How big a smokehouse should I build

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Original poster
Jan 26, 2014
Hey Everyone,

I am starting to gather up ideas for building a smokehouse, but the first thing I need help with is how big? I would like it to be big enough that I can smoke 4 hams, 4 bacons, and 1 loin at the same time. I would like to have double that capacity, but I figure the processing will take to long, cutting then wrapping it all . I should probably look around first, but I saw various times to smoke bacon, how about ham, are the smoke times the same for both? I have so many questions. So much more reading to do. I have read a bit on smoking, but I have spent most of my time looking at plans, and I can't believe how long it took me to find this site.


- Nato
Good luck on your build, there's a lot of folks on here that will help steer ya in the right direction. WHB
I have an idea of what I am going to do, size is my first big question, with many more to follow I'm sure.
What kind of room do you have, how do you want to handle hot smoke vs cold smoke, do you want to cook or just smoke?  You forgot the cheese and the sausage.  Can you build an exposed smokehouse in your neighborhood?  Do you have access to decent quantities of smoking woods?

I built a 6x6x8ft tall smokehouse I use primarily for cold smoke.  Hot smoking happens in the reverse flow.  The smokehouse is raised about 3 ft of the ground so I could build a firebox out of concrete about 6 ft away.  The firebox is connected to the smokehouse by plenum and I get great cool smoke for bacon and cured sausages. 

I found hanging sausage takes up more room then anything else you have mentioned. 

Everything I smoke get's smoked to color, not time.  Since all you are doing is flavoring you can go as long or as short as you want.  Most of my bacon smokes go a minimum of overnight and often  close to  36 hrs.  Hams about the same.   Sausage is generally to a pretty good color after 6 - 8 hours.  Remember this is cold smoke, everything gets finished off and cooked to temperature when I am ready to use it. 

Pork loins can be cured and basically treated like your bacon.  Curing raw hams is a bit of a different process and you'll probably want learn a bit more about it before giving it a try.  You may be able to find cured, raw hams that are real easy to cold smoke and then bring to temp.

If you want to hot smoke all these meats you'll need a bit more rugged smokehouse.  I would prefer cinder block or solid plank construction if using temps over 250 degrees.  There again I have a small Lang RF smoker so I do all my hot smoking in the pit.

Good Luck
Hey alblancher, thanks for the reply. The biggest thing I am concerned with right now is cold smoking. I raise hogs in the summer and I have to drive almost an hour to drop off my meat, and the price seems to have gone up more than I want to pay. I have wanted to make a smoker for a while, and now I have some motivation. I will hot smoke to cook eventually, but I'm not quite there yet. Although, i was thinking of building a whole hog hot smoker, so I figure I should be able to use that for hot smoking, but due to the size of the smoker, I figure it will be very inefficient. I need to smoke my hams, bacons, and the odd loin.

Cheese and sausage, I love cheese, but I have never had smoked cheese before, so it will have to happen. As for the sausage, I don't eat very much of it, but I have made pepperoni before using liquid smoke (I hope I won't get kicked off here for using the liquid smoke). I know I cheated, but I didn't have the means to do it properly.

I have about 5 acres, and I am not worried about neighbours, I only have one, but I can't even see their house in the summer. My wood situation isn't so good. I can get my hands on maple, birch, maybe some apple, that's about it. I would prefer some mesquite and hickory. I will primarily use maple, and I will also buy wood chunks from the store.

I was originally going to go with a cinder block smokehouse, but after pricing it last summer, I decided against it. I am on a very tight budget, and it was just too much.

I am not too worried, like I say, about hot smoking right now, but I need to learn to smoke bacons and hams, because in about nine months I will need to smoke my first ham. I was half thinking of trying to cure and smoke a store bought ham, that way I don't mess up my own pork. I keep 6-10 hogs on half an acre, but I found ten was too many for that size paddock. Next year I am cutting back a by few hogs, we're thinking 7 or 8. Its so rewarding eating pork that has been raised at home with plenty of room to play, and even though they are like pets to us, even the kids love eating them.
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Just remember any type of meat or fowl you cold smoke should be cured.  Like I mentioned curing hams are a bit different and you need to do some research on them.  I'm not qualified to help you with that.

I would think that if you are going to be butchering your own pigs sausage making could be a pretty handy skill.  Lots of scraps and bits and pieces.  

My smokehouse is made of T111 siding, 2x4s and a 3/4 inch ply floor.  I have plywood and roll roofing on the top but you may want to go with metal.   Heater vent pipe is pretty inexpensive and your fire box could be made with whatever materials you have available.  I poured  4x4x3 ft  2 in thick concrete panels.  Stood them up to make a box, placed a piece of plywood on top and poured concrete onto the plywood.    if you pour the roof right when the plywood burns off the concrete roof holds all the sides together.  I used aluminum screen eave vents in the gables.  My smokehouse works out pretty well for what I do. 

I don't know how well birch rates as a smoke wood but I'll bet that maple and apple will work great for you.

Thinking about it a bit more if you build your fire box right I bet it could double as a whole pig hot smoker.  Why not look at it that way.  Sounds like a great project.
OK, I spent most of last night researching curing of hams. I came across Country Smoked Ham. Wow, what a job. That would be nice to try sometime, but I think I will work on simple hams for now. The place where my meat is being smoked right now only keeps my meat for a couple of weeks, and it is cold smoked, and that is what i am looking for right now. When you cautioned me on the ham, were you thinking Country Ham? I'll be honest I only heard of Country Ham last night, and yes, it looks like a lot of care and attention needs to be taken. I was thinking a liquid brine (not sure how long, opinions seem to vary) for however many days, then a cold smoke, slice it into steaks, then freeze. Now my questions is this, can I prepare my ham the same as bacon? Or are there still precautions I need to take. I will be honest, when I was looking for ham instructions as I have described, I didn't have much luck. Everyone seems focused on the Country Ham.

I did get some good news today. A buddy of mine knows where there are pallets of cinder blocks sitting in somebody's yard, and they have been there for, he says, at least three years. So, when the snow goes in April, I will see how much he wants for them. My buddy figures I should be able to get them fairly cheap.

Here's a dumb question, can you hot smoke in a wooden smoker? I don't see why not, but wood and heat, and my inexperience makes me think there would be some potential for problems. Not necessarily catching fire, but having the wood dry out even more and shrink up on me. I am an industrial mechanic, not a carpenter. Now you mention plywood. Are there fillers/glues that could pose a health risk if used in a hot smoker?

Lastly, I was thinking the same as you had said about using a hot smoker for a whole pig. That would work perfect.

Thanks for all the feedback.

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The problem with curing a raw ham is it's size and the amount of fat it contains.   You inject cure/brine into the ham and soak in additional cure/brine.  The big difference between a country ham and brined ham is the amount of time a country ham sits in a curing room.  It dries out, become dense and flavorful and salty!  Turn around time for a properly cured country ham can be months to years.  As mentioned earlier, look on this site for tips on curing hams.  It isn't impossible to do, just not a project I would recommend to someone not familiar with curing meats.  Make a new post with How to Cure Ham in the title and let those that do offer their opinions.

There are many people on this site that hot smoke in a smokehouse.  I know there are a lots of schematics on the Internet for smokehouses, many of which use lumber in their construction.   I wouldn't use plywood for a hot smoker, as you said, no telling what will drop out of the glues.   My guess is rough cut untreated lumber is doable, or some combination of lumber and cinderblock construction.   

Your first post led me to believe you wanted cold smoke.  If you design and build the smokehouse properly you can do both, is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.

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