Newbie Here.. I have questions..

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by murphy625, May 14, 2016.

  1. Hi Folks,

    I'm a newbie to smoking meats.. never done it before. 

    We have some backyard pigs and I'm going to be processing the meat myself this year so I need some help if you don't mind.

    I have a ~800 gallon 316 stainless steel rectangular tank I'm going to be converting into a smoker but I need to know a few things about smoking meat first.  If you would all be so kind as to help me out I'd sure appreciate it.

    So here is the basic design.

    800 gallon rectangular stainless tank is about 8 feet long, 4 feet deep and 4 feet wide..  its an open top tank that I plan to stand vertical so it becomes a closet or phone booth of sorts..  since the tank has a 3 inch flange all the way around the top, it should be quite easy to install a nice tight fitting door to it.

    I want to use natural gas from my house to power the unit.     I tapped into the gas line in my basement a long time ago and put a hook-up point outside my home to run my portable generator when the power goes out..  The connection is made using a 40 foot long 1 inch ID rubber hose rated for propane transfer. 

    Does anyone have any idea how many btu's of energy I will need?    I'm an engineer so if you tell me how big your smoker is and how much electrical energy it uses (watts), I can do the math.   My tank will be fully insulated with 3 inches of insulation so heat loss should be quite minimal.

    The unit will be controlled with a digital PID temperature controller (since I have some extra units laying around doing nothing) and an automated ignition system for the natural gas burner.   (Yes, I know what I'm doing)..     When you measure your temperatures, do you read the top of the unit at the exhaust or the middle or bottom? 

    When making jerky:

    Is it possible to dehydrate meat to make jerky using a natural gas fired smoker?   I only ask this because one of the byproducts of natural gas combustion is water vapor and I'm wondering if that's a concern when trying to dehydrate meats...   While I don't plan to do this with the pork, I do make venison jerky every year using a small table top electric unit but I have to run about a dozen batches and its a pain in the rear end.   With a large smoker, I could do it all at once.

    When smoking meats:

    *I don't quite understand the whole pan with wood chips thing..    Do I put the flame under the pan to get the wood chips smoking?   Is there another pan with water in there or something?

    *How long does it take to smoke things?  Is this a two hour process or a week long thing?   And how does one tell when its finished? 

    Things like bacon and hams are already "cured".. does that make any difference?

    Looks like a great forum here..   thank you in advance for your advice.
  2. First off Murphy welcome to the site.  When you take on a project, you really jump in with both feet.  I can't even come close to answering half your questions, but I'll try and help where I can.  I'll start by suggesting that you do some exploring of the site with the search bar up top of the page.  Secondly if you don't get the answers you need from this post, try posting them over in the smoker builds section of the forum.  Now as far as the chip pan, you're right position it above the burner.  You'll get differing opinions on the necessity of using water in the water pan, but in my gas smoker the water pan sits just above the chip pan.  It provides separation between the combustion chamber and the smoking chamber,  to provide indirect cooking.  If possible take a trip to a box store selling gas smokers and take a look inside them and you'll see what I'm talking about.  You'll find the info you need here, but it may take a while.  Good luck on your build, post some pictures when its done, we'll be interested to see.​
  3. mike5051

    mike5051 SMF Premier Member

    Welcome to the site Murphy!  That is a huge smoker!  Can you cook a whole pig vertically?  Just wondering.  Best of luck and keep us posted.

  4. Morning Murphy

    I can answer some of your questions.  You should also check out the Jerky forum--lots of great info there.

    1  Sure you can make jerky with a gas fired smoker--people do it all the time with propane

    2  You really should try pork jerky too.  It is delicious.  

    3  A lot of people don't use the water pan--that choice is up to you.  What we do is fill the water pan with sand and cover it over with foil, and place it above the burner.  The water pan then acts as a heat sync and also as a heat deflector for indirect heat.

    4  I spend hours making a batch of jerky.  The first hour, at 100* with no smoke to dry the meat after sitting in the brine.  Then increase the temp to 120* with smoke for 1 hour.  Then increase the temp, with smoke, by 10 * every hour to 170*.  When you think you might be getting close to the point of removing the meat from the smoker, then try a piece every now and then until the taste and texture are what you want.

    Hope this is of some help.

  5. Jump in with both feet.. =yes..     I always say "Go big or go home"..      I've been making jerky on this dinky little table top unit for almost 10 years and I'm tired of it.   Too much work having the change out batches.

    Thanks for the advice on the chip pan.  

    We live in a rural area and there aren't a lot of specialty stores around here..  Been googling images as all I really need to do is see a photo of how things are set up and I catch on really fast.
  6. Hi,

    Yes, its going to be a large unit..   Our pigs are currently around 275 lbs and we plan to slaughter them when the reach the 400 to 500 range so I have some time.   I'm pretty sure I could fit a 400 pound carcass in this thing with room to spare..   Might even be able to put two at a time in there if touching the walls wasn't an issue. 

    The unit will probably be larger than what I need but I've had the tank sitting in the back yard for years now and realized its a perfect solution.     Besides, when I kill a deer and turn the entire thing into jerky, it can take up a lot of surface area when its all sliced up.   It would be nice to be able to process all the jerky at once.
  7. Hi Gary,... thanks for the advice.     I was worried that the water vapor byproduct of gas combustion my limit the ability to dry but you've put that to rest.  Thank you!

    Pork Jerky?    What about all the nastiness that comes from pork that isn't fully cooked?   Its not a worry with beef or venison but pork???   When I make venison jerky, I set the temperature at 155 and it never gets any higher than that.. Usually takes about 6 to 7 hours in my table top toy..      Is that why you bring it up to 170??
  8. Yep, it is.  As long as you cook pork to an IT of 145*, you will kill off all those nasties.  What with jerky being so thinly sliced, it is almost impossible to monitor IT, so cooking your jerky this way takes the worries out of it.

    There are a few very good posts about pork jerky in the Jerky Forum.


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