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If you do your own butchering, you may want to do your own smoking. Or, you may want to try your hand at smoking just to produce meats that have a better taste than the production line hams sold in most markets.

To do your own smoking, you will need a smokehouse. It can be a simple, temporary structure made from a packing crate, barrel, or metal drum. Or it can be a bigger, more elaborate wooden or block building, capable of smoking several hogs at once.

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An intermediate model was built from scrap wooden shipping pallets in the Organic Garden and Farming Workshop. An old refrigerator would provide a similar-sized smokehouse, but if you use a refrigerator, make sure there is no danger of children locking themselves in. In many com­munities, it is illegal to leave refrigerators with their doors and locks intact lying around.

If you can get shipping pallets, you probably also will need a power saw to rip the pallet lumber into the dimensions specified here. If you don't have power tools, you can buy the lumber in the proper size, or compromise by using the pallets for 1-inch boards and buying the heavier pieces. The materials list for this smokehouse will tell you what you need whatever your source of lumber is.

No matter what kind of smokehouse you build, it must have four things: a source of smoke (use hardwoods only); an area to confine the smoke; racks to hold the meat; and a draft.

The draft is essential. If you do not have a draft the meat will have a sooty taste, caused by stagnant smoke.

Before you build a smokehouse, you should consider the argument against eating smoked meats. Meats get their smoky flavor by absorbing smoke. Smoke contains coal tars, which have been linked to a variety of cancers, if they are ingested in sufficient concentra­tion.


1. Dismantle several pallets. Each will yield a quantity of random width 1-inch boards and two pieces 2 1/2 inches by 8 inches by 4 feet. Rip (cut with the grain) these pieces into lighter ones measuring 2 1/2 inches by 1 1/2 inches by 4 feet. You will need thirteen of these for the smokehouse framework.

2. To make the top and bottom rectangular frames, cut four pieces 36 inches long and four pieces 42 inches long. Nail together with 10 d nails. If your pallet wood is very hard and knotty, you may want to drill holes first.



3. The five remaining pieces will form the upright parts of the frame. Cut a 5-degree angle on one end of each, which will give the roof of the smokehouse a pitch. Measuring on the longest side, cut three pieces 46 inches long and two pieces 43 3/8 inches.

4. To assemble the smokehouse frame, toenail four of the five angled pieces to the bottom rectangle. The angled ends should be up, with all the angles sloping in the same direction. In the center of the 42-inch piece with the taller uprights, nail the third 46-inch upright. This will be the front of the smokehouse.

5. Fasten the top rectangle in the same manner. Use the angle you cut into the ends of the uprights as a guide in positioning the rectangle.

6. Cut the random width 1-inch boards to fit the bottom, back, sides, and half the front. The top will be done later. Leave a 3-inch-wide open­ing at the top of the front panel for a hinged vent. Use a 1 1/2-inch by 1 1/4-inch butt hinge or a similar small hinge to attach the vent.

7. The first step in making the door is to cut three pieces from the random width boards and fasten them around the doorframe. Measure the height and width of the door opening, and subtract 1/4 inch from each measurement.

8. Cut and lay out boards to fit your measurements Use two horizontal battens to hold the door pieces together, fastening them with 1-inch #10 screws.

9. Hang the door using 2 1/2 inch butt hinges, about 5 inches from the top and bottom. if you put a piece of cardboard or several thickness’ of newspaper under the door (between the door and threshold), the door will not bind when opening and closing.

10. Make a latch for the door using a piece of wood scrap about 1 1/2 inches by 3 inches. Drill a hole in the center, big enough so the latch can turn when nailed to the doorframe with an 8d nail.

11. Cut a 6 - inch diameter hole in the floor to accommodate your smoke flue pipe. Cover the hole and the draft vent with insect screen.

12. On the inside, make a rack for hanging meat. Rip two narrow pieces from the 1-inch boards you are using for siding, and cut them to 36 inch lengths.  After drilling 1-inch holes in the pieces, mount one on each side wall. A galvanized pipe then fits into the holes.

13.  Attach your top. Cut lengths of the siding to span from side to side, fitting flush with the sides, There should be about a 1- or 2-inch over­hang at the front and back,

14. Choose a spot for your smokehouse It should be downwind of dwell­ings and out of the way of children and livestock. Dig a 6-inch-square trench about 10 to 12 feet long, connecting the fire pit and an elbow section of pipe. Put the smokehouse on bricks and attach the elbow. (The fire pit should be upwind from the smokehouse)

15. Place the pipe in the trench and cover with dirt or tiles.



3 pcs. 2 x 3 x 8’    or Top and bottom frames: 4 pcs. 2 x 3 x 42”
    4 pcs. 2 x 3 x 36”
2 pcs.2x3x 12’ Upright frame:  

3 pcs. 2 x 3 x 46”

    2 pcs. 2 x 3 x 43 3/8"

18 pcs. 1 x 6 x 8’
cut to fit (siding)






ISBN O-87857-133-7

by the editors of

Organic Gardening and Farming

Rodale Press

Emmaus, PA

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