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Do you know that cold smoking can make meat’s smoky flavor last longer than any other form of meat treatment or preservation? Come to think of it, and nobody can resist the allure of any perfectly smoked piece of meat. Even the most severe vegan will have a hard time resisting a plate of smoked mushrooms, tomatoes, tofu, and other vegetarian delicacies.
Most people will think that smoking is just about firing up the smoker to temperatures of around 160 °F or more and for between 4 and 24 hours. There is a whole different version of smoking referred to as cold smoking, and in this case, it occurs at below room temperature. Cold-smoked food is characterized completely differently from hot smoked foods.
Just about any food can be smoked, whether it be salmon, cheese, kippered herring, Oysters, Salami, and Chorizo sausage. You may be surprised that even tea and whiskey can also be cold smoked Some pipe tobacco blends may be cold-smoked to bring out their flavor, such flavors last for a more extended time. Cold smoking is a natural process with many principles and recipes that you should follow to achieve and get the ideal results of any smoker food.
What Exactly is Cold Smoking?
Cold smoking is simply a process that can be used in conjunction with other treatments such as curing, and preservation, to add some distinctive smoky flavor to foods such as meat. You can simply cold-smoke certain foods without the need to cure them. Cold smoked foods may last for several months, even without refrigeration.
Cold smoking used in smoking meat dates back to several decades, and today, it is quite beneficial in preserving certain foods like meats in the winter season. There are lots of smokehouses in western countries today where particular smoking and storing of meats take place.
The Procedure for Cold Smoking
To smoke food such as meats before you cook, you will need a recipe and a procedure, for instance, the menu will pass through a curing procedure where moisture is extracted, and the growth of bacteria germs are prevented. The second step involves the exposure of the food to get smoked at regulated temperatures for some time, and this will impart the smoky flavor. Smoking duration and temperature will depend mainly on the type of food, meat, for instance, will take a longer time, let’s say, several hours or days to cold-smoke and achieve the desired flavor intensity.
Keep in mind that the trick here is to expose the food to smoke without much heat. The food you are cold-smoking must be kept at less than 90°F. You can accomplish a lesser heat treatment by keeping the food inside an unheated chamber, which is not hot, while the smoke from another heated room is pumped into the un-heated chamber.
Preparing Different Smoke Chambers for Cold Smoking
Smoking is achieved over low and indirect heating of fuel sources such as wood. The temperature range of the heat will depend on whether you still want to cook the food, or you want the smoke to be slightly absorbed.
There are many cold smoking options with the distinct smoking process you may consider, these include; Charcoal grill, and gas grill.
For the charcoal grill recipe and procedure, simply ignite half of a chimney starter that is full of lump charcoal and combust until the edges of the coals become ashy. Gently scatter the burnt charcoal over half of the surface of the charcoal grates. Since this procedure is for cold smoking, you can use just 3 of the coals and leave the rest inside the chimney set of bricks.
Simply close the lid to allow the coals to burn down to your desired temperature. You need to monitor the temperature of the burning fuel with a thermometer that can be stuck through the air vent just in case there is no in-built thermometer in your grill. Simply scatter the wood chips over the coal once the desired temperature is reached.
If you are using a gas grill, simply ignite one of the burners and then close the lid. Allow the grill to heat up to your desired temperature and adjust the burner setting accordingly to meet up with temperature requirements.
Add the wood chips when the desired temperature is reached. If your gas grill comes with an in-built smoker box, ensure you stick to the manufacturer’s instructions as regards cold smoking. If the gas grill comes with no in-built smoker box, then you need to get one for yourself from the market.
Alternatively, you can simply wrap the soaked chips inside a foil packet with lots of holes made on the top before placing it directly on the lit burner and under the grate.
Once your added chips are smoking, put the food to be smoked on the grill section that has no coals. You also need to avoid placing the food on the part that has the lit burner underneath.
The more substantial items that cannot fall through the grate can be placed directly over it, but those items that can fall through the grate should be placed on the metal pie plate. Ensure you allow the smoke circulate properly and come in contact with the food that you are preparing to cook.
Pay attention to the smoking time. Cover the grill and smoke according to instructions as regards cold-smoking different food types.
Cold-smoking Tips for Foods Inside Shell
Cold smoking is more famous for meat and fish. However, you can also cold-smoke foods such as potatoes, tomatoes, peaches, and many more.
For the cherry or grape tomatoes, simply heat half a cup of Applewood chips at 190°F on a perforated grill pan for about 5 minutes. Add your cherry in the smoke chamber to allow the smoke to come in contact with them for 2-4 hours, depending on how intense you want the smoke flavor to be.
Ensure you check the temperatures of the chips and the smoke chamber. The smoke chamber should have a temperature of between 45 and 75 °F for cold smoking, anything higher than 85°F may turn out to be hot smoking. Serve the cherry or grape tomatoes in egg salad or gazpacho salsa.
For the peaches, make sure they are halved, pitted washed and drained. Smoke them over a cup of apple hickory or peach chips on a grill grate. Ensure the chips were first heated at about 200 °F or slightly higher on a grill grate for about 25 minutes, and then cut the side of the peaches up before exposure to smoke for about 5 hours.
You can serve the cooked peaches with salad, pork, ham, and salsa or simply drizzle a caramel sauce with the peach over ice cream.
To cold-smoke capers, simply heat ½ cup of hickory or apple chips placed on a pie plate at about 215 °F over a grill grate for about 30 minutes. Put your capers inside the smoke chamber after washing and draining for about 20 minutes. Then, cold-smoke for about 5 hours or more depending on how intense you want the flavor to stay.
You can serve the capers as a garnish for bagels with smoked salmon and cream cheese. You can also in deviled eggs tossed inside roasted veggies.
To cold-smoke medium to large potatoes, simply wash, drain, peel and rub them with 1-2 spoons of butter and salt. Smoke and heat 2 cups of apple hickory chips at about 220°F on the grill grate for about an hour.
Add the potatoes in the smoke chamber then allow the smoke to cover the area for up to 6 hours. You can serve the smoked potatoes with grilled fish or meat, or mash the potato or simply prepare a potato salad.
Oysters on half shell can also be cold-smoked. In this case, you need to heat alder chips at about 220°F on a grill grate for about 20 minutes. Direct the smoke to the exposed part of the oysters and not the shell, for about 4 hours. Serve in an oyster stew or spinach salad.
Cold Smoking Compared to Hot Smoking
It usually happens at low to moderate temperatures that can support long or slow cooking times, but cold smoking does not involve any form of cooking. For this reason, cold smoking can be regarded as a form of food preservation. Most cold-smoked foods will have to be cooked before serving because they are still considered raw, while hot-smoked meals are prepared foods.
The low temperatures used in cold smoking requires the smokebox to be separated from the smoking chamber to ensure that heat from wood doesn’t enter the food chamber. In cold smoking, you will need a smoker with an offset smokebox, to achieve your results.
There are food products that are more suited for cold smoking, and there are those that require hot and cold smoking to achieve the best results. If you smoke cheese or tofu at more than 160°F, for instance, what you will have is a puddle of goo settling at the bottom, which means they will melt.
Fish, on the other hand, will spoil rapidly at hot temperatures higher than refrigeration, and less than 150 °F heat treatment is simply not enough to stop bacteria growth in smoked fish. Also, smoked fish will not respond favorably to longer cooking time.
The solution to cooking problems with foods like fish is to lower the cooking temperatures to below 75°F to be sure that it is well cured and dry enough before placing it in the smoker. The process of cold smoking meat and fish can take a long time, usually between 1 and 3 days and sometimes several weeks.
Techniques and Tips to Improve Your Cold Smoking
1.Cure Your Meat
While foods like veggies and cheese do not require any form of curing, foods like meat and fish require it.
2. Always Rinse Your Food Well Before you smoke
Whatever the type of curing you use, you need to rinse your food very thoroughly. You may even want to soak the food in water for a day or two, then dry it off as effectively as you can after during.
3. Use an Offset Smoker Box to Start Your Fire
Make sure you have enough smoke-wood and pellets that can sustain cold smoking for more than a day. Start the smoke fire right inside an offset smoke box.
4. Use the Ice tray
When you have achieved enough smoke, simply place your meats on the ice tray before placing the frozen water bottles on the rack and then set your ice tray with the meat inside the smoker.
5.Monitor the Temperature closely
You need to be conversant with the cold smoke temperature by watching it closely and adjust the temperatures between 55 and 75 °F. The food should be smoked from between a few hours or days, depending on the type of food.
6. Cover the wood chips for about half an hour and drain before using it for the cold smoke. If you don’t soak and remove the wood before usage, they will get it burnt rather than smolder to create smoke
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is cold smoking dangerous?
Any type of cooking can be dangerous to a different extent, especially when you don’t pay attention to it or if you use the wrong equipment. Despite having some risks, many people still perform smoking safely. Cold smoking may be dangerous because you are operating within a danger zone for bacteria growth, but when you stick to standards, techniques and pay attention to what you are doing, the cold smoking should be safe. Curing, for instance, can help prevent bacteria growth in cold-smoke foods.
What do you smoke in a cold smoker?
Wood or any substitute natural fuel can be used in smoking inside the smoker. Different wood types add a different distinct flavor to the food inside the cold smoker. Maple and alder wood, for instance, will add some sweet and mild flavor to the food, while apple, cherry, and warm may add some fruity flavor in addition to fresh and mild taste.
Hickory can also be smoked if you want a more robust flavor, and it could be the ideal option for smoking foods like nuts and capers.
You will have to adjust the number of wood chips just to control the level of smoke. In addition to the type of wood used, one other factor that may affect the level of smoke flavor on food is the number of chips used in cold-smoking. Foods that absorb smoke readily or require shorter cold-smoking should have lesser wood chips, while those with more extended absorption or cooking times like foods with skins and shells will need more wood chips.
What’s the difference between cold smoking and hot smoking?
The main difference between cold smoking and hot smoking is the temperature of smoking. While cold smoking usually takes place at temperatures between 45 and 75°F while hot smoking is performed at temperatures of between 200 and 250°F.
In cold smoking, the food to be cold smoked is placed in a separate chamber to ensure that it has no contact with the heat but only the smoke. In the hot smoking process, the food which is to be cold smoked is usually placed in the same heating chamber and source of fuel to be hotly smoked though some process has ensured that foods processed in cold smoking are placed in the same heating chamber, but they are well protected from the heat.
In cold smoking, foods such as meats and fish must be cured first to stop the activities of bacteria and other pathogens before cooking. In hot smoking, no curing is needed, but the meat is cooked at temperatures higher than the danger zone where microorganisms are active.
How long does cold smoking take?
It can take within a few hours and several days, depending on the type of food. For instance, foods like cheese and tofu can be cold smoked using less time, usually 2-4 hours. Fish should be cold smoked for at least two days, while meats should be cold smoked for up to a week and even more, to get the desired smoked meat result when you are ready to cook.
Does cold smoking preserve food?
Yes, Cold smoking can be a food preservation method. Though cold smoking itself is not cooking, it will ensure the smoked food last for months, even without freezing or refrigeration. Cold smoking preserve food because it is a form of drying, and this means bacteria and other active microorganisms will not have sufficient moisture to thrive in the frozen smoked food.
Though cold smoking is more suitable for meaty foods like meat and fish, it is, however, not useful for non-meaty foods for preservation. Cold smoking will produce a slow dehydration effect even when you smoke-cold the food at high humidity. The smoke will enhance the flavor of the food in addition to preserving it before the actual cooking. Foods like meat will not go rancid in months with the preservation effects of cold smoking.
How to cold-smoke Salmon
The ingredients you need for cold smoking Salmon are; 1-2 pounds of Salmon fillets, with the skin on or off. You need a few cups of Kosher salt (avoid using table salt) and 1 cup of brown sugar.
The first step is to check the fillets for the presence of small bones and remove them. Get a large mixing bowl, and mix the salt and sugar thoroughly together, then spread a solid layer of the sugar-salt mix on the entire bottom of a glass or a non-reactive flat pan. Rub each of the fillets on each side with the salt-sugar blend, and then place them in the glass or non-reactive container – you may want to stack the fillet in layers.
Spread the remaining salt-sugar mixture on top of the fillets and cover them completely. Cover the pan or glass in airtight lid or plastic wrap, and then place them in the coldest region of your refrigerator for two days. Once the curing is completed, remove the fillets from the pan or glass and rinse properly. Place your fillets in a large bowl covered in water, and make sure the fillets are soaked for about 30 minutes. Drain and pat each fillet as dry as possible, then return them to the refrigerator and let them dry while you attend to the smoker. The fillets should be ready once they appear sticky and glazed.
Fire up your smoker and let it fill up with the hot smoke before you place a few frozen plastic water bottles (ensure they are filled with frozen water) at the corners of the smoke chamber. It will help you keep the temperatures within the desired 55 to 75°F.
With the aid of a deep roasting pan, with some ice inside, simply place the fillets on top of the wire rack of the smoker. Before setting it on top of the ice pan, make sure these fillets are not set more than an inch on top of the ice. Place the unit inside the smoker before closing the lid.
Smoke the fish for at least 12 hours, and the fish should be ready when they feel leathery and firmly soft. When done, simply place the fish in zip-lock bags and chill inside the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight, before serving.
Almost all the foods that can be cold-smoked can be salted, especially if you have not cured them. Foods like fish and meat are required to be rectified before you could smoke them. If you don’t cure them, then you should rub salt in little quantity.
This guide has given you an insight into what cold smoking is and how you can get the most from your cold smoked food. It is essential to know some safe cold smoking tips to achieve the best result using cold smokers. Ensure you use top quality food products. It is particularly necessary if you are cold-smoking fish and meat. It will also make sense to combine your cold smoking options with salting.
Cold smoking does not cure meat; for instance, it is even recommended by authorities that only meat and fish that have been salted or cured using meat smoker should be cold-smoked. It is also recommended that you should follow your cold smoke process when you cook before eating. Hygienic methods of cleaning your food before cold smoking must also be observed; this will help reduce many microbial loads. Cold smoking should be performed with the use of your creativity to achieve even more excellent results.
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