I plan on smoking some meat again shortly, so I find it’s a good idea to gather and sum up my experiences on cold smoking a little. I will not describe the actual processes and mechanisms of smoking foods here, but if you’re interested, read on on wikipedia. It’s worth the time.
There are three types of smoking:
Hot smoking (60 – 110 °C / 140 – 230 °F):
This is what you do in a BBQ smoker. More delicious cooking than actual smoking.
Warm smoking (25 – 60 °C / 77 – 140 °F):
The intermediate thing. Some Proteins begin to denaturate at these temperatures.
Cold smoking (10 – 25 °C / 50 – 77 °F):
The “original” way of smoking, used for centuries to conserve goods. The only method discussed here.
So, which wood should I use?
There is a nearly absurd amount of voodoo going on on the internet regarding wood types, chunk sizes, etc. While different types of wood do indeed make a noticeable difference in taste, you won’t be ruining a batch completely only because you used the “wrong” wood. IMHO, you’ll just have to try some yourself and find out what you like.
A good and basic guideline on wood is: Hardwood is good, softwood is not (because of its high resin contents that will make your food bitter and even possibly coat it with a sticky, unappetizing film). Traditional woods for smoking are beech (the allrounder), oak (stronger flavor), and all fruit tree woods.
You will want to cure your meat before smoking, but this is complete science of it’s own and will not be covered here. As with wood, there are shitloads of recipes and tutorials on the internet (even here on Farcyde, like for example here, here or here 🙂 ). Rinse off the curing ingredients or even water your meat for several hours after curing, just according to your personal liking.
Generally: Wet curing will always work faster than dry curing (though I, personally, prefer the latter), but do make sure you add the meat into your smoker really dry. Just padding it with cloth or kitchen towel is not sufficient, instead do let it air dry for at least 24 hours before smoking (“brennen” in german). This will effectivly prevent a sour and bitter coating of condensate on your finished product.
Will you eventually get to the point? What will I have to do?
Start your smoker, no matter if you use a cold smoke generator or a traditional slow glowing sawdust burner, etc. For the first 10 -15 mins. set it on “full whack” to build up a smokey atmosphere and give your smoke generator some time to get in gear.
After that: “less is more“. Close the inlet air vent almost completely and open the outlet vent, the smoke is supposed to funnel out. You don’t want an atmosphere like on titan in your smoking cabinet.
Monitor the internal temperature: 10 – 20 °C ( 50 – 68 °F) is ideal. You generate smoke/heat on the bottom, but you measure the temperature at the top, ok?
If you’re smoking in winter and it’s too cold outside (10 °C / 50 °F and below), add a heat source at the bottom (even if it’s only some tealight candles) to make the smoke escape on the top, thus enclosing and circulating around your meat. A too cold smoke temperature will result in a build-up of condensate that you don’t want.
Dirty Trick: Place a piece of cardboard at a 45° angle above your food an not encumbering your outlet vent to help any unwanted condensate to aggregate there and not on your food.
If you plan to do more than one course of smoking, make sure to let your food aerate for around 10 – 12 hours in between smoking times.
Well. Any more does not occur to me now. Have fun smoking!