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How to smoke bacon at home: adapting a chiminea

chiminea adapted to be a cold smoker

“Do you think that we could adapt a chiminea to smoke bacon? There are small ones on sale for £20.”
It was early summer. Tessa and Colin don’t have a fireplace. Most of the smokers available in the DIY stores are hot smokers. Hot smokers cook and smoke the food. They are also quite expensive.

My instant reaction was No. How could a chiminea be adapted for cold smoking? Smoke is hot, a chiminea chimney is short. The idea seemed crazy. But Tessa was stubborn. A few days later she mentioned chimineas again. We reckoned that the metal ones would be absolutely out as they would become far too hot. The ceramic ones might work with a bit of experimentation and thinking out of the chiminea, so to speak.

Wet logs thrown onto hot coals would generate smoke. We worked out that a simple door over the aperture was essential to damp down the burning. Some way of extending the chimney was vital to cool the smoke. Most cold smoking devices have a smoke generator and endless coils of pipes that lead to a smoke house. I was dubious about the potential of a chiminea as smoking device but when Colin unpacked his chiminea, he was clearly determined to turn this into an efficient cold smoking machine.

Six months down the line we feasted on smoked duck breast beside a chiminea that had transmogrified into a great garden smoker with the help of some chicken wire, aluminium foil and a four foot length of air conditioning ducting. Sometimes I have seen the latter in skips and rumbled by, not realising how valuable this might be for the home smoker.

Colin and Tessa had discovered that it was almost impossible to smoke bacon without cooking it until the addition of the four feet of ducting. An engineering pal suggested using galvanised ducting for a chimney and suddenly Tessa and Colin were cold smoking with aplomb.

There are four key points if you want to adapt a chiminea to smoke bacon:

1. Make a door to reduce the draught and keep the fire damped down.

Colin fashioned his out of chicken wire. This is easy to mould to the shape of the hole and create a push fit door with sides. He covered this door with aluminium foil.

2. Cool the smoke.

An extension chimney is essential to raise the joints above the heat of the fire. We did discuss making a tripod, whereby meat could be hung in the smoke, well away from the heat. This might work but meat hung in an extension chimney benefits from the intensity of smoke within the chimney.

3. Use the right fuel:

Colin initially used barbecue briquettes and wet logs. When the briquettes became hot enough for a barbecue (going white) he put on a hardwood log that he’d soaked for a day in water. Now he finds that barbecue charcoal works better. We chatted this evening – he’d just completed an eight hour smoke, using three wet logs over hot charcoal.
“Sometimes the logs struggle and then I add two or three lumps of charcoal to the hot embers and within a few minutes they set the whole process off again.”

Aboid using pine logs as these will make the smoke acrid. The logs need to smoulder, rather than burn,

4. Find the right height for your meat.

Today Col smoked a loin joint (back bacon), two small belly of pork joints (streaky bacon) and a couple of duck breasts.
“They were all wrapped in butcher’s muslin. The loin was the heaviest joint so I hung it nearest the fire and the duck breasts were right at the top. I reckon that I got the heights just right. The loin looks good and the duck breasts taste delicious. We’re still experimenting and playing with the method.”

There is nothing like a first teeny taste of a joint that you have just unwrapped from smoking. If you don’t have a chimney why not try smoking your own home cured bacon in an adapted chiminea?


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11 Comments

  1. There is a show on US Television called Good Eats, the host Alton Brown showed us how to smoke salmon in a cardboard box…here is a link to a video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMk-y6330aE

    I haven’t tried it out yet, but plan to.

  2. kate (uk)

    Blue Peter has a lot to answer for….

  3. thank you, thank you, thank you! We had been talking about this all night. Googled it, saw oil drums to old gas cylinders used! from the picture and the description I think we can do this. Everything will be smoked!!!! Christmas turkey?

  4. Really interesting post – I’d love to try smoking and we do happen to have a piece of chimney flue left over from recent chimney lining that I am sure Simon must be able to use SOMEHOW!!

  5. samantha winter

    We have been searching for a practical method to smoke the bacon!!
    Thank you

  6. Browners

    I love smoking thing. Your method looks really interesting. So far I have only been brave enought to smoke trout, salmon, ribs and a chicken. Each time the results have been awesome. It’s so easy, impressive and delicious.

    I love your ingenious smoker – similar to Hugh Fearnley Wittingstall’s impromptu smoker: http://aroundbritainwithapaunch.blogspot.com/2008/09/river-cottage-autumn-festival.html

    Great idea using a barrel and a small fire…

  7. You sure deserved that Kreativ Blog Award!

  8. Steelkitten

    What a fantastic idea! One of my challenges for 2009 is to smoke a fish fillet in the chimney of my open fire, but this could be a better solution. Thanks so much for this great post – it’s given me all sorts of new ideas!

  9. Nigel Peed

    Thats a great cold smoker you have designed there.
    I have been playing with a cold smoke generator with some success, smoking just cheese so far with very nice results. Here is the generator I have tried, it can be placed inside the smoker container and generates little or no heat, and will run up to 10 hours on a tiny amount of wood dust.

    http://www.forfoodsmokers.co.uk/acatalog/ProQ_Cold_Smoke_Generator.html

    My smoker now cosists of one of these units and a large cardboard box with a couple of cake cooling racks suspended on bits of dowling pushed thru from each side and works a treat. Truely a effective and cheap smoker.

  10. Robin Haldane

    Looks good – I must try it.

    One comment, though. You rejected a metal chiminea because “We reckoned that the metal ones would be absolutely out as they would become far too hot. The ceramic ones might work with a bit of experimentation and thinking out of the chiminea, so to speak.” Wrong reasoning! The metal type feels hot because it is an efficient radiator of heat. The ceramic type insulates. For a fire generating a specific amount of heat, the smoke will be cooler for a metal chiminea because more heat will have been radiated from the body.

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