Cold smoking can be done right at home with the right equipment and a bit of time and attention. It’s not a “set it and forget it” cooking solution, but it’s still easy and anyone can do it!
Interestingly, some people cold smoke food without the use of a food smoker. All you need is smoke, a food-safe rack and a large container to cover the food in a smoky environment for a DIY type cold smoker. A Bradley food smoker works really well, but it’s not the only way to get the job done.
Now, the first thing to know about cold smoking is that it doesn’t cook the food. It’s simply the process of applying a smoke flavor at low temperatures (anywhere from 40°F-100°F, never higher than 120°F). As a general rule of thumb, the cooler you can keep your meat the better when it comes to cold smoking. Cooler temperatures allow the meat to retain more moisture, attain a better smoked appearance and remain protected against bacteria.
Since cold smoking is not a cooking method, cold smoked foods are usually brined or salted before they are cold smoked. The reason for doing this is to ensure that bacteria doesn’t grow on the food during the cold smoking process. However, you don’t have to brine or cure all of the time. Some meats such as pork chops, beef steaks and chicken breasts can be cold smoked prior to being grilled, baked or roasted for the sole purpose of enhancing the flavor. So, in reality, you can cold smoke just about anything you set your mind to.
What’s the easiest food for cold smoking?
Cold smoking cheese is by far the simplest cold smoking process and it’s a lot of fun to experiment with because there are so many kinds out there. If this is your first attempt to cold smoke something, then cheese would be a low-risk choice.
Popular cheeses include cheddar, gouda, swiss, pepper jack, fontina and mozzarella. Other kinds like provolone and parmigiana can and should be tried, but the ones listed above are the more typical favorites.
The most common types of wood used for cold smoking cheese include apple, cheery, pecan and maple for a subtle but still noticeable smoky flavor and hickory for a richer, thicker smoky flavor. It’s best to avoid using wood that has been treated or comes from an unknown source.
Cheesemonger or not, give smoked cheese a try. When you taste your own cold smoked cheese, you’ll wonder why you never did it before!
Other popular cold smoked foods include:
- Quality cuts of beef
- Country hams
- Fruits & Veggies
Go try your hand at cold smoking today, even if you don’t have a proper food smoker and let us know how your food turns out in the comments below!