Smoked meat has a flavor that is unmatched by any other kind of cooked meat, but what makes the meat so good? We can’t help but ask ourselves if we can smoke the meat beforehand and, if we can, then how?
To cold smoke your bacon at home, you have to pick the right temperature, humidity, airflow, and wood. The meat then has to be cured correctly, ensuring that the flavor will be completely absorbed. Each time that you smoke the meat, the process has to be repeated with the meat refrigerating in between, protecting it from spoiling.
Now you have to consider which wood, meat, and temperature will work the best for your cold smoke project. Will you be able to cure it correctly? What can you do to keep the meat from spoiling?
What Is Cold Smoking?
Cold smoking is the process of smoking meat without exposing it to heat of any kind. Cold smoking the meat helps to eliminate moisture and prevent the growth of bacteria that could spoil the meat. The smoke fully enters into every area of the meat, changing the very base of its flavor, and extending the meat’s natural preservation.
Fun Fact: Cold smoking has been a method used for meat preservation centuries before refrigerators came into existence. Even today, there are foods that are still cold smoked. Foods such as bacon, cheese, and fish. The foods that are cold smoked are some of our favorite and most common foods that we buy from the market.
Steps To Consider Before Cold Smoking Bacon
It’s no wonder that everyone wants to learn how cold smoke these foods for themselves. Being able to cold smoke your own bacon could make a huge difference in your own budget. Not to mention that the flavor can be adjusted to your own tastes as you become better at cold smoking from home.
As you begin to take these steps, you have to pay attention to every little part of the process. Messing up on just one step could damage the meat, causing you to have to start the whole process over again from the beginning. Not to mention, that messing it up would be a waste of expensive meat.
So where do we start?
Picking Out The Right Meat
When cold smoking your own bacon, you need to find the freshest pork meat with the highest quality possible. The fresher the meat is, the better it will be to smoke. The meat will also be able to last longer in it’s preservation as you continue to smoke and cure it.
Temperature, Humidity, and Airflow
The temperature should not be hot in any form. Cold smoking involves dehydrating and flavoring the meat over a four to five hour period of time. Before beginning the process, you should make sure that the space you are in is not humid, has good air flow, and the temperature is not too warm either.
Any of the above can spoil the meat during the cold smoking process, causing you to have to start over again from the beginning. Keeping the area dry and cool will aid in the preservation of the meat and prevent it from spoiling.
Tip: To properly cold smoke your meat, the temperature must always be below eighty five degrees Fahrenheit or thirty degrees Celsius.
Let The Air Flow
The air flow will effect the flavoring of the meat in a major way. If there is not continuous air flow, then the meat will either have little to no flavor, or too much flavor. If you were hot smoking your meat, then it would be locked into a tight space where the smoke can’t escape. However, cold smoking needs to have plenty of fresh air moving across the meat with the smoke.
Time To Slim It Down A Bit
The minimum time required to cold smoke is an accumulative time of about eight hours. Thicker meat will require a longer period of time. You will also have to smoke the meat longer if you want to have more flavor mixed in with the meat.
By the time you finish smoking your meat, it should have lost about twenty to thirty percent of it’s previous weight, slimming it down quite a bit. The most common process for this, is smoking the meat for about four to five hours a day for several days. In which case, you would have to remember to refrigerate your meat in between the times that you smoke it.
Equipment To Make The Smoke
The cheapest option for someone who wants to experiment with cold smoking at home for the first time, is to make your own DIY version of a cold smoker with tools that you already have. Tools such as wood, bricks, and old refrigerator cabinets are materials that are more commonly used for these DIY projects.
As a second option, there are also some brands of hot smokers that come with added parts for cold smoking meat. They have a two chamber design. The wood is burned in the first chamber, trapping the heat inside and only allowing the smoke to be transferred into the second chamber. This keeps the temperature down as the smoke moves over and into the meat.
Various Types Of Wood
The kind of wood you need to use will depend on how flavorful you want your meat to be. If you plan on cooking the meat for longer and you don’t want the flavor to be as strong, you should use a wood that has a milder smoke. Mellowfruit woods such as applewood, cherrywood, or peachwood are good for giving the meat a lighter smoke and flavor.
You can use stronger wood flavors like Pecan, Hickory, or even Mesquite, but these woods are best used when hot smoking your wood. Because cold smoking is flavoring your meat over such a long period of time, it could eventually cause your meat to become bitter by the end of the process.
Other Possible Equipment To Consider Using
Your typical meat thermometer won’t be able to read lower temperatures. To solve this issue, you will have to purchase a probe-style instant-read thermometer to keep the smoking area at a low enough temperature.
Applying The Right Preparation And Equipment To Cold Smoke – Step By Step
Now that you have all of the correct equipment and knowledge, it is time to begin the process of cold smoking your meat. Following these steps correctly will help to ensure that your meat will be properly smoked and that it won’t spoil in between.
Cure Your Pork Meat
There are two possible ways for you to be able to cure your meat. You can either dry salt cure your meat, or you can brine your meat in liquid in preparation for the cold smoke. Whichever way you choose, both will properly cure and prepare your meat.
- Dry Salt Cure – The dry salt cure is just a thick coating of salt and other desired seasonings that you have mixed together. It has to be rubbed all over the meat, covering every square centimeter. The salt that you rub in should help to draw out the moisture, dehydrating and slimming down the meat. The amount of salt used should be about two percent of the meat’s weight. After slimming the meat down enough, it is time to wash and prepare the meat for the smoke.
- Liquid Brine – The process of brining your meat involves soaking your meat in a very salty liquid over the period of a week. As a liquid, the salt will be able to more fully penetrate into the meat, more thoroughly curing it. The liquid is usually made up of salt, water, sugar, and curing salt. Other flavors such as brown sugar can also be added to the liquid to shape the flavor in a different direction.
Tip: When brining your meat, make sure that you rotate it every day to ensure that it is equally soaking up the liquid on all sides.
Wash And Refrigerate
When you finish brining or curing your meat, you need to wash out all of the salt. As soon as the salt has been washed off, allow the meat to dry itself out again. You can dry the meat faster by patting the water out, then placing it into the refrigerator. You must refrigerate the meat for anywhere from twenty four hours to a week before cold smoking it.
Time To Cold Smoke
After following the previous steps, it is time to smoke your meat. Make sure that you have a good space set up to cold smoke. The temperature should be between fifty and eighty six degrees. There should be good air flow, and the area should also be dry. When all of these things have been ensured, you may begin to smoke your meat.
Smoke your meat for at least eight hours. You can do so in intervals of four to five hours, or all at once. If your meat is larger or you want to have a more intense flavor, then continue to smoke the meat for a longer period of time.
Finish, Slice, and Refrigerate
Check the thickness of the meat before finishing the smoking process. Be sure that the meat has lost about twenty to thirty percent of it’s weight during the process. If the meat still hasn’t lost enough weight, then place it back into the smoker for another four to five hours, or however long it will take to lose the extra weight.
When you finish smoking your meat, it is time to slice it. Cut the smoke meat to the desired thickness and carefully package them for safe keeping. Once the meat has been packaged, you can store them away in the fridge or freezer to eat later on.
Tip: You can cook cold smoked meat without hot smoking it. The meat already has an intense flavor from being cold smoked beforehand, and smoking it a second time would give the meat a bitter flavor.
Warning: Although you have successfully preserved your meat by cold smoking it, the meat will still rot if not properly packaged and refrigerated. If you plan on holding onto your meat for a few more than a few days, then place the meat in the freezer to preserve it longer.
(If You want to see more on Cold Smoking Bacon, watch the video below!)
Cold Smoking Versus Hot Smoking
Cold smoking and hot smoking differ in their time, temperature, devices used, wood, and flavor. Because the processes are so entirely different, it affects how the meat is cooked and how it will eventually taste. You must consider the following before choosing to do one or the other.
- Time – Cold smoking is a preservation technique that can take several days to properly cure, dry, and smoke, whereas hot smoking is usually done that same day and immediately eaten for the following meal.
- Temperature – Where cold smoking meat has to be done somewhere between about fifty and eighty six degrees Fahrenheit, hot smoking is usually done between one hundred and fifty and two hundred and eighty degrees Fahrenheit.
- Device – Unless you have a double compartment smoker, your usual backyard equipment simply won’t cut it for your cold smoking process. Most outdoor smokers are designed to only hot smoke your meat that day. In order to have a device that can cold smoke your meat correctly, you have to buy one designed to cold smoke, or create your own.
- Wood Choice – Cold smoking requires wood with a mellow flavor and smoke. Whereas hot smoking can have a stronger wood flavor and smoke. This is due to the period of time over which you are smoking your meat. The longer you smoke your meat with a strong wood flavor, the more bitter it will become.
- Taste – Because cold smoking is a longer process, the meat is exposed to the wood flavor for a longer period of time, intensifying the flavor more than hot smoking would.