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A mission...

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
I am on a mission.. A very important mission, and it could be dangerous..
Coz we're going hunting.. for Bacon!!

I have been living in China for about 4 years now, and one thing I have always missed is good Bacon. You can get something like it here, full of water, kind of pinkish in color, and not very nice. so decided I would have to try it myself and see if i can do it better.

My first attempt was about 6 months ago when I bought some belly from the market and did a dry salt/sugar/bay leave rub for 5 days, and then ate it. Not bad, but not quite there yet, and so started the smoker project!

I did some research, about the differences of hot & cold smoking, fire boxes, grills, different kinds of wood etc, and not being in a place where you can go to the nearest hardware store and pickup a smoker, decided to make one myself!

So, from my father-in-law I got a little charcoal fired pot-stove, and off I went to figure out how to get a smoke box. My conclusion was to buy an electrical fuse box, here they make them from a beige painted mild steel, with front doors and metal fittings. They are weather proof and reasonably priced, but they tend to be quite narrow.. But walking down the street I found a better solution. There was a Tin Smith making up kettles, and HVAC Ducting. I went into his shop, made a simple sketch, and asked him if he could do it, and he said come back in a week!

Here is the result:
Attachment 2723

Taking you through it step by step. The 'firebox' is an old cast iron pot stove that burns round charcoal pellets that seem only to be made in China. They are actually processed coal dust that is glued together to form a commonly used fuel. Because of the potential for all sorts of unnatural things in there I vent all that smoke up the chimney behind the pot stove.

Attachment 2724

For getting the smoke I am using two stainless steel bowls sat on top of eachother. I had my tinsmith cut a hole and stick a pipe into the top one so that I could channel the smoke into the smoke box.

Attachment 2725

The ducting between the wood box and the smoke box is probably around 3 or 4 metres long when extended, but so far i have found that even the around 1 m distance between the wood smoking and the smoke box, it seems to cool down a lot! Hopefully enough to do some good cold smoking!

For temperature indication I found an old meat thermometer from Ikea. It has a magnet on the back so it attaches nicely to the front of the smoke box.

Attachment 2726

I managed to find some Hickory wood chips last weekend when I happened to be in Singapore for a business trip, otherwise I would be stuck right here.. (Next trip to the country we will be stopping by an apple orchard to see if they have any last season windfall trees lying around!) Yesterday was the seasoning of the smoker. Had it going nicely for about 6 hours empty to season the metal, and even now the metal still smells nicely of smoke!

So onto the next chapter.. The first attempt at actual Bacon!

I will attempt a wet/dry cure, of Honey & Mustard with some salt & Sugar, in the fridge for 4 days, followed by a 6 hour low temperature Hickory Smoke..

Will follow up with the results, would appreciate any comments that could make this even better than it sounds already!!

Herr Tulpe
post #2 of 18

Way To GO!!!

Solving the problem the way you have is real creative, and very cool.

Bet it is hard to get it to 225 degrees?? Looks like a very good cold smoker.

post #3 of 18
Welcome to SMF. It's great when necessity takes over and problems are solved. Looks like a very good cold smoker set up. Let us know how the bacon comes out.

While you're here won't you put a push pin on our SMF Push Pin Map It's easy and you will be the first from China.

Thanks for sharing and Keep Smokin
post #4 of 18
Looks like a cool set-up ,but im my opinion your gonna want to smoke longer than 6 hours,I have done 2 bacon smokes 1 at 12hrs and the last at 16hours,and I still would like it smokier,just my .02 worth...post your results,we love the porn PDT_Armataz_01_23.gif
post #5 of 18
Welcome to SMF Herr Tulpe!!! Quite the project you have there, can't wait to see how your bacon comes out.
post #6 of 18
welcome to SMF... very cool looking ideas you have there
post #7 of 18
Thread Starter 

Meat Update..

Thanks all for the words of encouragement!

The logical next step was getting some meat and ready for a cure..

My wife went to the market today and got a piece of pork belly about 2.5 kilos, and I am lucky because it looks like a beautiful meaty piece of meat!! Luckily it includes the back end as well as the streaky bit which is a double treat!!

Attachment 2756

I am attempting a honey mustard cure, which so far consists of 1/2 jar of Dijon Mustard mixed with a few generous tablespoons of Honey. Then liberally coated with a sugar/salt mixture.

Attachment 2757

I plan to leave it for 3 or 4 days in this cure turning over every day, and then either Friday or Saturday night (depending on the weather) will smoke it overnight. Thanks T-Bone for the suggestion to leave it longer I will take your advice and leave it for minimum 12 hours, and then probably until the fire goes out and i wake up from having sat in the dark in front of the smoker with a crate of beer!

Will keep you posted with results!

post #8 of 18
That is quite a creation! Can't wait to hear how the bacon turns out... good luck and welcome aboard!
post #9 of 18
Welcome aboard!! I like the rig you have created! I cannot blame you one bit ..... I do not think I could live without bacon. Keep us posted.
post #10 of 18
Welcome to SMF .
post #11 of 18
Please be careful and make sure that none of the metal is galvanized. It will let of toxins that are harmful
post #12 of 18
I bow to your inventiveness sir!

I've been whining about the difficulty in obtaining smokers and accessories here in Canada ... which is nothing compared to what you have to go through. I have been humbled icon_cry.gif

Good luck with your bacon and if you are desparate for anything from here, I'm sure we can help in some way.

post #13 of 18
Thread Starter 
Cheech - Thanks for the note, and guess what, my smoke box is of course made of galv!! I am familiar with the zinc vapour that comes of galv when welding it, and its effects (the factory where I work stopped welding zinc coated plate 4 years ago because of this). This is serious during welding due to the high temperatures involved, welding is done in excess of 1000 deg C, whereas the melting temperature of zinc is around 400 C.

As my intention is for cold smoking, where the temperature should stay around ambient, 25 - 35 C, I believe that little to no zinc vapours would form at that temperature.

I justify this opinion from the follow sources:

http://www.coldsmoker.com/index.htm : This english company manufactures a cold smoker almost entirely out of galvanised sheet.

http://www.chowhound.com/topics/284991 & http://www.finishing.com/247/93.shtml : These two pages talk about the risk and effects of zinc poisoning, and appear not to be as serious as cadmium posioning.

There is one effect that I haven't been able to find out about yet, which is the corrosive effects of the smoke on zinc plating. I suspect it would be similar to the effect salty air would have, which is that it quickens the formation of zinc oxides, or the white powdery stuff that you get on zinc coated sheet over time. I guess ingesting this in large amounts would also not be healthy, but as there are no strong air currents and no intentional contact between the meat and the zinc coating, the risk of transmission is minimal.

Also because it is a white powder if you see it on the meat it should be quick to wipe off.

In one of the links they also talk about the build up of a black film on top of the zinc coating in the smoke box. I guess these are the essential oils of the wood dissolved in the smoke, and then deposited on the material. This will in time seal the material, even further reducing the risk of contamination.

Having said all that, you are correct that using galv sheet is probably an unnecessary risk. My intention was to use this setup to prove to myself that it works, and for the long term to construct something from stainless steel, which will be more hard wearing, and easier for cleaning. The air here is quite dirty with pollution and coal dust, so along with the humidity i don't expect galv to last very long!

Squeezy - Thanks for your kind words! We will see how the first bacon attempt turns out, hopefully smoking tomorrow night, assuming it isn't raining, and the wind isn't too strong. You learn how to improvise very quickly when you live in a country where you can't read anything, and can't understand 90% of what is said!

I am also working on alternative smoking material, as common woods like Hickory, Mesquite, Alder etc are not that common. Have a look at the following thread for a discussion on what else can be smoked:


My favourite suggestions so far, that I will be trying are: Sugar cane, corn cobs, peanut & walnut shells. I am also building up a stock of apple, pear, peach, cherry wood, and this weekend I am going to a local vineyard to talk them into giving me some grape vines, and maybe an old oak wine barrel..

With a bit of imagination, this might just work!!

post #14 of 18
tulpe, that is one creative smoker that you have there. When I saw your set up, I was reminded of a setup were an electric hot plate was used for the heat source and two stainless steel bowls were used as the smoke chamber, aluminum dryer vent hose between the smoker chamber and the food chamber box was made from oak-the inside of the oak box had been char-fired like they do to oak whisky barrels. It produced some fine cold smoked fish and cheese. (Good grief!! I just realized that I saw that set up 40 years ago when I was only 10!!~
post #15 of 18
Looking forward to seeing your experiment come to fruition ...

Best of luck Herr Tulpe PDT_Armataz_01_34.gif
post #16 of 18
Thread Starter 

The Result

Well here is how it went!

After taking the pork out of the cure and rinsing and drying it I hung it in front of a fan for around 90 minutes.. (Should have been an hour, but had trouble getting the fire to catch!)

Attachment 2773

When finally the fire was going ok, and the wood chips would be able to start smoking I set the meat up in the smoker.

Attachment 2774

Closed the lid, and checked on it every hour to make sure it was in smoke.

After 12 hours (overnight to maintain a temperature below 30 C) and checking it for the first 6 hours, this is what resulted.

Attachment 2775

Out of the smoker:

Attachment 2776

And finally a couple of slices

Attachment 2777

I fried these two up immediately, and they sizzled pretty good without shrinkage, just like good old fashioned bacon!! My wife said it was too smoky, but that was probably because it was the first slice, I am guessing the further into it you get the less intense? But she liked it and said it smelt better than storebought which is good news!

Pretty good altogether, but it will take some learning controlling the temperature of the potstove to maintain even smoke. I will post some photos of the charcoal briquets they use here, and they are not so easy to work with if you need to "reload."

post #17 of 18
Looks pretty good to me ... Note: I always save the outside bits for myself ... I like it smokier than the little woman.
Stay with it ... PDT_Armataz_01_37.gif
post #18 of 18
Welcome to SMF.
Good lookin' stuff you got there!
Hope the bacon works out.
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