I'm a newbie to smoking meats.. never done it before.
We have some backyard pigs and I'm going to be processing the meat myself this year so I need some help if you don't mind.
I have a ~800 gallon 316 stainless steel rectangular tank I'm going to be converting into a smoker but I need to know a few things about smoking meat first. If you would all be so kind as to help me out I'd sure appreciate it.
So here is the basic design.
800 gallon rectangular stainless tank is about 8 feet long, 4 feet deep and 4 feet wide.. its an open top tank that I plan to stand vertical so it becomes a closet or phone booth of sorts.. since the tank has a 3 inch flange all the way around the top, it should be quite easy to install a nice tight fitting door to it.
I want to use natural gas from my house to power the unit. I tapped into the gas line in my basement a long time ago and put a hook-up point outside my home to run my portable generator when the power goes out.. The connection is made using a 40 foot long 1 inch ID rubber hose rated for propane transfer.
Does anyone have any idea how many btu's of energy I will need? I'm an engineer so if you tell me how big your smoker is and how much electrical energy it uses (watts), I can do the math. My tank will be fully insulated with 3 inches of insulation so heat loss should be quite minimal.
The unit will be controlled with a digital PID temperature controller (since I have some extra units laying around doing nothing) and an automated ignition system for the natural gas burner. (Yes, I know what I'm doing).. When you measure your temperatures, do you read the top of the unit at the exhaust or the middle or bottom?
When making jerky:
Is it possible to dehydrate meat to make jerky using a natural gas fired smoker? I only ask this because one of the byproducts of natural gas combustion is water vapor and I'm wondering if that's a concern when trying to dehydrate meats... While I don't plan to do this with the pork, I do make venison jerky every year using a small table top electric unit but I have to run about a dozen batches and its a pain in the rear end. With a large smoker, I could do it all at once.
When smoking meats:
*I don't quite understand the whole pan with wood chips thing.. Do I put the flame under the pan to get the wood chips smoking? Is there another pan with water in there or something?
*How long does it take to smoke things? Is this a two hour process or a week long thing? And how does one tell when its finished?
Things like bacon and hams are already "cured".. does that make any difference?
Looks like a great forum here.. thank you in advance for your advice.