Cold Smoking vs Hot Smoking: Which Method Brings Better Flavor?

Six main differences between hot and cold smoking considered: from safety to cooking time
Reviewed by
Last updatedLast updated: May 31, 2021
LilGrill is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more about our process here

Smoking meats is a tried and true method that folks have been using for generations. It has been used to infuse foods with delicious and complex flavors and to preserve them for an extended period of time. The two methods that can be used for this process are known as cold or hot smoking. While these methods both work well, they are used for different methods and will have different results.

As such, the debate of cold smoking vs. hot smoking is one that has raged for years on end. While they both make delicious foods, which one is best for you to use at home for your own needs? That is precisely what we will help you to answer in this article, so read on to find out everything you need to know about cold and hot smoking.

What is smoking?

Cold Smoking vs Hot Smoking: Which Method Brings Better Flavor?

Smoking is a very old method for cooking meat. It involves building a fire and capturing the smoke in a chamber. The meat is placed in this chamber and is cooked, seasoned, and preserved by the smoke. No matter if you use cold or hot smoking, this type of cooking will take longer than other methods. This slow pace allows for a better infusion of flavor, however, which is definitely worth the wait.

How cold smoking works?

Of the two smoking methods, cold smoking is a much slower cooking technique. In order to use cold smoking, you need two separate chambers. One of the chambers is where the meat needs to be hung and is also where the smoke will filter through. The other chamber is where a fire needs to be built. The two chambers need to be connected with a pipe or tube so that the smoke has the chance to leave the fire chamber and enter into the smoking room. The smoke then slowly goes out the top of the smokehouse. When cold smoking, the cooking temperature should never get above 90-100 degrees. This means that cooking with this method will take a long time. Most meats will need several days or even weeks in the smokehouse before they are cooked thoroughly.

How hot smoking works?

Hot smoking is very similar to cold smoking except for one simple difference. In this method of smoking, the fire and smoke chamber are built together. This raises the temperature quite a bit, though it should still be kept around 225 degrees Fahrenheit. With hot smoking, you can usually cook a meal in several hours rather than days. These foods, such as brisket or pulled pork, are meant to be enjoyed right away rather than at a date down the road, which is the case for cold-smoked foods.

Difference between hot and cold smoking

Though both cold and hot smoking utilizes smoke to their advantage, they go about it in very different ways.


No matter which method you choose, you are going to have to wait a bit before your meal is done. With hot smoking, however, you can start and stop on the same day, as it usually only takes a few hours to get a meal cooked. Cold smoking is a much longer process and can take days or weeks to get the meat fully cooked and cured.

Meat taste

Since you are going to be cooking the meat for a longer time when you are cold smoking, it should not come as a surprise that it will end up with a much stronger smoky flavor. With hot smoking, the meat is only exposed to the smoke for a bit of time, which gives it a much more subtle flavor of smokiness overall.

Vegetables’ taste

Much like meat, a vegetable can be smoked as well. And just like meats, the longer the veggies are placed in the smoke, the more they are going to be imbued with its flavor. Hot smoking vegetables will provide them with a barely-there kind of flavor, while cold smoking will fill each bite of your veggies with a delicious smoky flavor.

Smoker types

Cold Smoking vs Hot Smoking: Which Method Brings Better Flavor?

There are lots of different types of smokers on the market today, with charcoal grills being the most popular for hot smoking. Of course, these range in size and design, with models like the Dyna-Glo DGO1890BDC-D becoming extremely popular thanks to their large capacity and offset design.

For cold smoking, you can make your own smokehouse or use some form of smoke generator, whether it be an electric model or a smoker tube. If you are doing things on a small scale for your first foray into cold smoking, then the Breville BSM600SIL is a nice option to add a bit of smoky flavor to your favorite foods.


The expenses for either of these operations are largely going to depend on how much food you want to cook at a time. If you are cold smoking on a small scale, then you shouldn’t expect to spend a ton of money on it. If, however, you are using an entire smokehouse to create bolognas and smoked fish filets regularly, then you are going to pay a lot more money in the long run than you would with a hot smoker.


No matter what style of cooking you intend to do, you need to make sure that the food is safe for consumption. In this case, hot smoking is much safer since it allows you to burn off and cook all of the nasty foodborne illnesses that might be hiding in your meat. With cold smoking, you need to let the meat sit for a very long time to make sure that it is safe for ingesting.

Final thoughts

Both cold and hot smoking has been one of people’s go-to cooking methods for hundreds of years. Both of these methods work exceptionally well at creating delicious foods. They are, however, quite different, which has led to a lively debate of which is better, cold smoking vs. hot smoking.

The answer to that all depends on what you are cooking and how much time you have to cook. If you are trying to get the job done and eat the same day, then hot smoking is for you. Cold smoking is a bit more complex to get right, but it works well for long-term smoking needs, such as sausage or bologna. Not matter which way you choose to go, you are sure to have a delicious and perfectly smoked meal every time as long as you take your time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *