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History Of Cold Smoking

Smokin Monkey

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The smoking of food likely dates back to the time of primitive cavemen. As caves or simple huts lacked chimneys, these dwellings would probably have become very smoky. It is supposed that early men would hang meat up to dry and out of the way of pests, thus accidentally becoming aware that meat that was stored in smoky areas acquired a different flavor, and was better preserved than meat that simply dried out.



This process was later combined with pre-curing the food in salt or salty brines, resulting in a remarkably effective preservation process that was adapted and developed by numerous cultures around the world. Until the modern era, smoking was of a more "heavy duty" nature as the main aim was to preserve the food. Large quantities of salt were used in the curing process and smoking times were quite long, sometimes involving days of exposure.

The advent of modern transportation made it easier to transport food products over long distances and the need for the time and material intensive heavy salting and smoking declined. Smoking became more of a way to flavor than to preserve food. In 1939 a device called the Torry Kiln was invented at the Torry Research Station in Scotland.



The kiln allowed for uniform mass-smoking and is considered the prototype for all modern large-scale commercial smokers. Although refinements in technique and advancements in technology have made smoking much easier, the basic steps involved remain essentially the same today as they were hundreds if not thousands of years ago.

The reason behind 

Cold-smoking means exposing the food to smoke at temperatures below 100º F for a relatively long period of time. This flavors the food, but does not cook it—so cold-smoked foods are traditionally preserved via some other means (such as curing)

What’s the basic process for smoking foods such as salmon? The first step is to brine it, typically using sugar and spices in addition to salt. Next the food must air dry in order to form the all-important pellicle. The pellicle is a skin or coating of proteins that the smoke molecules can easily stick to; this is especially important with salmon, which develops a distinctly tacky feel when properly brined and dried. The food is then exposed to smoke from a hardwood until it reaches the desired level of dryness and flavor (cold-smoking).


How does smoking actually preserve food? Along with drying and salting, a number of wood smoke compounds also act as preservatives. Phenol and other phenolic compounds found in wood smoke are antioxidants and help slow the spoilage of animal fats; they also act as anti-microbials, which hinder bacterial growth. Other anti-microbials in wood smoke include acetic acid and other organic acids, which create a low pH – about 2.5 – that also inhibits the growth of bacteria. The end result is both an extended shelf life and a delicious flavor.

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