Do-it-yourself smokehouse

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In this article: the principles of smoking; temperature regimes for cold and hot smoking; terms of smoking products; what wood is suitable for smoking; the device of a metal smoking chamber; how smoking affects the shelf life of products; home smokehouse device; how to make smokehouses for cold and hot smoking.

Do-it-yourself smokehouse

Thousands of years ago, people obtained food for themselves by hunting and fishing, the need for a new campaign for food for the tribe arose quite often – the prey obtained with great difficulty simply deteriorated. Having tried many options for preserving prey, our ancestors managed to discover smoking, which became the only solution to this issue. Centuries and millennia have passed since then, refrigeration units are now in every home and, it would seem, the need for such archaism as smoking meat products has completely disappeared – but no, because smoked meats are so tasty! Smoking, as the oldest method of preparing meat products, is characterized by simplicity both in the process itself and in the equipment designed for this. If you have the opinion that arranging your own smokehouse and placing it in a summer cottage landscape is an extremely troublesome and costly occupation, read this article and see the opposite..

Smoking technology

Smoking is based on smoldering wood heated to a certain temperature. There is no direct or indirect contact of products undergoing heat treatment with an open flame; they are smoked due to the smoke abundantly released during the smoldering of crushed wood. Depending on the temperature of the smoke supplied to the smoked product, cold, hot smoking and baking in smoke are distinguished, the last of the above methods is the least popular. However, baking at high temperatures is more typical for the barbecue..

Smoking technology

Cold smoking takes place at a smoke temperature of 18 to 20 aboutC, takes a long time (as a rule, several days) and requires particularly careful control of temperature conditions. Heat treatment by cold smoking is most suitable for fatty meat products, otherwise they will not be able to be stored for a long time – there will not be complete impregnation with smoke and a significant amount of moisture will remain in them. To keep the temperature of the smoke within the specified limits, a special structure of the fuel in the hearth is necessary – most of it is sawdust and chips, firewood makes up no more than 20% of the total fuel load and is placed in the middle of the hearth, on top of them they are covered with sawdust and shavings. After ignition, such a hearth will slowly smolder, while an open flame will not arise..

Prolonged heat treatment during cold smoking provides good smoke impregnation, giving the products a special aroma and properties that allow them to be stored for a long time.

The readiness of products for hot smoking is much faster than for cold, the process itself takes from 12 to 48 hours. In this case, the smoke temperature should be from 35 aboutFrom and above, the exact temperature range depends on the required degree of cooking. If hot smoking is only an intermediate heat treatment and then the products (brisket, ham or semi-smoked sausage) will be boiled, then a temperature of 40 to 60 is sufficient. aboutC. If the products need to be brought to full readiness (poultry or fish), then the smoke temperature should be from 80 to 100 aboutC, i.e. it will no longer be smoking, but baking in smoke. A short smoking period and high temperatures accelerate the preparation of products, but the retention of a large amount of moisture in them and a low saturation with smoke components, in comparison with cold smoking, significantly reduce the shelf life. On the other hand, the products obtained by the hot smoking method have excellent taste, because contain little salt, are juicy and have a delicate aroma.

The content of firewood in the hearth for hot smoking should be 50-60%, the rest – shavings and chips. Such a construction of the fuel will create a sufficient amount of heat and smoke, the combination of which will speed up the cooking time of the product, but at the same time, the temperature conditions should not be exceeded – the products will simply burn out and char..

The temperature in the hearth itself must be maintained in the range of 220-300 aboutC, lowering the air flow and preventing an open flame. Smaller temperature ranges or higher moisture content in the wood will cause a large amount of soot in the smoke, which will impair the color of the product and its taste. Conversely, a temperature rise of more than 350 aboutC will lead to a sharp acceleration of oxidative processes, which will lead to the accumulation of carcinogens in the smoked product.

The formation and density of smoke smoke is directly related to the size of the shavings and sawdust – if they are too small, then the smoldering process will go badly due to lack of air in the mass of shavings, too large shavings will also smolder badly, but already due to the low density in the mass … Reasons why an open flame should not be allowed in the hearth: the smoke generated in the presence of tongues of flame is less rich in smoking components and contains a significant amount of carbon dioxide; smoked products processed with such smoke smell and have a persistent burning taste.

What happens to food during smoking

Smoke components produced by smoldering certain wood species have the following effects on smoked products:

  • their surface turns dark red, it shines. Gustatory and olfactory qualities increase;
  • deep penetration of some components of smoke, namely organic and phenolic acids, increases bactericidal properties, effectively prevents rotting and ensures long-term storage of smoked products (especially when cold smoking);
  • hardening of the surface protein layer of products, their shrinkage and tanning are provided by phenols contained in smoking smoke. Thus, phenols prevent fat and fat spoilage..

Home smokehouse – how to organize it

First of all, let’s figure out what is the difference between a hot and cold smokehouse. The design of both smokehouses is identical – a hearth, a smoking chamber, inside it a tray for fat, hung up and all this in a sealed case. And the difference is in the distance of the hearth from the chamber with smoked products, which is necessary for cold smoking. In other words, at least a meter of chimney is required between the hearth and the chamber, otherwise the smoke temperature will be too high and will not stay within 18-20 aboutFROM.

With cold smoking at home, it is often not possible to arrange a meter-long chimney; you can solve the problem in two ways – by bending the chimney or wrap a short chimney with rags, periodically pouring water over them. Both of these methods create further problems: in the first case, the bent structure is difficult to clean, in the second, constant monitoring of the moisture content of the rags for a long period of cold smoking is not an easy task. The solution to the problem is to install a water smoke cooler between the hearth and the smoking chamber. The design of the cooling section is as follows: an inner cylinder through which smoke will flow during smoking; a brass tube is wound around the inner cylinder, with water inlet at one end and outlet at the other; an outer cylinder that covers the water cooling tubes; two jumpers fixing the section on the hearth and on the smoking chamber.

Metal smokehouses, where the bottom of the smoking chamber with sawdust poured onto it is placed over an open flame, should be made of stainless steel – in this case, the bottom will not burn out over time. Theoretically, any metal container will fit the role of a smoking chamber, but galvanized containers cannot be used in this capacity – when zinc burns out, its oxide is formed, which will inevitably penetrate into smoked meats and make them frankly hazardous to health.

Only deciduous wood is suitable to obtain smoke smoke, most often apple, alder, oak and beech are used.

Birch wood is too resinous and will add bitterness to smoked meats, but it will improve combustion in the firebox and smoldering chips – you should completely remove the bark from birch logs, and soak the chips and shavings in water. By the way, for greater confidence in the absence of carcinogens, soaking in water should be exposed to any wood chips and shavings sold in retail chains in packaged form and specially designed for smoking. It is correct to combine dry wood and shavings of deciduous trees used in smoking with freshly cut wood material – in the first case, the smoked meats acquire a delicate taste and light golden color, in the second, they have a rich color and tart smell. To improve the taste of smoked meats, it is recommended to add fresh leaves of cherry trees and juniper branches, along with foliage and berries, however, add juniper carefully and little by little – in large quantities, its smoke will give the products a sharp and unpleasant taste.

Products intended for smoking are placed in the smoking chamber on a wire rack or hung on metal hooks. At the end of smoking, the products must be cooled and dried by hanging on hooks in a special room where the constant temperature is 10-12 aboutC – the period for drying products takes from 5 to 10 full days.

Further in the article, we will consider several options for the device of smokehouses, which are quite within the power of everyone..

Homemade cold smoked smokehouse

A classic cold smokehouse settles down on uneven terrain – at the lowest point a hearth is set up, from which a trench from 3 meters long and 0.5 m deep, covered by boards and earth, comes off up the slope at an angle of 45-50 °. At the top of the trench, a wooden smokehouse is placed, outwardly similar to a small shed, the cracks in its walls create the necessary traction, smoke enters it from the hearth through a blocked trench.

Home smokehouse

This design of the smokehouse can be improved, made universal, i.e. suitable for both cold and hot smoking. A two-chamber steel furnace is installed below ground level, fuel (wood, gas) burns in the lower chamber, and shavings and chips are in the upper, separated from the lower compartment by a grid with a fine mesh. The length of the smoke channel between the hearth and the structure of the smokehouse is less than 3 meters, the channel is laid at an angle. The smokehouse itself is made of grooved boards, the cracks are reliably sealed with tow, and an exhaust pipe is installed on its roof, in which several manually adjustable hatches are installed. When there is a need for hot smoking, the hatches on the chimney open, creating draft, not allowing the smoke to cool down in the chimney channel. For cold smoking, it is necessary to close all the exhaust hatches, leaving only one slightly ajar – the smoke will enter the chamber cooled to the required temperature. It is imperative to integrate an internal temperature sensor into the smoking chamber, by checking the readings of which and opening / closing the exhaust hatches, you can achieve the required temperature level inside the chamber. The dimensions of the chamber, the hearth and the width of the chimney channel depend on the number of one-time filling of products for smoking and the frequency of use of the smokehouse itself.

An important point: When creating a smoking chamber, only hardwoods should be used!

A smokehouse of this design can be arranged completely above ground level by placing a hearth on the ground and a smoking chamber at a certain height, building a chimney from finished pipes or from bricks (in the brick version, the binder in the solution should be clay, not cement!).

Homemade cold smoked smokehouse

The disadvantages of this solution are the unattractiveness of the structure itself, which distorts the general appearance of the site, as well as insufficient cooling of the chimney in the absence of soil around its walls.

In addition to building the coldest smokehouse, it is necessary to take into account the arrangement of the area around it under observers of the smoking process. Keep in mind that the cold smoking process will take several days.!

Hot smoked smokehouse

It is much easier to create such a smokehouse than for cold smoking – there is no need for a chimney-cooler. You will need any (not galvanized!) Metal container with a tight lid, inside which three stainless steel gratings are installed, with a wire diameter of 3 mm, they can be connected with a wire, placing them at different levels vertically – the top one is 100 mm from the edge of the smoking container, the second is 50-75 mm lower than it. The lower grate is located 100-150 mm from the bottom of the smoking chamber, i.e. The vertical ribs connecting the grates are supported on the bottom of the smoking chamber. Products prepared for smoking are laid out on the upper grates, a tray is installed on the lower one to collect the fat leaking during smoking..

Hot smoked smokehouse

At the bottom of such a smoking container, shavings, chips and small branches of deciduous trees are poured in a layer of about 20 mm, lightly sprayed with water. Then tiers of grates are placed, products for smoking are placed on the top two, the lid is closed on top. The smoking chamber-container is placed on the hearth, in its role you can use several bricks, between which and under the container a fire is made. The fuel for such a fire can be absolutely anything – the smoke from it will not penetrate into the inside of the smokehouse, it will only heat its bottom, but the smoke will produce heated chips and shavings inside the smoking chamber.

Hot smoked smokehouse

The time for smoking products in such a smokehouse is from half an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the volume and size of the laid products. During the entire smoking process, it is necessary to maintain a stable heat of the fire in the temperature regimes described above, without trying to speed up cooking due to more heating of the smoking chamber – the taste of the products will sharply drop. You can monitor the temperature inside the smoking chamber either with the help of a sensor built into the lid (the best option), or with the help of water – dropping onto the lid, follow the evaporation of the drop, if it evaporates without rolling and hissing, it means that the temperature inside the smokehouse is optimal and does not exceed 95 aboutC. The lower temperature can be found by touching the heated chamber with a hand from its back – if the wall of the container is hot, but the touch does not burn the hands, then the internal temperature is in the range from 50 to 60 aboutFROM.

At the end – a few rules for smoking

Wait for favorable weather – no precipitation, light wind without gusts and change of direction. Smoking work should be started early in the morning, preparing products in the evening. Be sure to install a drip tray for collecting fat – flowing down into the layer of sawdust, it will only worsen the quality of the smoke, in addition, the hung products can fall to the bottom and it will be much better if they fall into the tray, and not into smoldering sawdust. You need to open the lid and be interested in the progress of smoking as little as possible – each opening of the smoking chamber will increase the smoking time by ten minutes. And again, which is very important – watch the temperature inside the smoking chamber!

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