Smoking is one way to preserve food for a significant amount of time. It is also used to cook food with the use of smoke, particularly meat. In this day and age, there are several different types of smoker with different features manufactured all over the world. But have you ever seen what a smokehouse is?
In this post, we will discuss what a smokehouse is—with a little bit of its history. We will also teach you how to use and build a smokehouse on your own.
What is a Smokehouse?
A smokehouse, also called “smokery”, is a small enclosed building intended for curing or cooking meat with dense smoke. It is usually built out of wood, stones or concrete blocks, but people have come up with lots of creative solutions. Sometimes people lean toward storing their finished product in the smokehouse for a period of time. In that instance, it is also commonly referred to as “meat house” when smoke is not currently in use.
A smokehouse usually comes with a firebox, smoke room, food rack or hanger, and a draft control close to the highest point of the base. These are four major features of a smokehouse that you must dive into. A smokehouse needs a restricted airflow to keep a consistent enclosure of heat and smoke, so that the food inside will absorb all the flavors of the smoke and cook/dry with the heat. The finished product is the strong, smoky taste with its outer layer looking dark and crust-like.
History of the Smokehouse
Traditionally, smokehouses are intended for both meat smoking and storage. It is also used in preserving foods wherein the meat is cured with salt through “cold smoking” that takes a few weeks. Smokehouses were always deemed to be the safest place to store meats in which these meats are hung. This helps prevent vermin from reaching them—as well as getting stolen by thieves. Meat preservation was always done in the process of heavy salting—prior to the widespread availability of freezers.
How to Use a Smokehouse
Preparing the Wood
The type of wood you will be using plays a deciding factor as to what kind of taste the meat will take on. So don’t just throw in some random wood that you can find. Avoid using pine or any sappy woods as your meat will take on an uninviting taste of bitterness. Different types of wood can mean a certain amount of heat and smoke that’s produced, including the taste. If you’re having a hard time choosing your wood, you should settle with oak. Oak is easy to find and gives meats a great flavor. Additionally, you should know the wood’s moisture content. Freshly cut woods usually have more water in them—thus it will burn slower and can smoke for longer.
Last piece of advice, your selected wood should be cut into chunks or chips. If you aren’t able to do so, you can simply buy wood pellets from your local hardware or grocery stores.
Temperature of Smokehouse & Meat
Temperature plays a huge role in the smoking process. You should always pay attention to the internal temperature of the meat and the smokehouse itself. You should have two separate thermometers: one will be put in the meat and the other will be in the smoke room where the meat sits. A Remote electric thermometer would come in handy for measuring the room temperature.
Between 195°F and 205°F is usually the target internal temperature of the meat. This temperature range kills harmful bacteria. On the other hand, the ideal smokehouse temperature can be around 225°F to 250°F. However, make sure that the smokehouse temperature is not higher than the ideal temperature range. You need to give the smoke enough time to get absorbed by the meat, allowing it to heat up and be cooked from the inside before they begin to darken or caramelize on the outside.
In adjusting the smokehouse temperature—to decrease the temperature, just add sawdust into the firebox. Otherwise, add some twigs, shavings, and woodchips to increase the temperature.
There is no telling as to how much time exactly the meat can be smoked. However, there are some factors that you need to take into account to determine the total smoking time.
- Type of meat
- Size of the cut
- Smokehouse temperature
- Meat’s moisture levels
- The weather temperature
On average, the total smoking time is around 6 to 8 hours. But it can also reach up to 12 hours, depending on the cut and quantity of the meat. Lastly, you can place a bowl of water on top of the firebox. This will help to maintain a stable smokehouse temperature and moisture level, keeping the meat juicy. You will have to refill the bowl from time to time, especially if it will take you several hours of smoking.
How to Build a Smokehouse
Having the right materials, you can build a smokehouse on your own. You just need to keep in mind the major features of a smokehouse as to building it—so that the finished smokehouse will come out to be effective.
We will try to explain each step as simply as possible, although it’s a bit of a tricky process.
- 20-Lengths 6-Foot, 1-By-5 Tongue-And-Groove Pine
- 2-Lengths 25-Inch, 1-By-4 Lumber
- 1 3/4-Inch Nails
- 2 Hinges
- 1 Sheet Metal, 30-By-30 Inches
- 8-Lengths 22-Inch, 1-By-1 Lumber
- 4 Sheets Metal, 22-By-23 Inches
- Utility Knife
- Deep Fry Pan or pot – cast iron
- Wood Chips/Sawdust
- 8-Lengths 22-Inch, 1-By-2 Lumber
- 1/2-Inch Screws
- 2-Lengths 6-Foot, 1-By-2 Lumber
How to Build a Smokehouse Instructions
- Put in the 5 pieces of 1-by-5 inch tongue-and-groove boards that sum up to a height of 6 feet long. With the use of the utility knife, cut the tongue off of the last board. Repeat this step 3 times, so that you will produce 4 panels—in which they are at least 6 feet tall and 25 inches wide.
- Place the two 6-foot pieces of 1-by-2 inch lumber along the sides of the two panels. Hammer down 1 3/4-inch nails on every 5 inches along the length to secure the 1-by-2 lumber to the sides.
- Place two bits of 1-by-2 wood estimating 22 inches on the edge of the short sides of the side panels and secure the setup with nails. Repeat this step on another panel (the back of the smokehouse) with the 22-inch pieces on the middle of the top and base edges, and on the last panel (the door) with the 22-inch pieces on the middle 5 inches underneath the top and base edge.
- Connect a 22-inch-long piece of 1-by-1 wood 18 inches up from the lower part of both side panels for cleats, or shelf supports. Repeat every 14 inches up until there are four cleats on each of the side panels.
- Position the sides of the smokehouse upright with the 1-by-2 planks at the back and the cleats confronting internally. Place the back panel over the rear of the sides and secure with nails through the sides of the back into the 1-by-2 lumber planks on the rear of the side panels.
- Open two 25-inch bits of 1-by-4 lumber at the top and lower part of the front of the side panels. Secure its setup with nails through the sides into the closures of the 1-by-4 pieces.
- Append two hinges 8 inches from the closures of the door with the 1/2-inch screws and a drill. Place the door over the front of the side panels and append the remaining pieces of the hinges to one side.
- Drill three ventilation openings that are 2 inches wide through the side panels of the smokehouse. Drill three openings at the top and three at the base—12 holes in total.
- Place a piece of 30-by-30 inch sheet metal on top of the smokehouse and secure it to the dividers with 1/2-inch screws. Place four sheets of 22-by-23 inch metal (shelves) on every shelf cleat.
- Place a deep fry pan in the lower part of the smokehouse. Place sawdust or wood chips in the fry pan and light them and burn down to coals. Then place more wood chips on top, and you’re smoking!
Some Final Thoughts on Smokehouses
Building a smokehouse may require a lot of work, but by the time it’s completely done, it will be all worth it. If you’re an avid fan of smoking, this will be a fun experience for you, and this will seriously up your meat smoking game.
If you don’t have the time to go the DIY route and build your own smoker, retail options are available and pretty darn effective too. Just make sure to shop around and check out any of our reviews!
You, your relatives, and your friends will definitely enjoy the taste of the finished product that’s smoked inside you new smoker- whether it’s meat, fish, etc. For preppers, a smokehouse can give you a survival advantage to make your food last longer if you end up needing to live off grid.