Guide to Cold Smoking

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You should sometimes go outside of your usual BBQ comfort zone.

Cold smoking provides you a world of taste options.

But, before you go out and purchase everything you need to build a world-class backyard cold smoking business, a word of warning.

You should be aware that cold smoking requires accuracy and attention. There are potentially significant health concerns involved. The good news is that these hazards may be reduced with sufficient planning and awareness.

If you want to learn more about cold smoking, we’ve included all you need to know in the following article. Determine for yourself if you are prepared to take on the task.

What is cold smoking?

Guide to Cold Smoking

Cold smoking is a method of preserving meat and imparting a characteristic smoky taste when used in combination with curing.

Some foods can be cold smoked and do not need curing like meat. Cold smoked items may be kept at room temperature for months.

The fundamental procedure for cold smoking meat is as follows:

  1. The meat is cured in order to absorb moisture and restrict bacterial development.
  2. The cured beef is smoked, which gives it a characteristic smoky taste. Smoking meat takes time, which may range from hours to days depending on the product.

The goal is to expose the meal to smoke without exposing it to excessive heat. The food must be stored at temperatures lower than 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Typically, this is performed by keeping the meal in an unheated room while smoke from another chamber is poured into it.

Cold smoking has a long history. When food was limited in the winter, this method was often utilized to preserve meat. In Western civilization, farms often had a smokehouse, which was a specific facility for smoking and preserving meats.

You could even recall your grandparents or great aunts and uncles cold smoking lox or anything similar.

Hot Smoking vs Cold Smoking

Guide to Cold Smoking

If you’ve been around this page for a while, you should be acquainted with hot smoking. The smoke is produced by combustion at temperatures high enough to cook the meat. Usually between 225 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

The meat is usually kept in the same chamber as the burning fuel and heat.

The meat is usually consumed hot, just after it has been smoked.

Hot smoked meat does not need to be cured since it is cooked at temperatures over the danger zone of 140F. The higher temperatures are hot enough to eliminate any microorganisms that may cause you to get unwell.

Of course, you could still wish to cure or marinade hot smoked items for the taste.

Hot smoking may take many hours, or perhaps a day, for the biggest slices of brisket. The overall duration will be determined by the amount and kind of meat being smoked.

What types of food are best for cold smoking

When we think about cold smoked food, the first thing that comes to mind is usually salami or smoked salmon. However, there is a vast variety of items that can be cold smoked, such as cheese.

If you’ve never cold smoked before, it’s generally best to start with something low-risk, like cheese, and leave the salami to the pros. This will enable you to learn the method without worrying about the safety dangers.

Other items that may be cold smoked while posing less health hazards include

  • tofu (dont laugh, its worth a go)
  • nuts
  • vegetables.
  • hard boiled eggs
  • olive oil
  • garlic

Meat that has been cooked before serving, such as bacon, is similarly low risk. This aids in the elimination of any nasties that may have developed.

Although sausage and fish (think smoked salmon) are popular cold smoking alternatives, they pose a larger risk than other forms of meat because they create the ideal environment for botulism to flourish if not handled appropriately.

The dangers of cold smoking (or how not to die from botulism)

All of the material on cold smoking seems to fall into one of two categories:

  1. Cold smoking is the devil’s work, and if you attempt it, your friends and family will all perish from botulism.
  2. Cold smoking is easy and anyone can do it at home

This, I believe, is doing everyone a disservice. The information either glosses over the inherent problems or is so focused on frightening you about the health concerns that any aspiring cold smoker is likely to abandon the notion.

We hope that by discussing the hazards and how to mitigate them, we may assist you in deciding if cold smoking is suitable for you.

Why is cold smoking more dangerous than hot smoking?

While smoking any sort of meat has inherent dangers, cold smoking fish and sausages is especially dangerous.

Cold smoking promotes the growth of potentially dangerous germs. The meat is not cooked, which should destroy any germs.

If you cure your meat before smoking it (which you should), the salt will reduce the development of germs but will not totally destroy it. Furthermore, if the temperature of the meat is not constantly maintained when cold smoking, it might increase bacteria development.

You may be thinking about the lengthy, apparently successful history of various civilizations cold smoking meats at this point. We would have abandoned the practice if it was so harmful.

People have died, and continue to die, as a consequence of consuming meat that was not properly cold smoked.

Surprisingly, current industrial production practices have increased the likelihood of hazardous microorganisms showing up in our meat. Clostridium botulinum, or botulism, and Listeria monocytogenes, or listeria, are two of these pathogens.

Botulism is very harmful, despite the fact that it is not as widespread as listeria, especially in handmade smoked items. Listeria will still get you sick and may be fatal.

It’s worth mentioning that ground meats are especially prone to bacterial contamination. This is due to the fact that when meat is crushed up, the bacteria that dwell in the animal’s intestines are uniformly dispersed throughout the flesh. Bacteria may quickly multiply if the meat is not cooked.

Certain people should avoid cold smoked meats at all costs

Because of the significant danger of listeria infection, persons with impaired immune systems (such as the elderly, chronically sick people, and pregnant women) are recommended to avoid consuming cold smoked fish products, even if they are professionally made.

Raw smoked fish does not have the shelf life that other smoked items offer owing to the increased danger of listeria infection. Commercially prepared smoked salmon has a two-week shelf life.

Cold smoked salmon is also a source of parasite infection. Tapeworms, for example, may enter streams by runoff from the excrement of animals that dwell nearby on the land. Normally, cooking would destroy such parasites, but cold smoking does not.

Summing up the risks

We’ve gone through a lot of material on the dangers of cold smoking.

  • Cold smoked food is not cooked and is maintained in the temperature danger zone for bacterial development while being cold smoked.
  • The cold smoking procedure does not eliminate parasites that may have been present in the meat.
  • When cold smoking sausages and seafood, the danger of botulism or listeria is very significant.
  • Cold smoked meat products are not recommended for anyone who are immunocompromised, such as those who are chronically sick, elderly, or pregnant.

So there’s a lot to be cautious about. However, if you’re still reading this, you’re obviously still interested in cold smoking. And many individuals do it for home security.

There are several excellent manuals and recipe books available that teach you how to cold smoke properly.

This book does an excellent job of explaining the science and practices of charcuterie.

DIY cold smoker setup

We can’t make smoke using our standard combustion procedures.

In most circumstances, the most convenient approach to cold smoke is to use an external fireplace that pumps air into the smoking room through pipes.

As the smoke travels through the pipes, it cools.

A vent in the firebox allows you to manage the heat of the fire and the amount of smoke produced.

The meal is put in the smoking chamber, which is essentially a separate container. Install racks in your smoking chamber to make the most of the available space, as well as a vent for ventilation and temperature management.

This chamber might be as basic as an old wooden barrel or a plastic cooler.

Some people prefer to put ice cubes in the smoke chamber to keep the temperature from rising to levels where germs may grow more easily.

The video below depicts a very standard DIY cold smoker setup that makes use of an inexpensive Weber charcoal grill and a water smoker.

There are several solutions available based on the equipment you have on hand.

If the prospect of creating your own cold smoking setup is overwhelming, there is a wide range of devices available to help.

Cold smoking in a Weber Smokey Mountain

While this can be accomplished while maintaining the food and fire in the same chamber, keeping the temperature below 120F is very difficult.

The answer is to put your food in the Weber Smokey Mountain and bring smoke in from another source.

Place an electric cooker in a cardboard box, some wood pieces on a skillet, and a tiny computer fan in the box for a low-cost, straightforward solution.

To keep the air moving, build some vents in the box. Run some foil ducting from the box to your Weber Smokey Mountain (you may replace the usual door on the Weber Smokey Mountain with a cardboard door with a hole of the perfect size for the ducting).

NOTE Keep an eye on it since there’s a fire threat here.

As the wood burns, the blower draws the smoke into the Weber Smokey Mountain through the ducting.

You will need highly precise thermometers to monitor the temperature in the Weber Smokey Mountain, so if you haven’t already purchased a high-quality thermometer for your stove, now is the time.

If you want more thorough instructions on how to set up this system, go to

Cold smoking in a Masterbuilt smoker

If you own a Masterbuilt electric smoker, a cold smoking kit is a convenient choice. This accessory connects to the smoker’s wood chip loading port. At a temperature of 100-120F, you may expect continuous smoke for up to 6 hours.

We’ve heard that this smoker may emit creosote, which imparts a bitter flavor to the meal. There are a few options for dealing with this issue.

To eliminate the creosote, add around 3 inches of drier tubing. This will also improve temperature management.

Another suggestion is to provide lots of oxygen to the flames at initially. Allow the chips to burn and the white smoke to settle. When thin, blue smoke is formed, feed it into your smoking chamber.

Use a pellet tube smoke generator

This smoke generator was created particularly to generate smoke for cold smoking. It may be put directly in your cooker and produces smoke without producing much heat.

Simply load the smoke generator with pellets and ignite one end with a torch, keeping the flame to the pellets until they light.

Allow the pellets to burn until they are blazing hot, then extinguish the flame. Place the smoker in your cooker and you’re all set.

This add-on is a lightweight and portable technique to make smoke using pellets or sawdust.

This unit promises 4-6 hours of smoke. We’ve heard that this unit sometimes falls short of this claim.

However, this might be due to a number of things, including the type of pellet you’re using or whether or not you followed the directions correctly (although it’s tempting to disregard the instructions and simply fire the thing up).

We have compiled a list of the greatest chilly smoke generators.

Cold smoking cheese

If all the news about botulism has turned you off cold smoking, there are still choices for you.

Aside from the possibility of melting your cheese if it gets too hot, cold smoking cheese offers exquisite results in around 2-4 hours without the hazards associated with cold smoking meat.

If you maintain the temperature in the smoking chamber below 90F, the cheese should stay firm, but you must still be diligent in monitoring the temperature.

It will be simpler to keep the temperature down if you smoke while the weather is chilly.

If you must smoke cheese during the summer, consider smoking it in the morning or evening when temperatures are lower, or throw some ice in the smoking chamber to keep the air surrounding the cheese cold.

Because the smoke taste will only reach the surface parts of the cheese, chopping it into smaller pieces will provide a better outcome. It is a good idea to flip the cheese on a frequent basis to ensure that the smoke is evenly distributed throughout the surface of the cheese.

Another helpful trick is to bring the cheese to room temperature before smoking it to prevent moisture from developing on the surface.

Wrap your cheese in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for a few days to produce a more powerful taste.

Here’s a terrific video by Malcom Reed of showing how to smoke cheese in your smoker without a separate smoking chamber.

In addition, we have a whole blog page dedicated to cold smoking cheese.

Tips for cold smoking safely

Cold smoking is not suitable for everyone. To do it securely, you must be precise and patient, and you must be willing to spend time and money to ensure you have the proper setup.If you’re still interested in trying cold smoking, here are some precautions to take.

1) Make sure you follow expert recipes

While your guy down the street may say he is a cold smoking specialist, his word isn’t enough in this scenario, since the health of your family and friends is at risk.

The good news is that there are genuine professionals willing to share their knowledge. This book is an excellent resource for charcuterie and sausage.

2) Source the highest quality meat or fish from a local butcher or fishmonger

We’ve previously covered the dangers of smoking fish that has been infested with parasites like tapeworm. Find a trustworthy fishmonger who understands the indications of parasite illness in fish flesh and can tell you where the fish came from.

When it comes to meat, the same rules apply. If the beast is healthy and clear of infections, your hazards are reduced.

3) Use cold smoking combined with salting

Cold smoking does not cure the meat on its own. As a result, you must cure your meat before smoking it. Only animal items that have been fermented, salted, or cured should be cold-smoked, according to the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

So, always follow the experts’ advise and cure your food before cold smoking it.

4) Use cold smoking followed by another cooking method

This suggestion may be used in a variety of ways.

The most secure method is to cure your meat, cold smoke it, and then cook it before consuming it. To paraphrase our pals at the National Center for Home Food Preservation once more: Before eating most cold-smoked goods, they should be heated to an internal temperature of 160F.

This serves as a good reminder that cold smoking does not cook or cure meat in any manner.

Another method is to smoke your meat while it is still raw for a brief amount of time, taking extra care not to overheat it. The meat should then be cooked immediately following the cold smoking procedure. The goal of doing things this way is to give the meat a smokey taste before cooking it.

Wrapping it up

We hope you found our cold smoking instructions helpful. While cold smoking is outside of the low and slow comfort zone and involves some hazards if not done correctly, it may also create some extremely pleasant results when done right.

With the correct knowledge and equipment, you could be ready to go on yet another smoking experience.

Have you experimented with cold smoking? Do you have any questions that this article did not address?

We’d love to hear from you, so please leave a remark below. And, if you found this information beneficial, please spread the word.


How long should I cold smoke?

Close the cover and let the flavor-infused smoke gently cook your meat after making sure you have excellent ventilation and your BBQ is cold smoking. Smoke your meat or fish for 3 to 4 hours for a milder taste, and up to 10-12 hours for a more robust flavor.

What is the best meat to cold smoke?

You may be smoking the food to preserve it or to infuse flavor into it before you cook it to perfection. Cold smoking foods include pig, fish, poultry, bacon, cheese, beef, tofu, fruit, and almost anything else.

What are some good things to cold smoke?

Quality cuts of beef are another favourite cold smoked dish.
Hams from the countryside.
Fruits and vegetables.

How to do cold smoking?

Open the intake damper and chimney by half an inch to maintain the smoker temperature below 110°F. Cold smoking is best done in the autumn and winter when the temperature is below 40 degrees. The cool air from outside stops the smoker from becoming too hot inside.

How cold is too cold to cold smoke?

Cold-smoking, as the name implies, is done at temperatures no greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and most often between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

What is the danger zone for cold smoking?

Because smoking cooks food at low temperatures, the meat will take too long to thaw in the smoker, enabling it to stay in the “Danger Zone” (temperatures between 40 and 140 °F), where hazardous germs may develop.

Can you cold smoke raw meat?

Another method is to smoke your meat while it is still raw for a brief amount of time, taking extra care not to overheat it. The meat should then be cooked immediately following the cold smoking procedure. The goal of doing things this way is to give the meat a smokey taste before cooking it.

Is cold smoking healthy?

Because of the inherent hazards, most food scientists cannot advocate cold-smoking procedures, and as a result, at-risk consumers are urged to avoid these items (US FDA 2001a).

How do you cure meat before cold smoking?

Spread the salt over the meat and place it on a tray coated with approximately 12 inch of salt. Keep it cold (less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit) for 18 days. The meat is ready to smoke when it is firm.

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