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A-MAZE-N Maze, Cold Smoke – Ash Flavored Nova Lox

kaz01

Newbie
12
1
Joined Dec 29, 2020
Hello –

I’m reaching out to the community in the interest of learning from my first cold smoking attempt that went wrong. My goal was to make Nova Lox.

I’d really appreciate any constructive ideas you can share. I’m having trouble identifying the problem(s), especially given others’ successful reports using the A-MAZE-N Maze.

For context – while I’m new to cold smoking, I’ve been hot smoking meats for about four years now (e.g., brisket, pork butt, ribs, salmon and so on). So, I’m not extremely experienced, but I’m reasonably familiar with my equipment (for hot smoking) and, until this attempt, have produced some tasty meals.

Details are below. Many thanks in advance for any insights you all can offer.

** Equipment **

Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM), 18-inch

ThermoWorks Smoke Remote BBQ Alarm Thermometer

A-MAZE-N Maze, 5 x 8 inch

A-MAZE-N Apple Pellets

** Method **

First, I cured a 1.5 pound fillet of Sockeye salmon for two days, to make Gravlax. After rinsing and drying, to allow a pellicle to form (which I could have done longer), I prepared the WSM for cold smoking.

The outside temperature was 27* F when I started, which increased to above freezing by mid-day (roughly 34* F). I filled the A-MAZE-N Maze with roughly one pound of apple pellets, lit one end with a torch for 30-40 seconds, and let burn for 10 min (per the instructions) after which time blew the flame out. I placed the A-MAZE-N Maze on the charcoal grate of my WSM and left the water pan in (empty, no water) with tin foil to cover it. I also set up my thermometer, only to measure the temperature inside the smoker. I then put the Salmon fillet on the top grate, as well as two small blocks of cheddar cheese. All four vents (one top, three bottom) were left 100% open, and there appeared to be good smoke flow. I was surprised at the quantity of smoke the A-MAZE-N Maze produced, where at times smoke leakage was apparent at the WSM door assembly.

The smoker temperature rose to roughly 40* F within the first 30 min, later rising and stabilizing at about 60* F. It never rose past 62* F over 11 hours, and never went below 40* F. After the first two hours I took off the cheese and added a half dozen hard boiled eggs. I took the eggs off after an hour, and the fish off after 11 hours.

During this process I noticed nothing completely “abnormal.” For example, only one row of pellets burned at a time (no jumping across rows), and the pellets never went out.

** Results **

The smoke imparted an extremely bitter flavor into all food, and everything smelled like a stale ash tray. The salmon and eggs were inedible, with a terrible after taste that lingered. (I understand that it may take some time for the cheese to mellow in flavor.)

** Hypotheses **

Too much smoke for the WSM 18-inch?

Is the WSM (18-inch) smoker too small for cold smoking with the A-MAZE-N Maze?

Are vertical smokers, like the WSM, good for cold smoking? Or should cold smoking be left to offset smokers?

Too much white smoke? I am not a good judge of observing white vs. blue smoke, but if I were forced to decide it appeared more white than blue. Although this is more of a reflection than an observation, given the results.

Bad pellets? (I’ve never used pellets, only chunks, so not sure if this is even a possibility.)

Others?
 
Last edited:

TNJAKE

Master of the Pit
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Joined Nov 26, 2019
Did you have your exhaust vent wide open?
 

kaz01

Newbie
12
1
Joined Dec 29, 2020
Hey TNJAKE TNJAKE !
Yes. All four vents (one top, three bottom) were left 100% open, and there appeared to be good smoke flow.
 

normanaj

Master of the Pit
SMF Premier Member
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710
Joined Feb 2, 2014
All four vents (one top, three bottom) were left 100% open, and there appeared to be good smoke flow. I was surprised at the quantity of smoke the A-MAZE-N Maze produced, where at times smoke leakage was apparent at the WSM door assembly.
Way to much airflow would be my guess,this would more than likely be the cause.

Some brands of pellets are better than other but I still think to much airflow was the issue.Fill a row in the maze with some pellets and fiddle with your vents until you get just the right amount of smoke.I would also try dust as it produces a lighter,thinner smoke.
 

SFLsmkr1

Epic Pitmaster
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If you have an old blender pulverize the pellets into dust. You will get a better cooler thin blue smoke for your LOX
 

normanaj

Master of the Pit
SMF Premier Member
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Joined Feb 2, 2014
f you have an old blender pulverize the pellets into dust.
That's what I've been doing for a couple of years now,found one at the thrift store super cheap,sterilized it.I don't use anything but dust anymore.
 

gmc2003

Epic Pitmaster
OTBS Member
10,716
5,276
Joined Sep 15, 2012
11 hrs of smoking for the fish seems excessive to me. Especially since your smoking in the 18" WSM. I would suggest using dust instead of pellets(they burn cleaner and cooler). I think the tray is putting out way to much smoke with the pellets. I also cold smoke with the tray, but in a 22" WSM, but mainly use dust. I will use pellets on fish occasionally but for only a couple of hours.

Chris
 
Last edited:

cmayna

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Joined Jun 23, 2012
Yes, for me 11 hours smoke is wayyyy to long when doing lox. Today I'm doing some Albacore lox for 3+ hours in my Masterbuilt gasser with the gas turned off. Was also wondering if a WSM 18 is too small for cold smoking. For sure, I would consider dust next time.
 

tropics

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If you don't have dust you can make it. Dave Omak has a way to do it
Richie
 

kaz01

Newbie
12
1
Joined Dec 29, 2020
Based on reactions by gmc2003 gmc2003 and cmayna cmayna , it sounds like I may have put the Salmon on too long. However, that the eggs and cheese also had the same very strong off flavors, and that I put the eggs on hours after the Salmon and cheese, I think that may suggest the quantity of smoke produced by the A-MAZE-N Maze with pellets was too much for my WSM (18-inch). Based on everyone's feedback so far, I'll certainly swap the pellets for dust next time.

Any chance someone out there has tried cold smoking using a 18-inch WSM, A-MAZE-N Maze, and pellets?
 

gmc2003

Epic Pitmaster
OTBS Member
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Joined Sep 15, 2012
Too much white smoke? I am not a good judge of observing white vs. blue smoke, but if I were forced to decide it appeared more white than blue. Although this is more of a reflection than an observation, given the results.
Kaz you answered your own question. To much white smoke and/or to much smoke. When smoking either hot or cold - the smoke should appear light blueish to invisible in color. Just because you can't see the smoke doesn't mean your not smoking. Smelling the smoke is the key. I'll suggest the next time you cold smoke with your WSM(which makes for a good cold smoking unit) let the tray settle in for about 15 min or so before adding whatever your planning on smoking. Just long enough to clear out the start up smoke. If the tray continues to put out a lot of, or white smoke then slowly close down one of your bottom vents and give it a bit of time to settle. You'll eventually find the sweet spot with your equipment. Don't toss any of what your smoked out just yet. Even the fish may mellow with time. With all the vents open you may have been experiencing flair-ups.

Chris
 

kaz01

Newbie
12
1
Joined Dec 29, 2020
Kaz you answered your own question. To much white smoke and/or to much smoke. When smoking either hot or cold - the smoke should appear light blueish to invisible in color. Just because you can't see the smoke doesn't mean your not smoking. Smelling the smoke is the key. I'll suggest the next time you cold smoke with your WSM(which makes for a good cold smoking unit) let the tray settle in for about 15 min or so before adding whatever your planning on smoking. Just long enough to clear out the start up smoke. If the tray continues to put out a lot of, or white smoke then slowly close down one of your bottom vents and give it a bit of time to settle. You'll eventually find the sweet spot with your equipment. Don't toss any of what your smoked out just yet. Even the fish may mellow with time. With all the vents open you may have been experiencing flair-ups.

Chris
Thanks for the clarifications, gmc2003 gmc2003 . The point about smelling the smoke, and not necessarily seeing it, is helpful for my understanding. I also never considered the possibility that the A-MAZE-N Maze + pellets could produce too much smoke before today. And I wasn't sure if I could expect to produce blue smoke with it either. My prior was that reliable blue smoke may only be achievable at higher temps, which sounds incorrect. I haven't thrown out the fish yet, and will give it another try in a day or two. Appreciate all the feedback and suggestions.
 

cmayna

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All of my regular heated fish smoking is done with pellets and run the smoker in the 125 - 145 degree range. To help reduce the amount of smoke I reduce the amount of pellets in the tube or each channel of the Amaze-n. Still a fair amount of smoke is generated as compared to using dust but at least this give you options.

When I do cold smoking like I am today with Albacore lox (as I mentioned earlier), I rely on using dust. Oh and I also use dust when doing my winter run of cheese.

So,,,,,until you have dust to use, try reducing the amount of pellets
 
22
15
Joined Sep 7, 2020
I've only done this once - but my process was similar.

Smoked over the same AMZN rack using apple pellets in a Big Kamado Joe - except that I lit both ends of the rack. I used a tray of ice in the Kamado since it was July. top and bottom vents fully opened.

the pellets burned for about 4 hours. due to outside temperature - the finished salmon was between hot and cold smoked - but delicious.

maybe cut back your time drastically.
 

cooker613

Smoking Fanatic
386
426
Joined Nov 12, 2017
Hello –

I’m reaching out to the community in the interest of learning from my first cold smoking attempt that went wrong. My goal was to make Nova Lox.

I’d really appreciate any constructive ideas you can share. I’m having trouble identifying the problem(s), especially given others’ successful reports using the A-MAZE-N Maze.

For context – while I’m new to cold smoking, I’ve been hot smoking meats for about four years now (e.g., brisket, pork butt, ribs, salmon and so on). So, I’m not extremely experienced, but I’m reasonably familiar with my equipment (for hot smoking) and, until this attempt, have produced some tasty meals.

Details are below. Many thanks in advance for any insights you all can offer.

** Equipment **

Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM), 18-inch

ThermoWorks Smoke Remote BBQ Alarm Thermometer

A-MAZE-N Maze, 5 x 8 inch

A-MAZE-N Apple Pellets

** Method **

First, I cured a 1.5 pound fillet of Sockeye salmon for two days, to make Gravlax. After rinsing and drying, to allow a pellicle to form (which I could have done longer), I prepared the WSM for cold smoking.

The outside temperature was 27* F when I started, which increased to above freezing by mid-day (roughly 34* F). I filled the A-MAZE-N Maze with roughly one pound of apple pellets, lit one end with a torch for 30-40 seconds, and let burn for 10 min (per the instructions) after which time blew the flame out. I placed the A-MAZE-N Maze on the charcoal grate of my WSM and left the water pan in (empty, no water) with tin foil to cover it. I also set up my thermometer, only to measure the temperature inside the smoker. I then put the Salmon fillet on the top grate, as well as two small blocks of cheddar cheese. All four vents (one top, three bottom) were left 100% open, and there appeared to be good smoke flow. I was surprised at the quantity of smoke the A-MAZE-N Maze produced, where at times smoke leakage was apparent at the WSM door assembly.

The smoker temperature rose to roughly 40* F within the first 30 min, later rising and stabilizing at about 60* F. It never rose past 62* F over 11 hours, and never went below 40* F. After the first two hours I took off the cheese and added a half dozen hard boiled eggs. I took the eggs off after an hour, and the fish off after 11 hours.

During this process I noticed nothing completely “abnormal.” For example, only one row of pellets burned at a time (no jumping across rows), and the pellets never went out.

** Results **

The smoke imparted an extremely bitter flavor into all food, and everything smelled like a stale ash tray. The salmon and eggs were inedible, with a terrible after taste that lingered. (I understand that it may take some time for the cheese to mellow in flavor.)

** Hypotheses **

Too much smoke for the WSM 18-inch?

Is the WSM (18-inch) smoker too small for cold smoking with the A-MAZE-N Maze?

Are vertical smokers, like the WSM, good for cold smoking? Or should cold smoking be left to offset smokers?

Too much white smoke? I am not a good judge of observing white vs. blue smoke, but if I were forced to decide it appeared more white than blue. Although this is more of a reflection than an observation, given the results.

Bad pellets? (I’ve never used pellets, only chunks, so not sure if this is even a possibility.)

Others?
I regularly do cheese. I however use dust rather than pellets and I smoke my cheeses for four to five hours. I find that gives plenty of flavor. I’m doing on a weber kettle. Never have had a problem
 

crpngdth2001

Fire Starter
34
13
Joined Dec 9, 2009
I would also say when I cold smoke cheese (2-3 hours), if I don't vacuum seal and let it 'rest' in the refrigerator for a month or two, it tastes like a dirty ashtray. After waiting, they taste awesome. I would also say 11 hours is WAY too long.
 

kaz01

Newbie
12
1
Joined Dec 29, 2020
I regularly do cheese. I however use dust rather than pellets and I smoke my cheeses for four to five hours. I find that gives plenty of flavor. I’m doing on a weber kettle. Never have had a problem
Indeed, based on all the feedback from everyone I'll certainly use dust, and not pellets, the next time. Thanks for sharing.
 

kaz01

Newbie
12
1
Joined Dec 29, 2020
I would also say when I cold smoke cheese (2-3 hours), if I don't vacuum seal and let it 'rest' in the refrigerator for a month or two, it tastes like a dirty ashtray. After waiting, they taste awesome. I would also say 11 hours is WAY too long.
Appreciate the feedback. Will likely try 3 hours next time for the Lox, taste and decide on whether to go longer. (I only had the cheese on two hours, and the hard boiled eggs on for one hour.)
 

kaz01

Newbie
12
1
Joined Dec 29, 2020
I've only done this once - but my process was similar.

Smoked over the same AMZN rack using apple pellets in a Big Kamado Joe - except that I lit both ends of the rack. I used a tray of ice in the Kamado since it was July. top and bottom vents fully opened.

the pellets burned for about 4 hours. due to outside temperature - the finished salmon was between hot and cold smoked - but delicious.

maybe cut back your time drastically.
Indeed, will cut the time back dramatically next time based on all the feedback. Although, I'm do aim for a cold smoke, at least until I get it right. Thanks for sharing.
 

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