Can I thaw and smoke frozen meat?

by Tommy
(Hegdesville,WV, USA)

Can I thaw and smoke frozen meat with good results? Or should I only smoke "fresh" meat?

I have heard that smoking frozen meat does not turn out well. I have never tried this.


The simple answer is yes you can, but it's not as good. For sure fresh is always best but provided you properly thaw out the meat before you start smoking then you're set, just don't expect wonders.

Water is the main constituent of any animal (including us humans) with the majority of water being found in the cytoplasm or cellular fluid of the cells that make up the meat that we eat.

Consider this point:
What happens if you put unopened cans of soda in the freezer? They all expand and lose their shape while some explode and that's because water expands when it freezes.

Imagine that those cans of soda are cells in a piece of meat and you can guess that pretty much the same is happening. OK, cell walls are more flexible and will return to shape unlike an aluminum can but the principle still follows and those cells that have ruptured will leak.

Whether it's meat or vegetables, freezing does degenerate some of the cellular structure so when it comes to cooking or smoking the effects of freezing will show up in the final results. Where cells have ruptured, the cellular fluid will be more difficult to retain in the meat during a long cookout and so your final result may be less moist.

To summarize this point, the greater effect will be dependent on how low and slow you go. If doing a beer can chicken for example at a higher heat so that you get a crispy skin, well it's like roasting a chicken in the oven, you won't notice the difference.

The absolute no no though is to smoke frozen meat. Put simply, this is a health hazard always make sure that your meat is fully defrosted before any type of cooking and preferably your meat should be at room temperature.

Note: - Having dissed freezing it is worth pointing out that commercial blast chilling technology used to freeze fish when caught and vegetables etc. has come on and in many instances, frozen food is pretty good these days.

See Also:-

Smoked Beef Recipes
Smoked Pork Recipes
Smoked Chicken Recipes
Smoked Turkey Recipes
Smoked Fish Recipes
Smoked Lamb Recipes

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Aug 06, 2021
100% wrong
by: Anonymous

your statement........ "The absolute no no though is to smoke frozen meat. Put simply, this is a health hazard always make sure that your meat is fully defrosted before any type of cooking and preferably your meat should be at room temperature" 100% wrong on both counts. do some research on the effects of heat pasteurization to address point 1. Regarding point 2, letting chicken sit out for hours to reach room temp is asking, no, begging for problems

Apr 12, 2021
by: Anonymous

So has anyone tried it? There is no discussion here of what actually occurs when smoking frozen meat vs thawed meat. A ton of meat you buy at the store is blast chilled at the production plant and then defrosted at the store. Also the run on sentences and grammar could be corrected. Waste of time to read as the author is simply sharing an opinion, and not something s/he has tested out. It's well documented that smoke is attracted to cold and wet surfaces.

Nov 15, 2020
Yes you can safely smoke meat while it’s frozen
by: Dan Mason

It is perfectly safe to smoke meat while it’s still frozen. It will take longer and the finished product won’t be as good if you thaw it out first but there is no harm in doing so. Even the USDA says it’s ok to do so. Count on 50% longer for cook.

Aug 04, 2020
Thanks Dan
by: Not Dan

You can smoke frozen meat just fine. Penetrating smoke has nothing to do with if it has been frozen or not. Mass transfer works the same as temperature transfer. I too went to culinary school (wow!) but also technical university after to get my degree in food science and technology as a food engineer. Would probably be a bubble to bust to tell Dan that his seafood probably had been frozen before he used it, but hey.

So yeah, thanks Dan.

Dec 09, 2019
Frozen meats
by: Anonymous

Actually Dan as someone who smokes meat often and has done an extensive as mount of research in the matter I have to disagree. Frozen/cold meat actually tends to take on more smoke not less. Some if the best ribs in the world are smoked from frozen without thawing.

Jan 10, 2010
Frozen? Smoked?
by: Dan DeVite

I never smoke frozen meat of any kind. I went to culinary school and we always used fresh meats and seafood. Frozen meat to smoke is a no-no. The smoke doesn't penetrate the meat like fresh meat does. I hopes this helps. Great site here.
Thanks: Dan

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