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The Novice "Just Winging It" Smokehouse Build - Page 2

post #21 of 36

Looks great.  I would pour 4 inches of concrete on those 2 paver stones. 

post #22 of 36
Thread Starter 

Pat, out of curiosity, why would you pour concrete on top of the pavers?  Heat?


Last weekend turned out to be a bit more productive that I expected.  


I got the siding on the front done, except for the tiny strip that runs just below the door frame.  Here it is just about 5 minutes before the clouds opened up on me:



I also picked up 20' of 1"x1"x1/8" steel angle and a 4'x8' sheet of expanded steel for shelving.  The angle is mounted in the cabinet, and the metal will just rest on it so you can use only what is needed.  Anyway, my dad helped get the angle cut, drilled, and screwed into place.  Unfortunately, 20' was not nearly enough, so I'll need about 10' more to finish the side/rear supports for the 4th & 5th shelf.  Oh, and I painted the vents black before screwing them into place:



I'm also going to need to support the front edge of the shelves, otherwise it will definitely flex more than I would like when loaded with meat.  Probably get more angle and weld it to the expanded metal -- will also create a handle of sorts when moving shelves.


Yesterday I finally got off my a** and put the aluminum on the back of the cabinet door to cover the framing & insulation, then I carried it out and set it in place.  It looks great, but I unfortunately discovered that it is too tight.  I've got a couple things in mind that will hopefully resolve that without too much disassembly, and I won't put the hinges on until that has been taken care of, but since it fit nice and snug, I just left it there.  I'm really liking how things are looking now:


And, since I'm super impatient now, and like I said, the door was super snug, today I broke down and lit some charcoal.  I put 15 briquettes in a chimney and got that going.  Once it was about halfway ashed over, I dumped them into the firebox and tossed in a bunch of the scraps of cedar siding for smoke.  I snaked a temperature probe through a vent, and saw ~10 degrees of rise.  Not great, but it was a very small fire, so I didn't expect anything major.



One issue I noticed was the amount of smoke I saw coming out from the firebox door.  I'm not sure if the breeze was sucking it out through the vent, or from around the door or what.  That will require more investigation, but I'm not overly worried about it.


Additionally, I noticed two things about my concrete pavers on the top of the firebox - first being they were quite warm considering this was a pretty small fire.  I expected them to be warm, but I was a bit surprised.  I've got 4 firebricks left and am giving some thought to sticking them to the pavers (inside the firebox of course).  The other thing I noticed was nothing huge, just that either the burning newspaper I used to light the charcoal chimney, or the heat from the coals getting started left a bit of a stain on the paver.  Not a huge problem, just something I'll want to remember for next time.


Anyway, there are still plenty of things to finish, most importaintly the door, but I'm pretty damn happy with how things are going.  Although I would be a lot happier if it was done...

post #23 of 36

Yes, the pavers will get VERY hot - you can set a cast iron pot of beans on the top and they will cook (4 inches of concrete will also get that hot).   I think the pavers will crack on you; especially if it starts raining/drizzling after you start cooking.  It's worth the couple bucks to spend on the concrete and you can easily make a form for it.  You may get lucky and not have a problem - you can always wait and see and pour concrete later if it cracks.

post #24 of 36

I got 4 inched of concrete on my fire box and I am wondering if I can, or could, seal it. It rained here for days and in charcoal on the inside of the fire box was very wet. Meaning the concrete is very porous.


How strong is the expanded metal by it self. I made box frames from 3/4" angle and welded the expanded metal to it from underneath. It just felt like it bowed too much for me.

post #25 of 36
You mean to poor concrete over the top of that? Not going to hold up to concrete... Put a piece of plywood under that braced up with two chunks of 2x4.. Wet the ply wood before you pour the concrete then when dry pull out the plywood.
post #26 of 36

Yes, you can seal it, but not sure it will do much good (certainly won't hurt).  Charcoal absorbs moisture - if it rained for days - moisture in the air can get it pretty wet.  Not sure sealant will not get ruined when you have a fire.  If so, you'll constantly be sealing it.  My firebox is half buried so it gets ground moisture and any moisture in air when it rains.  That's why I don't load it until ready to use.

post #27 of 36
Thread Starter 

Well, been a bit since I bothered to check in but I've got it pretty close to done now.  I completed the shelving and installed the latch for the door, as seen here...





I also finished up the firebox, adding firebrick to the underside of the concrete pavers, and welded together a little frame and cutting the screen to hold the charcoal about 3" off the floor.


I ran a 2nd test fire last Saturday using 30 charcoal briquettes and some more scrap cedar siding.  This time, temps started around 91-93 (ambient temp at the time), and climbed up to 140.  I borrowed an IR thermometer, and the outside of the smokehouse, concrete block base, and red brick side walls were all hanging around the ambient temperature, little higher for the sides that were in direct sun at the time.  The cast iron door was a cozy 255-260, and the top of the concrete pavers of the firebox was around 160.  I'm a bit concerned about how long those are going to last, but otherwise very encouraged by the results.


Whenever I can get time to test again with a larger amount of charcoal, I'm going to give it a full chimney and see how hot it gets.  As far as overall construction, I need to lightly sand all of the wood and then put some kind of sealer on it, but that is all (finally!!).

post #28 of 36

Probably too late to help, but with all you spent on this build I would have told you to consider purchasing a 2" dia steel pipe chmney with slide damper/closer from an online BBQ parts and accessory supply that is easily mounted on the high point of the roof.


On my my build, which is similar to yours but not quite as elaborate, I used the steel pipe chimney and it works very well. 


Sorry this was not more timely.

post #29 of 36
Thread Starter 


Thanks for the tip.  Exhaust isn't an issue for me.  I picked up the two wall register covers super cheap, and they do the job.


I ran another test fire, which became a test cook, a couple weeks ago, just haven't had time to update things.  I discovered that the air intake on firebox's cast iron door does not allow enough air in, even when it is slid to the full open position.  So I left the feed door open about 1/4" and the temps in the house easily & quickly climbed over 200F.  Just to ease some concerns, I allowed the temp to get over 320 and kept it there for about 45 minutes before bring it back down to a usable 240 (+/- 10 degrees).  Tossed in a pork loin since they're cheap & hard to f*** up, and some time later produced this:





Also, with regard to the cement pavers on the firebox...  As has been discussed earlier, they get hot.  So do the red bricks on the side walls after some time.  The red bricks I'm not concerned with, but the pavers do give me some concern, and I came up with a plan.  If they ever pop/crack, I'm going to pull them off and lay a steel plate down, either 1/8" or 1/4" thick.  On top of that, I'll put down another layer of the red clay bricks, and not just on the sides, like completely layer it (I've still got 15 left and can get a bunch more for $0.25 each).  I'll still top it all off with new pavers over the brick, they look nice and I don't have to worry about seeing the holes in the bricks.  Replace the firebricks on the inside of the firebox roof (the steel plate), and hopefully that will prevent the pavers from getting so freaking hot.  I was getting readings of around 230 approximately 5 hours after I dumped the first batch of charcoal into the box.  I actually plan on using them to keep a pot of beans warm this weekend.


Speaking of this weekend, I'll be smoking a 9lb ribeye loin and ~5lbs of pork loin.  Hopefully people are happy with the outcome!


Also, when I have more time to deal with it, I figured I would update my original post with a spreadsheet (or link to one) where I had my materials & cost list.  For a long time I was keeping really good track of what I bought & how much I spent, but then I returned a bunch of leftover stuff and couldn't remember if I subtracted it all or not.  Plus laziness definitely factored in there too...  Anyway, maybe someone would be interested.  If not, I at least know what I need in case I ever need to rebuild, or help someone else.

post #30 of 36
Thread Starter 

Well I've successfully run the following through the smokehouse:

Cook #1:  8 lb boneless pork loin

Cook #2: 9 lb boneless ribeye loin, 7 lb boneless ribeye loin, 5 lb boneless pork loin

Cook #3: 3 racks of baby back pork ribs (about 10 lbs if I remember correctly)

Cook #4: 11 lb (pre-trimmed) brisket.


So far, everything has turned out great.  I forgot to get pictures from cook 2 & 3.  Pictures from the first cook are above, a couple of the brisket are below.  And then when I did take a couple pictures, I forgot to get any of the food after slicing it up - too focused on tasting it I guess.  I should also plan a little better and put more meat in it, because it always looks kinda empty when I take food out.  Maybe some time I'll do a 10-15 racks of ribs for a neighborhood party or something.



That was my first brisket ever, and I got compliments, and it was completely gone before I knew it, so I must have done something right.  I was actually a bit annoyed, as I was looking forward to having leftovers...


One thing I've definitely found is that once the concrete block base has warmed up, it will radiate heat which is actually pretty helpful.  Acts as a sort of regulator in a way, and keeps the temp from dropping a lot if the fire gets low.  The bad news is I've spotted a crack in the mortar joint between two of the concrete blocks just above the firebox.  I don't know if it is just a bad joint, or if it is heat related.  I'm guessing it is the latter.  I'm just going to wait to see if it gets worse over the next 2-3 smokes before I try to figure out a resolution.


Anyway, once I finish this post, I'm going to update post #1 with a link to my cost spreadsheet.  I didn't keep any specs/plans, but it could be useful to someone that is looking to build something similar.  For a lot of the items, I included links to Menard's (where I purchased most of the supplies).

post #31 of 36

......Thumbs Up......

post #32 of 36

Great job... really nice looking project!  :first:



Happy Smoking!!!

post #33 of 36

That is one heck of a nice smokehouse!


Great job!


It sure is putting out some awesome looking Q



post #34 of 36

Your smokehouse is awesome, bet it feels good to build a nice working smokehouse.Meat looks great too!


Great job!

post #35 of 36
Thread Starter 

Well, it's been awhile since I've been around, but I guess having a (first) baby puts everything else on pause...

Little updates - things are still going quite well.  Thanksgiving saw 3 turkeys (8.7 lb, 12.2 lb, and guessing around 16 lbs), plus a bone in turkey breast (8.1 lb).  All went smoothly, and there was PLENTY of room for more food...




For Christmas, I went with brisket.  Unfortunately it was too cold for me to stand there and take pictures (or at least thats my excuse - I had been up since 3am and at 4:30pm was just too wiped out to think about it) but I smoked 4 briskets - 2 were for friends, one for our family to eat, and one for me to freeze for later.  I left Sam's Club with about 58 lbs worth of beef, and since I have only done it once before, I spent about 3 hours trimming, salting, and re-wrapping the briskets.  Fun note - there isn't enough room in most refrigerators for that much brisket and the rest of the food that you'd normally have, and I'm not sure I'd trust the glass shelves in mine to hold the weight anyway.  Since daytime temps were peaking around 35, my improvised solution was to put them in a cooler in my garage for the night (I added some ice just in case).  Again, forgot pics from the smokehouse, but here is part of what came out:




On New Year's Day I cold smoked about 5lbs of cheese.  I figured I'd try a variety to see what works best, so I went to my local grocery store and bought 8 ounce blocks of Mild Cheddar, Sharp Cheddar, Extra Sharp Cheddar, Colby, Monterrey Jack, Colby Jack, Pepper Jack, Mozzarella, then got Provolone from the deli.  I had purchased an A-Maze-N pellet smoker, so I loaded it up with the applewood pellets they sent and got things going.  I placed the smoker on the bottom shelf of the smokehouse, had the cheese arranged on a pair of cookie cooling racks on the top two shelves.  After an hour, I flipped the blocks of cheese over (probably didn't need to, but wanted to check and see how things were going).  I think I left the cheese in for a total of 3 hours, brought it into the house and left them on the counter for an hour or two before putting them in plastic bags and dropping them into the fridge.  Have been slowly sampling them over the past week and a half, but don't have any clear favorites.  Some don't really seem to taste very smokey, others you can definitely tell.  All in all, I'm pretty happy.  When smoking the cheese, the temp went up from 34 to 48 inside the house, but I didn't have to worry about melting the cheese, so that is a good sign for future cold smokes.  I think if I had put the smoking tray in the firebox instead of the bottom of the food chamber the temps would not have climbed as much, but I was a little worried about making sure the smoke would rise properly from the firebox.


Anyway, a late Happy New Year's to everyone, and have a good weekend!

post #36 of 36

Looks good, Keep up the good work, and congrats.

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