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Cold smoking is a fun and easy way to preserve meat. In this beginners guide to Cold Smoking we will cover everything from what cold smoking is to what type of wood is best.
Cold smoking is a great way to add that rich, smokey flavor to a variety of different types of meat. In addition, it’s even possible to cold smoke cheese and vegetables like asparagus and shallots. But what is cold smoking? Cold smoking is surprisingly simple for those with access to an electric or gas smoker. The key to successfully cold smoking is keeping your smoker below 100 degrees F. If you can keep the temperature between 80 and 85 degrees F, you will be fine.
If you happen to own a charcoal grill or smoker, that’s okay too. Just follow the same instructions and cook the meat over indirect heat. The temperature should reach no more than 90 degrees F in your grill or smoker; otherwise bacteria will start to grow in your food and it will get spoiled.
Read on for the complete guide to getting started with your cold smoker.
Why should you cold smoke your food?
If you are proud of the smoking that you do, then it’s a good idea to preserve it by keeping your food cool. You can prepare larger quantities of food at a time and smoke them in succession for even more flavor. You can also make all different kinds of smoked foods using many different recipes; from finely ground meat, to jerky and sausages.
You will find plenty of ways to smoke foods in this guide. The options that I have included in this guide are delicious and unique, so you will never get bored of smoking. You will find information about the things that you need to know if you want to start cold smoking foods. Some of the most common questions are:
What is Cold Smoking?
Cold smoke is just a fancy name for smoking without a lot of heat. During the smoking process you create compounds in the meat that produce a smoky flavor. The main compound responsible for this flavor is called “phenol” and it can be extracted in flavors like almond, banana, cheese and more.
Cold smoking doesn’t require a lot of heat like hot smoking does because you’re not cooking or preparing food; instead you are just adding flavor to it.
Is Cold Smoking Safe?
Cold smoking can be completely safe. In fact, food that has been cold smoked won’t even start to spoil until the temperature reaches 100 degrees F. Even if your smoker’s temperature reaches over 100 degrees F, it wouldn’t hurt your meat as long as you have your meat in a cooler or other cold place.
If you’re planning on preparing a lot of food for guests or for a large family, then you can smoke it in several batches and put it into the freezer.
I advise you to get familiar with temperature and food safety to ensure you are using your cold smoke generator correctly. You can find all the details in this pdf.
Is Cold Smoking Safe For Health?
Cold smoking is safe for a number of reasons. When you smoke food, the natural tenderizer in the meat called “tenderin” will break down and become more powerful over time. Some of these compounds are also good for human health because they’re supposed to lower cholesterol and reverse oxidation of bad cholesterol.
Smoking meats will also help to prevent bacteria from growing on it, which makes it safer than cooking or eating undercooked meat.
What Is the food temp Danger Zone and Why Do I Need to Know About It?
The term “danger zone” in cooking refers to the temperature range when bacteria can quickly penetrate your food and ruin it. There is a temperature range of 40 to 140 degrees in that range. As a result, the temperature in a refrigerator should be kept below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
A temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit or higher is required to eliminate microorganisms in meat, which hot smoking accomplishes. Food is kept cold during the smoking process. Is there any way to accomplish that without getting botulism? Brining and curing are the methods of choice. You can find more about food danger zone in the pdf from Minnesota Health Dept here.
What is the Difference Between Hot and Cold Smoking?
The main difference between hot and cold smoking is the temperature of your smoker.
Hot smoking is done at temperatures above 100 degrees F, which allows you to cook foods at the same time that you are smoking them. Hot smoking is usually done in a smoker with a built-in heat source like propane or charcoal. The only temperature that matters in hot smoking is your internal temperature of the food you’re eating.
Learn Step-by-Step Guide: How to Smoke Beef Brisket
Cold smoking is done at a temperature of less than 100 degrees F, which allows you to preserve the meat’s natural tenderness through long term storage. Cold smoking is usually done in a smoker with an electric heating element, or a smoker that can be plugged into an electrical outlet. The only temperature that matters in cold smoking is your internal temperature of the food you’re eating. Cold smoked foods will be safe to eat as long as they don’t reach over 120 degrees F. Cold smoking is also the preferred way to preserve food.
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Below is a quick summary of each smoking method:
Used to keep food fresh longer.
To avoid overheating, the temperature should never exceed 80 degrees.
Curing meat is essential.
Can take several days to finish.
Used to prepare meals that will be consumed right away.
The temperature ranges from 140 degrees to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
There is no need for a cure.
Usually completed in one or two days.
Hot and Cold Smoking Tips
Applesauce – apple cider vinegar is the best way to keep applesauce moist when you’re cold smoking them. Use an aluminum foil lined rack so that the apples don’t stick to the bottom of your smoker.
Food Safety – make sure that you know the temperature of your smoker to ensure that your food doesn’t get overheated. You can use an instant read thermometer to avoid this.
Smoke Time – If your smoker doesn’t have a thermostat, then make sure to keep an eye on the temperature. Your smoke time will depend on how hot it is in your smoker. The higher the temperature, the less smoke time you will have with each batch. If you need to cook something faster than a full day, then you can turn the heat up on your smoker and add more wood as needed.
Keep an eye on the temperature of your smoker. If it ever gets too hot, pull out the meat and put it in a cooler with ice and then place the cooler in a refrigerator until the temperature cools down. This will allow you to finish your smoke.
Cold Smoking Tips
Use a digital thermometer to monitor your internal temp when smoking food.
Measure your smoked foods by hand to check for doneness.
Keep a low temperature and make sure the heat does not get too high.
Cold smoking times will vary, make sure you adjust time based on what you are smoking.
What Kind of Foods Can I Cold Smoke?
Cold smoking isn’t your only option when it comes to cooking meat.
Find the Best Meats to Smoke
Additionally, there are a variety of other dishes to consider:
Even Tofu Is Included!
Keep in mind that the goal of cold smoking is to preserve and enhance the flavor of your food. Most people associate smoking with meat, but there are a plethora of other possibilities.
The Main Process of Cold Smoking
The most important thing that you need to remember is that your smoker needs time to reach the optimal temperature before putting in your food. If you use your smoker to cook hot food, then the inside of your smoker can get very messy due to the high temperatures. When you cold smoke, however, all of your food will be low temperature, so there will be no mess!
Step 1: Heat up your smoker at a low temperature (around 100°F or 37°C). You can use a heat gun to speed up the process if necessary.
Step 2: Apply your fuel (depends on smoker but potentially saw dust, pellets or maybe chips) to the smoker, covering the food entirely. Use more chips for stronger flavors, or less for milder tastes.
Step 3: Leave your meats in your smoker for as long as possible – up to 24 hours! The longer you cook your food, the more cold smoke will be absorbed into it.
What Do I Need to Cold Smoke?
Typically a cold smoke generator tube can be found and is an inexpensive way to get started with cold smoking. We put together a full article on our favorite cold smoke generators that has something for every style and budget. You can read the complete review at Reviews of the 7 Best Cold Smoker Generators.
What Kind of Wood Should I Use in My Cold Smoker?
Another question you should be asking is what type of wood should I use in my cold smoker. This answer will mainly come down to personal preference and the strength of the smokiness you prefer. There are a few general guidelines when choosing the type of wood for cold smoking.
Do not use evergreen wood. It quickly gathers smoke but releases resins which will destroy the flavor.
Oak and hickory are probably the two most common woods used for cold smoking but other woods such as cherry, mesquite or beech also make a great smoky flavor.
You can experiment with using different mix ratio’s of woods to accomplish your desired flavor.
In most cases it is recommended to use either wood pellets or wood dust as opposed to wood chips for cold smoking. This is due to wood chips burning too hot although some specialized cold smokers are designed to work with wood chips. Read your manufactures instructions.
In conclusion, I believe that cold smoking is a great way to experiment with different flavors, but it’s not for everyone. If you are new to the world of smoking meats, and want to try out a new flavor, cold smoking is a perfect way to do so. Let us know your thoughts and tips on cold smoking in the comments below.