Standard smoking protocols call for heat, temperatures exceeding 165°F, to be precise. So not only do you impart that delicious smoky flavour into the food, but you also cook it. However, with cold smoking, you add smokiness while keeping the temperature below 100°F, thereby not cooking the product. You can do it by using a cold smoker attachment. Or you can run your smoker on the lowest setting, with a tray of ice at the bottom to keep the temperature low. I like to think there are three different ways to cold smoke:
Cold Smoking Combined with Salting or a Brine
I used to cure or preserve food like cold-smoked salmon, ham and pepperoni. However, this type of cold smoking requires long smoking times, as well as asks for the addition of salt and/or nitrites/nitrates to preserve.
Some recipes will only require salt and shorter smoking times. Cold smoked salmon is an example, as the final product is still raw and needs to be stored in the fridge or freezer.
You can keep truly cured and cold smoked products that are preserved and ready to eat in a cool, dry place for short-term storage.
Two things are very important with this type of cold smoking. First, follow a trusted recipe and standard directives for nitrite/nitrate use. Second, follow the directives established for the bacterial culture employed, if you have used any.
Cold Smoking Followed by Another Cooking Method
Those can be either pan-frying, roasting or braising. Use it for lightly cold-smoked pork roast finished in the oven, braised and lightly cold-smoked white fish, etc.
This type of cold smoking requires a shorter smoking time. Because the intention is to merely impart a light smoky flavour, you’ll have to cook it immediately afterward.
Great for larger pieces of meat, you can also use this procedure for very light meats, like white fish. Try it also as a “gateway” to smoked food, just a little bit of a smoky taste without it being the main flavour.
Pay Special Attention to Raw Meat
When cold-smoking raw meat, ensure that you do not leave it at an unsafe temperature. Besides, only smoke it for a short period of time and begin cooking immediately, until fully cooked to ensure it is safe.
Cold Smoking Food that Does Not Require Further Cooking
This type of cold smoking brings a smoky flavour to food that is already cooked, or does not require cooking. Examples are smoked cheese, smoked nuts, etc. How long you cold smoke this type of food depends on how smoky you want it to be.
There are a few things to keep in mind though. When smoking food such as cheeses, make sure not to melt it. When smoking dry foods such as nuts, you should soak them beforehand, so that the smoke has some moisture to bind to.