If you like the taste of smoked meat or fish, then an approach you might want to consider is the oft over looked approach of cold smoking. This method relies on the smoke to remove moisture to cure the meat instead of heat. Once excess moisture is removed from the meat, then the residual salt will help with the preservation of the meat.
Cold smoked meats can prevent or at least slow down the process of meat spoilage, which in turn, increases their shelf life. The end result of this cold smoking process is a product that has a more smoky flavor embedded in the meat than traditional hot smoking processes which only smokes the exterior.
Cold smoking is a process that removes excess moisture from meat and fish that has been in use by human beings for centuries. This method of smoking subjects your meat or fish to constant temperatures from between 52-71 degrees F from 1 to 14 days time in which a thin application of smoke is used in conjunction with rest breaks to gain maximum penetration of that delicious smoky flavor. Whereas hot smoking creates a layer of hardened or cooked meat that restricts smoke flavor from penetrating deeper into the product, cold smoking does not cook this outer layer allowing for full penetration of the smoke flavor to the center of the meat or fish.
This is an easy process that can be accomplished almost anywhere it is cold year round, or during winter months in places elsewhere. The first step is to either purchase or manufacture a grill in which to smoke your meat. There are many grills for smoking meat on the market you can purchase, but you may also manufacture your own grill out of a variety of household items. Many designs for these smokers are out there on the internet ranging from using an old gas stove with the burners removed to utilizing an old keg.
Getting started is an easy process. Many people, my self included, like to marinate their meat before the smoking process begins or let it sit overnight with a favorite dry rub recipe massaged into the meat. If cold smoking fish, it is recommended that after cutting them into manageable 3×6 inch pieces,you soak them in a brine consisting of salt, brown sugar and water.
Secondly you want to ensure you have an ample supply of dry wood to begin the smoking process. You will need to start by lighting your fire in the burner box slowly, feeding it wood or charcoal until you have built a nice bed of coals. Then you begin adding your wood chips on top of this heat source to begin the manufacturing of smoke. Next, take your meat or fish and place it on the grill, making sure you do not place it directly over the flame or heat and close the lid down and shut all of the side vents to retain all of the smoke possible and closing the top vent to three quarters shut..
As this is a process that is going to require an extended amount of time, you will need to return to your smoker and refill it with wood or charcoal and more chips over time. An easy way to do this is, if your meat is separated from your heat source, as is the case with many professional smokers that have a fire box built onto the side or the old oven method which uses the broiler for the heat source location, is to open your fire box, add more lit charcoal or wood and chips then close it again.
If you do not have this luxury, then prepare your coals ahead of time by using a charcoal lighter box, then transfer the lit coals into the grill than adding wood chips on top of that. Try to make this as quick and as rare as possible to prevent valuable loss of smoke and to retain a constant temperature. As this method of smoking is going to require an extended amount of time, make sure you stock your fire box well before going to bed in the evening, or you might even consider doing this project with a partner so you can both take turns keeping the fire lit and smoking.
After your meat or fish has achieved the desired interior coloring, usually this is a darkened yellow or brownish color for meat, then remove it from the grill, ensure it is cool, then seal in vacuum seal bags if available, or keep in a freezer bag or sealed container if that is all you have available. To keep your meat for an extended period of time, it is also recommended to store it in a freezer, or a cool dry place for greater longevity.
This is an exciting adventure for those who enjoy trying something new, or like the salty and smoky taste that is delivered with this method. This method can be used on a variety of meats or fish as has been stated above, or you might even consider using it to make your own personal bacon or hams as well.
If you are a hunter and have large quarters that you want to smoke,you can use this method as well. With a little practice and experimentation you will find this to be a simple yet enjoyable adventure.