Introduction to cold smoking

What is Cold Smoking

Cold Smoking is simply the process of creating wood smoke without cooking or heating your food. The food is placed in a chamber and smoke is introduced and surrounds the food for a prolonged period of time, without heat.   During this time the smoke penetrates the food, the movement of the air dries out the food and a lovely smoky flavour is introduced.

Due to the low temperatures involved, cold Smoking does not cook the food. Because of this, only certain foods produced from this process can be eaten straight away whilst some may require cooking or hot smoking. Additionally, some foods, such as pork and salmon need to be cured before they are smoked.

*Cold smoking is usually done at temperatures between 65F and 80F.

What food can you cold smoke?

There is an extremely wide variety of foods that you can cold smoke, including salmon, meats , cheese, and even vegetables. Furthermore, cheese and vegetables are among the preferred foods for cold smoking beginners as you can quickly get away with a few mistakes. The risks are also relatively low with these foods. The following list has the best foods that you can start with when you want to familiarize yourself with cold smoking:

  • Bacon
  • Sausages
  • Vegetables
  • Cheese
  • Salmon
  • Garlic


If you are planning on cold smoking meat or fish, you will need to cure it first. Without this step, you are sure to wind up with some nasty bacteria in your food. By preserving food in salt, or curing it, you are keeping bacteria at bay. The salt also expels water from the meat, and without water, bacteria dont have much of an opportunity to grow. There are two types of curing methods, dry and wet. You can choose whichever you prefer, as long as you choose to use one.

Dry Curing (Basics)

  • Completely coat meat with salt for at least one day
  • Make sure you are using curing salts, which have additional preservatives
  • You can add dry flavoring ingredients, such as pepper, to the salt
  • Equilibrium curing is a modern method in which you weigh meat and then apply salt that is equivalent to 3% of the weight of the meat. Vacuum seal for 5 days before you use it
  • Ensure before smoking that the curing salts are fully washed off and that the meat is dried thouroughly (hanging the meat in a fridge for a period of time helps ensure the moisture is removed).
  • Can be seen as better for cold smoking because no extra liquid to cook out

Wet Curing (Basics)

  • Make your brine using an advise salt/water ratio
  • Add other flavorings that you would like
  • Place the meat in a bowl or container large enough to hold it
  • Cover the meat with your brine and let soak at least a day
  • The curing solution can also be injected into the meat. However, this is riskier since you might miss some areas

Some Cold Smoking Basic Pointers

Ensure that your smoking cabinet is in a cool location, this is why the winter months are often seen as the best time of the year for cold smoking. Heat is the biggest enemy of cold smoking.

Therefore throughout the smoking process it is important that you carefully monitor the temperature with something like a digital thermometer

Ensure you choose good quality meat to ensure you get the best out of the smoking process.

Before smoking, ensure that the meat is up to room temperature first, especially if it has been stored in the fridge.

Pair your choice of smoking wood with the food you are smoking, your choice of wood or combinations of wood will have a strong effect of the final flavour of your food.

To begin with, follow a recipe. There are many great recipes for all different foods that have been tried and tested and are great way to learn. The ProQ smoking and curing starter kits provide all the equipment that you need to get started plus they include recipe guides to help you on your way.

Smoking Food Safety

Temperature plays a big role in food safety, particularly when processing uncooked meat or fish, cold smoking isn’t cooking the food in any way, so you need to be aware of what temperature you’re smoking at, and be aware that some products (such as bacon) will need cooking before eating.

Cold smoking as a general rule should be done at temperatures as low as possible, and meats and fish should not be kept at room temperature for any longer than necessary. We recommend that cold smoking is done in winter and if possible, overnight when the temperatures drop.

You should keep an eye on the temperature in your smoking chamber, preferably with a digital thermometer, and if it rises above 21°C / 71°F it should be removed and refrigerated for a couple of hours before you start again.

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