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How to Construct a Smoke House

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 5 Nov 2010 | comments*Discuss
Garden Smokehouse Smokehouse Shed

A smokehouse is a small house or enclosure used to smoke meat. If you fancy smoked meat and fish, or even if you are looking for a way to preserve meats at home, you might be interested in learning how to construct a smoke house for your garden.

Purchasing a smokehouse can be quite expensive. Building your own is an excellent way to save money and still enjoy the luscious taste of smoked meats.

Smoking Meat Technique

The process of smoking meat is really all about removing moisture. The removal of moisture is how smoking and drying acts to preserve the meat. Without moisture, it is impossible for yeast, mould and bacteria to grow and spoil the food.

It is possible to remove the moisture with air drying or other dehydration methods, but smoking the meat speeds up the drying process. Depending on the type of wood used, a smokehouse also imparts rich flavour to the meat.

Smokehouses are not necessarily heated. Rather, they provide a space that protects the meat and contains the smoke. One popular trend is to use an old refrigerator or freezer as a smokehouse.

It's possible to use a metal drum or tub. You could also adapt your garden shed to function as a smokehouse. Of course, the size of your garden smokehouse will vary depending on how much meat you intend to smoke at a time. A shed should provide plenty of room to hang hams and slabs of bacon.

Where to Put Your Smokehouse

It is best to put the source of smoke outside the shed or enclosure. A smouldering fire inside a firebox creates the smoke, which then travels into the enclosure via a pipe or duct. Having the smoke source outside of your smokehouse will work best if you can locate the fire at a lower elevation than the smoke house.

Angling the smoke duct upward lets you take advantage of natural convection to move the smoke. Alternatively, you can place a pan of wood chips on a burner inside your smokehouse.

If you are modifying an existing shed or building a smokehouse using a refrigerator or drum, planning permission probably will not be required. When planning to build a separate structure, the general rules regarding height and placement should be observed - the structure should be no higher than 4 metres with a pitched roof, or 3 metres without, and no closer than 5 metres to your house.

The smokehouse shouldn't be closer to any highway (path, bridleway, road etc.) than your house. Of course, if you reside in a conservation area or live in a listed structure, your rules will likely be different. If you have any concerns or uncertainties at all, contact with your local planning authority is a must.

Good Neighbourly Conduct

Constructing a smokehouse is not something that you should do without consulting close neighbours. Theoretically, there should not be an impact from the smoke, as it should be contained in your shed or other enclosure.

However, there is always the possibility that your long-burning, smouldering fires will become tiresome to your neighbours. Not to mention that an old refrigerator (if that is your smokehouse of choice) is not the most beautiful fixture in the garden.

Aesthetics should play a role in where you locate your smokehouse. Hopefully there will be a way to conceal your smokehouse behind a hedge or garden wall. If no such blind exists, you might want to construct something that makes your smokehouse installation more pleasing to the eye.

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