Does Hot Smoking Preserve Meat? (and Some Preserving Ideas)

Pastrami – 4 hour grapewood smoked wild game

When I started hot smoking meat, I did wonder if it had any preserving aspect to it.  I’ve been reading a lot of books on preserving and smoking, so thought I would share the answer, because I couldn’t find it online intially.

It seems alot of people make the assumption that smoking is preserving. However, there is a difference between preserving and smoking. 

Does Hot Smoking Preserve Meat?

No, hot smoking meat is the process of cooking meat with an element of smoke to enhance flavor. Preserving meat involves fully removing anti-microbial activity through drying. There are several ways preserving meat can be achieved.

It’s a combination of factors that allow meat to be preserved through smoking. Mainly the salt curing & the long cold smoking time are the main factors. Which dries the meat out, the smoke has quite a few ‘preserving’ properties that helps with this.

However there are other techniques for preserving meat also. My focus is on preserving with good flavor, that is what I pursue. Also some Artisan styling thrown in for good measure.

I have tried a bunch of flavor packed techniques, so here is a bit of a rundown below.

Preserving Meat by Smoking – Cold Smoking

cold smoked bacon pancetta
Cold Smoked Bacon, drying until the next smoking session

Under 70°F or 30°C and you are cold smoking meat or food. But it is over a long period of time. But first the meat has to be properly dry or wet cured primarily with salt.

The jury is out about whether the pellicle formation is important with cold smoking. Because cold smoking is over a long period of time, the smoke basically penetrates through the meat anyway.

The pellicle is a binding of proteins when the meat is dried out after salting/brining phase. If you want to learn more about pellicles here is a post on it.

One, two or multi-days – the traditional cold smoking process is an extended period of time maintaining low temperature & humidity also shouldn’t be too high.

During the curing process, the salt performs its job of drawing moisture out; this means the bacteria that breakdowns/spoils have a hard time and can’t thrive in this low moisture environment. This is truely an anchient craft that can be traced back thousands of years.

Smoking has a long tradition in food cooking and preservation. Cold and hot smoking have different aims and effects on the quality and safety of foods. Cold smoking is mainly used for flavor and to extend shelf-life due to the antioxidant and antimicrobial effects of smoke compounds.

Smokehouse temperatures for cold smoking are typically done between 20 to 30 °C (68 – 86 °F). In this temperature range, foods take on a smoked flavor, but remain relatively moist. Cold smoking does not cook foods, and as such, meats should be fully cured before cold smoking.


Wiki know’s best – most of the time.

So the smoking has an anti-oxidant & anti microbial effect on top of the salts anti-stuff effects. Oh yeah, it also tastes awesome, especially if you are making your own!

Hot Smoked Fish
Hot Smoked Fish caught, 4 hour salt brine, 15 min portable smoker on gas grill – delicous

Hot Smoking Meat – How Long will it Last?

Therefore when you hot smoke, you are doing the equivalent of cooking meat, so you are looking a this lasting about one week. If you vacuum pack obviously you can increase the shelf life. So all the pitmaster BBQ styles are a form of hot smoking or ‘slow & low”.

Hot Smoking Process

  1. Dry salt curing or salt brining the meat
  2. Drying meat to form a pellicle
  3. Hot smoking the meat
  4. Eat the Meat

If you want check out pellicle and why it’s awesome – its here

If you havent tried hot smoking, here is a super easy guide below.

Also, here is a hot smoking fish guide, or how to hot smoke on a gas BBQ Guide.

Other Ways of Preserving Meat

So here are my flavor favorites to preserving meat for a short amount of time or longer periods

The Oil Bath – Chef Trick for Fine Dining Steak

When I did some work in Scotland for a year, one of the businesses was a fine dining celebrity restaurant. The family also owned half a mountain with wild venison (red deer) running around, handy for the kitchen.

One of the chef’s was putting away some 40 day aged venison for the 5 course dinner (menu changed every day). It was an awesome place, though this was quite a few years back now. So I don’t know what it’s like now.

Mr chef was bathing the venison steaks in cold pressed olive oil with rosemary & juniper. He said this meant no air/oxygen could get to it and they could use the venison over the next few weeks. Here is a link to the technique.


Oxygen is to blame for any decline in quality when you store foodstuffs for longer periods in the refrigerator or freezer. A marinade or a thin layer of olive oil protects the meat so that it keeps a little longer. Any layer of fat also protects the meat.

Dry Cured Meat (or Wet Cured)

This is potentially both a short term and a long term option.

So in terms of the long term, once you have salted the meat appropriately, then you need to dry it out to a minimum of 30% weight loss. This is where the curing chamber or a consistent temp and humidity helps.

It’s a true craft, so I am just briefly mentioning it. The issue with trying to long term cure in a fridge is 1) contamination from other foods 2) drying out too fast and going hard.

dry curing meat
Pork fat needed time in the main curing fridge, the dry cured beef was done in my kitchen fridge

But for short term dry curing, I have worked out a successful method, if you want to know more – please find it here.

The main reasons for the curing chamber are:

  • Protection of the meat from bugs
  • You develop a ‘good bacteria’ environment aka penicillin (white fine powder you see on salami and salumi
  • Controlling temp & humidity 
  • Having some good fresh air flow to help gently drying

Fat or Lard Preservation – Duck Confit or Rillette

Duck hunting season is something I have got excited about since I was about 8 years old.  Wild duck and also farmed duck works well, this is pure and simple cooked in fat (duck or goose), then packed into sterilized jars.

If not opened they will last months possibly years in the cupboard. Once open, we would generally consume it within a month. Fat, thyme & garlic are the main ingredients.

The classic French dish works very well with bought, farmed or wild duck.

My friend was pretty proud as punch about this recipe, so he distributed jars and printed recipes as a gift to a select lucky group, including myself.

Dehydrating – Biltong or Jerky

homemade cured meat biltong
homemade cured meat biltong

Vaguely related to smoking for preservation. Some Jerky or Biltong is hot or cold smoked to give flavor. Either by using a cardboard box method, biltong box, dehydrator or curing chamber – anyone can make biltong/jerky.

The initial process of drying the meat out already preserves the meat for a few days to a few weeks. It does tend to dry out more and more due to exposure to oxygen.

For the traditional addictive South African biltong – a bath of salt, vinegar and (toasted coriander), when I think of vinegar I think of ‘pickling’ however it seems when making biltong it is ‘cooking it’ to a degree…

It coagulates protein. Vinegar breaks the chemical bonds that hold protein strings in a twist, causing the proteins to denature or unravel and “tenderize.” This commonly occurs when meat is marinated in a vinegar-based marinade. With continued exposure to acid, the unraveled protein strings eventually bump into each other and form new bonds. The popular South American raw dish ceviche is based on acid’s ability to denature and coagulate protein without heat: sliced raw fish is “cooked” in acidic ingredients until opaque and firm, but without the flavor changes that would occur if the fish were exposed to high temperatures.

Here’s the link to the above quote from

So preserving for flavor is where I wanted to head. Any thoughts, would love to here from you.

Related Questions

What Type of Food can I Hot Smoke?

Within reason, any type of fresh/dried food can be smoked. Meat such as pork, beef, fish, seafood and poultry are all popular. Many types of vegetables can be smoked also. Hot Smoking is cooking with the addition of smoke for flavor.

How Long Does it Take to Hot Smoke Meat?

Depending on the density / size of the food, it can be 15 mins at moderate temperatures (270-340°F / 130-180°C) to 8 hours at low temperatures (180-250°F / 80-120°C). However, a short time will mean very subtle smoke flavors. Under-smoking is better then over-smoking.

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