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Cold Smoking Food

The basics of great cold smoked food

Unlike hot smoking, cold smoking uses a low temperature in the 80f to 100f range, and because of the lower temperature, this means that smoking food can take anywhere from a few hours up to four days.

Cold smoking results in food that is “cured”.

While curing is more often used for flavor rather than preservation, the smoke acts as both an antimicrobial and antioxidant.

Simply put, the smoke particles stick to the outer surfaces of food which inhibits bacterial growth and oxidation.

What types of food can be cold smoked?

Almost anything! The most commonly cold-smoked foods are cheese, ham, sausage, pork and fish. The only food that sticks out in cold smoking is fish, as this requires salt to be added to the fish in order to pickle it prior to smoking.

This bolsters the anti-bacterial effectiveness of the smoking process and is necessary to producing properly cured, cold smoked fish.

Cold Smoking – The Implications of weather

During the warmer months, cold-smoking is difficult at best, and sometimes impossible, as the external temperatures are too high for a cold smoker to work within the correct temperature range.

The most reliable time to cold smoke is during winter, when the cooler air can be consistently relied upon to deliver the ideal cooking temperature.

Recommended Products For Your Smoker

How does a cold smoker work?

The clue to properly cold-smoked food is in the name! At low temperature.

In order to achieve the correct cold-smoking temperature, the heat source is ideally located in a box that is situated outside of where the food is positioned, similar in some respects to the way an offset BBQ smoker works.

The heat is generated to a desired temperature and is then “ported in” to the cooking chamber where the residual heat is kept at a constant temperature, and as such, is considerably easier to regulate than if the heat source was present with the food.

Cold Smoking in a BBQ smoker with an offset firebox

A conventional BBQ smoker with an offset firebox can be used for cold smoking, albeit with limited success, as due to its inherent design qualities, means that the temperature is still fairly hard to regular due to the close proximity of the firebox.

It can be made to work provided that the temperature in the firebox is closely monitored, and relatively little wood or charcoal is used so that the temperature does not soar outside of the top-end 100f cold-smoking range.

The downside to using a regular smoker is obvious, as it means that you would have to give the charcoal or wood constant attention for a long period of time as the food cooks, and attending the fuel constantly for several days to cure some fish may well be a task that you don't want to take on!

That said, it can be done!

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