out blowing the bank. It is very difficult to find anything negative to say here. I guess if we had to come up with something, it would be we both favor the smoke imparted from real wood over man-made pellets. We’re just purists like that. Even so, these really are fun gadgets to play with, and when cold smoking is your goal, we are hard pressed to find a better bang for the buck.

Two Patron Thumbs Up!

-POTP


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14 responses

  1. Thanks for the info! I know we will be packing one of these babies in our suitcases on our next trip north.

    As a former fellow Minnesotan I agree that you folks are a friendly lot on the whole. It is a highlight of my day each time you publish a post.

    Keep up the good work.

    August 1, 2013 at 11:25 am

    • Aw man, thanks much!

      Wish we could publish more stuff, but we’d only get fat from all that BBQ.

      August 1, 2013 at 12:04 pm

  2. All that testing would be counter productive for ones waistline. You couldn’t say, “Oh I won’t eat this piece of *insert product of choice here* I’ll only write about it. Then you would have to have a beverage, relax awhile as it’s cooking. My ex father in law used to smoke his own pigs. He had a small smoke house and he’d hang them in there to cure. He’d also make his own Wurst and smoke them too, fish from the nearby river, anything. For a big smoker like that he’d use sawdust (had his own small mil) and you know those hams were the BEST. Bacon that would give you a …. you know what I mean. Ahh memories.
    Laurie.

    August 1, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    • Love it! That man lived the life, sounds like. I would get along with him.

      Yes, perhaps we should start giving away the BBQ we create, save for a little taste test quality control of course. I’ve often noted I enjoy the process of BBQ and smoking equally as much as consuming it.

      August 1, 2013 at 4:37 pm

      • Yes he was a real bushman from an early age and did live the life. Ooh, that would be hard to do, give away your famous BBQ offerings. I can see you doing demo’s and walking away with apron pockets bulging with fine food. For after of course. I think that is quite often the case with many things we do, it’s all about the journey, not the destination. Unless of course there are plate loads of fine steaks and burgers and…….

        August 2, 2013 at 4:03 am

  3. Liz

    curiouser and curiouser–I feel as if you’re taking me down a rabbit hole of sorts 🙂 Grills are not just for burgers anymore, nor salmon nor bacon. Nor apple crisp, nor meatloaf, nor cheese. Love watching you do your grilling magic. And I would second that Minnesotans tend to be friendly folk!

    August 1, 2013 at 10:27 pm

    • Thanks much, Liz! Its just fun seeing what one can do on the grill. Turns out quite a bit!

      August 2, 2013 at 8:44 am

  4. Pingback: The Friday Five: My Picks of the Week (July 29th – August 2, 2013) | Jeff Parker Cooks

  5. Sign me up for that BBQ giveaway you speak of lads … THAT’LL give my mailman
    a reason to fear my pooches !!!

    August 5, 2013 at 11:35 am

  6. Just a coupla Dobermans buddy … nuthin’ to worry about … 🙂

    August 6, 2013 at 8:34 am

  7. Great review. I’ve been wanting to get one of those to smoke cheese and bacon, but have been putting it off till the weather gets a bit cooler here. Kinda hard to cold smoke anything when the ambient temp is over 100+ already.

    September 11, 2013 at 7:11 am

    • Yeah, that’s a big challenge I found out, even at 90 degrees, let alone a 100 like you’d deal with. I seen some blokes actually put a big block of ice in their pits, to bring down the temperature, which they say worked for a while.

      Cold smoking is a lot of fun. You’ll dig it once your life cools down!

      September 11, 2013 at 9:35 am

  8. Deb

    Great review…..Very interesting concept..

    January 30, 2014 at 4:51 pm

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