Cold Smoking Vs. Hot Smoking Meat – What You Need To Know

From lox and salami to briskets and pork butts, there are a variety of foods that greatly improve with a little smoke added to the blend of flavors.

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In this post, we take a look at the differences between cold smoking and hot smoking meat, as well as touch on the great debate over smoking meat at home.

Facts about Cold Smoking Meat

  • Cold smoking refers to a method of preserving meat to extend its shelf-life.
  • Temperatures are usually below 90°F and the process can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days depending on the food being smoked.
  • The temperature, natural low acid level of meat, and lack of oxygen make conditions ideal for botulism spores and other bacterial growth. It's for this reason that precision control and precision tools are essential in producing meats that are safe to consume.
  • Cold smoked meats are always cured with a sodium nitrate. As a result, many products can be kept for months without refrigeration.
  • The meat being cold smoked is held in an unheated chamber while the smoke pumps in from an external firebox. 

Facts about Hot Smoking Meat

  • Hot smoking refers to a cooking technique that uses both heat and smoke to produce ready-to-eat meats and other dishes. 
  • Temperatures for hot smoking are well above the 140°F danger zone and usually range between 190°F and 300°F. Cooking times vary depending on the size of the meat, but it generally takes anywhere from a few hours to a day.
  • Since the meat is served immediately, proteins being hot smoked don't require curing. However, the meat may be injected with a marinade or soaked in a marinade several hours before a cook.
  • Hot smoked meat is held in the same chamber as the burning wood and heat.

Smoking Meat at Home

When it comes to hot smoking meat, a grill master simply has to master the art of cooking to a safe internal temperature. Once it's reached the right temp, all bacteria have been incinerated and the product is safe to consume.

Cold smoking, on the other hand, is far trickier and leaves little room for error. It's a precise process, which means a grill master must painstakingly learn to measure salt and preservatives accurately, control temperatures consistently, measure the internal temperature with high-quality thermometers, cool the chamber properly, and store the meat safely. Since it doesn't take much for bacteria to grow in a cold smoking environment, there's a far greater risk when cold smoking is done at home by an inexperienced griller.

The bottom line: unless you're smoking cheeses or you know exactly what you're doing, cold smoking meat is probably best left to the pros. We do encourage badassery, however, so there's no reason you can't learn to do it correctly and safely.

Have you ever attempted to cold smoke meat or other foods? Share your tips and experiences with us by clicking your favorite social media button and adding a comment when sharing this post. We'd love to hear your thoughts.

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