Different Types of Smokehouses and Smokehouse Plans

This is an excerpt from a great homesteading book on home butchering of every description. It is called "The Complete Book of Butchering, Smoking, Curing and Sausage Making" by Philip Hasheider, published by Voyageur Press. We have a book review of this book, and it comes highly recommended for those of you homesteading and wanting information on home butchering. Below is an excerpt from the book on smokehouses, building a homemade smoker and the equipment you need for home smoking.

A smokehouse is a simple version of a heat processing unit used by today's meat industry. The size may be vastly different, but the principles are the same: it is an enclosed area where the temperature and smoke level may be controlled with acceptable accuracy. If you decide to build a smokehouse, it does not need to be an elaborate structure to do an effective job. However, it must be adequately built and have the ability to be monitored so that the meat is properly cooked to minimize health risks.

The purpose of a smokehouse is to enclose heat and smoke, and reduce, but not entirely eliminate, airflow. Depending on how much smoking you want to accomplish, you may construct your own smokehouse or purchase a commercial unit. Because smokehouses are generally located outdoors, you should check if any local ordinances or fire codes apply before you begin construction of any new structures.

Many types of smokehouses can be used successfully to smoke meats, fowl and fish. Smokehouses can include simple equipment as a charcoal grill for very small amounts of meat, metal barrels, water and electric smokers, and in more extensive units, those of frame or concrete construction.

The more elaborate structures will cost more to build. By understanding your end goals, you can make a reasonable assessment of which type will work best for you. Depending on where you live, you may be able to get your smoke done with a local meat shop that smokes its products. The paragraphs below detail the different types of smokehouses to consider.

Charcoal Grill:

One of the least expensive methods to smoke small amounts of meats and sausages is on your covered charcoal grill. This will require an oven thermometer to monitor the temperature. You can fill the bottom of your grill with briquettes and burn them until gray ash appears.

Separate the coals onto two sides of the grill and place a pan of water between them. Place the grate over the top and place your sausages above the water. As the sausages heat and cook, the fat will drip into the heated water and create steam that will help destroy harmful bacteria.

Keep the vents open on the cover. For hot smoking, you will need to maintain an air temperature between 225 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the process.

Vertical Water and Electrical Smokers:

a vertical water and electric smokerA vertical water smoker is built with a bottom fire pan that holds charcoal briquettes and generally has two cooking racks near the top.

The water pan positioned above the coals supplies moisture and helps regulate that internal temperature. An electrical smoker is similarly constructed, except the smoke is controlled by pre-moistened wood chips rather than charcoal. This will provide a more constant temperature and may require less attention during smoking.

The sizes of electric smokers vary with some accommodating up to 40 pounds of sausages at one time.

Barrel Smoker:

A clean, non-contaminated 50-gallon metal barrel, with both ends removed, can be used as a smoker for small quantities of meat, fowl, and fish. Set the open-ended barrel on the upper end of a shallow, sloping, covered trench or 10-to12-foot stovepipe.

Dig a pit at the lower end for the fire. Smoke rises naturally, so having the fire lower than the barrel will aid its movement towards the meats. Mound the dirt around the edges of the barrel and the fire pit to eliminate the leaks. You can control the heat by covering it with a piece of sheet metal.

Use metal or wood tubes as a barrel wood smokerracks from which to suspend your sausages in the barrel. At the beginning of the smoking, you want a rapid flow of air past the meat to drive off excessive moisture.

Less rapid air movement near the end of the smoking period prevents excessive shrinkage of meat. Use moist wood chips, sawdust, or charcoal for starting your fire.

You want a lot of smoke but very little flame. Once your fire is going, you can add green sawdust or green hardwood to cool the fire and make more smoke. Never use gasoline or other accelerants to start your fire. Besides their explosive potential, which can cause serious injury, the fumes and residues will contaminate your sausage.

Metal strips can be attached to the cover, to help hold it in place, trapping the smoke near the meat. You can monitor the inside temperature by suspending a thermometer from one of the metal racks.

Frame or Concrete Smokehouse:

a wooden smokehouse with a concrete floor You can build a smokehouse out of wood or concrete blocks. While these are more elaborate structures, they will accommodate larger quantities of meats at one time and will last for many years.

They have the advantage of making temperature control easier and reducing fire hazards.

 Their tight construction and well-fitted ventilators can control air flow past the meat. A larger-size building will provide space for several tiers of racks. This will let you adjust the hangers to the size of the pieces of meat being smoked. Meats can be crowded into a smokehouse, but the only rule is that no piece of meat be able to touch another or the wall.

Any building you construct should have four features: a source of smoke, a place to hold the smoke, a method to hold the meat in the smoke, and a draft regulator near the top of bottom.

A smokehouse is a very slow oven in which the temperature does not exceed 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Even though you will use and maintain low temperatures, build your smoke house in a safe location from other buildings, particularly your home and away from all combustible materials. Check with local ordinances and fire codes, before you begin any construction.
a diagram showing the parts of a shed smokehouseThe size of your smokehouse can be calculated based on the amounts and weights of meat used. These requirements vary with the weight of the cuts. To estimate the capacity of your smokehouse, use an accepted measure of 12 inches in width, front and back, and 2 feet in height for each row. Construction plans for smokehouses are generally available from university extension offices or commercial supply companies.

While smokehouses are excellent for processing meats, they do not make a good storage area for smoke-finished meats. After your smoking processing is complete, flies will eventually get in either on a piece of meat or when the door is open. Smokehouses can be used for storage, however, if each piece of meat is properly wrapped, bagged, and hung separately, provided everything is fly and insect proof.

Smoking Pork

Smoking pork raises certain considerations. If you are smoking pork and want to eat it without further cooking, you smoke it to an internal temperature of 137 degrees Fahrenheit to make sure that you kill any trichinae, which are the cause of trichinosis. You can used a meat thermometer to check the temperature. The meat in the smokehouse is approximately 10 to 15 degrees less than the smokehouse air temperature. Raise the smokehouse temperature to 155 degrees, just to be safe.

Dutch Ovens

A Dutch oven is a traditional piece of cooking equipment used outdoors. It has a long history of use, and its easy application make it a favorite of many outdoor hunters. One advantage is that it can deliver a low, moist heat over long periods of time to allow the meat to mellow and develop its own unique taste. Low heat and slow cooking tenderize the meat because juices within the cell walls are slowly released during the heating process. Fast cooking purges these juices too quickly.

A second advantage of using a Dutch oven is its versatility. Bread, roasts, and stews call all be cooked in it, making it an excellent camp utensil. Dutch ovens are easy to use and remove much of the uncertainty of cooking small game. Cooking in them does not require you to pay as close attention as in a regular home oven. Many models are available, and you should investigate which one may best suit your purposes.

Final Considerations

You may become enthused or enchanted by your smoking ability and like the flavors you create. However, do not replace your normal cooking procedures and dietary needs with this practice. Eating too much smoked meat can be a cause of some health concerns. The problems generally are found in the smoke, which contains coal tars that are considered carcinogenic. You may want to use your smoked meats as special treats rather than for daily meals.

If you want to know more about how to butcher your meat, how to smoke sausages, bacon, poultry, beef and recipes that will give you the best results, then you will just have to buy the book! How? Well click on the book below and you can buy it directly from Amazon.com

If your curiosity has gotten the best of you and you would like to see another excerpt from this book on home butchering we have something else for you. Home butchering of sheep, lambs and goats from the same book above.
Finally, we have smokehouse plans for you, for the concrete smokehouse above.

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My Homemade Smoker 
I bought an old ice box a couple of years ago just to make a smoker. I removed the wood racks for the ice and placed wire racks in their stead then …

Not as bad as your warning says. :) Not rated yet
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creosote IF you are burning wood for the smoker it would contain wood-tar, not coal-tar. Which wood tar is way less toxic …

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