What Is a Cold Smoker: A Short and Simple Guide to Cold Smoking

what is a cold smoker

If you are a big fan of smokers and you love to eat smoked food, doing something out of the norm can be an excellent way to try out new flavors, and cold smoking is a technique worth trying.

Traditional smoking is pretty standard, and we all know how to do it, but cold smoking is something new.

Hence, a lot of people have been asking the question, "What is a cold smoker?" and wondering how to prepare cold-smoked food.

Although many people have been doing this in the past, it is only recently that this type of smoking procedure became popular.

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What Is a Cold Smoker?

If you want to try cold smoking, you will need to create a cold smoker because it is pretty challenging to find a pre-built cold smoker in the market.

The good thing, though, is that you can often find some kits that would help you build your own.

A cold smoker is not necessarily cold, but it is not hot, as well.

The goal is to keep the temperature of the cold smoker lower than 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

What Is Cold Smoking?

Now that you know what is a cold smoker, it is time to learn the process in detail.

Cold smoking is a kind of process that uses smoke to add more flavor to the meat.

Once you tried cold smoking, many of you would love the unique taste!

If done correctly, you would even think that it is better than the traditional smoking procedure.

Well, cold smoking takes a lot of time while hot smoking can be done in just a few minutes, so if you have the patience to wait, then cold smoking is definitely a must-try.

The General Process

If you plan to try cold smoking, the process is straightforward.

You just need to follow the following steps:

1. Cure the Meat

You need to cure the food you will smoke before you place it in the cold smoker since the meat can absorb the smoke once the moisture has been drawn out.

Curing is also an excellent way to make sure the food won’t get spoiled even if you don’t refrigerate it, as well as prevent the growth of bacteria.

The most popular process is by using salt, and here is a step-by-step guide that you can follow:

  1. Prepare a significant amount of salt, just enough to cover the entire meat.
  2. Get a container bigger than the meat you plan to cure.
  3. Put a generous amount of salt at the bottom of the container and place the meat on top.
  4. Add more salt at the top of the meat and make sure that it is buried completely.

You should not cure the meat too long as it would be too salty.

You just have to make sure that the meat will lose about 35 to 40 percent of its original weight.

2. Smoke the Meat

You need to store the meat in a sealed area, and the smoke will come from another chamber and pumped to the area where you stored the meat.

Lastly, you need to keep the food in the chamber from 12 to 48 hours.

The Best Food Items to Cold Smoke

When you talk about cold smoking, you would always consider smoked salmon or salami since they are the most common food placed in a cold smoker.

That said, there are actually tons of food that you can cold smoke.

If it is your first time trying a cold smoker, here are some food items with lower health risks that you can try:

  • Garlic
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Tofu
  • Cheese

If you’ve got the hang of it or you have a professional or experienced cook with you, you can start smoking fish and sausages.

The Danger of Doing Cold Smoking Improperly

Before you try cold smoking, though, you have to remember that there are health risks involved if you do not have any idea how to do it properly and how to set up the cold smoker.

Botulism is one of the most serious health risks that you may encounter because of cold smoking.

Although this type of disease is rare, it doesn’t mean that you are safe, especially if you love to eat cold-smoked food.

When you cold smoke your food, you are not cooking it, so the bacterium will stay there.

what is a cold smoker

As mentioned, curing the meat can be an excellent way to minimize the risks of botulism, including listeriosis.

The problem is that the salt used will only stop the growth of bacteria.

It won’t kill any bacteria and the temperature for cold smoking can increase the chances of bacterial growth if you don’t know how to do it properly.

The best way to deal with health risks is to know how to cold smoke your food properly.

Simple Tips for Safe Cold Smoking

Precision and patience are both essential if you want to do cold smoking safely.

You also have to prepare the right setup to make sure that bacteria won’t grow on the food.

Here are some of the safety tips that you should keep in mind:

1. Follow a Recipe

If you are all alone and don’t know anyone who can help you learn how to cold smoke, you can follow some recipes that you can find on the Internet.

However, you cannot simply pick any recipe. You have to look for a professional who actually knows what they're doing.

You can try to look for recipe videos and tutorials on how to cold smoke and make sure that you start with the food with lower health risks like the shortlist we provided above.

You can also look for eBooks that would provide a step-by-step guide on how to cold smoke specific food items.

2. Buy High-Quality Meat

You have to be very careful when buying fish meat.

You have to make sure that the fish is not infected by tapeworm or other parasites since they would stay in the meat.

The same goes for beef or pork; you should only buy the best quality.

It is better to buy fresh meat and check with the seller.

You should only buy the meats from sellers that you trust.

3. Always Cure the Meat

You should always cure the meat before you cold-smoke them.

Always remember that cured, salted, and fermented meats are the best food for cold smoking.

Thus, it is better to learn how to cure food before you start cold smoking.

4. Cook the Meat After Smoking

The flavor is already there after cold smoking, so it is not a bad idea to cook it again to make sure that the bacteria would be killed.

You can put the meat in the oven and make sure that you cook it at a minimum temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

That temperature is enough to kill all the bacteria from the meat.

5. Look for the Best Cold Smoker

Although it is difficult to look for a cold smoker, you can buy a smoker that would allow you to do both hot and cold smoking.

They are usually more expensive, but if you don’t have the time to create your cold smoker, this is a better alternative.

It is safer, as well, since these smokers are made to minimize the growth of bacteria.

That said, DIY cold smokers are also great because you can create a bigger smoker.

If you are planning to cold smoke different types of food items and you want to do it all at the same time, you can create your smoker.

You just have to make sure that the smoker is made from wood or metal.


If you are the type of person that likes to try something new, especially when it comes to smoked food, cold smoking is definitely a great pick.

Although there are some health risks involved, it won’t really be a big deal as long as you will take the time to do your research and figure out how to do it properly.

As long as you are fully prepared and equipped with the right knowledge, you can produce some tasty food from cold smoking.

It is not a bad idea to try something new, but you have to be careful and should not consume cold-smoked food unless you are completely sure that you did it right.

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