Cold smoking is an age old process that takes place at low temperature over a period of several hours to days. Die hard fans of cold smoking say this method of smoking is still the best for preserving and brining out the full flavor of smoked food.
Cold smoked meats experience total penetration of the smoke flavor. Is it cold smoked meat really that good? Let’s have the market speak for itself. Well known smoke houses continually sell out of their meats at prices one would expect to pay for lobster or the finest steaks!
You probably eat cold smoked food and don’t even know it, many smoked hams and salmon are cold smoked.
Cold Smoked Basics
True cold smoking occurs between 52 and 72 degress farenheit and lasts for 1 – 14 days. Don’t confuse this with warn smoking which happens at slightly higher temperatures. This process applys thin smoke with occasional breaks in between.
If you do the math it’s apparent that you cannot produce cold smoke if it is 90 degrees outside. Some industrial smokers cool and smoke the meat at the sametime so production can take place year round. So if you want to cold smoke meats it will have to be done in the winter months.
If you want totally smoke penetrated meats cold smoking is the best answer. However you will see a significant weight loss, about 5 to 20 percent of total poundage. Smoking cold need not be a continuous process, it is stopped (with no smoke applied) occasionally to allow fresh air into the smoker. Big advantages of cold smoked meats are virtually no spoilage fo fats and increased shelf life. Foods smoked this way are often drier, saltier, and have a smokier flavor.
For good results meat should be smoked near 75 – 85 % 80 percent relative humidity. Anything much higher will allow bacterial growth, canceling the preserving effect. And on the other side of the coin very low humidity will result in “over-dry” meat.
Most standard charcoal and wood fired smokers on the market today are too hot for cold smoking. So you are faced with either buying a type of smoker capable of cold smoking or building your own. When we find some good plans for a cold smoker we will pass those on. However, for now your best option may be simply to buy one.
Bradley Smoker manufactures smokers which can cold smoke. But be carful here, the factory specs say the low temperature depends on “ambient temperature.” One can add ice water to the smoking chamber, but it will require pretty close monitoring.
You could also modify the smoker in the manner of the traditional cold smokers. The fire burns far from the smoke chamber and is connected by ducting. So with the Bradley you could detach the smoke generator and place a section of dryer or furnace ducting. Place a large wooden box mid point between the generator and the smoke chamber to cool the smoke.
For a true cold smoker I came across a really interesting unit manufactured by West Country Stoves in the Untied Kingdom. This is a slick galvanized cold smoker that cold smokes seafood, meats, and cheeses. Its worth a closer look if you think you may do a lot of this type of smoking.
Here are the specs:
Constructed of galvanised sheet
- Has stainless steel fish hangers
- Packs away neatly for storage and transportation
- Comes with full instructions
- Takes 10 sides of fish up to 21 inches (53cm) in length, or 14 fish of 1.5pounds (700 grams).
- Has a smoke box which gives a long unattended smoke
Well those are a couple of examples of whats on the market today for cold smokers. Once you master hot smoking you may want to give cold smoking a try.
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