Section#4: Building a Smoke House

“The happiest moments of my childhood were spent on my grandmother’s front porch in Durham, N.C., or at her sister’s farmhouse in Orange County, where chickens paraded outside the kitchen’s screen door and hams were cured in the smokehouse.”

– Andre Leon Talley, American journalist


The ability to produce your own smoked meat is one of those food security skills that can be fancy or simple. It all depends on how you want to prepare yourself. Smoking food is older than recorded history and though the practice was originally perfected as a means of preserving meat before modern dependency on electricity and refrigeration set in, home-smoked foods are actually gaining in popularity these days for a couple of enduring reasons.

It doesn’t take anything fancy to smoke large quantities of meat like this. You can build a dedicated smokehouse, or use something as small as a barrel smoker.

Smoked food tastes great, and while that’s all fine as far as it goes, taste isn’t the only reason to set yourself up with a smokehouse. Being prepared for trouble is at least as important. That’s why this week’s lessons are especially for people who like being prepared to thrive when things don’t go as they always have. And when I say thrive, I mean thrive with good stuff on your table like bacon, ham, smoked beef, smoked fish and more. There’s no limit to how fancy you can get when smoking meat is a gourmet pastime, but as a survival-minded person, you need to think differently.

Fact is, smoking remains one of the very best ways to ensure a safe, delicious supply of shelf-stable meats. You don’t need to rely on supermarkets, food manufacturers, refrigeration systems and distribution networks – all of which are prone to failure when trouble strikes. Slaughter that pig you bartered from a neighbour, run it through the smoker and you’ll live high on the hog long after the supermarket sold its last pound of bacon.

Watch the video up next for an overview tour of the smokehouse design.

VIDEO – Smokehouse Plans Tour

I live in one of the most backwoods rural places you’ll find anywhere in North America. We didn’t get grid electricity down our single-lane dirt road until 1952. One-room schoolhouses were still active until 1974. A few people I know still rely in part on wild game to stay alive today. Until our little corner of the world got electrified, the only option for refrigeration was a walk-in community freezer 12 miles away in town. That’s why people everywhere smoked their own beef, pork, venison and turkey from fresh. It wasn’t about gourmet living back then, it was about the skills and abilities to keep yourself and your family alive and healthy without modern systems that have bred so much dependency. Smoking meats, fish and even cheese was a way of life back then, and people invested serious time and effort building smokehouses that would last for generations. This attitude worked then, and it still works today. But as with any survival capability, now’s the time to get your act together – before things fall apart. And as you do, remember something important.

It takes time to master the art of smoking meat, fish and cheese to perfection. Learning the craft will be an adventure, not necessarily a slam-dunk. Just the same, you can still expect at least decent results (maybe even great results) the first time you run the smokehouse you’ll build from the plans and instructions here, but only if you pay attention to details. This design saves months of trial and error because it’s based on traditional, real-world smokehouses developed over centuries of experience when smoking foods was just a normal part of self-reliant living.

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