Re: wood smokerWelcome to the Forums, "Doc" er um I mean Welby :D I'll try to answer your questions the best I can. First let me state my qualifications so you don't think that I'm just blowing smoke. :) A lot of years ago my father owned and operated a Custom Meat Shop which also had two smokehouses. As Dad taught us how to cut meat, we also learned to cure and smoke different types of meat.
1) I want the most authentic taste I can get. Is the use of a wood stove ducted to a smoke house structure detrimental in any aspect of smoking, whether health wise,--pathogens-- soot etc?
Hickory wood will give you the most authentic taste. We used to use Apple and Cherry mixed with the hickory, but any fruit or nut tree wood will work. Check through the Forum and you will find that a post was made about the different types of woods used for smoking. As for using a wood burning stove for you smoke generator- it will work, just remember that you will have to vent the stove in to the bottom of your smoke house. You will need a supplemental heat source in the smokehouse (electric or gas) to maintain your smoking temps. Again you will want to use a wood that is suited for smoking.
2) Must the smokehouse be stainless or, is wood fine as long as it is cleaned after use?
We had two smokehouses-One was a steel unit made by Koch. This unit was gas fired and the smoke came from an electric smoke generator. We used fine sifted hickory/apple sawdust that was fed from a hopper on to the hot plate. Smokehouse #2 was made of pine and oak. The interior was lined with the oak and the outside was covered with tongue and groove pine boards. This unit was also gas fired and the smoke was produced by placing dampened hickory/apple sawdust in the fire pan that was set above the gas burners. Both units were thermostatically controlled.
3) Are there any special specifications one might want to follow when smoking on a commercial basis?
If you're going to smoke for resale, check with your local Health Department and follow their guidelines for safe food handling and storage. Unless we were doing a custom order (you slaughter you own meat and brought it to us for processing) all meats sold had to procured from a State or Federally inspected slaughter house and we had to be able to show proof of inspection.
4) Are the electric or gas smoke generators which use saw dust better in any way than wood stove based smokers? Koch sells different types of generators. Back in the day sawdust burning generators were the only units available. Today you can get generators that will use sawdust, wood pellets or wood discs (looks like a hockey puck). Depending on hopper size and the length of the smoking session, always plan on replenishing the wood. (I always dreaded having to go over to the shop at 4 in the morning to check on the smokers-glad I had two brothers that had to take their turns too). As for sawdust vs wood pieces-Research which is most readily available and then plan from their.
I hope that my answers are satisfactory to the questions you asked. Feel free to ask any more questions that you may have regarding smoking meats- we have a lot of experienced folks that can help you.
Best of luck on your venture!