If you know Joel Salatin and his methods you already know that you just need to do this farming thing “good enough”. If you want to be successful, you need to keep costs down, and not run out and spend boat loads of money every time you need something.
This change of life pace for Sue and I has enabled me to express my creative side. Having a garage to work in, and acquiring the proper tools over time helps too.
Luckily, we bought this place with a lot of “treasure” laying around, so finding materials to build projects is fairly easy.
For months now, I have been following Twitter and Facebook posts about smoked meat, drooling over how tasty the meaty goodies look. I had been toying with the idea of building a smoker for a while, and when the opportunity arose to purchase a happily raised pork belly from our friends, I went to the drawing board.
This project began with a simple idea. Build a box to put the meat, and provide the smoke source. We don’t plan on doing any large scale smoking yet, so I kept the size reasonable so that it could be moved with ease.
I want to point out my one, potentially fatal mistake right away,with hopes that no one else is dumb enough to repeat it.
I constructed this around the same time as I was gearing up for maple syrup season, and as near as I can figure, laziness prevailed, as I thought I would just piggy back my smoker off of my sap boiler.
On paper and in theory it is a great idea, however my boiler is made from an old oil tank. No matter how many fires one can have in it, there will always be poison coming out of the chimney… you do not want to eat any food smoked with this smoke!
(Do not do this!!>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>)
I started with some steel shelving that I found in the barn. Each shelf is 36″ x 14″. I welded them together to make a rectangular box, then cut out the door. I welded on some hinges and used magnets to keep it closed. The shelving did have some issues as it is perforated, which made a great chimney at the top, but had to be covered on the sides. I solved that by welding shelf sides that I found in the same pile over top of the holes. I did try welding the holes shut, but that took forever. After taking apart an old bed frame, I welded some rebar, that was left over from our kitchen reno to the salvaged angle iron from the bed and attached it to the top to hang meat from. I then welded more angle iron to the sides and attached a piece of oven grate that I found in the barn for use as a shelf.
For the smoke box, I welded more shelves together, but left the holes open for venting for the fire. I cut another piece of the oven grate to sit the wood on for air flow. I then cut the door, welded the hinges, and used a similar type of closure. I then inserted an 18″ chimney with a damper.
I welded angle iron to the front and a piece of flat bar to the back, and lowered the top of the smoker and attached it all together.
Frankensmoker was born.
For the first smoke we did the pork belly which weighed about 6 lbs and used a combination of Maple wood and Maple wood chips. We smoked for about 2.5 hours and then ate delicious bacon.
This unit is proof that you don’t need a fancy piece of equipment to get the job done, though I am very sure it helps.
Fancy factory-made is cool, however, with a coat of high heat paint this doesn’t look that bad. Besides, I am convinced that my method is more fun, economical, and prevented a lot of stuff from making a trip to the landfill… did I mention that it made bacon!