The best things to cold smoke are cheeses, bacon, salmon and sausages. Cheeses are an easy item to smoke as long as you keep the temperature low. Bacon, salmon and sausages benefit from being cured before being smoked, thereby inhibiting bacteria growth while in the “Danger Zone” of 40F-140F.
Cold smoking is a process that adds smoke flavor to things without being at a high enough temperature to cook the items.
Cold smoking is can be done at under 100F but usually between 60-80F.
Now we got that out of the way lets take a deeper step in its contents, but before that let me give you a difference between cold and hot smoking.
Because one might think well if both methods involve smoking than how can one method preserves and other cooks.
The Difference Between Cold Smoking And Hot Smoking
- This method is used for preserving foods.
- In this particular method, the temperature range should be a maximum of 80 or less.
- If you are using cold smoking, then the meat you are using should be cured. This is a very important stuff.
- This process can take a couple of days to complete in the case of ham or as little as a few minutes in the case of some cheeses.
- The hot smoking process is the complete opposite of cold smoking.
- Unlike cold smoking, this method is used to cook foods.
- So in hot smoking, the temperature should be higher than 140 and less or equal to 300.
- In the cold smoking method, you need the meat to be cured, but in hot smoking, it is not mandatory to cure the meat.
- This process takes a day or even less to complete.
- The concept of hot smoking is to cook, though you can store it in a fridge for a couple of days, but what for? You did not cook your meat just to store in a fridge, you want to munch that bad boy.
- The temperature in hot smoking has to reach beyond the danger zone, which is 140 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
What Is the Danger Zone?
Since I mentioned the word “Danger Zone” earlier I thought I should elaborate on it.
In cooking terms the “Danger Zone” is the temperature range from 40 to 140 degrees. In this temperature, the bacteria can enter the food easily and also spoils it. So due to this reason, the temperature of the refrigerator should below 40 degrees.
That is why meat should be cooked at a temperature of a minimum of 165 degrees to kill the bacteria and that exactly what hot smoking does.
Cold smoking keeps the food in the danger zone. Hang on! Didn’t I say that cold smoking is used to preserve food? It’s a bit confusing, isn’t it? So it is cold smoking a safe method to preserve food or it is just a hoax. We will get down to it in a minute it is the next topic.
Is Cold Smoking A Safe To Use?
With all that stuff that I mentioned previously that cold smoking keeps the food in danger but somehow preserves it. Well you can preserve food with bacteria in it, No doubt about that.
To understand this we need to go to the past where the refrigerator wasn’t a thing. So how did people used to store their food, well here is your answer ‘Cold Smoking’, Yes!
They used a cold smoking method to store their food. The method where it takes your food to a danger zone. But the question is how were they able to preserve food using this non-bacterial free method?
The answer is “brine”. Brine is the mixture of salt and water, so before smoking the meat they used to soak it with brine. What it does that salt kills bacteria and prevents the meat from getting spoiled.
Although some people argue about the method as it requires precision and handling with care.
What Type Of Food Can We Store Using Cold Smoking?
This might be one of the most important questions, what type of food can I cold smoke? Surprisingly you can store other foods instead of meat.
By meat, I mean Beef, chicken, or lamb.
So you can store food such as;
Just to clarify cold smoking is used to preserve food with a smoky flavour.
What Things Do I Need To Cold Smoke?
The first thing that comes in your mind is that, well since we are smoking the food we probably need a smoker. Yes, you do but here is the draw.
The smoker you use is meant for hot smoking, meaning you used it for cooking. So you need something where you don’t have the heat source, in other words, you need two separate chambers.
Unluckily, when you are searching for a smoker you typically find which can cook your food in a couple of days, that is hot smoking. To find a smoker who can preserve food, that is cold smoking is nearly impossible to find nowadays.
The reason for it is this method was used thousand of years prior to where there was no refrigerator. Now we have so we don’t need the use of it, but for people who are into the old days, they probably are looking for one.
So how you can achieve it. If you are lucky you may even find one, again is almost impossible. Here is where your crafting skill is tested.
To use cold smoking out of a hot smoking smoker chamber, you need to modify it by adding a second chamber where the other chamber is not linked with the heat source. This how you can attain a cold smoking chamber, #diycoldsmoking.
To use a smoker you will need a fuel that will slowly burn, in this case, wood is the best option but you need to make sure that wood you use should not provide resins (the thick liquid substance when the wood is burned) but only smoke.
What Kind Of Wood Should Be Used?
First of all, you should not use wood that leaves resins when it is burned which is mainly evergreen wood. Why we need wood that doesn’t have resins.
The reason is that when the wood burns, the smoke, and resins mix up and eventually leaves an unpleasant flavour on your food.
So what type of wood you should use? you might say. Here is the list of wood you might wanna try, individual or together;
You may be wondering why not the log? What will happen that log will provide a lot of heat which you don’t want any of it?
Smouldering wood is what you want. Some experts will tell you to use wood dust or wood pellets. You will think of using wood chips, well don’t.
The wood chips will burn too hot and eventually will cook your food, and that’s the thing you don’t want.
Where To Get These Type Of Wood?
Ok! Let see where you can find wood. There are perhaps two options, the lumberyard or the carpenter.
These are the place where you mostly find wood. Here is the suggestion, don’t get it from the lumberyard—just don’t, why!? Because you might get a wood which has a pinewood mixed or treated, and if you can purchase a wood that happens to be an oak than here is the hardest part that you have to do it all by yourself, maybe get some help from your loved one’s., to turn it into shavings.
So that leaves us only one option that is a carpenter and that is the choice you want to select.
But over here you should be very careful of the kind of wood you are looking for, fiberwood or soft board. The woodworker that makes furniture is an ideal choice for purchasing wood for cold smoking.
What About Wood Pellets?
Earlier I mentioned wood pellet, and yes you can use wood pellet as the fuel source. Wood pellets are made from hardwood which is pressed, grounded, and at the end cut into small pieces of the pellet.
Wood pellet is one of the best choices when it comes to cold smoking because it burns slowly and it easy to control the temperature.
Try buying it without fillers and additives as it will be harder to control the temperature and makes the flavour quality not so great.
Is Charcoal Good For Cold Smoking?
Charcoal is another good source for fuel, it has two types. One, where it is extracted from the earth’s core or the surface, and second where it is made of wood.
Which one you should go for. Well here’s the twist, charcoal is the substance which provides heat not smoke, so you will end up warming or partially cooking your food with no smoky flavour although you will get a charcoal flavour which has an amazing flavour if you are looking for a smoke flavour than this might not be the option.
Some crafty people use charcoal with wood chips. Three charcoal briquettes and a garnish of two cups of wood chips.
What About The Smokers?
I knew that this question was about to come. Well, it would be great that you head to the market and purchase the smoker.
But that’s not the case, most smokers are built or design to smoke your meat that will be eaten at after a moment, it does not help to store it for a month or so.
These smokers are hot smoking. They cook not store.
Well all the information you just gave us was for nothing!? Nope! Everything has a solution and there is a solution to this problem. Basically, you will need tow chambers. So you will need to modify it. Let’s discuss some of the smokers that we can modify by ourselves.
The R2D2 shaped smokers are one it’s kind. It is easy to operate and thus has a good reputation in its field.
Let’s talk about the design, the top part of the chamber is the meat carrier.
The wire grates are used to hold on to your food so it stays in one place and can be smoke from all the side rather using a tray and lying it on it. This part of the chamber is closed with a dome which traps heat and smoke.
The second compartment is where the water is poured. The water is used to provide moisture and it has a door attached to it so that you can water rather than removing the top chamber.
Finally, the bottom chamber is a fire pit or in this case, a firebox where you put the fuel source like wood or charcoal.
The best about this is that you can control the temperature of the smoker which will be perfect for cold smoking, but how can you as it’s got one single chamber.
Here is where you get creative you can build the second chamber by using a barbeque grill or any other material in which you can light the wood and cover it.
Take a grill and attach one side of the pipe with it. Then take the second end of the pipe and attach to the chamber.
Place your fuel source in the grill, Not in the chamber remember that. Once you have lit up the wood you have created your own cold smoking DIY chamber. To be more clear I will post a video link down below.
This is another smoker you can look up for if you are a beginner.
The advantage, unlike the previous smoker.
- It is very easy to use.
- It has a built-in timer and a thermostat. And most important, it does not require any sort of supervision
- You still have to modify this kind of smoker as well.
How you are going to do that? Is the question.
Because all it uses is electricity, it doesn’t require any sort of fuel except electricity. Fear no more, many models like Bradley smoker have an adapter where you can use it for the purpose of cold smoking.
Read my review of the BEST ELECTRIC SMOKERS.
Is There Any Other Option?
Quite frankly there is, and it is called a smoke generator. Let’s look at some of the smoke generators.
Electric Powered Smoke Generator
This particular design is used to send smoke inside your smoker. The fuel it requires is a wood pellet. It will last for three hours if you use one cup.
There is a heating element install which smoulders the pellet and produces heat.
It require s a minute modification and a place to plug in which won’t be that hard.
The Big Kahuna
This is ideal for those you don’t want to tangle with wires and sockets. This type of smoke generator is perfect, it is a small firebox which you mount or keep beside the smoker.
How you can make smoke travel from the smoke generator to the smoker? By using a pipe of course, for that, you will have drill a hole in the chamber and then attach the pipe. Once you have done that you are set to SMOKE!
The best thing about this is that it can be used for both hot and cold smoking. You can also control the amount of smoke you wish to travel inside the chamber.
It is a cylindrical metal shaped fire pit where you put your wood pellet and then you place it in the smokebox of your chamber.
That’s it, doesn’t requires electricity, drilling or any extra work. You just place in the smokebox and light the wood pellet
How Will I Prepare My Food?
If you are going for a cold-smoking process than you need to be very careful in doing so. Cold smoking is typically hard than hot smoking.
You need to look for the right temperature so it doesn’t go above the danger zone and also to cure the meat.
Curing meat is the most important step before cold smoking it. Though it is not mandatory for hot smoking as the temperature reaches danger zone and eventually kills the bacteria but below danger zone is the problem.
So to cure your meat you first need to submerge or soak it with brine, which is the mixture of salt and water.
The other thing you can do is the dry method where you coat the meat with curing salt for more preservation and pepper. Then you set it for one day after which you pop it in the smoker.
These were the complete guide for those who are looking to do cold smoking.
Because in some parts of the world there are people who can’t effort a fridge or they just want to do it in a good old fashion way.
The only thing that you need to take care of for the cold smoking process is that to cure your meat before smoking and to keep attain the right amount of temperature.
The temperature is the most important thing when it comes to cold smoking. You need to keep it below the danger zone.