Does Cold Smoking Cook or Preserve Food?

Posted on: January 18, 2023

Food smoking is one of the earliest forms of cooking and preserving food when ovens did not exist. In the history of human civilization, food crises due to natural calamities were considered a serious threat to survival. To overcome these situations, humans preserved food by smoking it. Smoking is predominantly a process for preserving food, like meat, that is highly prone to contamination.

In the modern age, we have refrigerators to store food and various advanced measures to safeguard food crises. So, once a popular method of food preservation, smoking has now transitioned into a way to add intense smoky flavor to food. Now a common question that often pops up among beginner food smokers is whether to cold smoke or hot smoke their food. To find a solid solution to this, we will be discussing certain aspects of food smoking and the use of food smokers here. Check it out.

What Is Hot smoking?

Hot smoking is the process of cooking food to perfect doneness using hot smoke. Generally, meat is preferred for this type of smoking. Fish and poultry are also cooked in hot smoke. Hot smoking ensures that the food is completely safe for consumption and also results in delicious smoky food.

What Is Cold Smoking?

Cold smoking is the process of adding a smoky flavor to the food without cooking it. This type of food smoking is also used to increase the shelf life of the food. Cold smoking is done at lower temperatures and higher humidity. This combination of temperature and humidity extracts moisture from the outer surface of the meat, making it hostile for bacteria to live or breed. This, in a way, saves the food from contamination for a certain period.

Is Cold Smoked Food Safe or Not?

Some people believe that smoked food can lead to food poisoning and several other health issues. So, the next question that often comes up is: what is the need to cold smoke food if it is not preserving it properly? The following points might be an answer to this.

1. Do not consume cold-smoked food, especially meat. The food needs to be cooked to complete doneness before consuming.

2. The temperature range between 104 °F to 284 °F (40 °C to 140 °C) is ideal for bacteria to breed and grow. During cold smoking, the temperature inside the food smoker should be below 86 °F (30 °C) and at a minimum of 50 °F (10 °C).

3. Humidity is a crucial factor in food smoking, especially cold smoking. The humidity level inside the food smoker must be maintained at the required level.

4. Food smoking is a low and slow process, and cold smoking is no different. Ensure that the outer surface of the meat is cold smoked properly on all sides, leaving no space for bacteria to grow.

Other Factors That Impact Cold Smoking

Besides the temperature and humidity, several other factors are important for the perfect cold smoking experience.

Quality of meat: Sometimes processed meat can be the most unhygienic food for cold smoking. With just the “sale by” date on it, it is difficult to guess when the meat was processed and how much bacteria has already grown on it by the time you purchase it.

Type of food smoker: As mentioned earlier, the temperature inside the food smoker should be kept at a minimum. Temperature control can be a serious issue for an improvised food smoker or traditional smokehouse. The same applies to the level of humidity as well. This fluctuation in temperature of cold smoking and humidity inside the chamber can result in poor cold smoking.

Type of food: Meat is a popular food for smoking because of the intense smoky flavor that it absorbs. However, other foods can also be cold smoked and are less prone to bacterial contamination. For instance, cheese and some vegetables can be a great option for beginners to try cold smoking. Trust us. You won’t be able to get enough smoked cheese once you try it.

Type of Fuel: The smoke that is used to cure the food in cold smoking has to be clean and not black. In the case of traditional smokehouses, sawdust is used for cold smoking because it generates low heat. But the smoke is not always clean, so find a better alternative that will not play a role in contaminating the food.

Tips for Perfect Cold Smoking

We know we can’t just leave you guessing the solutions after talking about all the factors that can ruin the cold smoking experience. So here they come:

Use a pro food smoker: A quality food smoker like the Bradley Smoker can change the overall food smoking experience. A Bradley Smoker can be integrated with a Bradley Smoker cold smoker adapter kit to instantly transform it into a cold smoker. With built-in digital temperature controls, pre-set timer, and a separate water pan, the Bradley Smoker can cold smoke food to perfection without the fear of contamination.

Use clean smoke: To ensure cool smoking is done in clean smoke, use sawdust chips instead of sawdust. Bradley Bisquettes are a great option here. These specially compressed sawdust chips burn for a precise time and extinguish before turning to ash. With Bradley Bisquettes, cold smoking can be safe and less messy too.

Don’t skip dry curing: Salt is the best curing agent that has been used in food smoking throughout history. Salt hastens the process of moisture loss during food smoking, enhancing the shelf life of the food.

Check out our entire catalog of articles on brining and curing your meat here:
What’s the Difference Between Pickling, Brining, Marinating, and Curing?
Curing and Smoking Meats for Home Food Preservation
Directions On Brining And Curing Your Meat For Food Smoking

Final Thoughts

We hope this article answers all your questions regarding the purpose of cold smoking and the right way to do it. You can check out more Bradley tips and tricks for food smoking on the Bradley Smoker blog.

To help you further on the process of becoming a pitmaster we created a free e-book:

Learn the tips & tricks of barbecue, from choosing the best grill and smoker to the best cuts of meat to start with. Also, read the pit master’s techniques and secrets to reach the perfect flavor.

+ 20 Free Recipes & Smoking Wood Pairing Chart!

And Bonus Internal Temperature Guide!

<< Download Free E-book >>