We are in the throws of winter. The time where the weather gets cold and the snow starts blowing. It is also the time of year many people choose to cold smoke their food.
What is cold smoking? Put simply, it is applying smoke to foods with little or no heat. (Below 140 degrees Fahrenheit per the FDA)
There are many reason people cold smoke. Maybe they like to smoke their own cheese. Or maybe they like to "pre-smoke" their meat before they freeze it so when they cook it later the smoke flavor is already infused.
IT IS IMPORTANT TO POINT OUT THAT COLD SMOKING MEAT, IF NOT DONE CORRECTLY, CAN BE VERY DANGEROUS. I do not, as a general practice cold smoke meat for the most part. If I do choose to cold smoke I keep my temperature a bit higher to avoid contamination problems. Meathead from AmazingRibs.com sums it up well with this article: Cold Smoking Meat. What you don't want to do is create a breeding ground for bacteria. This can be done with improper temps and not curing your meats before smoking.
My personal favorite foods to cold smoke are cheese and nuts. To keep this blog simple, I am going to focus on cold smoking these items.
First, you need a way to provide smoke without heat. How do you get smoke without heat you ask? Well, the first way is to have the heat source away from your food but "route" the smoke to the food. If you are the McGuyver type, there are many DIY cold smoke techniques out there. One example is this way: DIY Cold Smoker
If you are like me and can barely use a screwdriver; well, you are in luck! There are products on the market now that make cold smoker so easy. For example, the A-Maze-N Pellet Tubes have been a big hit. Simple put some food grade wood pellets in the tube, light it with a torch and Voila; you have smoke without heat. We sell many different variations of these types of products.
This happens to be my favorite way of cold smoking. Using these products you can smoke your food in a cardboard box if you want!
As I mentioned, I love cold smoking cheeses. I just buy my cheese in bulk at a membership club such as Sam's or Costco. I prefer to cut the cheese up in smaller chunks to allow the smoke to fully penetrate the cheese. I place the cheese on a grilling mesh that looks like this:
This allows for easy cleanup and keeps the cheese off of my cooking grids. Once I get my pellet tube smoking, I simply place it in the smoking chamber and let it go. Cheese only takes about 30 minutes to an hour to smoke. Colder days in winter work great for this but not to cold so your cheese does not freeze. The trick is not to have it freeze but at the same time not have it so hot that it "sweats".
Once you have smoked your cheese (or nuts, or veggies or whatever you choose to smoke), you just place it in zip lock bags and put it in the fridge. THIS PART IS IMPORTANT! Allowing it to sit in the refrigerator for about 1 to 2 weeks lets the smoke even out through the cheese and "mellows" the flavor. No one wants to eat cheese that tastes like an ash tray.
Cold smoking is really just that simple. Remember, cold smoking meats can be very dangerous and is not for the beginner smoker. I suggest trying cheese or nuts first.
For any questions on cold smoking, please visit us at Colorado BBQ Outfitters and we can assist you with the proper products that will make cold smoking your food not only easy but a palatable outcome.
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