Cold Smoked vs. Hot Smoked Meat: Everything You Need to Know


What are the differences between hot and cold smoking and when should you use which method? Our Backyard Cooking Guide will help you with that.

Cold smoked vs. hot smoked

From pork breast and tenderloin to whole turkey and salmon, there are so many cuts of meat that get better(or better) with a little smoke.

The low and slow cooking method combined with nice smoke flavors and woods combine to create one of the best meats on the market.

Both types of meat preparation, cooking with cold smoke and hot smoke are very different.

So what are the differences between the two? Which meat goes best with whom? In today’s post, I’ll tell you about the key differences in how to do both, and even discuss the debate about smoking meat at home.

grilling ribs on barbecue grill

What is cold smoked meat? 

  • Cold smoking refers to a method of preserving meat to extend its shelf life. 
  • Temperatures are often below 90°F and the process can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days depending on the food being smoked.
  • Cold smoking can be done in regular barbecue smokers with a  cold smoke generator
  • The temperature, the naturally low acidity of the meat and the lack of oxygen provide ideal conditions for botulism spores and other bacteria. For this reason, precision control and precision tooling are essential to the production of safe-to-eat meat. 
  • Cold smoked meat is always cured with sodium nitrate. As a result, many products can be kept for months without refrigeration. 
  • Cold-smoked meat is held in an unheated chamber while smoke IS pumped in from an internal firebox.
  • One of my favorite cold smoked meats is salmon. Learn how to  cold sear salmon here.

What is hot smoked meat? 

  • Hot smoking refers to a cooking technique that uses heat and smoke to create ready-to-eat meats and other dishes.  
  • Hot smoking temperatures are well above the 140°F danger zone and generally range from 190°F to 300°F. Cooking times vary depending on the size of the meat, but generally take a few hours to a day. 
  • Because the meat IS served immediately & hot smoked proteins are not cured. However, the meat can be spritzed  with a marinade or stirred in a marinade several hours before cooking. 
  • The hot smoked meat is kept in the same chamber as the wood and heat.
  • Some of the  best meats to smoke  are brisket, pork loin(aka Boston loin), and pork ribs.

Smoke meat at home

When it comes to hot smoked meats, a grill master simply has to master the art of cooking to a safe internal temperature. Once the right temperature is reached, all the bacteria have been burned off and the product is safe to consume.

Cold smoking, on the other hand, is much more complicated and leaves little room for error. It’s a precise process, which means a master griller must arduously learn how to accurately measure salt and preservatives, monitor temperatures, take internal temperatures with classic thermometers, properly cool the chamber, and store meat safely. Since bacteria don’t need much to grow in a cold smoking environment, there is a much higher risk of cold smoking at home by an inexperienced griller.

Bottom line: Unless you’re smoking cheese or know exactly what you’re doing, it’s best to leave cold-smoked meat to the professionals. We care about rudeness, though, so there’s no reason you can’t learn how to do it properly and safely.

Have you ever tried smoking meat or other foods at home? What’s your favorite smoked meat? Let us know in the comments below!

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