Cold Smoking Sausage And FIsh: Don't Do It
I get a lot of requests for recipes for cold smoking salmon for nova lox, sausage, or even for canning meats. It can be done. But the risk is high.
You must have a bulletproof recipe from a pro, not a buddy at work, get the temperature of the smoker and the meat precise, which means you must have top grade digital thermometers, you must use the precise amount of salt, and storage temp must be precise both during curing and after cooking. It can be done. But the risk is high.
What is the risk? Among other pathogens, Clostridium botulinum, the botulism bug, the one that makes a neurotoxin that kills people, loves improperly produced sausage and smoked fish. In fact botulism comes from the Latin word botulus meaning "sausage"! Listeria monocytogenes is another killer that loves home sausage makers.
Are you willing to risk killing your family?
With fish, there is the additional hazard of parasites, like tapeworm. They get into fish flesh, especially if there are mammals in or around their waters whose fecal matter can contaminate their environment. That means people, farm animals, whales, seals, and porpoises. A tapeworm in your intestines can grow to 30'! TO get a sense for what you are up against, look at this page on the FDA website.
Heat kills all these bacteria and pathogens. Freezing does not. Alcohol does not. Yes, salt will inhibit their growth, but not kill them all, and only on the surface and just below. If you cook these products at temperatures below 120°F you are cooking at a temp that bacteria love. Above 130 to 165°F you can slowly kill them, but it takes many hours. The safest rule of thumb is to cook at a minimum of 165°F and I cannot recommend any cooking below 200°F minimum. Use the USDA recommended minimum temps for these foods, especially ground meats.
If you love cured smoked sausage, buy it. Pros (should) have all the critical point variables under control. if you love nova lox, buy it. Or click here for my recipe for a divine hot smoked salmon that is perfectly safe. Try it. I also have recipes for bacon and pastrami, bit of which are cured and hot smoked, so they are safe. If you insist on going down this risky path, start with Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing by Michael Ruhlmanwhich has superb recipes for making sausages and other cured meats.
Bit don't come to me for help. I have decided that I will not offer recipes or advice on cold smoking on this website. I want you and your loved ones alive and cooking my safe recipes!
This page was revised 2/14/2013
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