Cold smoking certainly seems a lot more alluring than hot smoking. Now I’m not trying to bad-mouth DIY hot smokers and the whole concept of hot smoking. Personally, I simply can’t enough of the hot, smoky essence of actual cooked meat. But then the flavors that cold smoking and only cold smoking infuse into food are just so heavenly.
The effort required for building a homemade cold smoker is a lot more complicated, no doubt about that. You have to fill a certain amount of space with enough smoke for a certain amount of hours. And the temperature during this time should be just right; the goal is to prevent the food from cooking and, at the same time, from spoiling as well.
But all this will only happen once you know how to build a cold smoker. So before I get into all the DIY cold smoker plans, let’s first get to know a little bit more about cold smoking.
- Hot Smoking and Cold Smoking – What’s the Difference?
- What All Can Be Cold Smoked?
- Cold Smoking Cheese
- Safety Tips for Cold Smoking
- Building A Cold Smoker At Home – 20 DIY Ideas!
- #1 Basic Cold Smoker
- #2 Upcycled Cold Smoker
- #3 Squaw Candy Cold Smoker
- #4 Cold Smoker Smokebox/Smokehouse
- #5 Mini-Fridge Cold Smoker
- #6 DIY Cold Smoker for Bacon
- #7 DIY Cold Smoker with Readymade Cold Smoke Generator
- #8 DIY $1 Cold Smoker
- #9 Ikea-Inspired Cold Smoker
- #10 Mini Cold Smoker Made With Coffee Maker
- #11 DIY Snow Cave Cold Smoker (In An Igloo)
- #12 DIY Pinewood Cold Smoker
- #13 DIY Charcoal Grill Cold Smoker
- #14 Cold Smoke System
- #15 DIY Cold Smoking Cabinet
- #16 Homemade Offset Smoker for Cold/Hot Smoking
- #17 DIY $1 Cold Smoke Generator
- #18 Miss Betsy’s Cold Smoke Generator
- #19 DIY Concrete Kamado-Style Smoker
- #20 DIY Soup Can Cold Smoker
Hot Smoking and Cold Smoking – What’s the Difference?
With cold smoking, flavors are infused into the food through the smoke. But with hot smoking, flavors are infused while the food is getting cooked.
But then it’s important for the temperature to be low and well-controlled if you want to cold smoke the right way. What cold smoking does is it preserves the food since smoke dries up moisture and activates bacteria-fighting properties. But for this to happen, 48 hours of cold smoking is necessary. After which, no refrigerator storage is required.
Hot smoking, on the other hand, cooks your food at a higher temperature. If what you really desire is a delicious smoky flavor, then hot smoking is better. Plus, it also leaves your meats with more juice and a more tender texture/taste.
What All Can Be Cold Smoked?
Firstly, if you’ve never cold smoked anything before, then it’s best to start small. Such as cold smoking cheese instead of choosing big items like salmon or salami. Cheese is certainly less of a risk than salmon or salami.
Just grow accustomed to the whole cold smoking technique first, keeping in mind safety risks of course. And once you’re confident enough to take on more, here’s a list of all the foods you can cold smoke…
Vegetables, nuts, tofu, hardboiled eggs, garlic, and olive oil.
The most popular ones being fish (smoked salmon) and sausage. But then these are high-risk options because of the chances of foodborne botulism if they’re not properly handled.
Cold Smoking Cheese
Since foodborne botulism feels like a buzz-kill, how about then just cold-smoking cheese?
In about 2 to 4 hours only you have delicious, cold-smoked cheese without any serious health risks lurking over your indulgences. But then there is that chance of cheese melting during the smoking process if the temperature becomes too hot. Below 90 degrees Fahrenheit is perfect for cold smoking and the cheese to remain solid.
The warmer the weather conditions, the lower the temperature in your cold smoker.
So for cold smoking cheese in warmer climates, make sure you do that in the evening or morning. Select a particular time when the surrounding temperature is cooler. Or you could just add ice into the smoking compartment/chamber, so the air around the cheese is cooled.
Another useful tip – cut the cheese into small chunks for the smoky flavor to penetrate deeper beyond just the surface of the cheese. Keep turning those chunks to get an evenly distributed smoky flavor.
Many cold-smoking enthusiasts prefer using cheese at room temperature as it prevents condensation during the process. Once done, wrap up the cheese (using plastic wrap) and then store it in the refrigerator if you want the flavor to get intensified.
Safety Tips for Cold Smoking
Here are some quick safety tips to make your cold smoking experience successful in every way…
- Follow only expert recipes, and not what your neighbor tells you.
- Cold smoke only high quality, fresh fish or meat.
- Before cold smoking meat, cure it first using salt.
- After cold smoking, cook the food (at 160 degrees Fahrenheit temperature) and then eat it.
Building A Cold Smoker At Home – 20 DIY Ideas!
#1 Basic Cold Smoker
If you have 4 hours to spare with average woodworking skills, then this basic DIY design of cold smoker is right up your alley. The instructions are not only clear but also very easy to follow. So it’s not so intimidating anymore to build your very own homemade version of a cold smoker from scratch!
#2 Upcycled Cold Smoker
Maybe you have a leaky old barrel you want to recycle, along with some other scavenged bits and pieces? You might have to buy a metal dustbin though, which doesn’t cost much if you get something cheap. A few more things will have to be bought for this repurposed cold smoker DIY plan, but then the whole project doesn’t cost more than $50-$60.
#3 Squaw Candy Cold Smoker
Now, how about building a cold smoker that stores and smokes your fresh fish for squaw candy? Just make sure you’re using red salmon; fresh red salmon is the best indeed. Avoid frozen fish please because that’s just tragic.
It’s the tallest DIY smoker one can construct for the flavorful process of cold smoking.
#4 Cold Smoker Smokebox/Smokehouse
A smoker big enough for cold smoking large quantities of meat at once, this smokebox sits right on top of the block pit. And it can accommodate two pigs!
#5 Mini-Fridge Cold Smoker
Who says old fridges or freezers are completely useless items?! Well, someone who has certainly never had to use them for a DIY cold smoker project!
Time to turn a beaten-down mini-fridge into an awesome smoker that performs the job of infusing delicious, seasoned flavorings into your most favorite meats and foods. But you do need an outdoor space for this DIY unit’s ventilation system to work.
#6 DIY Cold Smoker for Bacon
This video has garnered quite a lot of attention on YouTube because of the easy-to-follow demonstration of building a DIY cold smoking chamber without the use of metal or any “special” equipment. In fact, oven racks just lying around have been involved in the process. And it’s a pretty inexpensive project too – only about $50 spent!
And the idea, at first, was to smoke only bacon but you can definitely cold smoke fish and other types of cured meats as well.
#7 DIY Cold Smoker with Readymade Cold Smoke Generator
No doubt, this is a quick, easy method that includes a readymade cold smoke generator. However, the rest of the design you construct from ground zero. The body can be built using all kinds of different materials. Watch the video to know more.
#8 DIY $1 Cold Smoker
The video tutorial is here…
This is not only a budget-friendly but also an eco-friendly homemade smoker. All you need is cardboard box, another small boxed (line it with aluminum sheet for maintaining a lower temperature in warmer climates), and toilet paper roll. No need to use any tools for this one; just tape it all together in place.
#9 Ikea-Inspired Cold Smoker
A simple and clear Build Your Own Cold Smoker project, it makes use of affordable Ikea furniture to construct the smoker body. And not a lot of drilling/cutting is required either. Plus, at the end of it, you get to smoke bacon!
#10 Mini Cold Smoker Made With Coffee Maker
You may want to watch the video before anything else…
A stovetop espresso maker combines with an aquarium pump to give you your very own mini-sized cold smoker (genius idea!!). Of course, you can use a larger coffee maker if you wish to cold smoke for longer because this one smokes only for around 20 minutes.
#11 DIY Snow Cave Cold Smoker (In An Igloo)
Lots of snow around where you live? Time to construct your own snow cave of a cold smoker! Just follow these simple instructions, which actually do not consist of anything complicated except for an electrical hot plate. How about some COLD cold smoking!
#12 DIY Pinewood Cold Smoker
Build a wooden cold smoker that’s large enough for hanging bacon, salmon, ham, and more. The all-pinewood design is as tall as 7 feet, as wide as 3 feet, and with a depth of 3 feet. Like I said, big enough – enormous in fact!
#13 DIY Charcoal Grill Cold Smoker
It’s an under-$50 project that takes any standard charcoal grill you might own or even buy second-hand and then turn that into a proper cold smoker. The video below covers all the steps required for setting it up like a pro…
#14 Cold Smoke System
Ever heard of or seen those large-sized external cold smoker units? If not, then you might not even want to know because they’re quite pricey. And this applies to the smaller set-ups as well you know. So why not just make one from scratch on your own at home?
#15 DIY Cold Smoking Cabinet
Smoking cheese is done using the cold smoke technique obviously, because hot smoking will just melt away the cheese. Anyway, if you’re into smoking large batches of cheese, it’s time to build a homemade smoker that can handle that quantity.
The whole cabinet height is around 5 feet and the construction is all-wood, with latches that keep it shut and removable shelves inside. Even vents are properly incorporated into the entire DIY structure. Once you watch the video, you’ll get a better understanding for sure!
#16 Homemade Offset Smoker for Cold/Hot Smoking
Initially, feeling intimidated by this DIY smoker project is normal. But when you really look into it, you’ll know that it’s actually a very simple-to-make, repurposed DIY offset smoker. You combine items you already have with new yet very inexpensive things. The tricky part, although not so much, is putting it all together.
This woodstove meat smoker is capable of keeping the temperature low (for fish, cheese, pork belly, etc.) as well as of increasing the temperature to a much higher degree (within the smokebox of course) to work with some of your favorite meats (beef, pork, chicken, etc.)
#17 DIY $1 Cold Smoke Generator
If you go back to #7, you’ll see that the project involves using a readymade cold smoke generator. Now if you don’t have that kind of money to spare, then consider building your own cold smoke generator. And here’s how you can go about it…
If you watched till the end, you also saw the correct way of loading the homemade product with pellets. Just, obviously, dry those pellets (oven is the best for this – 30 minutes at 250 degrees Fahrenheit) for getting rid of the humidity.
#18 Miss Betsy’s Cold Smoke Generator
Quite a well-known DIY idea for making your own cold smoke generator using coffee can. So no more having to set up a complicated design of stove pipes and stove for letting the smoke cool and then guiding that into the smoke chamber. Instead just fashion an easy-to-manage, compact-sized cold smoke generator.
#19 DIY Concrete Kamado-Style Smoker
Only $50 and 5 minutes – that’s the kind of time, money, and effort you’ll be spending on this Kamado-style, concrete-block smoker. You don’t even have to use any tools for this one!
In comparison to Kamado prices, this homemade version costs around only 2-percent of that price. And if you watch the video, you’ll see how additional tips and techniques are also mentioned, so you can choose better smoking fuel, cut your meat better, and more.
#20 DIY Soup Can Cold Smoker
Don’t expect to cold smoke bacon and fish in this DIY cold smoker. But it sure knows how to infuse that delicious smoky flavor into foods that require less than 3 hours of cold smoking.
So you cure the food to draw out moisture, which prevents the growth of bacteria. And then place the food inside the smoking chamber. Start the cold smoking process. Then just wait for the whole thing to bring about a delicious smoky flavor.
During the process, keep in mind that the temperature should be low as well as controlled (under 40 degrees Fahrenheit). To do that, the heat within the smoker needs to be balanced out with the external cold temperature. Many also add ice inside the smoker chamber; just place it between your food and the firebox on an aluminum drip pan.
No wonder cold smoking is the most commonly done in colder climates!
You also have many risks associated with cold smoking since there’s no cooking involved. The most prevalent one being botulism, which is quite common when cold-smoking fish and sausages. And if you’re pregnant or chronically ill, then it’s best to simply avoid consuming cold smoked food.
But then, all in all, if you’re using the right equipment the right way with safety concerns in mind, there’s no need to worry. And who says that the right equipment always has to be an expensive cold smoker, large or small? You can build your very own inexpensive smoker at home without spending even half of what the commercial models cost nowadays.