How Does Smoke Preserve Meat?

There’s nothing tastier than smoked meat, right? That’s why everyone loves a BBQ in the summer (well, everyone except vegans, of course).

But does the smoke help to preserve the meat and if so, how should we go about getting the best benefit from a smoker or from our electric smokers? Let’s find out.

How Does Smoking Meat Help To Preserve It?

how does smoke preserve meat

It’s common knowledge that the smoking process helps with preserving meats, right? Well, like a lot of common knowledge it’s not 100% accurate.

There are two smoking methods: hot smoking and cold smoking.

Only one of them results in cured meat and the other is simply for cooking meat and adding a smoked flavor to the end product. Let’s take a look at both of them.

Hot Smoking Process

The hot smoking process is meant to help you cook foods and get some of the smoke flavor of the wood chips that you use.

This doesn’t mean that you won’t get some benefits from this with respect to preserving meat – you will, most food scientists, agree that you will kill microbes more easily with smoke compounds, you will dry out the food which stops bacterial growth, and you will find some chemicals left behind by the smoking method also help with food preservation.

But there are inherent risks with relying on this method to preserve food and it’s best to only keep beef, poultry, etc. cooked in this way for a short time before consuming, refrigerating, or disposing of.

Cold Smoking Process

C0ld smoking will also add a touch of smoke flavor to the cold smoked meat but it is usually combined with another preservation process such as fermentation, the curing process, or salting.

These are the real factors in preserving cold-smoked foods and cold smoking adds fairly minimal benefits to the shelf life of these items.

It’s also important to note that cold smoking means that you must bring the food up to an internal temperature above the internal temperature danger zone of 160 degrees Fahrenheit before you serve it.

In general, they recommend cold smoking methods when you want to add smoke flavor and traditional smoking is going to be combined with other methods – the final product should see smoking times of at least 24 hours over smoke in a temperature range of 70-100 degrees Fahrenheit. The idea is that a longer period of low smokehouse temperatures will really dry out the meat and help to prevent the return of bacteria for a long period.

We’ve found that it can help to augment this process with liquid smoke. That’s because liquid smoke helps to increase the flavor, particularly on items like smoked fish.

How Long Do You Smoke Meat To Preserve It?

As we’ve already discussed in this article – smoking is not for food preservation. You will want to use it for further cooking after a different preservation method has been employed.

It makes tasty food products with a hint of smoke and fire about them but even if you smoke for longer periods than recommended and at high temperatures, it doesn’t mean it will preserve your good for much more than a short period by itself.

Why Is Smoked Meat Bad For You?

We may upset a few of the world’s anti-meat eaters but meat smoked in the proper way probably isn’t very bad for you.

The argument is that the charring that occurs during grilling and smoking contains chemicals known as amines which stick to the meat.

Amines are “known carcinogens” and thus, the logic goes that smoked meat will give you cancer.

Fortunately, there is no evidence to support this at all. The WHO (World Health Organization) has a nasty habit of classifying products as carcinogens without explaining how much you would need to get cancer.

Given that there are no known cancers attributed to eating meat that’s been smoked? We’re going to say that for now, at least, it’s safe enough to eat as long as you do so in moderation.

Final Thoughts On Smoking Meats

Smoked meat is one of our favorite foods and it’s becoming increasingly popular to make it at home thanks to the prevalence of electric smokers.

But it’s not for preserving meat, just for making it taste good, you need to combine it with other methods if you want to make your food last longer.

If like us, you love smoked foods, we think you’ll also enjoy our pieces on the best meat for smoking, the best BBQ Grills and the best Indoor Grills too.


I'm Olive. I'm a Mom of 3. Kitchen Lover. Adventurer. Big Time Foodie.

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