6 – HARDWARE…  Smokehouses, Curing Chambers, & Smokin’ Savvy

6 – HARDWARE… Smokehouses, Curing Chambers, & Smokin’ Savvy

What’s the secret for producing good, consistent smoke for long periods of time? (Chuckwagon burns our breakfast every day, on the trail drives, but sausage-making; sausage-recipes;that doesn’t count.)

What about handling meats during smoking? What are good brands of smokers? How do you build one? …and how do you control the dang ornery things? Have you smoked a ham for multiple days or weeks? —->>>>>

sausage-making; sausage-recipes;sausage-making; sausage-recipes;


<<<<<—–…ever cure a ham? …make bresaola? …ferment chorizo for several months? How do you maintain a controlled temperature and humidity for optimum bacteria and mold growth? “Inquiring Minds want to know.” Please write about these and similar topics. We’ll be glad you did.


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142 thoughts on “6 – HARDWARE… Smokehouses, Curing Chambers, & Smokin’ Savvy

  1. Hi there, I have had a food saver vacuum sealer for a few years now and I was thinking about upgrading to a chamber style. The food saver works but it does not always give me a good vacuum and you have to get the bags just right for it to vacuum. It also does poor with anything that has liquid in it like raw meat. I tried partially freezing but that can be a pain. The bags are also expensive. The chamber sealers bags are much cheaper as cheap as a regular freezer bag and it has no problem with liquid. Problem is they are expensive. Has anyone had any experience with chamber style vacuum sealer? Here is the one I am looking at. http://www.webstaurantstore.com/ary-vacmaster-vp112s-chamber-vacuum-sealer/120VMASVP112.html

  2. Foodsaver folks put out a bag with a “liquid seal” http://www.foodsaver.com/bags-and-rolls/choose-by-size/quart-bags-and-rolls/foodsaver-liquid-block-heat-seal-quart-bags-12-count/FSFSBFLB216-000.html#sz=43&start=25 The UMAI people have what they call “VacMouse” which, I think, works the same way. http://www.drybagsteak.com/vacuum-sealer-support.php
    You can fake it by cutting a strip of folded paper towel to fit the bag, to catch the liquid as it heads toward the vacuum chamber. The other trick is to hit the “seal” button before the liquid can move up far enough to hit the heated area. This cuts off the vacuum pump and immediately starts the heat seal. I do this to seal bags for marinating. Smoke-n-Choke turkeys, for example. (…turkies? Whatever.) Hope this helps.
    Duk 😀

  3. from the “Smokin’ Savvy” Department: …running your smoker this Mothers’ Day Weekend, making a treat for that special someone? What happens to you is what often happens to me. No, hopefully you don’t get hit by one of Chuckwagon’s rock-hard biscuits during a food fight. Instead, your smoked meats heat up until they hit “the Stall” at somewhere between 140 and 175 degrees F (60 and 80 degC), and won’t budge for what seems like hours.

    Have a look at our articles on causes and possible cures. (Here a physicist offers the most plausible explanation so far. http://www.genuineideas.com/ArticlesIndex/stallbbq.html Here’s an article that takes the stall discussion a bit further. http://amazingribs.com/tips_and_technique/the_stall.html These guys are primarily interested in higher temperature brisket and pork butt cooking, but we sausage-types can learn a few lessons. …such as, can you apply their techniques to cooking temperatures below 155 degF IMT and smoker temperatures somewhere below that scary 170-or-so rendering temperature?) Remedies? Try using “the Texas Crutch” (wrapping the meat in foil for a portion of the cooking time).

    What works best? Ya got me. Write in about your experiences. As for me, I typically wrap my brisket in foil, a bit after the stall, at about 190 IMT (internal meat temperature) and keep it in the smoker a bit longer until it finishes (around 198 – 203 degF IMT). That way, it doesn’t dry out.

    Some people advocate wrapping at just as it stalls, keeping it in the foil until later, steaming the meat in the process. In my opinion, this keeps too much moisture as juice, rather than liberating it as steam, diluting the flavor of the meat. …but try it and see what you think.

    Keep it wrapped while in a warm oven (150 if it will go that low) if you have to wait. …but here’s hoping that you don’t.
    Duk 😀

    1. What! What? Rock-hard biscuits? What? What do you mean… rock-hard biscuits? You, you… you delirious drumstick! Why…. I’ve actually seen my “lighter-than-air” Dutch oven biscuits float out of the oven when I lifted the lid. Sometimes they get away in a breeze and drift over the Great Salt Lake where gigantic Utah sharks jump out of the water and slice ‘em in half with their fins! When they wash up on shore, large rhinosohorses often make saltwater tomato sandwiches using them!
      I never knew anybody who had to call ‘information’ to the get the number for 911. Are you still bowling overhand? And tell me… did you ever develop that technique you called “fubbyknuckle shotput”? Enquiring minds want to know!

  4. Here’s a shot of my latest batch, a Kielbasa recipe (pork+beef+veal, fresh) from a book by Peery & Reaves, which you can find here at SausagesWest.com at http://sausageswest.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Kielbasa-Peery-Reaves-smoked.pdf I kept the sausages at 145 degF for two hours of smoke, then raised the smoker temperature to 170 degF (still smoking) and waited until the IMT hit 150 degF. They were then plunged into ice water for 30 minutes. The extra soak time seemed to help tenderize the casing.

    I made a supply for our upcoming 4th of July picnic. …hope you like it too.
    Duk 😀

    1. M and I have been repeating the cold water plunge 50 times each day since you posted the item on tenderizing casings so that we remember to do it

      1. Your tenderness for each other is an inspiration to us all!
        (…hope it’s working on your individual “casings” as well.)

        There is a great animated illustration of tying a butchers’ knot at http://www.animatedknots.com/butchers/#ScrollPoint for those of you with good visualization skills. As for me, I tie a half-hitch but with two wraps of the loose end instead of one under the other end, draw it tight, wrap both ends around to the other side, then do it again. It seems to work. …keeps the twists between links from un-twisting when hung. (Admittedly this is overkill- – a single half-hitch or two would do just fine.)

        To hang a sausage from a smoke-stick, I form a small (1 inch or so) loop, knotted with a half hitch, then slip it under the twisted casing between two links. Pass one end through the other end of the loop, and use it to hang the two or more links from a smoke-stick. Don’t make the loops too big, or the sausages will hang too low and won’t fit within the amount of vertical space in your smoker. A 1″ or less loop will do just fine, depending on how “fumble-fingers” (like me) you are.

        You can use this technique to hang multiple links, placing a loop between every three or five links. …but be warned- – the pair of links hung from the string loops remain in contact, so there’s a 1″-or-so-diameter spot on each which doesn’t get smoked. You could probably use some sort of spacer to separate them, but… naah.

        For that matter, you could do without the loops and hang the links over a wider smoke-stick to keep them separated, but be sure to leave enough empty casing in your twists to separate consecutive links sufficiently. (This reduces casing capacity somewhat.)

  5. Curing Chamber Maintenance- – – Hey, all you users of fermenting, curing, drying cabinets! I hope you’re enjoying yours as much as I am. I had no idea how good some of these meats tasted. We’ve discussed how to build your own chamber. Here’s a thought about how to maintain your equipment.

    We’ve fielded several questions about how to clean or disinfect your cabinet, or even if you should, or not, do so. The professionals don’t- – they instead value the crop of mold that has established itself in their large-sized equipment and gives their meats a special flavor. Thus, you won’t find many people who advocate scrubbing the chamber. (For the pro, that would mean a whole room!)

    Disinfecting: However, for us small-time operators, if it’s been a while since you used your chamber, it might be a good idea to clean it. I, for example, have two chambers in two different parts of the country. I shut mine down when I leave town, then start the other one up when I get there. Nowadays, leaving consists of turning it off and unplugging it, removing and emptying out the water reservoir, and wiping the interior out as best I can with a mixture of vinegar and water on a paper towel or with a sponge. I also use a sponge brush to get into hard-to-access areas. I wipe it down, inside and out, and leave the door propped open for a few days. As an alternate, which I’ll probably try this time, I’ll do the above, leave the humidifier empty (disconnected electrically), and leave the temperature controller and cooler operating with the door closed.

    Purging: Suppose you don’t have to shut down, but instead keep on processing meats in your single chamber. What’s wrong with continuing to operate the thing, day in and day out? Well… nothing, assuming your system has some means of purging the water. If you have a system that continuously lets humidifier water drain, such as a drain hole in the bottom, there’s no problem. However, if you have a system which recycles water internally, such as my dorm refrigerator setup (water pan and ultrasonic vaporizer beneath freezer compartment coil), you’ll need to periodically change out the water in the pan. You see, without some means of periodically purging this buildup in the reservoir, oils and such that evaporate from the meat and condense on the cooling coil will accumulate in the liquid. Over a period of a couple of months, the liquid will build up an odor and may, in some cases, form a separate liquid layer. There is a possibility that this material might go rancid or potentially become infected with something horrible. You don’t want this, obviously, so be sure to purge it occasionally. Simply drain the water, flush the reservoir if desired, then fill it back up with water.

    Here’s to many more successful salamis, chorizos, and the like. I enjoy exploring the world through various types of sausage, and the fermented semi-dried and dried types seem to be the most flavorful. Best wishes from the SausagesWest.com guys. Share those recipes! Let us know how you fare.

  6. Garage Refrigerator/Freezer or Curing Chamber Not Working? Those of you who need to control temperature during winter months have probably encountered this problem: your curing chamber or refrigerator/freezer is located in a garage or other non-heated structure and, as winter approaches, your normal operating conditions are no longer the norm:
    • Your refrigerator/freezer controls to typically 38 degF (3 degC) so, as the ambient temperature falls below that, your refrigerator no longer cycles on and off. As a result, the freezer compartment no longer receives coolant, and its temperature rises. In a prolonged cool spell, everything thaws as the temperature approaches the high thirties, and the frozen material is ruined.
    • Your curing cabinet no longer requires cooling, and instead calls for continuous heating. Unfortunately, the heating element is not large enough for the task. Normally, it need only supply 20 pr 30 watts, which is enough to be called a “trim” amount, but now, considerably more is required, and the concentrated heat drives the area around it too high, damaging the chamber’s innards.

    Easiest Answer The easiest answer is to move your refrigerator or curing cabinet into conditions more suited to the equipment. It was designed to operate at or near room temperature, which is to say, 50 to 100 degF (10 to 38 degC). Too far out of that range and you have problems.

    Next Best Answer for Frozen Goods A better answer, at least for freezer thawing problems, is to buy a separate freezer. Inexpensive chest-models are available through numerous home improvement or appliance retailers, and on-line. The colder it is, the better a freezer likes it, because it doesn’t have to work as hard. Note that a freezer doesn’t have to worry about maintaining 38 degF, so there’s no risk to frozen food. And should you wish to use a freezer for your curing cabinet, note that it will work fine, as long as you can provide enough heat input. …which can turn out to be a problem. Read on.

    External Heating/Cooling Answer Maintaining sufficient heat input without melting the innards of your cabinet or damaging the refrigerator coil can be a problem. One answer is to install a “tempered water” system that circulates water or other fluid through a heat exchanger with a small fan installed inside the cabinet, with the heat source located outside the equipment. The heating equipment is mounted outside the cabinet, isolating it from the sausages and meats. If the interior heat exchanger is big enough, just about any external source can be used as a heating device. Because the heat transfer fluid is isolated away from the food, you could use any suitable (easy to handle) circulating heat transfer fluid such as brine or an ethylene glycol + water mixture (such as is used in your automobile). However, for our desired temperature range for curing meats, this is not necessary.

    If you can locate a suitably small radiator which will fit inside your cabinet (such as an engine oil cooler) at a junk yard, you could use an aquarium pump for circulation and provide controlled heating with sous vide (bain marie, or double boiler) equipment, but this may get expensive. Controlled cooling would of course be done using the refrigerator’s built-in cooling equipment.

    How it Works What you are doing is artificially loading the equipment with heat ingress similar to what normally happens during warmer weather. You are attempting to balance out the heat which is now being lost through the walls of the cabinet. The trick is to not set the circulating fluid’s temperature too far above the desired temperature, so you don’t overload the cooling capacity of your curing cabinet. There’s a trade-off between heat exchanger surface area and circulation rate, so I can’t give you a decent estimate for temperature setting, but it should be just a few degrees above the desired cabinet temperature. If adjusted correctly, the curing cabinet’s temperature controller and the sous vide controller will appear to “fight each other” just a bit, and the cabinet temperature will cycle a few degrees, just like it does during normal operation.

    Cheap AnswerBut, having said all that, please realize that it’s a whole lot cheaper to move your equipment indoors for the winter. The only thing cheaper is to bring all your frozen stuff to an inside refrigerator/freezer, and to quit fermenting meats and sausages during cooler months. Bring the frozen stuff in, by all means. …but I think you’ll agree that stopping production is unacceptable!

  7. If you’re interested in cold smoking, and especially if you are into smoking fish, please see our new section titled http://sausageswest.com/cold-hot-smoking/ (with an emphasis on fish). (There are also several Index entries.) There’s controversy about whether you should cold smoke ANYTHING, so our section covers the subject in detail. …plus, of course, provides some good recipes. Now that the weather is cool enough to do cold smoking, it seemed right to flesh out our offering. It’s not just about fish, either- – I use the same techniques in our smoked, fermented Serbian sausage recipe.

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