Smoking Novice in Need of HELP!

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Original poster
Dec 19, 2016
The title of this thread says it all: I am certainly a novice at smoking meats, period! My dad always made us jerky and sausage from the critters we were fortunate to harvest that year. A few months ago, he built me a very basic smokehouse. I have used it a couple times. However, my father - the one who'd be directed this question - suddenly passed away due to a ranching accident very recently. The "temporary" smokehouse he built me now takes on a much more sentimental, permanent meaning; one of which I do not want to modify for any reason. It is basically a plywood box (approximately 8'x8'x6') with removable windows and a small door. He helped me seal up the smokehouse to TRY to prevent smoke from escaping. Under his guidance, I seal up the windows and door, put one smoke on my jerky using cool coals in a metal bucket/pit set on the floor, then go back 8 or so hours later to open the windows and let it dry for 4 or so days. Man, it was perfect!

I live in a place with a REAL winter (South Dakota), but I am from a place with what I now know as a pseudo-one (Texas). It is already subzero temperatures. My question relates to how you smoke things in winter. If I follow my Dad's method, the meat will certainly freeze quickly - perhaps even before the smoke completes! Does this matter? I Googled smoking meats in winter and ended up with more questions than answers: cold smoke, hot smoke, etc. I am truly confused.

Again, I don't want to modify this special hunk of plywood, but I am hoping to provide the rest of my non-hunting family with jerky. I remember my 8-year-old niece crying shortly after my father passed and said, "now who's going to make us jerky??" Hunting has a whole new meaning to me suddenly, and I am anxious to get send some jerky home her in Texas. Can someone who has to deal with freezing temperatures and has a similar setup and method as me inform me how you smoke your meat in the winter?

Thanks so much!

Brandi, welcome to the SMF Family!!!

Up here in the Northern Plains and Northern/Central Rockies regions most do their cold smoking before freezing temps hit...early to mid-fall...which usually falls right in line with big game seasons. If you want to cold smoke in sub-freezing temps you will need to add a source of heat to bring temps up in the smoke house. It could be something as simple as a small propane or electric heater, or, a charcoal fire in a pan. But your drying stage could get lengthy with added heat, depending on the source you use. You would likely need to replicate the smoking and drying temps, somewhat, so a simple analog stem type thermometer may be a necessity.

Just some thoughts...

Sorry to read of your loss...that does bring a lot of sentiment to the smoke house he built, and it's understandable that you do not want to modify it in any way.

Last edited:
Sorry for your loss and welcome. Your bucket of coals may be making enough heat or you may need a bigger bucket. You need the smoker temp up to 160°F for about 30-60 minutes then you just need the temp above freezing until the meat is dry. Get a thermometer, one with a remote too cold where you are, to monitor your temps. No need to mod Dad's work just adjust your technique...JJ
The folks above have you covered.

I just wanted to also say welcome and to pass along that my thoughts are going out to you and your family for your loss.

This is a very good group of people that all have a passion for all things smoked.  Feel free to ask ANY questions you may have.  Collectively, we'll get you to where your jerky and smoking is where it needs to be.

  Good morning and welcome to the forum from a cloudy but nice day here in East Texas, and the best site on the web. Lots of               great people with tons of information on just about everything.

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