THE SMOKEHOUSE

SmokehouseMy brother and I finally put our heads together and started a build.  We are also putting a full blown kitchen into part of my garage just for curing and smoking meat and making awesome mac ‘n cheese! (in fact plumbing was run into the space yesterday)….WOOT!

 We designed the smokehouse so that the floor of the smokehouse is at exactly the same level as the door into the kitchen.  Eventually we will have a covered walkway between the kitchen and the smokehouse.  This way, we can load up racks with meat in the kitchen and just roll it straight into the smokehouse.  Easy!

 

Firebox:  I converted a 55 gallon drum into a firebox using a kit you can purchase at a hardware store.  I lined the inside with fire bricks. (purchased on craigslist for $15 and then power-washed, inside and out)

THE FIRE BOX

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Floor:  We decided to raise the floor of the smokehouse up onto concrete footings.  The floor is made out of 2×6 untreated lumber and wrapped in aluminum flashing to keep it protected from the weather.

 

THE FLOOR

Framing:  We framed the walls with 2×4 lumber (untreated) from the local hardware store.  In one of the pics you can see how the door of the smokehouse will line up with the door of the kitchen.

 

FRAMING

 

 

We’ll be able to walk right out to the smokehouse.

 

Door:  I picked up an old closet door for $10 bucks and some old pallets for free.  I decided to face the old door with pallet boards and then treat the exterior facing boards with marine grade poly (spar varnish).  The inside of the door is lined with 1/4″ untreated plywood.

 

FREE PALLETS = DOOR.  YES!

Walls:  We found untreated cedar fence slats at the local Home Depot for $2.49 each and grabbed up a bunch of them.  We also grabbed a few 2×6 cedar boards and used a table saw to slice them up into 2″ wide strips.  We used the cedar pickets and cedar strips to do a board and batten wall design. (got that idea from this site!!  THANKS!!)

Roof:  I had some old tin roofing out in my barn.  The roof is 1/2″ untreated plywood covered in the tin roofing.

 

Eventually there will be storage under the overhang.

 

 

 

 

Inside the house.  Ain’t it perty?

Almost there:  We still have a few things to do, like add shelving under the overhang for storage of wood, etc.  I have run smoke through it a couple of times and it drafts well.  I think I need to add a damper to the chimney to control the flow of smoke out of the house.

I am also thinking about getting a programmable PID controller and hotplate so that I can have better control over the internal temp when I need it.

Here are some current pics.

 

 

Won’t be too long now before we can start smoking and selling bacon!!

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A Little Slicer of Heaven

Best Choice 10″ Commercial Grade Slicer

Finally broke down and spent a little bit o’ cashola on a new commercial grade slicer.  It is not a top of the line Berkel or Hobart but I cannot afford these, in some cases even used, so I went with one that I found on Best Choice Products website.  Here is a link to the one I purchased.

10″ Meat Slicer

I decided to go with this one because of the reviews I read on Amazon about this slicer.  I’ll include a link to the Amazon page as well if you want to read the reviews.  I purchased directly from Best Choice Products website because, at least at the time of this posting, it cost less, no shipping and no sales tax.  Sweet deal.

Amazon

I used the slicer for the first time today to slice up some Beer Cured Pork Loin Bacon and some of my home cure brown sugar and molasses bacon.  So, I thought I would write up a review.

Best Coice 10" Slicer

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

This thing is heavy and well built.  The only plastic on it is the guard on the tray.  Everything else is metal.  I am very impressed with the quality and I believe, if I take care of it and regularly maintain it, it will last me for years to come.

This slicer is a gravity fed slicer, which means that the meat tray is angled toward the blade so that the meat is pulled by gravity down toward the blade as you slice.

It comes with a built in blade sharpener (I have not had to use it yet so cannot review it) above the blade.  You can see it in the picture above.  The attachment has a sharpening stone built into it so that you can simply press a button on the sharpener to engage the stone against the blade when you need to sharpen.

I found the adjustments to be very easy.  There is a big knob on the side of the machine to adjust the thickness that you wish to slice.  It is very easy to turn and can really finely adjust the thickness.  You can also set an adjustment screw on the back of the slicer so that the slicing plate does not move out of alignment, giving you very consistent thickness of slices.

Adjusting the thickness.
Adjusting the thickness.
Setting the thickness stop.
Setting the thickness stop.

The meat tray is very heavy duty.  You can slice meat up to about 7.5 inches long (so for bacon, imagine 7.5 inch slices).  There is a solid metal holder with teeth that you can easily place on top or behind the product you are slicing to hold it in place and to add a little pressure to the product to help feed it into the blade as you slice.  It also has a handle so that you can slice by holding the meat tray or by the main handle on the front of the machine.

My only gripe is that I wish the depth of the product tray was a little deeper.  For the bacon slabs I was slicing, I had to place the guard on top of the pork belly until I sliced enough that it could go behind it.  Not a big deal really because it still sliced really well.

The guard with the handle.
The guard with the handle.
Belly in the product tray.
Belly in the product tray.

To power on the slicer you press a button on the side of the machine.  The button is plastic covered, which I found to be great for cleaning.  I didn’t need to worry about spraying it.

The slicer is super quiet.

Powering on the slicer.
Powering on the slicer.

SLICING

Slicing was super easy.  This is a belt driven unit with 1/3 horsepower.  I found it to be more than enough for slicing through pork belly as well as the pork loin bacon that I sliced today.  There was no hesitation in the machine at all, even through the thickest part of the pork loin.

As you slice, it is very easy to allow the sliced meat to simply fall into your hand, safely, behind the blade.  I caught the pieces as I sliced and just stacked them up as I went.

When you reach the end of the meat, there is a little gap between the guard and the blade (for obvious reasons, you don’t want that metal hitting the blade) so there is always a little bit of the product left that won’t slice.  I found it to only be about a 1/4 inch.  Not a big deal to me as I always use the scraps for recipes that I need bacon in.

I did notice the some small meat particles were being flung out the back of the slicer as I sliced.  I found that there is a little metal plate that can be adjusted with 2 screws, just behind the blade.  I adjusted it forward slightly (toward the blade) and this guard then prevented those little bits from being flung by the blade.

Overall it slices VERY well and I am completely happy with how easy it is to slice with this machine.

Sliced belly bacon.
Sliced belly bacon.
Sliced Pork Loin Bacon
Sliced Pork Loin Bacon
Packaged Breakfast Bacon
Packaged Breakfast Bacon

CLEANING

Many of the reviews that I read complained about the difficulties in cleaning this machine and in the lack of usable instructions.  (OK, the instructions are useless.  Translated from some language into gibberish).  However, I found cleanup to be very easy.  Yes, it is a little time consuming, but this is a commercial slicer with more moving parts, so it will take a little longer than a slicer designed for home use.  Still, it only took me about 10 minutes.

You unscrew a knob on the back of the slicer to remove a rod that holds the gauge plate on.  This gives you full access to the front of the blade.  If you wish, you can use a phillips head screwdriver to remove three screws, allowing you to remove the blade completely.

I found that I did not have to do this.  I could easily gain access to the entire front of, and back of the blade easily.  I simply used a sanitizing cleaner and sprayed down all the parts of the slicer.  I wiped it clean with paper towels, then sprayed again with a food grade sanitizer and let it sit for a few minutes, then wiped it down again.

I found that it was easy to get into all the cracks and gaps that I needed to in order to remove any debris and to sanitize the slicer.  Overall, I think cleanup and keeping the machine sanitized was rather easy.

Removing the rod to hold the meat deflector.
Removing the rod to hold the gauge plate
Removing the gauge plate
Removing the gauge plate
Slicer after finished slicing.  You can see the little meat debris under the blade.
Slicer after finished slicing. You can see the little meat debris under the blade.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I would recommend this slicer to anyone who wants a more commercial grade slicer but does not wish to break the bank.  I find it to be very well built, easy to slice the products that I need to slice and cleanup is relatively easy.  I am sure it will last for many years with regular maintenance.

CONS

This is not a high end commercial machine. It is not designed for day in and day out use and not designed to be run hour after hour.  However, it is still light years ahead of any of the ‘home kitchen’ models available.

It is made in China and is an off brand product.  So, getting replacement parts may prove to be a challenge.  (NOTE:  Best Choice Products customer support was very timely in answering any questions that I had about this product.  Their chat system on their website works well)

The New Toy – Slicing Made Easy (I hope)…

Click Here for the review of this slicer

Well, I finally broke down and purchased a new commercial slicer.  Got so tired of fighting with cheaper, home quality slicers that would constantly not slice evenly, spit the slab out the back end of the slicer or just shred the slices.

I searched the world over and found a 10″ entry level commercial slicer that I think will do the job well for me.  Gets really good reviews on Amazon.  I purchased it through http://www.bestchoiceproducts.com and so far am very pleased.  Just got it today.  The customer service there is really good too, responded to my questions today in a very timely manner and were very polite.

Here it is:  10″ Best Choice Slicer

Free shipping ad no sales tax is always good too.

I know, it is not a Hobart or a Berkel, but I cannot afford those and I really think this one will serve me well…  I hope.  I have not slice anything yet.  Hey, I just got it and all my bacon is still curing.  I’ll slice something up this weekend and write a review on it for anyone who is interested.

That is all.  Good night.

This one is mine!
This one is mine!

Vacuum Seal – A New Toy

I received the new vacuum sealer in mail today.  Since I sliced up the bacon yesterday I figured I would go ahead and vacuum seal and freeze what the wife and I would not use in the next couple of weeks.

I have to say, I really like the sealer.  Very easy to use.  AND, it makes the bacon look cool, like I bought it from the store or something.  🙂

Vacuum Sealing

I purchased an inexpensive Rival vacuum sealer from Amazon.  Here is what I bought.  Rival Seal-A-Meal  It worked great.  Super easy to use.  You can get all sorts of pre-sized bags or a roll of  the seal material to make your own custom sized bags.  I used the pre-made 8″ bags today.

I am not going into any great detail with this post.  I am just going to post some pics of the process.  They are pretty much self explanatory.

I first weighed out 12 oz portions.
I first weighed out 12 oz portions.
I added pepper to the edges of the Sweet and Spicy bacon.  it wasn't peppery enough.
I added pepper to the edges of the Sweet and Spicy bacon. it wasn’t peppery enough.
I then laid out what I needed to vacuum seal the bacony goodness.
I then laid out what I needed to vacuum seal the bacony goodness.
Then, I neatly placed the bacon into the bag.
Then, I neatly placed the bacon into the bag.
Following the instructions, I sealed the bacon up.
Following the instructions, I sealed the bacon up.
The final product.  Sealed up and ready to freeze.
The final product. Sealed up and ready to freeze.