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.
Can I Smoke Completely 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. The Danger Zone is the temperature range between 40°F and 140°F. 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 meat that’s frozen gives it a great taste. Others wholeheartedly disagree.
Here’s how one meat enthusiast described his experience :
“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.”
But we also found a semi-professional that says you should never smoke frozen food :
“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?
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:
- Add cold water into a bowl.
- Put chicken in a ziplock bag.
- 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 Article: How to Thaw Chicken Wings
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 it 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:
- If you’re using an oven, preheat it to the lowest possible temperature.
- Put your steak or ribs on the grill or in the oven.
- Check the internal temperature. It shouldn’t rise above 90°F.
- Make sure meat stays at your desired temperature for 5-7 minutes.
- Remove it. Always check if it’s cooked.
Can You Freeze Smoked Meat?
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.
Here’s how to flash freeze smoked meat:
- Prepare an ice bath. Add water and salt into a good-sized bowl.
- Put meat in a freezer bag.
- Submerge the bag in ice water. Leave it there for 2 ½ hours.
- Remove the bag from the bowl.
- 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.
Smoking Frozen Meat: The Takeaway
It’s not a good idea to smoke meat in a frozen state. You’d be better off cooking it than putting it on a smoker.
A smoker cooks food at low temperatures. If you haven’t defrosted or thawed meat first, it will stay at low temperatures for too long and allow bacteria to multiply.
You may end up with food that’s not safe to eat.
We especially wouldn’t recommend this to someone who hasn’t smoked before, although some Internet chefs did take meat from frozen to smoker and said it’s all the same thing.