Reviews you can trust.See why.
Portable Smoke Infusers
Portable smoke infusers promise smoky goodness fast. Are any worth buying?
What You Need To Know
Many of us love the taste of smoked food, but the prospect of actually smoking food at home can be daunting. Standalone smokers are large and expensive and must be used outdoors; they also take a long time to achieve the best results. Portable smoke infusers promise to solve a lot of these problems: They are small and comparatively inexpensive, can be used indoors, and work quickly to deliver a hit of smoke. Plus, they’re portable, so they can be used tableside to add a bit of dramatic flair to your meal—there’s nothing like presenting your guests with a drink or plate of oysters that has a cloud of aromatic smoke rolling off of it!
Like most standalone smokers, portable smoke infusers rely on cold smoke to impart flavor to food. With these infusers, you burn wood chips, spices, or herbs over a filter set inside a small chamber in the main body of the gadget. A battery-powered fan blows the smoke in the chamber through a tube toward the food, which you must enclose in a sealed vessel or plastic bag. By the time the smoke reaches the food, the heat has dissipated, leaving just the flavor-bearing chemicals in the smoke to infuse the food. Unlike traditional smokers, however, these smoke infusers aren’t meant for larger projects such as smoking salmon or making bacon from pork belly—their smaller size means that they can produce only so much smoke at a time, so they’re meant to “finish” already cooked food with a smoky flavor.
Once found only in modernist bars and restaurants, these tools have recently become more common and accessible to home cooks and bartenders. We wanted to know if any were worth buying, so we tested five portable smoke infusers, priced from about $20 to about $150, using them to smoke a wide variety of foods and drinks with different types of wood chips, dried herbs, and spices.
The Illusion of Smoke Flavor
Here’s the good news: All the smoke infusers are fairly easy to operate, and every model impressed tasters with its ability to produce smoky food and drinks (though it took a little experimentation to get the levels of smokiness just right). These machines are fun, and because they’re so quick and easy to operate, we found ourselves smoking everything within arm’s reach, from butter and flake sea salt to popcorn, pork tenderloins, tofu, whiskey, horchata, different types of cheese, and more.
That said, we found that these machines don’t replicate the intensity or depth of flavor found in food smoked the traditional way. While our tasters very much enjoyed food and drinks that were treated by these infusers, some found the smoke flavor to be somewhat less fragrant and complex and slightl...
Everything We Tested
Reviews you can trust
Reviews you can trust
The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing. We stand behind our winners so much that we even put our seal of approval on them.