Since the dawn of mankind, the art of smoking has remained a mystery to how it was discovered. The sheer variety of foods that can be smoked has long been a popular way to help preserve meats and fish throughout the centuries. In recent years, the number of food items that can be cold smoked inspires a new level of taste preference, and we’ve got the answers you’ve been searching for…
How to set up a grill/smoker for cold smoke
Your backyard grill isn’t just for getting the best results for grilling steaks and hamburgers, since it’s also an untapped cold smoker that can make amazing results for nearly anything you put inside it! But there are certain rules you need to follow to not create an environment that will ruin the foods that you put inside it. No matter what kind of grill you own, from simple kettle grills to full-retard large luxury grills, the concept is all-the-same.
Setting up a cold smoker involves using a device that delivers continuous smoke that isn’t adding extra heat to whatever you’re smoking. This includes using a smoking tube, pellet smokers, or old-fashioned aluminum foil smoke packs. No matter which gadget you choose, smoking all kinds of foods must include a grill that has adequate airflow so the smoke is continually circulating without raising the temperature.
Best practice tips
It’s important to remember that smoking is not actually cooking, but just like grilling, some steps involve some sort of preparation. This can include brining and salting to stop any bacteria from growing while you smoke these items. Bacteria is the leading cause of food poisoning and is the sole reason that many people get sick if certain foods aren’t prepared correctly when select foods are cold smoked.
Always keep anything that is being smoked placed on the opposite side of the grill where the smoke is rising. Even when smoke comes out of any smoker device, it contains heat that will slowly raise the temperature of any food placed under it. Always put items off to one side so the rising heat keeps foods cooler but still gets smoke that has had a chance to cool down. This is why it’s called cold smoking and usually takes longer to get the best results.
You also want to choose the type of smoke that will give your food a certain flavor. Lighter fruit wood is nice including apple wood, pecan, and assorted fruit and nut tree varieties. Hickory wood gives food a deeper flavor that goes great with meats and food that you want to have an intense smoke flavor. With that being considered, the temperature is always something that you want to keep a close watch on so it’s not getting too hot for cold smoking.
This is where you’ll want to invest in a thermometer so you can easily see what the temperature inside your grill is reaching. The general rule is keeping food below 120 degrees Fahrenheit so you aren’t actually trying to cook something. There are exceptions since you don’t want to smoke certain foods that might not have a chance to kill any bacteria that are still inside these foods.
Being careful of the temperature will always be your guide to getting rid of unwanted bacteria that could end up killing you if you aren’t careful.
Popular items to smoke
What you decide to smoke is up to you, since there are so many different kinds of foods to smoke. Obviously, the most popular is cheese because that layer of smokiness adds to any cheese you already like.
Not every type of cheese is going to melt if it’s considered hard cheese. The general temperature only needs to be 80 degrees Fahrenheit or lower to do the job right. Since cheese is already cured, it’s the safest item to play with and will give you great results.
This is another item that you want to stick to items that are already cured. Try using salami, cured ham, cured sausages, and anything that has already gone through a curing stage. If you do decide to smoke meat, it will need to be cured beforehand. This can be a little bit trickier but is really about preparing select meat that is brined to help cure the meat before it’s smoked.
This temperature ranges from an internal reading of 69-86 degrees Fahrenheit before bacteria starts to die. Essentially, the meat will be safe to eat once the internal temperature is reached.
Fish and seafood will need to be smoked at certain temperatures so it also kills bacteria that might live inside them. This will range from 68 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit for no less than 6-12 hours to cold cure anything that could make you sick. Fish does need to be prepared beforehand so this helps to reduce moisture levels inside the fish meat.
Smoking and roasting nuts are very easy and can take the heat when getting a great smoky flavor. You can start between 80degrees Fahrenheit which will roast your nuts while they get exposed to smoky flavors that are added. It takes only 20 minutes to one hour to taste the results.
Bacon isn’t commonly cured unless you’re looking for cured bacon. So to smoke a raw slab of bacon you’ll need to keep the temperature constant. This means you need to have your smoker set between 40-59 degrees Fahrenheit. This will smoke your pork while it helps to cure it for no less than 8 hours.
Bacon also needs to be dry cured before it’s smoked and helps to remove excess moisture in your bacon. You’ll want to use bacon that is already free from nitrates and uses a common curing powder called Prague Powder.
Fruits & veggies
These don’t need to be cooked at higher heat levels with cold smoking, so the temperature can range from 86-100 degrees Fahrenheit. This works wonders on veggies like olives and artichokes but is not limited to potatoes and garlic.