DIY Backyard Smokehouse

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You can hot-smoke in a smokehouse, but it’s especially well suited to cold-smoking.
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“Project Smoke: Seven Steps to Smoked Food Nirvana, Plus 100 Irresistible Recipes from Classic (Slam-Dunk Brisket) to Adventurous (Smoked Bacon-Bourbon Apple Crisp)” by Steven Raichlen

While it used to be true that high-quality smoked cuisine was available only at smokehouses or barbecue joints, now new fuels, tools, and technology have made it possible for home cooks to turn out professional-grade smoked foods in their own backyards and kitchens. Project Smoke by Steven Raichlen is your guide to doing the same. More than a cookbook, Project Smoke is also a step-by-step handbook through a huge variety of smoking techniques. It includes a rundown of the smokers available for purchase, of essential brines, rubs, marinades, and sauces, and of different smoking fuels, all while finding room for 100 new, mouthwatering recipes. These recipes — from classics like brisket to vegetables, cocktails, and desserts — were created after extensive research spanning 60 different countries. Raichlen traveled and studied the smoky flavors of foreign cuisines, and here he translates them to his American audience. From low-and-slow techniques in a homemade smokehouse to accessible, 10-minute infusions of flavor on a stovetop, Raichlen can show you how to smoke every mouthwatering food imaginable.

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Project Smoke.

How to Build a Smokehouse

Water smokers offer convenience, and stick burners (offset smokers) possess undeniable machismo. As you delve deeper into smoking, at some point you may want to make a more permanent commitment to the craft. Build a smokehouse.

It’s not complicated and it indisputably establishes your bona fides as a smoke master. You can hot-smoke in a smokehouse, but it’s especially well suited to cold-smoking.

To build my smokehouse, I enlisted the expertise of my carpenter friend and neighbor, Roger Becker. For the walls, we used a naturally water- and rot-resistant wood: cedar. For the base, we bought a 3-by-3-foot slab of bluestone. (You can also use the sort of concrete slab sold by hardware stores to go under outdoor air conditioning condensers.) You want a fireproof base to minimize the risk of setting your smokehouse on fire. For further fire resistance, we lined the lower 12 inches of the inside walls with WonderBoard, which is like Sheetrock made with cement.

The walls of my smokehouse rise 6 feet, with a slanted shingled roof to drain off rainwater. For food racks, I bought Metro shelving, installing the individual shelves 15 inches apart on horizontal slats. This way, they’re easy to remove if I want to smoke a large hanging item like a ham. (I hang it from a hook in the ceiling.)

I attached the front panel with hinges, fitting the door of an old wood stove at the bottom to open for refueling. At the top in the front and back, I drilled a pair of 2-inch holes that could be partially covered with an adjustable wood damper to control the airflow.

To use the smokehouse for cold-smoking — my primary use — I drilled small holes in the back to accommodate a smoke generator like a Smoke Daddy or Smoke Chief. I drilled a hole in the front panel to install a thermometer. I attached a lean-to roof to one side to keep my wood dry. The materials cost less than 1,000 dollars. The pride it gave me was priceless.

For more from Project Smoke, see:

Whole Hog Smoking
Whiskey-Smoked Turkey Recipe

Reprinted with permission from Project Smoke by Steven Raichlen, published by Workman Publishing, 2016. Buy this book from our store: Project Smoke.