Cold Smoking - How to?

Discussion in 'Info and Practices' started by jimf, Dec 3, 2012.

  1. jimf

    jimf Meat Mopper

    For Christmas I am getting an AMNPS for my UDS.  I plan on using the mailbox mod so I can use it to Hot or Cold smoke. 

    This cold smoking business is new to me.  I understand the idea and concept behind it; seems very straight forward.  I thought I would find a sticky or an overall general good practice thread on here but I don't see anything. 

    What are some good things I should know about cold smoking?  For example, from my research salmon (all fish?) MUST be cured with salt for a couple days prior to smoking to prevent bacteria growth. Also, the top vent should be left open to allow the smoke to escape and prevent creosote.

    I envision this thread to be a point of reference to people who are just getting started; Cold Smoking 101.  Do you have anything to contribute?
  2. so ms smoker

    so ms smoker Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

       Meats that are cold smoked should be cured first. It is more than just adding salt. Use cure #1 or Morton's Tender Quik and follow the directions exactly! You have to use enough but not too much. Also the time for curing is very important. There are many here that can give you more detailed instructions for curing. Follow thier advice!

     The reason to cold smoke is to add smoke flavor to the product without cooking it.  For example, bacon  and cheese. (Cheese does not have to be cured).  Look for curing in the search tool. This will get you started. Hope this helps some.

  3. mr t 59874

    mr t 59874 Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Welcome to the world of cold smoking.  Cold smoking will definitely broaden your smoking horizon and there are many different ways to do it by not limiting yourself to one way of doing it.

    The following may be more than you want, but it will help you understand it.

    My Cold Smoking Options w/Q - View    Understanding Smoke Management - updated 5/18/13   Smoked Bread,Crackers and Snacks

    Smoking Lettuce from Go to Show - Q/View   Mr T's "Smoked Salmon From Go to Show" w/Q-View   Mr T's "Smoked Cheese From Go To Show" w/ Q- View

    Hope this helps.

  4. Cold smoking is all I do.  I cure everything then cold smoke it using different types of wood.  I don't know if there is a much of a science to cold smoking, it kind of comes naturally to me.  As you stated the vent must be left open.  You want your smoke to just "Kiss the Meat" and leave.  A nice clean white smoke is what you're looking for.  Also It's important for the meat to be dry as the smoke will adhere better.  The vent in the bottom and top full open will of course smoke faster((and hotter)  Normally it's better to find the middle as not to waste your wood.  I use a ground Beechwood Meal.  It comes in fine, medium and course.  With this type of wood, you use it dry and your goal is for it to just smolder. 

    If you experience it constantly going out it's because the smoker is cold and can't start a draft.  So to solve this I build a small kindling fire with sticks to warm the interior walls as the heat rises it will begin to draft, and you can add your cured meat to begin smoking.  Don't over do it with the wood or you end up with cooked meat.  To much Meal (or what you might call saw dust) can burn hot if you have to much.  I just dont like gas or hot plates. My smoker is made for cold smoking and has a pan for the wood, so this is what I recommend (the ole timey way").....  Just remember to keep the smoke as cool as possible. 
  5. Practically all of my smoking is cold smoking. But in truth cold smoking today is just flavoring cured meat with smoke. 75 years ago and longer it was the method for long term meat preservation and involved a long period of drying. It is valid to smoke meat and sausage with cold smoke nd finish in the kitchen. This is my favorite picture of cold smoking at my place.
  6. sqwib

    sqwib Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    In addition to the great posts already, cold smoking works best for me when the outdoor temp is 50 or below, especially for fish and cheese.

    Cold smoking can be used may ways, I mainly us it like any other ingredient, I may throw a couple steaks on and cold smoke for an hour or so then pre-sear and toss in my Sous Vide Machine.

  7. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Hi Jim

    Smoking meat or fish was originally done as a way to preserve it in times of plenty for use later when fresh food was scarce. The preservation was achieved by removing water from the food that the bacteria need to grow (by the addition of salt and air drying) and through the antiseptic properties of the smoke itself. At some point it was discovered that certain salts (that contained nitrates/nitrites) made the food even safer although it was probably not understood why at the time. Over time many different styles of smoking were developed leaving us with the variety of regional foods that we have today.

    As you say, cold smoking food is not rocket science once you understand what is actually happening. The primary purpose is to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and spores whilst the food is stored. These days this is usually achieved using a combination of the following methods 

    The reduction in available free water.  This is initially achieved through the initial curing process by the added salt and sugars in the cure drawing water out from the meat/fish. Later in the process this is further reduced through the smoking process or by air drying. 

    Increasing salinity within the food. In order for bacteria to live/grow it needs to be within fairly narrow salinity range to maintain its metabolic functions. By increasing the salinity within the food the bacteria will either be killed or their growth will be inhibited. 

    Increasing the acidity. Many of the harmful bacteria cannot grow in acidic conditions and so by reducing the pH (increasing the acidity) through the addition of acidic ingredients (e.g. citric acid) or through the introduction of harmless acid-producing lactobacillus cultures. This is predominantly used in the production of salamis/chorizos etc.

    The addition of Nitrites.  Nitrite is used to control bacterial spore germination that are not managed through the other methods - primarily Clostridium botulinum. Nitrites also help give the food that characteristic pink/red colour. Over time the NItrite will break down and become less effective and so in foods that be stored for long periods of time Nitrate is also added. This is slowly converted to Nitrite and so maintaining the levels. As Nitrites are toxic to humans in fairly small amounts it is therefore essential that they be used carefully and that you know the amount that will remain in your end product. We should not get paranoid about this though as over 80% of the Nitite in the average western diet actually comes from eating vegetables.

    The use of smoke.  Although smoke is a mild antiseptic its primary purpose today is as a flavouring. In sufficient quantity the smoke will help inhibit bacterial growth on the surface however for foods such as fish the greater effect is by the air flow over it during the smoking process leading to further water reduction.

    Some general pointers to help you get started and also some links. You will find a lot of very helpful advice on each of these by searching through the forum.

    It is always important to ensure you practice good food hygene - however it is especially so when preparing food that is going to be cold smoked and subsequently eaten uncooked

    Cheese - Most hard cheeses do not provide suitable environments for the harmful bacteria to grow easily. As has been said above you do not cure cheese before it is smoked. Cheese is best smoked at about 50 - 60 F and usually 2-3 hours in the smoke is sufficient. Once out of the smoker leave the cheese in the fridge overnight to allow the surfaces to dry before packaging. Once smoked the cheese will take 2-3 weeks for the flavours to mellow and for the rounded smoked cheese flavours to develop.

    Fish - Most fish will need to be cured before smoking to reduce the moisture content however this does not usually require the addition of any Nitrite. Salmon is one of the most popular fish to cold smoked and it provides quick reliable results. The salmon can be lightly smoked which will need it to be subsequently cooked or it can be traditionally smoked after which it can be eaten uncooked. Both methods are essentially the same however the result will depend on how much water you remove from the fish during the process. Be sure to weigh the fish before you start the cure so that you know how much water has been removed. In order to produce the traditional smoked salmon you need to reduce the weight of the fish by between 15-18%

    Bacon. This can either be wet brined or dry cured before smoking and this will usually involve the addition of Nitrite. I prefer to dry cure my bacon however you will find a lot of good methods for both on here. When using Nitrite just be certain of the amounts that you are adding and weigh it out on accurate scales rather than use spoon measures. Until you become really comfortable with using Nitrite it is best to buy a ready prepared cure salt (like Cure #1) that can be more easily weighed out and added to your main salt and sugar. You are looking to end up with a maximum residual Nitrite concentration of 175-200 Ppm in your end bacon (usually less)  and please don't be shy to post up your proposed cure mixture here for checking before you use it. There are several of us who can double check your calculations and Dave Omak is the king of cure calculations on here. Do not add cure that also contains Nitrate when making bacon as Nitrate will potentially form nitrosamines at the high temperatures in the frying pan, which has been linked to cancer.

    The levels of Nitrite are important but so is the overall balance of salt and sugar. You need to be aiming for about 2-2.5% salt. The sugar content will depend on your own tastes. If you add too much sugar though you can end up with burned caramel flavours in the pan when the bacon is cooked.

    If dry curing, rub the cure into the surface of the pork before putting in the zip lock bag or vac pack and be sure to add all of the remaining cure before sealing.

    Sausage/salami. There are so many varieties of these and it is best to search for any that you want to make on here or in reputable curing books. These usually employ all of the above curing techniques. Important things to remember are, as you are dealing with ground meat you must keep all of the ingredients chilled throughout the preparation process, until the point where you add any lactobacillus cultures (when creating a fermented sausage). The drying process for these are very important as drying too rapidly will result in the outer surfaces of the sausage becoming hard. You really need a humidity controlled drying environment to produce these effectively.

    Generally when smoking any food it is important to manage the temperature within your smoker as it is very easy to let it get too warm. In the winter it may actually need warming though as it can get too cold. It is also very important to keep a good air flow through the smoker at all times. This helps to remove moisture and also stops the build up of stale creosote flavours on the food.

    This was not meant to be a detailed guide on cold smoking techniques but just a bit of additional background and some general hints to get you started.
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2014
    piratey likes this.
  8. atomicsmoke

    atomicsmoke Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Best post of the year.
  9. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    The important bit was in the white font on the white background ...
  10. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

Share This Page