I did it! I built my curing chamber! (Massive amounts of Build-View)

Discussion in 'Slicers, Grinders, Tools, Equipment' started by xutfuzzy, Jan 27, 2013.

  1. xutfuzzy

    xutfuzzy Meat Mopper OTBS Member

    Bacon got me hooked, corned beef and pastrami sealed the deal.  Next, I wanted to get into long-term cured meats, which would require a lot more work and a curing chamber.  After ample research, I finally bit the bullet and just dove right in.  Here is how I did it:

    The first step was to acquire a fridge.  I scoured Craigslist for months.  What I really wanted to avoid was having to "cut out" the freezer portion, so I refined my searches to things like "full sized fridge" or "all refrigerator" or things of that nature.  I finally found a couple, and this one was closest to my budget.  I really only wanted to spend $150 or less, but when I saw this guy I knew I would be willing to go up to $200.  The glass door was the clincher.


    It would need some (read: a LOT, it had been in some guy's garage for a number of years, unused) of cleaning up but I wanted it.

    There were three things that I wanted to control:

    (1) temperature - most curing would be done around 55 degrees, so I needed to bypass the fridge's thermostat

    (2) humidity - fridges are notoriously dry, so that would need to be amped up

    (3) air flow - from what I read while doing research, you want SOME airflow

    Let's begin with air flow.  For about $15, I purchased a computer cooling fan.  Wanting to keep in air while the fan was off, I also purchased a dryer vent with flaps because it was about the same size.


    I used some old scrap lumber from a previous project.  It happened to be walnut, but cheap wood is just as nice.  I started by framing the dryer vent.  This would be on the outside of the fridge as my exhaust.


    See?  It secures right on!


    The cooling fan had screws in odd places and didn't exactly match up with the back of the dryer vent.  I built myself a spacer using 1/4" plywood and a bandsaw (my jigsaw recently broke).


    There, much better.  Now air wouldn't leak out the sides.


    Here's the same thing, but from a different angle.


    Next I mounted the fan to my exhaust port.


    Then I framed it out so that airflow wouldn't be so bad.  Looking back, I might have been able to just place this inside the side of the fridge, but hey, I've never done this before.   I was smart enough, however, to predrill a hole for the wiring.


    The problem with the computer fan is that it runs on 12 volts.  If I wired it straight to a 110v outlet, some interesting things might have happened.  I needed to step down the voltage.  Luckily, I had never thrown away my really old cell phone charger that was about a decade old.  It just so happened to have a 12v output!


    I snipped the end, wired them together and plugged it it.  If you look at the picture below, you can see the flaps blowing out!  It worked!


    While building this, I was simultaneously Cloroxing the heck out of the fridge. 


    During all this, by temperature controller arrived in the mail!


    I also went to Home Depot and picked up my humidifier.  I kept reading in my research how "sonic" humidifiers were the best for this situation, so I made sure it was one of those.


    The fridge came with a couple of racks, but I only used one at the very top.  This is where I would hang my treasures from.  In a couple of builds I came across, most were using L-irons and dowel rods, but I figured this would work just as well, and I would use S-hooks to hang from the rack.


    I installed a 2x4 between two joists in my basement.  I wanted the power strip off the floor and away from walls, as I live in a 100 year old house with a stone foundation that has random leaks.


    I glued the powerstrip to this using construction adhesive.


    Next, I wanted to build my intake vent and interior frames.  I framed them out using the same dimensions as my exhaust.


    Okay...it was time to do the part I was dreading...cutting the hole in the side of the fridge.  I was nervous about this.


    This would be easy with a reciprocating saw, but the question was, how do you get your blade in there in the first place?  I first tried using a hole saw bit.


    Let's just say that didn't work so great.  It dulled instantly.  I then tried using 3/8" drill bits to drill out the corners and get my blade in once the holes were big enough.  It was a pain, it ended up being super ugly (serious dents from my drill slipping can be seen in the top left of the hole) but hey, I finally got what I needed.  I wasn't too worried about neatness because I would be masking both sides with my frames.


    Here is the intake vent on the other side of the fridge.  I place it at the bottom from maximum air exchange.


    If you look closely, the exhaust is in the top left and the intake is on the bottom right. When the fan kicked on, the old air would be taken out the top left and new air would come in on the bottom right for better air flow and changing of air in the chamber.


    I didn't want the air on the WHOLE time, so I hooked it up to an automatic timer.  I would set it to run for 15 minutes once a day, every day.  The fan's specs said that it would move 85 cubic feet per minute, so the 15 minutes seemed MORE than appropriate. 


    To help keep the exhaust fan in place, I screwed on a strip of wood that would help support the weight.


    Attached and glued using the construction adhesive.


    Same thing, from another angle.  The awful-looking hole I cut is now hidden on the outside.


    I stapled a piece of window screen to the frame to keep creatures from traveling through, and screwed this frame to the inside of the exhaust port.  Now the terrible-looking hole looked much classier and would keep "guests" from visiting my treasures.


    I had to do the same thing for the intake port, with the exception that it would not have a fan.  The frame would have window screen and a dryer vent.


    Ready to go!


    I used 2.5" screws that both held the dryer vent to the frame and the frame to the interior wall.


    Installed and ready. 


    On the exterior side of the intake, I wanted to use an air filter to prevent the bad things in basement air from getting in.


    I made sure that it was rated for molds.


    For the exterior frame, I needed to build a pocket for the air filter.


    I cut the air filter to size.


    The frame was attached and ready for the filter.


    If I wanted, I could have built a fancy hinged cap, but I wasn't feeling up to it.  Perhaps later.


    I plugged it in to test out the air flow.  I grabbed a sheet of paper and placed it against the interior wall of the exhaust port.  The air flow was strong enough to hold the piece of paper on its own!


    Although it's not too noticeable, the flaps on the intake side on lower right of the fridge were sticking out, indicating that air was moving into the chamber when the exhaust fan was on.  It worked!  The picture was taken through the glass door, so in the sealed environment my plan had actually come together!  I was quite pleased, as this was probably the most difficult aspect of this whole thing.


    I drilled a hole for the hygrostat (humidity controller) and thermostat.


    The plug for the extension cord for the hygrostat wouldn't fit through the hole, so it would need to be snipped and have a replacement plug put on.


    Snipped and ready, but you can't put it on yet!


    First, feed it through the wall!


    Much better.


    Here is the temperature probe.


    This would need to be "dressed" later, I can't stand loose cords like this.


    I ran the temperature probe through the wire rack so that it would be suspended near the meat.


    Next, I wanted my hygrostat near the same place.  I figured I could built a ledge inside the fridge.  I measured the skinny part of the hourglass-shaped device.


    Here is my idea for the ledge.


    I would then cut a groove and slide the hygrostat in the groove to hold it in place.


    Done...now let's see if it worked.


    Perfect!  The control is still accessible, as well as the plug!


    Let's install it so that, like the temperature probe, it is near the the middle of the chamber.


    Looks good so far.


    Nice!


    Cords inside chamber were now made pretty.  Also, I placed in a second (backup) meter that measured both temperature and humidity.


    Now to deal with that hold I drilled...I didn't want air escaping.


    This really IS great stuff.


    No more unwanted airflow!


    Same thing, but from the inside.


    Wow...27% humidity in my basement...must be January in Cincinnati.


    I plugged in the hygrostat to compare it to the backup reader.  They were close, and since this picture was taken (last night) they are now only about 3% different.  The temperature (compare to the picture above) shows that the temperature probe is working perfectly.  The fridge cooled it down from 61 to 55 and then shut off!


    Here is the mess of cords and cables that I wanted away from walls and floors.


    All done!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    I can't wait!

    Parts:

    (1) Fridge - $200 from Craigslist

    (2) Temperature controller - $50 from Amazon

    (3) Hygrostat - $50 from Amazon

    (4) Humidifier - $40 - $50 (can't remember) Home Depot

    (5) Junk laying around in basement that was free: scrap wood, scrap window screen, 12v DC converter

    (6) Fan - $15 at Radioshack

    (7) Dryer vents - $4 each at Home Depot

    (8) Backup climate reader - $10 - $15 at Home Depot
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2013
    rimfirerifleman and crazymoon like this.
  2. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Corey, morning..... Nice build.... Now we get to see more aged food being made....  I have to build one of them some day....   Dave
     
  3. nepas

    nepas Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Nice build.

    Watch the fan, it can make for some fast case hardening and the draw from the back can introduce bacteria and dirt into the cure area.

    Whacha going to dry 1st
     
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2013
  4. X2

    You may want to consider a speed controller for the fan.

    Very nice build!


    ~Martin
     
  5. fpnmf

    fpnmf Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Fl
    Looks great!!

      Craig
     
  6. pgsmoker64

    pgsmoker64 Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    Nice job Corey!

    So, what's up first for the new curing chamber?

    Bill
     
  7. xutfuzzy

    xutfuzzy Meat Mopper OTBS Member

    I figured I would start off with something "quick" and easy to see how my chamber works and what needed tweaking, so I am going with guanciale (cured pig jowl) and duck prosciutto.  I will, of course, document and post!
     
  8. Very cool! Can't wait to see this full!
     
  9. Very nice build! I wish I had a glass front cooler like yours! I just built one too and I can't wait to make something! I had to giggle when I read your opening line "Bacon got me hooked, pastrami sealed the deal!"
    Me too...
     
  10. mr t 59874

    mr t 59874 Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Yep, your hooked.  Will look forward to some results.

    Tom
     
  11. xutfuzzy

    xutfuzzy Meat Mopper OTBS Member

    Just a teaser for some posts I will have soon. 

     
  12. Looking very good to me!
     
  13. frosty

    frosty Master of the Pit

    This curing chamber is a thing of BEAUTY!  What a great primer on how to do it, and great photos.  I only wish I had room for a curing chamber, but, alas, no room at the inn.

    Congratulations!
     
  14. bluebombersfan

    bluebombersfan Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Great job!  Very detailed pics are great!  I am working on one too and will post soon.  Can't wait to see how those first goodies turn out!!!
     
  15. fagesbp

    fagesbp Smoking Fanatic

    Inspiring build. I'd love to make 1 nearly identical. Something else to keep a look out for on craigslist.
     
  16. squirrel

    squirrel Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    What a fantastic tutorial! I'll keep an eye on you! I've been searching CL for something like what you have. Thanks for sharing all the details. It sure helps out when you're researching like I am. Great job!!! [​IMG]
     
  17. nepas

    nepas Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Craigslist

    Merchandiser

    Thats where i bought my Sobe.

     
  18. zahlgren

    zahlgren Smoking Fanatic

    [​IMG]
     
  19. trizzuth

    trizzuth Smoke Blower

    This build as well as the SOBE one are just amazing! 

    I'd love to have a see-through curing chamber, or smoker even, that would be the freshness.
     
  20. jarjarchef

    jarjarchef Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Looks great....now I want one.....just need somewhere to put it.....
     

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