Hey, guys. Tim from WA here.
I've been hot-smoking for years and am just now looking into cold smoking. I want to get a regular supply of pork bellies and make my own bacon til I'm too old to walk out to the smoker.
I've looked at every Youtube I could find on making the gear, and today I'm looking further into the process of smoking.
But there’s one major area that I can’t figure out: Whether I use a fire, an electric element or propane, how do I control the temperature?
I've heard people recommend cold-smoking temperatures from 80 to 120 degrees, and I understand I don't want to actually cook the bacon in the smoker, lower is better.
Is there a minimum temperature at which I need to keep the pork belly as it smokes? I live in SW Washington State, and we have 30-degree winters and 90-degree summers, so where do I place my heat source to prepare for all seasons?
If I need to get the meat up to a certain minimum, and put the fire, propane burner, or electrical element outside the smokehouse, how do I get up to the minimum temperature?
I see some guys put propane burners inside the smokehouse, but if I get that setup hot enough to keep the wood smoking, won't that get the meat too hot and cook it, just like it does in my hot smoker?
How do I control the temp of either an electric or gas heat source? Since I need to smoke for from 2 to 5 days—and I can’t imagine how good bacon that’s been in the smoke for 5 days would taste--do I keep the heat source on the entire time? And wouldn’t that burn out any electrical element, suck dry a tank of propane or require me to babysit a fire the whole time?
This is the final—I hope—piece of the puzzle for me. I appreciate any and all help.