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New Cold Smoker Question

Doc_EggertonDoc_Eggerton Posts: 5,095
edited April 2012 in EggHead Forum
Doing my first cold smoke, a pastrami.  One of you smoking gurus please talk to me.

I am using the A-Maze-N-Smoker, and it is working as advertised.  A thin blue smoke.  I put the smoke tray on some bricks on top of the residue lump just in case it generated enough heat to light off if in direct contact.  I also tented the tray so nothing can drip on it.

I have (mostly) resisted a little peek by cracking the lid and peering inside.  Guys, how dose this thin haze of smoke do anything?

My plan was cold smoke for 5 hours then hot smoke for 5.

XLBGE X 2, LBGE (gave this one to my daughter), MBGE and lots of toys


  • Smoker_GuruSmoker_Guru Posts: 372

    Doc, don't know what wood you are using. Depending on the wood type it does not take much smoke to flavor the meat. If it is hickory or mesquite 5 hours seems a little long. If it is somthing like pecan or a fruit wood that is probly about the right amount of time.

    I would becareful if this is your 1st run. Much better to have a too light of a smoke flavor than an overbearing one. And believe me when I say if it gets too strong you will end up throwing it away. I have snoked a lot of beef, pork, sausage and fish and have learned the the street of hard knox.

  • Doc_EggertonDoc_Eggerton Posts: 5,095
    Thanks!  It is hickory, so I will reduce the smoke time.  Since I am feeling my way for the first time, maybe 2.5 hours.

    XLBGE X 2, LBGE (gave this one to my daughter), MBGE and lots of toys

  • Smoker_GuruSmoker_Guru Posts: 372
    2.5 hours sound about right for hickory. That's close to the same time I use when I do sausage with hickory. Although once you have tried the hickory I would recommend trying pecan for about 4 hours on futur smoke. I just think pecan has a much better tast.
  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    edited April 2012
    cold smoke is very thin. blue isn't merely 'ok'. it's ideal.

    i have to question the decision to cold smoke pastrami first time you use it.

    here's the deal with cold smoke.... because the strength of cold smoke is much subtler, i might do a ham 18-20 hours.  bacon, went 18 or so also.  it takes a LOT of gentle smoke to flavor the meat.  but the smoke is smoother, and of course doesn't cook the meat (the idea behind it in the first place).

    so... five hours seems too short to bother.  and it seems odd to then hot smoke it anyway.  like painting something with a very fine painstaking airbrush, and then hitting it with a spray can. you aren't going to be able to notice a difference.

    but you'd noticed a difference if you hot-smoked some salmon and then did a cold smoke comparison.  THAT is where it pays off.

    my advice would be to not try to  invent something new the first time out, because you won't know what to expect, how to time it, and what the result will be.  it's just guessing.

    better to do a simple salmon (cured), or side of belly, or even a ham.

    but i would suggest following a known recipe the first time.  you've introduced so many variables (mesquite, too), that i don't know how you can understand for the next application what 'happend'

    imagine, for example, you think it was 'too smokey'.  what to change? maybe it was the mesquite (a very strong smoke).  or the hot smoke... 

    i dunno.
    don't mean to be a dinkus, but it just seems a little 'enthusiastic'. as in "if this a little is good, then a lot must be better".

    i advocate simplifying, and removing all the twists and improvisation, for your first use
    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
  • Doc_EggertonDoc_Eggerton Posts: 5,095
    Whoa, got to digest that, but I would not have asked the question if I did not want an answer :-)  I am doing pastrami simply because my daughter asked me to, and we are beyond the point of no return (or OBE - Overcome By Events as they say where I work).  I was cold smoking and hot smoking based on some Googled information that lead me to believe that you flavored it with smoke, then cooked it.  We'll see how she turns out, at the worst I should have brisket.Oh, and I tried hickory.

    XLBGE X 2, LBGE (gave this one to my daughter), MBGE and lots of toys

  • Doc_EggertonDoc_Eggerton Posts: 5,095
    stike, sort of OT, but your answer strikes a chord with me where you talk about multiple variables when trying something new.  I am a muzzle loading rifle competitor, and when you are working up a new rifle you have many variables to work with; load, powder grade, patch thickness, lube, and ball weight.  We always guess a baseline load, then change one variable at a time until you find the sweet formula.

    XLBGE X 2, LBGE (gave this one to my daughter), MBGE and lots of toys

  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    i guess my reaction was "cold smoking a pastrami?" because pastrami is so strongly flavored.  it seems like the effort of cold smoking will be too short to make an impact, and will further get steam-rolled by the hot smoke and strong seasonings.

    cold smoking generally pays its dividends when you do it for a very long time, to get a pronounced smoke flavor without changing the texture of the meat in any appreciable way (meaning: you aren't cooking it or drying it out). or, when you do it for a relatively shorter time, (4, 5, 6 hours)on something that is very subtley flavored to begin with and where the smoke will really stand out (cheese, cured salmon, for ex.).

    i don't mean to be overly critical, but itjust seems sometimes we see a lot of enthusiasm applied to things in a way that may not produce results people will be just as enthusiastic about.

    witness the number of "i saw you guys making bacon, and it looks great, so i'm going to make some myself.  i decided not to use nitrite because i don't like chemicals in my food, and my wife doesn't like the idea of too much salt, so i cut back on that.  and i couldn't find pork belly, so i used chicken breasts.  then i hot-smoked it for 7 hours." gotta tell you, i don't see what the fuss is about"

    that's an exaggeration of course, but you should see the offline emails i have re: a conversation with a cousin in-law who did essentially that. he was interested in making bacon because they really enjoyed the stuff we gave them for christmas, and he begged for details all the way through, then improvised evry single step introducing so many variables it was crazy.  he then said "nobody liked it, it wasn't what i expected" and somehow i was to blame. hahaha
    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
  • Doc_EggertonDoc_Eggerton Posts: 5,095
    OK, a basic question.  The method then is cold smoke, then cook without added smoke (except for whatever comes off the lump)?

    Don't worry about critical suggestions offered positively.  I would not ask if I did not want to know.

    XLBGE X 2, LBGE (gave this one to my daughter), MBGE and lots of toys

  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    edited April 2012
    i tend to look at things from a practical, maybe 'historical' point of view regarding this stuff.  which i guess means that i try to understand why something was done originally (what practical reason did it have), and then from there it gives me an understanding to freewheel if i want.

    in the case of smoking, we do it now because it tastes good.  we can smoke our cheerios if we want.

    but when you slaughtered a pig a couple thousand years ago and couldn't eat it all at once, you tried to keep it edible by using an arsenal of tools.  salt to preserve it.  drying it out to reduce any bacterial issues (already hopefully combated by the salt), and maybe smoke, and pepper to keep bugs away (keep them uninterested).

    country hams were smoked because smoke was shown to inhibit bacteria, and the constant flow of cool air (days long) dried the meat.  now that we can drive to a store and buy fresh meat any time of year, we cure and smoke them for flavor's sake, because we liked the way the stuff tastes, not because it needed to be smoked. ,originally it wasn't smoked necessarily for flavor.

    for me it stems from the obvious question: what do you want it to be when it hits your plate?

    if you hot smoke fish, you cook it. so don't bother cld smoking, because any delicacy of smoke, and the fact that it doesn't cook the meat, will be instantly lost the second you furthr hot smoke it. 

    but if the idea is to preserve soft texure (think cold salmon lox, served on a bagel with cream cheese), you don't want it flaking aopart and firmed up, dry.  you want bright orange clean cured flesh with a hint of smoke.  the only way t add the smoke in that case is cold.  and since it is very mild, you'll need to go 4, 5 hours maybe.

    why cold smoke a ham?  style maybe.  you can fully cook a home-cured ham by hot smokingt, and eat it right then.  or then cool it, and reheat later, even adding MORE smoke.  that's essentially what you do when you buy a fully cooked smoked store bought ham.  you can still add smoke.  but just heat it to 140 (you're REheating only).

    or...  you could cold smoked the hamfor a couple days then hang it to dry over a year or so.  it's UNCOOKEd.  but cured.  later, when you coook it quickly, you can add a bit more smoke if you want, but it will already have a ton of smke on it after the long cold smoke.

    it all sounds complicated, but it is really simple.

    cold smoke to preserve the texture of the uncooked meat, while adding smoke flavor.

    or cold smoke to add a lot of smoke flavor to to something that you don't want to cook now, but may store and cook later, and which you'll cook quickly enough that you'll be glad you already have a lot of smoke on it from the cold-smoke.

    you hot smoke anything you want to cook, while adding smoke.

    cold smoke is maybe suited to subtle foods which want a hint of smoke without being cooked. again, unless you smoke for many many hours

    after all that typing without answering your question...

    the answer to "The method then is cold smoke, then cook without added smoke (except for whatever comes off the lump". it depends. many things which are cold smoked are never intended to be further cooked (or cooked at all).  hence 'cold'.  in my over-the-top-to-illustrate-a-point cheerios example, you could cold-smoke your cheerios, and then enjoy them with milk. you'd have the exact same cheerios as are left in the box, but with added smoke flavor.  you hot smoke them, though, and they will be roasted and cooked,in addition to smokey.

    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    edited April 2012
    a follow up....

    the only (only) reason we have salty, pink, sugary smokey peppery country ham is because they couldn't eat the roast that day and had to preserve it.  all those ingredients came as a result of preserving the food, and are done now only because we like what it did to the meat as a byproduct of storing it.

    salt sucks out water. water is required by bacteria.  bacteria can't live in it.  so the meat hangs safely with no other treatment (and you have prosciutto).

    now, we're down south, and it's maybe warmer than it is in italy the same time of year you slaughtered the hogs (early winter).  damn.  need to hurry this up. ok, use some salt, but gee with this heat the flies are still hanging around... well, hang it up in the chimney where you kitchen fire is.  flies hate that.  over time, the constant smoke and stream of air dry it out and give it an acidic surface, and the thing really lasts.  might even then be taken down and simply hung in a cool place for a couple years.

    but gee, the first time you have that two year old ham, it is damn salty because it has been so dried out, the salt is really condensed.  no one cooks and eats prosciutto and serves it in a quarter inch thick slice, but that's basically the same thing.

    so they find that adding sugar to the cure (sugar is hygroscopic) will cause the meat to retain just enough moisture to not be too salty too eat. but salty enough to stay preserved. what kind of sugar are we gonna use? well, not the expensive refined white sugar (which was literally kept under lock and key), but why not try that cheap molasses.  there's a ton of it.  and so it's comparatively cheap

    and there we are.  country ham

    fast forward to our relatively brief 'refrigerated' era. grandpa probably remembers getting an electric fridge, which means we have existed without refrigeration for the vast majority of human history. so why do we even bother making hams.  well, we got used to them, and actually LIKE them.  no longer a practical need.  we just like it.

    whew.  ten thousand words on ham.  anybody figure out yet i'm avoiding doing my work?

    city ham? heck, centralized slaughterhouses existed before refrigerated rail cars.  what to do with all these damn fresh hams? they'll rot before they get to the city.  just toss them all into barrels of pickling (curing) brine.  it will cure them much quicker than salt curing (prosciutto and country ham), and by the time the hams arrive in the "city" by rail, they'll be cured and ready to sell.  and you can reuse the brine even. just keep adding to it.

    nobody made this stuff because it made it  good to eat.  it was because it kept it from perishing. 

    that's a way too long way of asking "what do you want it to be when it hits your plate?"
    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
  • Doc_EggertonDoc_Eggerton Posts: 5,095
    This is working out to be my first epic failure.  Oh well, live and learn.

    XLBGE X 2, LBGE (gave this one to my daughter), MBGE and lots of toys

  • i just did pastrami - Kroger has a special on Corned beef.
    Soaked the Corned beef in 3 times drained cold water in the fridge for 10 hrs
    Then dried & rubbed with my Pastrami mix & smoked it with hickory wood indirectly @ 225F for 4hrs for an internal temp of 170F
    Then wrapped in aluminum foil till temp dropped to 145F & placed in the fridge to cool off
    Sliced thin against the grain & steamed in a frying pan with a tablespoon of hot water & covered with a pot lid for approx 1 minute. Served on my sourdough onion/ caraway rye bread with Grey Poupon mustard

    YUM, yum.

  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    doc. it's not a failure.  failures turn out bad.  this is just a trial run, right?

    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
  • Doc_EggertonDoc_Eggerton Posts: 5,095
    stike, I will have the answer to that in a couple hours.  I am fairly confident in the kraut, rye, swiss, and mustard.  We'll see how the pastrami turns out :-)

    XLBGE X 2, LBGE (gave this one to my daughter), MBGE and lots of toys

  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    just FYI, doc, w/r/t failures.  i posted a couple of my own on th forum which shall remain nameless.  improvised bresaola sausage from 100-day dry-aged steaks: into the trash.

    and a fanatstic LOOKING paella with nothing but the freshest seafood.  burnt to a ridiculous crisp.  literally charcoal from what used to be rice.

    we all eff up.  yours is not anywhere close to a failure.
    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
  • Doc_EggertonDoc_Eggerton Posts: 5,095
    OK, not bad just not special.  Texture is right, a bit too salty. Very strong flavor.  Perfectly acceptable for sandwiches.

    XLBGE X 2, LBGE (gave this one to my daughter), MBGE and lots of toys

  • Doc_EggertonDoc_Eggerton Posts: 5,095
    Actually not bad at all in a sandwich.  BTW those are my own atomic garlic dill pickles.

    XLBGE X 2, LBGE (gave this one to my daughter), MBGE and lots of toys

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