Starting nice and simple

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Original poster
Jan 3, 2014
Herefordshire, England
So whilst I've seen some great smoker builds on this site I wanted to start simple and work up.

 Here's my project build based on a ProQ Cold Smoke Generator and things from the garage.

So this was the bit that used money, a good value starter set for around £53

- Thanks Mum for the Christmas present.

So I knocked up a simple frame based on the dimensions of some grill racks I had.

First rack slides over the legs..

Bolts are slid through holes in the lags to support the 2nd rack

A few clips are used to support and hold in place the top rack.  There will be 12cm clearance above this rack.

And then my custom, easily replacable smoking cowl slides over the top.

Side flap for access to generator, and 4 chimneys from an old wardrobe rail.

I will be pushing a digital cooking thermometer probe through the side of the box,

but the publicity is that this smoke generator only raises the temperature by 1 or 2 degrees.

So wish me luck as I do my first smoking shortly.
Hi Pfaas

That should certainly do the job and with the chamber being relatively small the ProQ should produce ample smoke. Check out my earlier post regarding the special offer Tesco have on Salmon starting Wednesday. If you need help with the cure then let me know.

You should also find that great for smoking cheese. Cheese is a good place to start if you have never smoked before.

Let us know how you get on 

Thanks, I am starting with some Cheese, a few veg for incorporation in future cooking, and an impulse buy for Burns Night - a haggis!!  I look forward to doing salmon but that will be later on. I'm going to do a separate post on my first smoke, but I am baffled on the best time for cheese - I've seen everything from 2 hours to a minimum of 6 hours up to 9 hours.  Obviously it depends on the set up, and I will not know how quickly the smoke will vent through my Battersea power station chimney arrangement until I've got going.  The ProQ is supposed to run to 10 hours if needed.  I thought I'd try oak first purely because I've got slightly more of that.  I'm going to do my smoke in the garage as I have a large garage with good ventilation; but I'll add a further design modification - a weight as I don't want the box blowing over!
For cheese 3 hours is really as much as you need - 4 at a stretch. Much more than that and most cheese will certainly taste over smoked. Oak is quite a mild flavoured wood though and so you will have quite a bit of leeway. The main thing to remember with cheese is that it MUST be wrapped and left to mature in a cool place for several days after it has been smoked or else it will taste quite rough. 2 to 3 days is sufficient to see how it is going to turn out however do not try feeding it to friends and family for at least a week. This time allows the magic to happen where the smoke flavours mellow and are absorbed throughout the cheese. 
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Hello pfaas.  That top of the line, expensive, well thought out smoker will do WAY more than you think.  You have covered everything and expensive smoker needs to do.  That little setup should make you some fine tasting cheese and would do great for Wade's recipe for smoked salmon.  Wade has you sorted for the details, I just wanted to wish you luck. Remember the rest in fridge time.  I have one you could try with your setup.  MR.T posted a thread for smoke lettuce to use in a salad.  I can't find it now but the gist is get the smoke going and then put the lettuce in for about 1-2 minutes with zero heat.  You could also use it to smoke salad dressing, mayo, sliced jalapeno , etc, etc...  Just food for thought. Keep Smokin!


Just a thought.  I know I should use the search but just had a thought.  Has anyone tried smoking a hard cheese like parmesan?  
Yes Danny  I've seen Parmesan somewhere, but I'm starting with Cheddar, Goats Cheese, and Gouda.  I'm going to use the goats cheese a week after smoking, but I want to do some next time and then, as I've done with unsmoked, store with herbs in olive oil for a month, this gives a lovely soft cheese.  I'm also doing an aubergine for some smoked baba ganouch.  Also Haggis, a Butternut squash for use in a risotto, onions, peppers, and something I haven't seen in any forums, some of those cooked lentils from a pouch - of course I may run out of room but we'll see.  I'll update this forum with progress.

I understand the fact that cheese needs a good rest, but on other foods I've never seen mention of more than 24 hours in the fridge, is that the case?
Raw smoke has quite a sharp flavour and so resting is all about letting the smoke flavours penetrate the food and mellow. This is especially true when you cold smoke as you are using the smoking process to expose the surface of the food to the smoke for flavour and the air flow around the food to remove moisture. As this is typically done at lower temperatures it takes time for the smoke to be fully absorbed and the chemical reactions to take place which result in the pleasing flavours. When you hot smoke it is different as the heat of the smoker results in a completely different set of processes that create very different flavours.

Some general background about what is happening when we smoke. The length of time you smoke will depend on the food you are smoking and the result you are trying to achieve. For thousands of years we have smoked perishable foods in order to to preserve them. While the smoking process does preserve many foods it is not actually the smoke that is doing most of the work. Whilst the smoke does have mild antiseptic properties it is the air flow over the food removing moisture that has the main preservative effect.

With most cheeses the preserving has actually already been mainly achieved through the removal of moisture during the cheese making process. Except for soft cheeses, like Mozzarella, smoking will do little to extend its shelf life - which in many cases is already measured in years for mature cheese. When smoking cheese you are trying to get a good covering of smoke to adhere to the surface with sufficient penetration that it will continue to diffuse to the centre of the block during the resting period. Whilst the smoke is penetrating there are many very complex chemical reactions taking place that result in the flavours that we find pleasant. As a general rule smoked cheese will be pleasant after about a week however if if you taste a batch of cheese over a period of 3 or 4 weeks you will really notice how the flavours mellow and mature. There is no hard and fast rule about when to eat it - from experience you will know when it is reaching its peak.

Cold smoking fish is generally a two stage process and the smoke mostly adds flavour whilst the preserving is predominantly achieved through the removal of moisture. The first stage usually involves covering the fish in a mixture of salt and sugar - either as a dry mixture or as a wet brine - which removes a significant amount of moisture. The trick is to remove as much moisture as possible during this "curing" process whilst not making the fish too salty and unpalatable. The next stage is the smoking. This adds flavour to the fish but also reduces the moisture content further. I smoke my salmon fillets for about 12-14 hours (overnight usually) and this results in the salmon flesh becoming similar in texture to Tuna steak. If you smoke for longer and reduce the original weight of the fish by 18%-20% then you will end up with traditional smoked salmon which is translucent and very oily. This can take several days in the smoker. Because fish preserved like this is usually eaten quite quickly (over a period of weeks) and it will have reasonable oxygen exposure, further preservation measures are not usually required.

Smoking meat is similar in principle to smoking fish in that moisture levels within the food are reduced. Meat though is usually more dense than fish, it is usually smoked in bigger chunks and is usually stored for longer. Because of this there is the added risk of toxins being created by spores in the anaerobic environment inside the meat as it is matures. To prevent this Nitrate or Nitrite salts (depending on which country you are in) are added as part of the initial curing process (sometimes in conjunction with fermentation) to enable the smoked meat to be stored safely for longer periods.

I am sorry if I am telling you something that you already know but you will see that there is no "right" method - though there are certainly wrong methods when it comes to food safety. If you browse through the posts take note of what everyone is saying, as many of us have developed methods that work very well for us. Then try a couple of different techniques yourself. You will quickly adapt the ones that work for you in your smoker and then in the future we will all enjoy you posting up your personal methods and trying them for ourselves.

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I understand the fact that cheese needs a good rest, but on other foods I've never seen mention of more than 24 hours in the fridge, is that the case?
Most smoked foods will benefit from standing. I usually I try one fillet from every batch of fish straight out of the smoker to test for salt, I leave the rest in the fridge to mature for at least 48 hours before I start to use them. There is a distinct flavour change even during that short time as the smoke flavours mellow.

For cheese I usually taste after a week and then expect to start using after 4 weeks. Take note of the best before date on the cheese though because unless it is a traditionally aged cheddar you should still use this as a guide. For longer storage of supermarket bulk produced cheddar, it freezes well after smoking and maturing. 
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Thanks Wade, that answers some of my questions, and of course raises others which I'll hold back until I post a new thread on using the process of my first smoke which is happening as I write. is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.

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