Jerky Dehydrator/Smoker Build...

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Original poster
Mar 11, 2013
Hey all, I have been working on my jerky recipes for the past few months and am looking to upgrade from my cardboard box smoker to something bigger and a bit more professional. Ive seen alot of posts about different smokers. This will be used only to make jerky. Ideally the possibility of making both smoked or normal dehydrated jerky. I have seen some designs and just wanted to ask:

For jerky production on a bit larger scale, keeping build costs and technical difficulty as low as possible which would you reccomend

A wooden rig or a metal rig?

Heat source - electric hotplates or bulb/coil?

Fan ventilation required, or just a bonus?

External smoker box (recommendations on an external firebox to buy, or could I make my own)?

I was thinking about something like this, but was hoping to find something with better instructions (again i'm not a pro builder, very amateur):

I am not very technical and am kind of a beginner when it comes to building stuff. Even building a standing "closet" out of wood will be somewhat of a challenge for me, so keeping that in mind when providing tips would be helfpul. 

So far my setup is a cardboard box, 2 electric hotplates, and some old oven racks hanging on wooden dowels. It has worked OK, but you can taste the cardboard in the meat. Also I'm not so convinced on the hotplates for dehydrating, they also put off an odd "plastic-like" smell.

Thanks for your thoughts and advice, I plan to sell a bit of this at the local farmers markets so I want to have a good quality jerky and be able to produce a bit of volume if demand is there.

One more thing: Alot of finished products smoker grills, Amazn products, etc. are tough to come by as I am in EU, so making things myself might be cheaper than paying boatloads of shipping to just outright buy a smoker from the US. I also havent found a good source of pellets yet, but am working on that.

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Metal - stainless would be best

Electric- easier to control temp.

Ventilation required, fan a bonus

AMNPS -  no need for any additional headaches to start off.  You can always build on later. 

 just my $.02

Here is a picture of my build on this thread, the racks are not in but It can fit (8) 16 x 24 " wire racks.  › Forums  › Cold Smoking  › Info and Practices  › Advice on Budget Cold Smoker Build
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Hey, thanks for the tips.

Now the challenge would be finding a stainless steel box large enough that wouldnt break the bank. Any ideas? I have seen the fridge builds, not sure if that would make sense. Another thing I should mention:

Im currently dehydrating in my apartment (live in the city), so all materials would be carried up 4 flights of stairs, and eventually moved out when I have a space outside of the apartment to work. Due to this, a wooden dehydrator seems easier to manage as it could be taken apart and brought in and out in pieces.
Find a local company that installs, or supplies restaurants, hotels and hospitals with food holding cabinets. Try to buy one off them that doesn't work.  you can get them cheap.  They come insulated an non insulated. I live in an area with cold winters so insulated  was the right choice for me to save on electricity. Non insulated units are easier to work with they don't have a double wall.  Then fix it with common parts and modify the cabinet to accept the parts. Check  recycling or scrap yards in your area. ( The price is cheaper but most units are stripped of hinges and latches, racks and trays. Their is a commercial equipment installer close to me and he scraps all his old units.    My holding cabinet needed 3 heating elements replaced. They just scrapped it because it would cost more to fix than it was worth.  But I wanted a smoker not a holding cabinet so a single stove top burner mounted in the bottom of the cabinet didn't bother me. I just drilled a few holes and made it work.  Good luck. With a little effort you can have a smoker that you built to suit your needs.
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