Cold Smoking: An introduction to Cold Smoking Food

What is cold smoking?

Cold smoking is a great way of flavoring and preserving your food without actually cooking it.  It's conducted at temperatures under 30 Deg C.  Anything above this and proteins in your food begin to denature. 

Using a Smokai Smoke Generator is the most effective, efficient and economical way to cold smoke food.    

Some products will require curing and some will not. Cold smoking any type of meat or seafood requires a two-step process.

Step 1: Curing

The meat/seafood should be refrigerated for the specified curing duration based on your recipe and the size and thickness of the meat (these considerations are important). This allows the curing salts and flavors to penetrate the meat while extracting moisture and inhibiting bacterial growth. The curing time can range from a few hours to several days. Once curing is complete, the meat/seafood should be placed uncovered in the refrigerator until a pellicle is formed on the surface - this is required for the smoke to effectively penetrate the flesh when cold smoking.  

Step 2: Smoking 

The process of adding cool smoke to your meat/seafood within your smoke chamber. This is what imparts the smoky flavor.

Cold smoking can take anywhere from hours to days to complete.  It is important that temperatures are checked and maintained - you do not want any heat in or near your smoking chamber.  You must also ensure your chamber is in the shaded area and the ambient air temperature is under 30 Deg C throughout the entire smoking time. This is where the Smokai Smoke Generator is ideal. It can be mounted to any suitable food safe chamber and produces cool, natural wood-fired smoke cost effectively for up to 32 hours uninterrupted (depending on the model and wood being used).

Once you have smoked your food for the desired amount of time (and not intending to eat it straight away), it is a good idea to rest it to allow the smoke compounds to permeate the flesh and balance the flavour. 24 hours in the fridge should be sufficient depending on the thickness of the meat.  This can also allow the curing process time to continue.

What can I cold smoke?

Not all, but most foods can be cold smoked. Salmon, trout, bacon and salami are just some of the foods that usually come to mind, however, there are many other food items and ingredients that will be uplifted by cold smoking.

Cheese is a great food to cold smoke. It’s generally safe and very easy to work with. Sausages, various seafoods, meats, olive oil, eggs, garlic, salt, spices and even vegetables are also great options and worth considering.

What type of wood should I use for cold smoking?

Wood choice is also important.  Using dried wood is imperative when cold smoking as the purpose is to remove the moisture from the food, not add it. You will also want to consider using a wood that is a good match to the food being cold smoked. For example, a lighter smoke produced by most fruit woods is often favored. Whereas manuka is a favorite for a slightly stronger flavor.  It is worth experimenting with different woods depending on the type of meat you are cold smoking and personal taste.

Further Notes and Considerations:

Curing:  Importance must be placed on the curing step if you are cold smoking meat/seafood. This is not only important from a food safety perspective, but can also be used to produce some amazing flavors.  Always follow credible instructions.

Cold vs. Hot Smoking temperatures: Cold smoking is usually undertaken within the temperature range of 20c to 30c / 68f to 86f.  Hot smoking on the other hand usually occurs within the range of 52c to 80c / 125f to 176f.

Use high-quality equipment: Put importance on having high-quality, food-grade tools and appliances. The meat preparation & smoking environment can be a place for unwanted bacteria growth, so good hygiene practices are paramount. Smokai Smoke Generators are manufactured by Smokai and are constructed using 304L Hygienic Stainless Steel, sourced locally in New Zealand.  

Finally, be patient: Cold smoking requires time, focus, and diligence. It’s not a quick process and attention to detail is important. Follow credible recipes and ensure you keep an eye on temperature, moisture, and time. Check out our Smokai Recipe library for cold (and hot) smoking recipes to get you started.

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