Cold Smoking Guide: Best Tips, Techniques & Gear


Make perfect home-smoked cheese and salmon every time with our full guide to cold smoking. Tips, techniques, and the best gear for your own backyard cold smoker setup.

cold smoking guide

Are you looking for a guide to cold smoking? Perhaps you’ve had a chance to taste some food that has been cold smoked, and you are thinking about trying it out yourself at home. It’s a brilliant way to get smoke infused into food such as cheese, or eggs, or fish. Most people know of hot smoking, but not so much about cold smoking. 

In this article, we take a look at what cold smoking is, the differences between it and hot smoking, and also the types of food that you can cold smoke. Let’s dig in.

What is cold smoking?

Cold smoking is a great way to get a smokey flavor into your food. It’s a great way to preserve your food with the use of smoke. All this requires minimal heat. The temperature is kept low by making sure that there is no direct heat applied to the food. The smoke is taken from a different chamber. The lower the temperature, the better it will be for the food, allowing it to keep moisture and flavor.

Cold smoking does not cook food, which means that it is essential to ensure that the food is salted or brined properly to avoid decay. This process becomes necessary, especially when you intend to keep the food for a long time. But if you will be grilling it, son, after, then curing does not need to be part of the process.

The whole point of cold smoking is to infuse flavor into the food. It is a delicate process that needs specific equipment and a particular skill set. The aim isn’t to cook the food.

Hot smoking vs cold smoking: What are the main differences?

The first and noticeable difference between cold and hot smoking is that cold smoking uses lower temperatures than hot smoking does. Cold smoking preserves food whilst hot smoking cooks it. 

Cold smoking uses way lower temperatures, and as such, it takes much longer than hot smoking does. You can cold smoke food for up to a month. The recommended temperature is at least below 80 degrees. At the same time, hot smoking can require temperatures as high as 300degrees Fahrenheit. 

Cold smoking can take up to a month. That is why it is essential to cure the meat before you attempt to smoke it for such an extended period, unlike hot smoking, which does not need any curing. 

What types of food are best for cold smoking

Cold smoking is about infusing immense flavor using cold smoke, into food. It is not all food types that can be cold smoked, but most can. The important thing is to make sure that you use the proper tools and also that you think about why you are smoking the food. It also helps to have a clear end goal. 

You may be smoking the food as a way of preserving it or as a way of getting flavor in it before you cook it to perfection. Some of the best foods for cold smoking include pork, fish, chicken, bacon, cheese, beef, tofu, fruit, and just about anything.

Cheese is one of the most accessible foods to smoke. It’s easy to work with. Some of the best smoked cheese recipes include halloumi, mozzarella, cheddar, swiss, pepper jack, and provolone. You can smoke these cheeses with woods such as hickory, apple, pecan, cherry, maple, amongst others. Some have a more robust flavor than others. You can also cold smoke sausages, vegetables, ham, and various types of seafood.

The problems with cold smoking

Cold smoking may be accessible, but it is also a tricky craft, and you need to be skillful. It is vital that you have the right tools with you and even understand that there are risks involved. It is just as dangerous to ignore the dangers and warnings that come with cold smoking.

One of the points of cold smoking is to preserve food and keep bacteria from growing on it. But when you are not meticulous enough to watch over it with a hawk’s eye, the presence of moisture can give rise to bacteria forming on the food. Cold smoking creates some of the best-known conditions for bacteria to thrive. It can be a danger to your health. 

For meat cold smoked in a commercial factory, listeria is one of the pathogens that form on meat that is being cold smoked. That, amongst other pathogens, is very dangerous and can even kill. That is why it is crucial to ensure that you have a recipe that can ward off any bacteria. The heat will kill dangerous pathogens, but the cold will not. 

Botulism and listeria are high possibilities, especially when you prepare cold smoked salmon or other fish. If you are smoking seafood, remember that you need to handle it with a certain degree of safety, because it is prone to causing seafood poisoning. If you have a compromised immune system, then you need to make sure that you steer clear of smoked food. 

Cold smoke food does not get cooked. That means that if there were any pathogens already present in the meat, they would not be removed as you smoke the food. Instead, they may just be encouraged to breed.

How to cold smoke safely

Cold smoking requires the utmost care and due diligence. It is not a quick fix. The concept requires that you collect smoke from one source, then transport it to a second chamber where the meat will be. It goes through pipes, and as the smoke travels, it is cooled along the pipe. The smoke is meant to pass through the food and not heat it at any point.

To enhance safety, make sure that all the materials used are food grade. Also, ensure that you have a way of checking on the temperature of your heat source to make sure that it does not exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit maximum. Make sure to maintain the chosen temperature.

Make sure to follow instructions by a professional, on how to set up the smoker. And also on how to keep bacteria from compromising the food you are smoking. Precision and adherence are key.

About the Author

Ben Isham-Smith

A BBQ obsessive, Ben is behind 250+ of The Online Grill’s recipes, as well as countless barbecue guides to help barbecue newbies get to grips with the world’s best form of cooking.

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