Monday, September 6, 2010

Hillbilly Ingenuity: The Smokehouse

The basic smokehouse setup is really fairly simple. Smoking is an indirect kind of cooking that combines heat (sometimes) and smoke to flavor and in some cases preserve foods. Most smokehouses consist of a smoking/cooking chamber, a fire box, and a pipe to connect the two. Additional amenities can be added or removed depending on your needs.


Mr. Farmer often speaks of writing a book called “101 Uses for a 55 Gallon Drum”. This is one of those uses.

The first smoker setup consisted of a 55 gallon drum with a lid. Mr. Farmer fitted a pipe into the bung as a smokestack, drilled a small hole in the side to insert a thermometer, and a larger hole for the smoke pipe in the side near the bottom. A few more holes near the top were drilled to fit a few pieces of concrete re-bar to hang meat.

Then he built a simple firebox out of local stone around the other end of the smoke pipe, and covered the top with wet sandbags to keep the smoke in while cooking. This was inefficient, so he pasted it closed with mortar.

After a few attempts, he found that it was hard to regulate the temperature, so he wrapped the drum and pipe in standard household fiberglass insulation. A number of hams and bacons were processed through this simple smoker.


The new and improved, Upgraded Smokehouse was built on the same site, starting with the same stone firebox. The firebox was expanded to a larger size and cemented closed for a more permanent smoke seal. A metal door was also added for easier feeding.

The new smoke chamber was built of pine, and we jokingly refer to it as “the outhouse” since its design is very familiar to that country standby.

To differentiate it from an outhouse, we considered putting some artwork on the outside to indicate what might go on inside. Little Miss Farmer (12) is quite the artist, so we asked her to draw a pig for us to wood-burn onto the outside of the smoker:

We decided against that particular design- at least for now. The smoke chamber, for now, remains unadorned. There are 2 thermometers- one in the door and the other in the smoke vent (a ladder is needed to see the vent thermometer).

So far we have processed hams, chickens, and even hard-boiled eggs through this smokehouse. During longer smokes we hose down the interior with cool water- you can see a bit of charring and smoke buildup inside.


  1. Alton Brown used a high school locker. LOL

  2. I missed that one. But I did see the one where he used a cardboard box....