Our Smoke House

IMG_0524We came to the realization that we needed a smoke house about a month ago while trying to smoke our Christmas hams. We have plans for an outdoor kitchen eventually and we were going to create a small smoke house as a part of that kitchen but have come to realize that we smoke enough things to warrant a larger stand-alone one.

We chose the corner of our yard for the site for the new stand-alone smoke house and mapped out our design based off of several online ones, including one design from 1930. We choose a stove and tunnel design with a hotplate on top of the stove in case we also wanted to cook something while we smoke items. Inside the smoke house would be fitted with bars and hooks for hanging items and large racks for placing items on. We also wanted a chimney that we could place a fixture on to collect liquid smoke. We like to use the liquid smoke in soups, stews and other things like baked beans.

IMG_0411The fabrication started with digging out a foundation site, much like the chicken coop, and laying a foundation of rocks and cement. Then you pour out a nice surface to top off the foundation before laying bricks. Dave also framed and poured the top for the stove to sit and dry before it was needed.

 

IMG_0459Then layers of bricks were added to create the stove and tunnel walls and to create the floor of the actual smoke house. The tunnel for the smoke and some heat was also topped with bricks and smoothed out with mortar. The tunnel itself also serves as a step for placing and retrieving the fixture for liquid smoke.

IMG_0470The cement top for the stove was then placed on the bricks and mortar was applied to secure it in place. While it dried Dave took angle iron and welded up the door for the stove and the metal hot plate for cooking. Fixing them into place took some detail work with a chisel to get the perfect fit for both the hot plate and the stove door. After the door was fit into place bolts were added to secure it and it was done!

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The cement top for the stove is mortared into place
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Chiseling the opening for the hot plate
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Inserting the hot plate
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Getting the perfect fit took a couple of attempts and touch-ups with the chisel
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The hot plate finished
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Chiseling to get the perfect fit for the stove door
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Inserting the stove door into place.

IMG_0514After all the cement and brick work was done it was time to move onto making the actual smoke house itself. A frame was created that included the hanging bars at the top. We then sided it with a thin plywood. The roof was created as a frame and then layered boards to create large wood shingles were screwed on top. Dave cut out a hole for the chimney.

After all of the main construction to the smoke house was finished we applied a thin coating of varnish on the outside of the smokehouse and the roof. I can just hear all of the hooting from the “serious” meat-smoking community about introducing chemicals and such that can affect our final product but they don’t live or smoke things in Congo. Here it is 100% necessary because of all of the torrential downpours we get during the rainy season. Better one layer of varnish on the outside, then the other problems that would come otherwise. If we did live somewhere else we probably wouldn’t have done it, but reality is we do live here.

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The chimney

 

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Applying the varnish

 

So after the varnish went on it was time to work on the details like hooks for hanging items, large trays for smaller items, handles on the door and the liquid smoke collector.

 

IMG_0522It is now complete and we have been very happy with the results! We are still working out the kinks in the liquid smoke collector (our ice melted into the collection bowl and diluted our batch) and realize we need more air vents in the stove door, but otherwise, everything else seems to be working very well. We have smoked a chicken and a triple batch of summer sausage so far and have plans to continue to make bacon, hams, jerky and perhaps one day even smoke a huge chunk of beef or a whole pig.

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The first test run of the smoke house
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The first fire in the stove
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Checking the seal and chimney

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The first chicken
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Our first batch of liquid smoke that got diluted from the ice melting into the collection bowl – we will fix this before we do it again.
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A large batch of summer sausage
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After the fire is over.

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