How to build a cold smoker

posted by Julius Schneider

Smoking meat is one of the oldest methods of preserving meat, but besides this it produces delicious, complex flavours in meat and other foods. What could be better than building your own smoker and having endless possibilities to play with. To build one is not too complicated when you have the right tools. Here’s how you can do it:

First thing you need is an accessible box made out of wood or metal, but wood is easier to work with and safe to use as well since it’s going to be a cold smoker and temperatures should never exceed 25°C. I found an old wardrobe in a used furniture store. It was a perfect fit since it already had a rack to hang things on and shelves to place smaller things as well. Once you found the perfect size for your homemade smoker you’ll need a few more features to make it ready to use.

The first thing to do is to create a constant airflow. Start by drilling holes in a line close to the bottom where the smoldering will be, to ensure a constant supply of air.

The outgoing air at the top goes through a chimney, which should be at least 80cm high to ensure the chimney effect occurs. If the chimney is not completely open, a “dirty” taste may appear, as we experienced on some cold-smoked salmon. Keep the chimney open,  regulate the incoming air, and make sure  rain cannot enter through the chimney into your smoker. Condensation will accumulate at the chimney inside the chamber, so you need to find a way to install a small box with sand or cardboard beneath the chimney to collect the dripping water.

To make your smoker smoke, you’ll need a place for fire, which is in this case a smouldering source of heat. An important thing to do is to make your smoker fire-safe if it’s made of wood. We covered the bottom of the cabinet with a metal plate to protect it from the glowing wood dust. The place where the wood dust smoulders is called a cold smoke generator, and it needs to be in a shape that allows the fire to smolder as long as possible. We used a perforated metal plate and formed it into a u-shape (see picture). Fill the
whole “U” with smoke dust, compress it slightly and start burning the wood from one of the sides to facilitate smoldering as long as possible from one end to the other. Our smoke generator has an length of about 200cm and will burn for around 32h. To start smouldering, we use a blowtorch and hold it up to one minute to ignite the wood at one end. Once the smouldering starts, get your meat and vegetables and start smoking.