Cold smoking is the process of adding smoke flavor to meat and cheeses without it being in direct contact of heat. Cold smoking takes place at temperatures under 85 degrees F. It is also normally a process that needs to be done during the winter months; the air temperatures are too hot in the summer time. Food items can take several days to several weeks to be cold smoked properly.
It is the length of cold smoking that allows many layers of flavor to soak into the meat however it is these same conditions that can cause bacteria to form as well. It is vitally important that this process is done correctly to prevent the meat from spoiling. It is for this reason that meats are usually salted or brined before starting the cold smoking process. The salts will protect the meat and prevent bacteria from forming. In some cases it is the brine that adds an addition layer of flavor to the meat.
How does it work
In the realm of things it is a simple process. The meat is kept in one place while the heat to make the smoke is kept in a separate place. The smoke than is carried, usually though pipes, to where the meat is being kept. A smoked flavor wood is used in this process. It is during the process of smoke transfer that the smoke is cooled prior to reaching the meat. The meat itself is usually being kept as cold as possible and in dry conditions. This helps to ensure the safety of the meat. The meat should not reach above room temperature during the smoking process.
Cold smoked meats and cheeses
There are many different types of meat, cheeses, and fish that are smoked using this method. Ham, bacon, sausage are among the most popular. Beef jerky is made using this process as well. Lox and salmon are popular choices for using the cold smoking method. Fish, however, can be a little difficult to cold smoke. Fish is highly susceptible to bacteria and other problems in general. When being cold smoked bacteria is a real concern during the cold smoking process. Fish need to be pickled first. The pickling process will help to keep bacteria from forming on the fish while it is being smoked. Compared to other meats, fish does not take a very long time to absorb the smoky flavor. That too aids in keeping the risk of bacteria forming on the fish during this process. It is also important to properly handle the meat and cheese once it is finished being smoked. This could mean cooking the meat right away or properly wrapping it and storing it according to its needs.