The techniques applied to preserve food are usually oriented not to modify its various organoleptic characteristics (smell, color, taste and texture), except smoking.

In this sense, smoking is precisely a mechanism recognized mainly for its ability to modify the flavor of products, to which it is applied and subsequently focused on its inhibitory capacity of microorganisms.

In reality, this technique involves different conservation methods and basically exists since fire was discovered.

Then, in the following article you will be able to know in depth what smoked foods are, what their components are and what effects their consumption has on our health.

What are smoked foods?

Smoked foods are those that have been subjected to a source of smoke, product of woods with low levels of resin. It is exposed in conditions of time and concentration, so that it is applied as multifunctional agents, among which are:

  • Flavorings
  • Bacteriostatic
  • Antioxidants

Smoking extends the shelf life of the product and although it is a superficial application, it is important to emphasize that the coagulation of the proteins that causes heating is what inhibits the diffusion of the smoke components into the product.

Components of smoked foods

As we mentioned previously, smoked foods involve different elements for the correct process of conservation of the final product. These components will be described below, to better understand the reason for their presence in the process.


The effect of salt is dehydrating. The food is usually brined with enough time in advance, so that then the salt and the smoke come together as a combined element for the conservation process.

The salting implements an osmotic dehydration (removal of water from the incorporation of solids, in these cases, salt) and the salt concentrations depend on the nature of the product to which this treatment is going to be applied, prior to the smoking process.

Although it refines the flavor and appearance, its main objective is to reduce water activity and give muscle firmness, in the case of meat products.


The addition of this type of elements is commonly in smoked products of animal origin, especially meat. They are applied mainly in mixtures to which the name of brine or curing is given.

Among the functions that stand out from this component are:

  • Development of characteristic odor.
  • Flavor.
  • Texture development.
  • Prevents the growth of pathogenic microorganisms.
  • Antioxidant Action.


The addition of nitrites is mainly for its antimicrobial action. It depends on the pH of the product, but it is an incredible advantage, especially when the smoked products are going to be kept only raw and cured.

So, the use of nitrites reduces the risks of botulism and produces a preservative action because, as we previously mentioned, smoking tends to create a fairly superficial inhibitory layer.


The smoke used for smoking is produced in two stages: pyrolysis and oxidation. In both stages, different components are developed, which provide essential elements for the process of conservation and flavor modification.

In the pyrolysis stage, the recommended woods are thermally decomposed and gives way to the production of new products, reaction effects. Glucose, hemicellulose and lignin are produced.

The smoke then exerts a preservative action from the inhibition of germs from formaldehyde, phenols and some acids present as formic and acetic.

Popular smoked foods

The most common smoked products on the market are those that we will mention below.

Sausages and cheeses

The smoked sausages can be cured or cooked, and it is simply the subjection of them to smoking booths, where as a main objective the flavors are modified looking for characteristics appropriate to the demand of the market.

In fact, the same thing happens with cheeses, because the manufacturing process of this product already focuses from the beginning on the necessary elements for its stipulated useful life, so smoking only provides organoleptic characteristics of flavor, smell and texture.

Meat and fish

In the research work entitled The smoking technique , they explain the process for smoking fish in general terms, which include a list of steps for correct processing and the distinction between hot and cold smoked for these products, among which there is a dividing line of just 30°C difference.

In a food safety information article titled ” Smoking Meat and Poultry” , they also define the steps necessary for good production of smoked products of this nature. Especially those that prevent the proliferation of diseases due to bad procedures.

These products are always of high consumption to acquire proteins with a different approach at the sensory level. They are made at an industrial and artisanal level.


Smoked drinks are a recent innovation for the cocktail and bartender area. It is a trend that is born from the ability to provide aromas and flavors to the products, through smoking. Woods such as oak and walnut are used, being possible through the techniques developed to smoke both the glass and the cocktail itself.

To smoke the cocktail, a glass bottle is previously smoked and left to rest for 30 or 40 seconds, to then pour the contents there and later serve. Avoid using soft woods, as they have high levels of resin and would sour the flavor of the cocktail.


As the smoked has an unmistakable taste and a long process of obtaining it to be with the quality to which we are accustomed, there are products that bring us closer to these flavors. Among them is liquid smoke, which can be applied to any stew and provide a peculiar natural barbecue flavor.

Thanks to the development of products such as pepper, salts and even chilies, they are the diversification of condiments that exist in the market, to provide this type of characteristics to food in the ease of our kitchen.

Effects of consumption of smoked foods

There are some adverse effects that excessive consumption of smoked products can produce, as well as some that have been carried out without proper processing or care. Next, then we mention the main effects on the body.

Heart diseases

As we have previously mentioned, smoked foods are subjected to high levels of salt before being smoked, so it is contraindicated for people who have cardiovascular conditions. Excess sodium can always result in hypertension and kidney damage.

cerebrovascular accidents

Due to the high levels of sodium and the presence of nitrites and nitrates (which affect blood vessels), it is possible to trigger a cardiovascular accident, as a counterproductive effect of excessive consumption of smoked products.

The risk is even greater when consumption is concentrated in meat and fish, which are subjected to high concentrations of brine prior to the smoking process.

Disorders in blood circulation

The nitrites and nitrates, which are added to the products, produce hardening in the arteries and they narrow, thus increasing the risk of causing failures in blood circulation and even oxygenation of the body, which would cause pain as the main symptoms. head, abs, among others.


As we have previously mentioned, the high sodium levels found in these types of products lead to the appearance of cardiovascular conditions, which is why hypertension is one of the pathologies that appear on this list.

Understanding that to reduce the risks, the consumption of this type of products must be reduced, it is also recommended to eliminate from the diet all those that are processed from canned with salt.

Renal problems

In the Diet Guide for patients with renal failure , emphasis is placed on reducing the consumption of sausages, smoked foods, preserves, cheeses, cookies and even soft drinks due to their high sodium content.

If there are previous kidney problems, it happens that our body is not in a position to process it correctly and it accumulates in the body, which leads to fluid retention, which can end in swelling, high blood pressure, pulmonary edema and insufficiency. cardiac.


Botulism occurs when the Clostridium BotulinumMicroorganism faces low oxygen conditions such as in canned food, where then the spores of the bacteria begin to release the toxin. TheWHO (World Health Organization) declares that it normally happens in poorly processed canned food or made without proper precautions.

Raw meat or fish preserved through methods such as smoking or only salting, are prone to developing this toxin.

Food allergies

Technological processes such as fermentation and smoking are likely to cause allergic reactions. It may also be due to the nature of the product and poor processing. Food hypersensitivity is not a game, medical personnel should be consulted.

Cancer Risk

The WHO in its article entitled Carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat , makes a link with the types of technologies applied to food and added additives, among which the use of nitrites and nitrates is intensified as something unfavorable for the Health.

Regarding the conservation process, they consider that the smoking process counts as one of the transformations that are given to the meat and that can influence the development of cancer in individuals.


As a symptom of all the previously mentioned pathologies, headache is present, but it is also important to mention that there are some products that are triggers for this type of condition.

That is, smoked fish, for example, due to the presence of histamine, is one of the triggers considered for the development of headache. Cheeses, alcoholic beverages, sausages, sardines, wines, smoked foods, among others.

Therefore, the recommendation for this and other conditions mentioned above, is to moderate the consumption of smoked foods, or failing that, eliminate it completely, so that there are no health risks.

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