DIY Smoker- With Reclaimed Materials

Today’s post is brought to you by none other than my amazing husband, Mr. Titman! He is going to explain how we built our smoker for no money using some items we just had laying around. Now because we had these items laying around, your process for building a smoker may look a little different.  But this post can give you general direction and inspiration. Enter Mr. Titman!

As the patriarchal figure on the Kneaded Homestead, I find it my duty to master one of the most important duties to raise a strong family: bringing home the bacon. Quite literally I might add.

One of the other missions we have here at the homestead, is to show our friends, family, and fans how to live a more sustainable life, have the best quality food prepared to the standards of nobility, while using little to no money!

Smoking is a great way to preserve your food for months at a time,  make certain food shelf stable, and add luxurious flavor. We’ll cover the multitude of smoking benefits in a later publication, today I’ll walk you through our maiden voyage of smoking, from smoker construction, to food preparation.

There are a few simple things to consider when constructing your own backyard smoker:

  • Smoking is the technique of cooking or preserving your food using an indirect heating source, for a longer period of time. This is why we have constructed our smoker in the side of a small hill on our property.
  • Start by digging a hole between 18-24 inches around in the side of a small hill and digging a hole roughly the same size from the top of the hill meeting in the middle.  (If you don’t have a hill don’t worry, you will have to use a little more creativity and elbow grease. )
  • Having the horizontal hole at the base of your hill will be a safe place to house your fire so you can smoke in any type of weather you can personally bear. This location will use gravity and natural air flow to take the heat and smoke from your fire vertically out of your top hole.
  • You are going to want some distance between your fire and the where your food is at, as you don’t want it to get too hot and overcook your food. (Our system could have been larger, but for our modest homestead, it works just great.)
Digging the holes: horizontal hole and vertical hole on top.

After you have your tunnels connected, you simply need something to house your food, and something that can hold in smoke, but can also allow smoke to pass through.

I happened to have some untreated cedar posts lying around my house that I wasn’t using for anything, which proved to work quite well. You could be as primitive as making a structure of sticks and an adobe type substance or as serious as making a cabinet with an opening at the bottom.

The point here is to use what you have at your disposal  and be a little creative, so you don’t have to stress out about spending a bunch of capital, especially if this is your first experience.

You’ll want to construct your smoke box with an easy access to get your food in and out. It should be big enough to fit  the biggest piece of meat you consider smoking, such as a large pork belly, or a 20+ lb turkey.

After experimentation, I found the oven thermometer I purchased was sub standard. This should be something that’s worth investing a few bucks, as its important to make sure you’re not smoking too hot or too cold. As you can see I fashioned ours to the underside of one of our smoke box doors, which does work, but you want to open your smoke box as little as possible to keep heat and smoke in.

Now all you have to do is light your fire and maintain the proper temp.

I found during my first run I needed to be in constant attention to the fire to keep the proper temp. I’d recommend doing a test run without any food inside, so you can get a feel for keeping your temp. We don’t all have the ability to stand outside and watch a fire for six straight hours! Once you do this a few times, you’ll be able to spot the size of your fire, the amount of coals, and the amount of smoke and gauge where your temp is at. This will be handy so you can accomplish other chores on the farm while your smoking is taking place.

I simply used a combo of the dried, down wood we have on our property. We were fortunate enough to have some down maple and oak, which worked so well.

Thanksgiving day in Michigan this year was a rainy, dreary day. Not too exciting to be outside early in the am standing by a fire.

Use whatever dry wood you have to start your fire, and to create a good bed of coals. I used our water-logged maple limbs, which proved to be an excellent source of smoke! This worked well for me being such a novice, knowing I had one type of wood that would heat if I needed, and another that would add smoke and lower the temp if I needed.

We had a 20 lb turkey, from our favorite pasture-raised farm. I started the bird roughly around 6am, and it took roughly 6 hours. Double checked the internal temp of the bird by using the meat thermometer in the biggest part of the bird, making sure it reached an internal temp of 160 degrees.

Now, as a first time smoker, I was nervous at how the bird would turn out. Fortunately God rewarded our family for being bold and trying something new! The turkey had a great smoke flavor, and it wasn’t like eating a campfire. There was a nice little pink smoke ring on the outer edge of the turkey, and I’ve never in my life had a turkey so juicy. The leftovers were still juicy for a week!

Lesson learned: go forth boldly! You will inevitably fail at some point throughout your journey, but if you stay consistent, ask God for wisdom, you can’t fail!

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