What Is Cold Smoking? (2024's Recommended Guide)

Jayden Lawson
Published by Jayden Lawson
Last Updated On: March 14, 2024

You often hear your friends enjoy cold smoking their products. Some prefer it to have a stronger taste, some prefer to leave it raw, and some have a special way of lighting a fire when smoking meat and other products.

Indeed, the idea is good, and products must be delicious, but how is it possible for smoke to be cold when created by fire, which is very hot?

If you are interested to learn more about what cold smoking is and how this technique makes meat smells delicious, find all the answers below.

Quick Summary

  • Cold smoking is an ancient technique used to preserve meat, giving it a unique taste and aroma. It involves smoking at temperatures of 52-71°F without open fire, and the process can take from hours to 45 days.
  • Cold smoking is suitable for meats like bacon and ham, fish like salmon, and even fruits, nuts, vegetables, and cheese. The food must be fully cured before cold smoking.
  • According to a 2021 study published in the National Library of Medicine, the combination of cold smoking and natural antioxidants significantly reduced the total volatile basic nitrogen (TVB-N) and malondialdehyde (MDA) levels in farmed fillets, which indicates enhanced preservation of fish quality and extended shelf life [1].
  • Cold smoking kills parasites and slows down bacteria growth, but some products remain raw and can be risky for certain individuals.

What is Cold Smoking?

Cooking meat

Cold smoking is a special technique that has been used since ancient times to preserve meat and use it for a long time. In this way, the products are given a specific taste and aroma that you can't get from other smoking methods.

To ensure the meat's durability, we must preserve it in some way. The meat is preserved by salting, smoking, and finally by drying, where the excess moisture disappears.

According to an article on the Minnesota Department of Agriculture website, cold smoking is done with temperatures below 100 degrees. It's done for a longer time than hot smoking, and the meat isn't fully cooked [2].

How Does Cold Smoking Work?

There are several ways to smoke meat. This process involves processing certain types of food, where a mixture of smoke and air is used for that purpose.

Cold smoking occurs with smoke at a temperature of 52-71 ° F. As the word smoking says, meat must be smoked, so open fire is taboo when smoking meat.

Cold meat processing can take from a few hours to 7 days. It can take up to 45 days in rare cases, but only when smoking a delicious salami. There are also specific products that we are using to cold-smoke.

Cold smoking is suitable for sausages, hams, bacon, and hot smoking for fish, semi-permanent sausages, hot dogs, and salami.

Food smoked with cold smoke is only smoked, while when smoked with hot smoke, it is also thermally processed. After cold smoking, the meat must be further dried, while after hot smoking, the meat is immediately ready for consumption.

The taste of food treated with cold smoke is very different from those treated with hot smoking. Someone prefers the full taste of smoke, and someone likes it less. You will smell smoke a few days after smoking, so you must wait to understand the results.

“My idea of a traditional holiday - the right way to do it - goes back to the days when gift-giving meant sharing homemade things: hand-knit sweaters, carved wooden toys, smoked meats and the like.”

- Mark Frauenfelder, Journalist

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What Food Can We Cold-smoke?

Preparing fresh salmon

When we talk about smoking, the first ingredient that comes to our mind is meat. You will get the best results if you cold-smoke bacon or ham.

You can cold-smoke any meat product, but you should fully cure them before cold smoking.

Cold smoking is good for fish, especially salmon, but also fruits, nuts, and vegetables. A right cold-smoked product is cheese, as it will stay solid and won't melt.

Are Cold-smoked Products Safe?

The smoking time itself depends on the smokehouse's temperature, the humidity in the air and the meat, the size of the pieces of beef themselves, and your taste.

So far, the smoke has been found to contain over 300 ingredients. During a cold-smoking process, the smoke becomes a preservative, as it kills parasites and includes components that slow down bacteria's growth.

Still, some meat after cold smoking stays raw, so it can be dangerous, especially for children, older people, and pregnant ladies.

Read More:


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8619432/
  2. https://www.mda.state.mn.us/food-feed/smoking-curing
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About the author

Jayden Lawson
Jayden is a CPW certified lifestyle writer, father of two, and a self-taught culinary artist with a passion for Southern cooking. His readers enjoy the expert interviews, success stories, and tips he shares about anything delicious, meaty, and thriving.
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