Can You Smoke Frozen Meat? (Here's Everything to Consider)

Gabriel Woods
Published by Gabriel Woods
Last Updated On: March 21, 2024

We all want to minimize total cook time and get right to the juicy part - eating delicious, smoke-infused meat.

That’s probably what enticed you to consider smoking frozen meat in the first place. But we beat you to it and tried it ourselves already. Here’s our verdict.

Quick Summary

  • Smoking frozen meat is possible, but not recommended due to the risk of harmful bacteria multiplying and the formation of ice crystals that can dry out the meat.
  • Opinions vary among chefs, with some finding success in smoking frozen meat, but the general consensus leans towards avoiding it for safety and flavor reasons.
  • A 2021 study in the journal Food Science and Nutrition found chemical hazards in smoked meat and fish, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, heterocyclic amines, nitrosamines, biogenic amines, and heavy metals, noting these compounds exceed European Union limits and pose significant health risks, including carcinogenicity [1].
  • Thawing meat before smoking is preferable, and methods like flash freezing can preserve smoked meat for later use without compromising quality.

Can I Smoke Completely Frozen Meat?

Smoking frozen meat

You can smoke completely frozen meat, but we wouldn’t recommend it. There are two main reasons why:

  • It will stay in the Danger Zone for too long. According to the USDA, the Danger Zone is the temperature range between 40°F and 140°F [2]. Harmful bacteria can easily multiply within this range. If you smoke unfrosted meat, it will remain here for longer than it should.
  • You’ll end up with dry meat. Cell walls of the meat are pretty elastic, so they can handle a lot of water without bursting. But when you smoke frozen meat, the cellular structure has to handle more (freezing) water. This leads to the formation of ice crystals that tear protein fibers and leave the meat dry.

What Others Say About Smoking Frozen Meat

Internet chefs remain divided. Some say smoking frozen meat gives it a great taste. Others wholeheartedly disagree.

Here’s how one meat enthusiast described his experience [3]:

“I did a frozen pork butt straight from freezer to grill and it had an awesome smoke ring, it was seasoned with MMD before going in the freezer.”

- Vandy

But we also found a semi-professional that says you should never smoke frozen food [4]:

“I went to culinary school and we always used fresh meats and seafood. Frozen meat to smoke is a no-no. The smoke doesn't penetrate [it] like [it does in case of] fresh meat.”

- Dan DeVite

From what we found, people aren’t so concerned about the safety of smoking (or eating) meat that’s still frozen. Rather, they’re concerned about the taste.

The thing is, when water freezes, it expands. This means you’ll basically waste your seasoning on frozen meat, without getting the flavors you wanted.

Why You Shouldn't Smoke Frozen Meat In a Nutshell

When we couple our experience with that from Internet chefs, we have main reasons why you should avoid smoking unfrosted meat:

✖  extra water will tear protein fibers
✖  the possibility of moisture loss
✖  harmful bacteria can multiply
✖  meat won’t cook evenly
✖  meat may lose flavor

What If I Thaw Meat First?

Frozen meat in a zip lock bag

It depends on the type of meat you’ll be smoking, grilling, or cooking.

Say you want to smoke frozen chicken thighs after a quick thaw.

This could work because chicken doesn’t require a whole lot of defrosting. You’ll still get awesome flavors.

But this won’t work for other types of meat, such as pork or beef.

Here’s how to quickly thaw chicken: 

  1. Add cold water into a bowl.
  2. Put chicken in a ziplock bag.
  3. Add the bag into the bowl and leave it there for 2 hours.

If the chicken is still frozen, repeat the procedure to make sure it’s thawed well.

A word of warning: pour new, cold water again if you’ll repeat the procedure. The water you added initially will probably be lukewarm by now.

Related Articles:

Grilling and Cooking Without Thawing?

You can grill and cook meat without thawing it first, but you definitely want to avoid this for large cuts of meat.

This is safer than smoking meat because you'll be operating at higher temperatures that kill most bacteria.

However, keep in mind that you’ll spend 50% more time in the kitchen if you don’t thaw the meat first.

This method won’t work for all types of meat, but it does work for steaks and chicken ribs:

  1. If you’re using an oven, preheat it to the lowest possible temperature.
  2. Put your steak or ribs on the grill or in the oven.
  3. Check the internal temperature. It shouldn’t rise above 90°F.
  4. Make sure meat stays at your desired temperature for 5-7 minutes.
  5. Remove it. Always check if it’s cooked.

Also Read: Cooking Frozen Steak on a Grill

Can You Freeze Smoked Meat?

Meats on a plate

Lucky for you, you can freeze smoked meat. After so much smoking, grilling, and cooking - you deserve to preserve flavors for later.

We’ll walk you through one of our favorite and most time-effective methods.

Flash Freezing

Here’s how to flash freeze smoked meat: 

  1. Prepare an ice bath. Add water and salt into a good-sized bowl.
  1. Put meat in a freezer bag.
  2. Submerge the bag in ice water. Leave it there for 2 ½ hours.
  3. Remove the bag from the bowl.
  4. Store the meat in your freezer. We recommend vacuum-sealing the meat before putting it away in the freezer. If you don’t have a vacuum sealer, it’s common practice to put the meat in a freezer bag.

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About the author

Gabriel Woods
Chef/Food Editor
Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management, Major in Culinary Entrepreneurship Summa Cum Laude. With a deep passion for the culinary arts and a keen business acumen, Gabrielle is set to embark on a journey that promises to leave a lasting impact on the world of the culinary industry. Growing up in a family where food created memories and bonds, she sustained an interest in cooking and baking. She earned her Culinary Entrepreneurship degree with a summa cum laude distinction from the University of Santo Tomas in the Philippines. Gabrielle then served as an assistant private chef – she helped clients achieve specific fitness goals by prepping protein-based meals and healthy side dishes. At Carnivore Style, Gabrielle has honed her strategic leadership by analyzing the trends in meat consumption preferences. This guides our team in producing engaging content, such as recipes featuring popular cuts or cooking techniques. She envisions a community where individuals follow their culinary dreams, making every delectable dish with love and soul for people to relish. In her free time, Gabrielle loves to travel to new places, study their culture, and dine at diverse restaurants and cafes.
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