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First time smoke house build with pics

BigLar368

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Joined Oct 10, 2021
I started making bacon earlier this year after buying my first pellet smoker. I found it fairly easy and straight forward but the pellet grill was mediocre at best. I stumbled up on this forum a few months ago and got the idea to build my own smoke shack. I must say I looked at every build thread in this forum that was particular to my interests. I am not much of a builder or original thinker meaning I'm not much on fabricating my own things but I can copy just about anything. At first I thought about making a small smoker box on casters and power it by electric. After lots of reading I decided against that and the fact I had more room in my backyard than in my garage. I decided to build mine and fire it with a propane burner and like many other here use the burner sourced from Northern Tool. I decided to line the inside with Hardi 1/2" concrete backer board sealing all the cracks with 3M fire block. Outside was skinned with just board and bat made out of cedar fence pickets. I built our chicken coop basically the same way so I just kept the same theme. Whole build took about a month of weekends.

First thing first was to find a spot. I had a small section at the end of a garden spot near my wood pile that I had to place the ground boards on since it was rotten. I just shortened my garden and used that spot for the base.

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Again seeing what others had done I decided to use 2 courses of cinder blocks. I left one in the back sideways so the open holes could draft air. I left the front open one block width to make a door to open to adjust things or add wood. Before I set the cinder blocks I put 1/2" anchors in the slab. After the mortar set on the blocks I ran all thread down to the anchors with double ended nuts welded together. I then poured the open holes in the cinder blocks with concrete locking the all thread in place. Sorry I failed to get pics of the anchors and the poured holes. Please forgive my masonry skills...lol. That's about the nest I could do but it was square and level.

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After securing the foundation and blocks I started on the construction of the base and walls. Nothing fancy here. Every thing I could get to was pocket screwed together. Base was anchored to the all thread attached to the concrete slab. Roof was nothing more than slight slope just about like the chicken coop with a metal roof. Insulation was just unfaced insulation. Inside was concrete board all the way around including the ceiling. I decided against metal as I hard a decent budget but sheet metal would have broke it. Just the one sheet of roofing was 60 bucks...lol. The inside dimensions turned out to be 39"X39"X84".

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Next was skinning the outside. I made a small miscalculation when I started the build making it very close to the fence. It was a PITA but I have long arms so I made it work. I used cedar fence pickets for the boards and bats. Since I could not seal this thing with any tar paper I caulked the gaps with Lexel under the bats where the boards butted up together. I shot them all in place with 1/4" staples then came back and screwed everything down with deck screws. The cedar boards over hang the block by just a little so when it's rained on it will shed off instead weeping under the base plate. There is also couple layers of foam sealing strips to keep the wood off the cinder blocks. Almost forgot the exhaust is nothing more than a metal 14" X 7" vent in the back wall. I lined that opening as well with the cement board.

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Next came the door which I stressed about the most but it actually came out ok. I made the door into the frame so it would be a pretty tight fit. I then cut a small shim strip to place under the door while I set the hinges. The door fits pretty tight with a small interference fit. I used two slide bolts to secure it in place. Once I got the door set in place and latched tight I cut 1X4's to the height and width of the door. I then crawled inside through the bottom access port and traced the boards against the inside of the door frame so the boards would fit flush with the inside. I then used some fire tape seal I got from Amazon and put it on the cut boards. I then crawled back inside and secured the boards up against the door. This was all done so that I would have a good seal to keep smoke from weeping around the door. I also skinned the inside of the door with concrete board and insulated the gap between the concrete board and exterior covering. The door did have a small twist in it when not latched but I figured after the first fire things might form to the tight fit. That actually did happen and worked liked I anticipated. Hard to believe something actually worked my way...lol.

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Before finishing the bottom access door I wanted to burn it in some so I would know if I needed to insulate the small port door. I had a small fire pit that fit just inside the cinder blocks. I had to make sure it would hold/withstand some heat. I primarily wanted to make bacon and smoked sausage but also do some BBQ with temps up to 300 degrees. I went ahead and lit a small fire and eventually got the temps up to around 450. I have yet to install any analog thermometers. I had already ordered a remote, 4 probe digital thermometer so I just used one of the leads snaked through the exhaust vent in the back. After awhile when it got up pretty hot and I noticed there was smoke coming from under the roof where the boards come up to the metal roofing. I left a small gap there just by design and nothing more. Upon closer inspection it was not smoke but rather steam from condensation I guess from the cement board.

After things cooled down I looked in the inside the next day and seen that the concrete board had got so hot that they expanded and where I used the 3M fire block it had cracked. I just resealed it with another tube of the 3M and figured I would never let it get that hot again. Lesson learned.

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After burning it in some I went ahead and finished the bottom door. During the initial burn in I just used some old cuts of the fence boards to cover the hole and the wood never even got hot. I just built a small frame door about the same way I did the big door. I felt there was no need to seal it as I never seen any smoke come out of it during the burn in. Below is the finished outside pics. I plan on building a metal hangar to keep the propane bottle off the ground just to kinda clean it up some.

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By now I had all the stuff to get the propane going. I went with a high pressure regulator and needle valve thinking I could control the flame. Yeah.....that did not work well enough to say it worked correctly however it did work. I used a stainless steel gas line to the burner and then snaked it out the back vent holes in the sideway set cinder block around to the propane tank. Upon first lighting it the flame would never clean up with lots of yellow tips. I ended up having to blow it apart and found brass shavings and styrofoam inside the valves. Also one valve was cross threaded. You just gotta love stuff from China...lol. After cleaning everything up fixing the cross thread the burner worked great but I found when the skillet is close to the burner the flame did not look right. I ended up welding some 3/8" nuts to the grate so I could thread some bolts to raise the skillet up some. With everything done the burner worked very well. Just with the center ring on high I was able to get the inside up to around to 210 with outside temp around 55 degrees.

After figuring out the burner I just made some simple racks inside by drilling some 5/8" holes in the middle of some 2X4's and splitting them on the table saw. I used 1/2" rebar for hangars. I then did another burn with the propane and skillet. I found that when the inside heats up and the concrete boards heat soak all the temps from the middle of the box to the ceiling stay within 3 to 5 degrees of each other respectively. It drafts fairly well. I can stick my hand in the back and feel the air being drawn in. I did find at higher temps the wood burns and catches fire fairy easy in the skillet. Soaking the wood may help. I still have a ways to go to learn how to get this thing to where I want it.

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In closing I would like to thank all those who have posted their builds in the past. All the research into those builds gave me quite a few ideas about how to complete this build. Other than the burner I did not run into anything that I would deem a setback. I plan on returning that regulator tomorrow and trying something different. Other than that and making some expandable metal rack there is not much left to do. I'm sure I will add on little things later as I figure out what makes things easier.

I did save most all my receipts. Total was $1285 in receipts. I'm sure I forgot somethings and I had a few things but not much to change the price so lets just save conservatively right around $1400 total. I look forward to posting some food pics as soon as I get everything lined out.

Sorry for the long post. Just wanted to cover everything. I'm sure I left something out...lol.
 

SmokinEdge

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Beautiful smokehouse!
I too run that ridiculous burner. Even the valves will catch fire. Keep a sharp eye. In the colder months I run a traditional turkey fryer burner. Works much better here in Colorado winters. Spring and fall though it’s too much horsepower, so I switch to the same burner you posted. I tried a low pressure regulator and needle valve. That didn’t work, so am currently running a high pressure with needle valve. It works, but I’ll be switching burners for the turkey fryer in a couple weeks. Much smoother for me in the cold winter months.

Again, excellent job on that smokehouse. Mine is my avatar picture. Any help I can give you, I will do so.
 

BigLar368

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Beautiful smokehouse!
I too run that ridiculous burner. Even the valves will catch fire. Keep a sharp eye. In the colder months I run a traditional turkey fryer burner. Works much better here in Colorado winters. Spring and fall though it’s too much horsepower, so I switch to the same burner you posted. I tried a low pressure regulator and needle valve. That didn’t work, so am currently running a high pressure with needle valve. It works, but I’ll be switching burners for the turkey fryer in a couple weeks. Much smoother for me in the cold winter months.

Again, excellent job on that smokehouse. Mine is my avatar picture. Any help I can give you, I will do so.

Thanks. I appreciate the offer. It's not that cold here rarely ever getting below freezing so this burner will work for now. Thinking bout trying this regulator. Seems like it will work little better. We will see tomorrow...lol.

Bayou Classic 30 PSI Adjustable Regulator w/ 48 In Outdoor Cooker Propane Hose 50904030306 | eBay
 

SmokinEdge

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Thanks. I appreciate the offer. It's not that cold here rarely ever getting below freezing so this burner will work for now. Thinking bout trying this regulator. Seems like it will work little better. We will see tomorrow...lol.

Bayou Classic 30 PSI Adjustable Regulator w/ 48 In Outdoor Cooker Propane Hose 50904030306 | eBay
If 30 psi is max and can be adjusted lower maybe. I like your idea of elevating the skillet. That grate is short. But the 3 valves in front keep catching fire for me. PITA.
 

indaswamp

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Very nice smokehouse! I also lined my smokehluse with hardiboard, helps protect the wood against fire hazzard. But I would caution against running a wood smokehouse above 300*F, even if it is lined with hardiboard. High temps will degrade the wood and eventually it will light and catch fire at temps above 300*F.
 

bauchjw

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Beautiful work! You are a craftsman for sure! That is a work of art for some amazing bacon.
 

BigLar368

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Joined Oct 10, 2021
If 30 psi is max and can be adjusted lower maybe. I like your idea of elevating the skillet. That grate is short. But the 3 valves in front keep catching fire for me. PITA.

I read on their website it could be used for anything because it could be adjusted really low. The one I have now if you just touch the needle valve the flame changes drastically in either direction so there is no real fine control.

So far my valves have not caught fire. Even at elevated temps I can stick may bare hand in there and turn a valve on or off without it being so hot I can't touch them.
 

indaswamp

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for precision flame control, I highly recommend the propane needle valve from Tejas smokers...

950-BRF-MB - Precision machined brass Gas Needle Valve for fine adjustment of gas flow, 1/4" female NPT x 3/8" male Gas Flare. ideal for torches, weed burners, kilns, tarpot heaters, blacksmith forges, manifolds, and furnaces.



► Designed/manufactured to our specifications. Not available elsewhere.


► Machined Solid Brass Gas Needle Valve of high quality


► 1/4" female NPT outlet x 3/8" male Gas Flare inlet


► Knurled brass control knob, valve rated at 350 PSI


Wt. 4.7 oz. Free shipping to the 48 contiguous U.S. States

https://tejassmokers.com/searchproducts.php?srch=needle valve
 

SmokinAl

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You are very talented!
Can’t wait to see your first smoke!
Al
 

BigLar368

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Joined Oct 10, 2021
for precision flame control, I highly recommend the propane needle valve from Tejas smokers...



https://tejassmokers.com/searchproducts.php?srch=needle valve

I try and source most stuff locally to help out small business owners. I just posted that regulator from Ebay for the photo. There is a small hardware store near my house that has the exact same one I posted. If it does not work out I will try the folks in the link ya posted. Thanks.
 

1MoreFord

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I'd look for a lower BTU burner for cold smoke/BBQ applications. Don't soak your wood. Rather look for green wood. Dry wood doesn't take on moisture quickly. You only have surface moisture and when it's gone, it's gone and you're back where you started only with a delay.

My father was an ole country boy from back in the great depression era who was familiar with ole country smoke houses. As a teenager I bought my first smoker. It was an El Cheapo Brinkman aka ECB! On my first smoke my father told me to go out into the surrounding woods and cut a small hickory sapling down and put a few sticks into the smoker on top of the charcoal. It was the finest smelling cook and finest tasting results you can imagine. I still compare my cooks to my early days with green hickory on charcoal.
 
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BigLar368

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Joined Oct 10, 2021
So I got the new regulator. Night and day difference. I played with it a little yesterday and was able to maintain 110 on the smaller, center fire ring.

After that we decided to cook some chicken legs just to break it in. I kept the temp around 275/280 and the legs cooked up really nice. Took about an hour and 45 mins. Not a huge distinct smoke flavor but enough to tell it had some. Wife is not a huge smoke fan but she is coming around. If I could have brined them over night I'm sure that would have made a huge difference in taste. Anyways the temp was fairly stable for most of the cook. Look forward to adding some things and cooking some more. Gonna cure up a salmon filet today for a cook tomorrow.

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mike243

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Looks great, get a lid for the skillet and drill a few holes in it, that way it cant catch fire.
 

BigLar368

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Looks great, get a lid for the skillet and drill a few holes in it, that way it cant catch fire.

Yeah I thought about that but damn that's a huge skillet and it did not come with a lid. I may cut a piece of steel plate I have and make one. Thanks.
 
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BigLar368

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Well, i tired my hand at some salmon. I cured it 24 hours and smoked it for 4 hours. Smoking part was no problem....saltiness was out of the park too much. I followed the recipe but I should have stuck with my gut feeling that 24 hours was too long. Lesson learned.

Fast forward to yesterday. I made about 12 pounds of Chaurice sausage following two guys and a cooler Eric's recipe. I made the sausage yesterday and let it sit overnight. When I got up for work this morning, I placed them in the oven with the door open and the convection fan on and the oven off. I returned home three hours later and fired up the smoker. This would be the first time I had ever smoked a cured, raw sausage. I was able to maintain 100 degrees with no smoke for an hour. I then cranked it up to 125 with some smoke for 1 hour. Next was 135 for 1.5 hours. Then 145 for an hour to 155 for an hour. I then went to 165 for an hour but about half way through I quit the smoke. I then went to 175 until it got to 145 internal. I took them out then into an ice bath. I left them on the counter for couple hours then vac packed them and into the fridge for the next couple days.

I have to say I think I figured the box out some today. I was able to nail my temps with ease and the box stayed really consistent. I also did not have any wood flare ups. I raised the skillet up an inch or so and only used one side of the outer ring on the burner. By doing this I was able to place the wood on the other side of the pan and it just smoldered never lighting off in flames. I only used 4 small pieces of wood (oak) for the entire smoke. I have some bacon curing now and can't wait till next weekend to get it in the smoke.

Oh and I have some nice, stainless hooks coming. For now I had to make some out of TIG welding rods...lol. They worked out ok. Thanks for all those who replied with advice. I really appreciate yall.

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