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 am in the process of converting a old commercial fridge into a smokehouse. The fridge came with a rack system you can wheel inside. I called the manufacturer of the rack system and they said the metal was Constructed of non-corrosive, Hi-Tensile aluminum. I was going to mount the shelves inside the smokehouse. Does anyone see a problem with using aluminum in a smokehouse?

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  2. It should work fine. Aluminum conducts heat pretty well, but the refrigerator will be well insulated, so no problem with heat loss. It would be a good idea to season the thing first. Hopefully there are no plastic parts in the fridge.
    With that size, you could handle quite a good-sized amount of production. …and, of course, invite over a couple-hundred of your closest friends (hint, hint)!
    Duk

  3. Thank you for the reply. I will use them in my smokehouse. When it’s done your right I could invite a bunch of people over. It has been a big project though more than I thought it would be. I tore it completely apart to remove the polyurethane insulation. The factory could not tell me the temp rating of the insulation. When I tore into it I found plastic, duct seal, duct tape, and even paper. It was a good choice. I will post more pictures when I am further along.

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  4. I’m looking forward to seeing your finished smoker, but especially hearing about your “adventures” along the way. There are always so many lessons to be learned. What’s your choice of insulation? I’m guessing fiberglass. Too bad there’s no such thing as high temperature duct tape, eh?
    Have you given thought to how to distribute smoke inside the compartment? I guess you could find an old convection oven, pull the fan equipment, and maybe slow it down somewhat. (…maybe use the heating coils, too? …or will you supply heat externally? …firebox?) I use slotted trays, myself, mounted high enough off the bottom to allow an Amazin’ smoke generator tube or two to stand vertically beneath.

    As you can see, I’m envious of your project. Maybe I should look for a similar piece of equipment. How did you get it?
    Duk

  5. AAANNNDDD…… we have liftoff on my much-modified MasterBuilt smoker, carrying a full load of andouille and kielbasa on an equally-senseless resupply mission to the dummy that recently was launched into orbit in Elon Musk’s electric car. (The sausage, of course, tastes out of this world.)http://sausageswest.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Austin-Smoker-rig-e1523459622244.jpg

    My apologies for our website not being very active lately. We moved into a house which required extensive remodeling. Midway, we made our semi-annual trek back and forth between Texas and North Carolina. And also, sadly, our ol’ pal Chuckwagon passed way February tenth. It’s been a rough six months or so. But I’m back in the game. As you can see from the attached photo, my sausage-making and smoking equipment is back in business. …at last.

    You’ll find the pork + beef Kielbasa recipe in our archives. It’s a consistent crowd pleaser. The andouille recipe uses an LEM spice mix, so it should be good too. Both are receiving a thorough smoking with an A-MAZE-N smoke tube burning whiskey barrel pellets. Temperature control is via an Auber Instruments PID controller, driving the MasterBuilt’s heating coil but bypassing its low-end electronics. The 3” flue ducting fits into the MasterBuilt’ s chip loader port. Their chip system didn’t deliver anywhere near the A-MAZE-N tube’s long, consistent smoke generation. The flue ducting is long in order to cool the smoke for cold smoking. It works well, sort-of, holding temperature rise in the smoker box to about 20 degF over ambient. Later in the week, after a cold front comes through, I’ll try putting a tray of ice in the smoker too. …never have done that, although you read about it a lot.

    Next up: our friend Badjak has recommended a Hungarian paprika sausage recipe that I just gotta try. It’s ferment as well as smoked. …should be great! We saw such things, and even tried samples, on a recent trip through the market in Budapest. This one promises to be really good. …and it had better be, considering what you have to do to make it!
    Best regards,
    Duk

  6. I have just started making some fermented snack sticks and am using an old drinks display fridge for this.
    (size is about 40 x 50 x 100 cm).
    It seems pretty adequate for the initial stages as it got a real high humidity. Over 90-95% normally.
    I got a bowl with water and salt in it, just under the fan, to collect dripping water and to reduce the humidity down to about 85-90%.
    Question is: how can I lower the humidity for the later stages)
    I have tried opening the door numerous times, but that doesn’t really seem to have an impact.
    So far, I am just thinking of moving the snack sticks to one of my other fridges (they are around 30% RH).
    I have a temperature controller that can take both a heater and a cooler (the fridge).
    I have a humidity controller that can just regulate 1 piece of equipment.

    Do I need a dehumidifier?
    If so, what sort of size?
    Are there any better (easier, cheaper) routes I can take.

    Or should I bin the idea of using this fridge and instead use one of my more standard (but a lot smaller) fridge?
    Which actually means: is it easier to increase humidity or decrease it (while staying at the same temperature)?

    Thanks

    1. For your fermented snack sticks, your salt solution trick should work. Here’s a link https://www.omega.com/temperature/z/pdf/z103.pdf that will tell you what percent relative humidity you can expect at what temperature. Don’t use anything in that table but “sodium chloride” and “potassium chloride” seeing as how the others are toxic. Food grade potassium chloride is sold in the USA as “lite salt.” Note that the solution must be saturated. If you add enough salt to have some solids present, you should be good. The excess should take care of whatever moisture you’re evaporating from your sausages.

      Are you sure that your relative humidity measurements are accurate? Usually low humidity, not high, is the problem. (Insert joke about relatives here.)

      In my area, raising the humidity is the problem. You must have really high humidity there. Still, though, the condensation should be removing humidity from the interior air. Perhaps if you discarded the condensate instead of routing it back to the salt solution tray…?

      Keep me posted. Humidity control has been my biggest headache so far. Let’s lick this problem together.
      Duk

  7. Thanks Duk,
    The measurements are pretty accurate (I have 2 weather stations and they give more or less the same readings, and the other 2 fridges actually behave themselves).
    I tried a small gap at the top of the fridge, but that doesn’t have an effect.
    We are out of the rainy season, so the RH is not too bad. Bit high at night (70-90%), Daytime more like 40-70%.
    This fridge has always been very wet. Water has always collected at the bottom and in the morning you can see it on the glass door (other question here, is the light that is introduced though the door bad? Should I block it out?)

    Now based on your info, I got some experimenting to do.
    Buy new salt (we can only get “normal” salt here, or KCl as fertiliser (not going that route)).
    Move salt tray to the bottom of the fridge and collect condensate/fan drippings from the top and empty every morning and evening.

    Or, take out salt, collect drippings and remove and run the fridge at 12 oC.

    In the mean time, I think moving them to one of my low humidity fridges might be the way to go. They are stuffed in small sheep casings, so case hardening can’t really be a problem?
    Generally, with bacon or bought snack sticks, I wrap them in a tea towel to dry them out a bit more. Should I do the same here?

  8. From your comment : “This fridge has always been very wet. Water has always collected at the bottom and in the morning you can see it on the glass door” I’m going to guess that (1) there’s a sizeable air leak and (2) the defrost mechanism (if there is one) is not draining properly. That excess water is coming off the cooling coil and ought to get collected and either routed outside (usually to a tray underneath the unit) or, as you say, into a salt tray. If there’s a lot of water each day, there is probably an air leak, so maybe you could clean off the door seal and look for other places where air might be leaking in and out. You’d be amazed at how easily a door seal can leak.

    Check to see if the drain tube is plugged. You ought to be able to pour water through it if it’s clear. If not, sometimes you can clear it with a piece of wire. …sometimes not.

    Do you have a hole drilled through the box for running your sensor wires etc? Try plugging it with sealant. I found that gnat-sized insects were getting in there, too. Not good.

    Is it an old refrigerator which might have developed rust (and holes) on the box itself? I’m about to discard one that’s in similar shape. The adhesive stickers that say things like “Life’s too short to drink cheap beer” don’t seem to hold the outer shell together very well nowadays. ( …probably ought to get rid of my old pickup truck too, for the same reason.)
    Duk

    1. Ah, but it’s a display fridge without any defrost mechanism. Coke bottles can handle the humidity….
      I don’t see a leak and the seal seems intact.
      The humidity/temperature measuring thingy is loose (works on batteries) and is inside the fridge.
      There is a difference in humidity in the top and bottom of the fridge.
      When using the temperature controller, I route the wire via the seal.

      I am going to see how to adjust everything, check drain pipes for blockage (although I don’t think there is one). Play with salt, removing water etc.
      In the worse case it goes back to being my drinks fridge….

      Meanwhile, I need to make a decission about the snack sticks inside. I have only measured one and to my surprise, it lost about 20% weight.
      Still need to check the others though and will report back. They feel a bit tacky.
      The sausages were stuffed 6 days ago, and the temperature was lowered 3-4 days ago

      Is it a good plan to move them to the crisper in the other fridge, wrapped in tea towel?

  9. If those snack sticks are still losing weight, they must be drying out, so maybe the cooler is working fine. Sure, why not wrap ’em in a tea towel and move ’em to the crisper.

    That water has to be coming from somewhere. If you have a salt tray in place and there are salt solids in the bottom (i.e. it’s a saturated solution), your refrigerator must me condensing water from constant relative humidity interior air, which means that if you can somehow route the free water back to the salt tray, you’ll be in good shape. That’s what I try to do with my humidity controller setup- – there’s always a bit of liquid that escapes and winds up in the bottom of the case. I’ve tried all sorts of things like draping a mesh scouring pad to catch falling condensate, circulating air toward the back od the cooling coil where the moisture is easier to trap, tilting the refrigerator backward slightly to direct the liquid water stream, installing a rubber drain tube in the built-in tray underneath the cooling coil to route the water back to the humidity vapor generator tray (which is a submerged ultrasonic vapor generator stolen from the grand-kids’ Halloween witches’ brew pot). …still fighting the problem.

    So maybe, if the humidity is controlled to a reasonable level, just keep on doing whatever it is that you’re doing. Hey! It could be worse! I have some Russian friends who lament losing their vodka chiller. However, they DO like sausages.

    Duk

    1. Thanks for your help Duk 🙂

      They are loosing weight. At first glance, it didn’t look like it, but in 6 days, they lost 20-25 % of weight and after 13 days, it was 36-41%.
      According to the instructions, they should loose about 30% in 2 weeks, so I am on target.
      The outside of the sausage feels a bit tacky. I tried a piece today (so if it suddenly starts getting quiet from my side……), wiped it with a cloth and vinegar.
      Tasty, quite peppery and actually a bit too salty for my taste (but addictive). I’ll let them go a bit drier still.

      I did wrap the sausages in tea towel and placed in the crisper. Immediately RH in the crisper shot up to 80+ %.
      I checked after a couple of days and the little piece that I had left in the display fridge seemed to dry more evenly than the others, so unwrapped and put them back in the display fridge.

      They should all be fine in a couple of days and then I can start tinkering with the display fridge.

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