Smoked Trout – so simple, so tasty, and all home-made

Smoked trout – like its close cousin smoked salmon – is one of the great ‘luxury’ foods.  I find I prefer it – the finished product, while it looks very similar to salmon, has a more delicate flavour with less of the aggressively-fishy oiliness which can characterise smoked salmon.  It’s much less readily available, too – and can certainly be expensive, a quick google suggests prices from £40 – £80 a kilo direct from a number of British producers.  Expect further mark-up in a smart London delicatessen!

Sliced home-smoked trout

Of course, if I were just writing this in praise of smoked trout and telling you to go and buy some from a smokehouse on the internet, it wouldn’t be the country skills blog!  Making smoked trout at home is straightforward, and produces a first-class product which is the match of anything you’ll buy from even the most up-market smokehouse or deli counter.  Better still, it costs a fraction of the commercial product.  The two fillets of rainbow trout I cured and smoked for this post cost the princely sum of £1.53, with a combined final weight of a little over 200g – including other ingredients and consumables, that’s a total cost of well below £10/kg.  A little luxury, then, that we can all afford to enjoy a bit more often!

You’re going to be eating this fish raw, effectively, so freshness is of the essence.  Choose a lovely fresh whole trout – with bright clear eyes, red gills and no ‘fishy’ smell – and have it descaled and filleted for you by the fishmonger (or do it yourself – it’s not that tricky really!).  Good quality farmed trout is readily available, even on supermarket fish counters, and if you can get hold of a lovely fresh wild fish, even better!  Avoid pre-packed fillets, whose freshness it is more difficult to be certain of.  Wash the fillets off carefully under the tap, to remove all the mucus coating from the skin.  Make sure you’ve removed all the rib bones and pin-bones (the small pointy bones that run along the middle of the fillet) – a pair of tweezers is very useful here.  This will take a few minutes, but is worth the effort to do properly.  Then rinse the fillets and dry them carefully with kitchen towel.   Weigh the fillets and make a note of this weight.

Trout fillets with cure appliedThe cure I use for trout and salmon is very simple – made up of 1/3rd sugar (golden caster sugar is my favourite here) and 2/3rd table salt.   I favour a short curing time – just overnight – with an excess of dry-cure so that the cure stays saturated throughout.  Be generous – you can afford to be, since the ingredient cost is very low – in the scale of pence for a couple of fillets.

Weighed down for curingYou want a thin layer of cure in your non-metallic dish below the fish, and a good coating over the top.  The photo gives a good idea of the sort of coating you’re aiming for.

You then want to weigh down the fillets to help draw water out – you’ll need to improvise something – I found a couple of plastic ‘take-away’ containers fitted very nicely in my dish, and then weighed them down with tin cans.  Don’t use anything metallic in direct contact with the curing fish.  Put the salted fillets in the fridge.

Cured fillets, next morningI would tend to get the cure going when I get home from work, having collected my fresh fish on the way home – so just before bed I turn the fillets over in the cure, and replace the weights before putting them back in the refrigerator.  The next morning, there will be quite a lot of liquid in the dish and most of the cure will have dissolved. Take the fillets out of the dish, noting the change in texture – the skin will have taken on a harder, almost cardboard character, and the flesh will be firmer and more translucent.  Rinse and dry the fillets, and weigh them again, and note down the reduction in weight.  My fillets had dropped from a starting weight of 256g to 220g at this stage – a 14% water loss.  You’re aiming for a final loss of ~18% by the end of the process, so that’s well on target. Now place the fillets on an open plate, uncovered, in the refrigerator for 24 hours before cold smoking.

You may have read this far, and are now thinking ‘well, that’s no use to me – who has a cold smoker at home?!’.  At it’s simplest, cold smoking requires two things – a source of cold smoke (from smouldering sawdust, for instance), and a space in which to contain it.  Last year, I built a wooden tower smoker, but there’s no need to start with a construction project.  A cardboard box, or a (clean!) upturned bin or barrel, rigged up creatively with a rack or two, will do just as well for the occasional smoking job!

ProQ cold smoke generator, litYou will need a smoke source, and I can heartily recommend the ProQ Cold Smoke Generator, which is a nifty little gadget which entirely takes any stress or complication out of the process.  It’s a little pricey (around £35 at this time), but will pay for itself incredibly quickly once you get the smoking bug!  It reliably provides 10 – 12 hours of cold smoke (depending on the temperature, humidity, and your sawdust choice) with very little heat production.  Have a look at the Supplier’s List for suggested sources of smoking and curing supplies.

Trout fillets, loaded in the smokerChoose a day without too much wind or rain (the occasional shower isn’t important), and where the temperature is roughly between 5 degrees and 15 degrees centigrade.  I’ve successfully smoked between 0 and 5 degrees but smoke penetration is less effective.  Colder, and your fish will freeze rather than taking smoke.  Warmer and the risk of spoilage increases considerably – though cold smoking temperatures up to about 20 degrees are cited in some places.  Get the smoker going first thing in the morning, and leave it for the day – though I would keep it under much closer supervision if using a cardboard box!.

I used a mix of alder and maple sawdust for this smoker burn (about 10% maple) – this produced a gorgeous neutral smoke-flavour with very little bitterness and with a noticeable ‘sweet’ note, presumably from the maple.  It’s definitely a mix I’ll use again in the future.

Trout, fresh from the smokerOnce the smoke generator has burned all the way through, unload your smoker, and take a final weight on your fillets. They should have lost another 4 – 5 %.  They will have a lovely orange-pink colour with a noticeable translucency and a glossy surface.  Then wrap them tightly in cling film, and freeze them.  Smoking fish in this way isn’t really a preserving mechanism, and storage time in the fridge is about 3 – 4 days.  Even if I’m going to eat them very soon, though, I tend to freeze them at this stage – a day or two in the freezer should ensure any parasites which may be present in the fish have been killed off.  You can keep them frozen for a couple of weeks without too much loss of quality, but after a month or so you’ll start to notice the deterioration.

Sliced smoked trout fillet

Once thawed, I slice the smoked trout thinly with a sharp knife, starting at the ‘head’ end of the fillet, at about a 45 degree angle.  There’s a bit of a knack to this, but you’ll get good at it really quickly – and who cares if the slices are thicker, or a bit uneven?  This produces small, almost translucent slices which are great for nibbles.  I love to serve these with water biscuits or oatcakes (or your preferred sort of cracker), cream cheese – or a soft goat’s cheese is also very nice, freshly ground black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.  But the limit is really your imagination.  Smoked trout with scrambled eggs on a toasted muffin is a beautifully indulgent breakfast!

I really do hope you chose to give home-smoked trout a try, and that however you prepare and enjoy it, it brings you as much foodie pleasure as it brings me!

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Scaling Up – second attempt at smoked salmon

Buoyed up by the success of my first attempt at curing and smoking a very small salmon tail fillet, and tempted by the whole sides of salmon that appear in the shops at this time of year, I thought ‘hey, why not?’ and asked my husband to pick one up when he was shopping.  Having got it home and looked at it, in all it’s 1.75kg glory, and about an inch and a half thick at it’s thickest point, I did wonder if I hadn’t perhaps bitten off a bit more than I could chew…  so like any sensible experimental cook, I put the thought firmly to the back of my mind and got on with it anyway.

Before curing I decided to add a bit of flavour to the fillet in the form of a bit of a whisky infusion, so a tot of Laphroaig went into the bag with the fillet for an hour or two.  In retrospect I should have got the fillet out, washed and dried it and deprived it of its pin bones before doing anything with whisky, as I’m pretty sure that most of the flavour I added got washed away at this slightly later preparation stage.   Lesson learned!

After that, I cut the fillet in half (none of my oven dishes is anything like long enough to take a whole fillet in one go, and my fish kettle is metal and not really suitable for curing) and rubbed it generously with the cure mix which, as last time, is 2/3rds table salt and 1/3rd golden caster sugar.  In aiming for a very short cure period (about 6 hours) I’m keen to make sure the pickle doesn’t become unsaturated, so I use a lot more cure mix than I probably need to in order to get maximum water extraction during the short contact time.  I made up about a pound of cure mix, though I didn’t use it all.

Cured salmon skinOnce rubbed in the cure, with a thin layer in the dish beneath the fish, I covered the fillet pieces with cling film and weighed them down with most of the canned goods in my larder!  I turned them every couple of hours.  At the end of the six hours a really quite striking amount of liquid had been drawn out of the fillet by the osmotic action of the salt and sugar.  More striking than that was the effect of the curing process on the salmon skin, which had reverted from the rather soft pliable texture you expect, to a firm, almost cardboard-like texture with the beautiful blue iridescence you would normally see only in the skin of a freshly caught fish.  More culinary alchemy, and quite beautiful!

Cured salmon before smokingAfter washing and drying, the salmon pieces went into my fridge on open racks overnight.

The next morning, they were part of the second smoker run, and smoked for 10 hours over a mix of oak and apple wood.

After smoking I portionned the fish for freezing, which also gave me a good chance to examine it in cross-section.  The thinner tail piece is perfect, I think.  I cut some slivers from the surface and tasted them fresh from the smoker, it’s some of the best smoked salmon I have ever tasted – a gentle saltiness and sweetness, the oiliness of the fish mixing with a soft smoky flavour and perhaps, with a little faith, even the faint bite of the whisky in the background.  In cross section it is an even translucent orange-pink all the way through and a nice firm texture.

The thicker head-end half of the fillet is not quite such an unmitigated success.  There is a clear visual and textural distinction between the skin 1/3rd of the piece and the rest, with the flesh nearest the skin softer, pinker, and with more distinct fat-lines visible.  In all respects, this part of the fish is much closer in appearance to a fresh fillet than to a cured and smoked one.  I can only assume that the cure mix was not able to penetrate well through the skin (which in retrospect I should have checked was properly scaled) and had not had the time in the cure to be reached from the other side.   It’s not a terrible disaster as these pieces are now frozen and will be perfect to use in dishes like the creamy smoked-salmon pasta, but I don’t think they’re suitable for eating raw.

The options for addressing this, as far as I can tell are –

  1. Skin the fillet – not appealing as a plan, as it will reduce the structural integrity of the fillet and make it harder to slice thinly as smoked salmon later, also I think skinned fillets are a lot less visually appealing!
  2. Cure the salmon for longer, perhaps 8 – 10 hours – also not very appealing, as the flavour of the salmon is, in my opinion, perfect as it is, and I would not like it any saltier
  3. Do something to the skin side to help it absorb the cure better – certainly making sure the skin is fully scaled may well help here, but I’m also tempted to do something in the way of shallow piercing / scarifying of the skin to help the cure penetrating.  I have ordered (Amazon to the rescue again) a device called a blade tenderiser, intended for making lots of stab incisions in steaks before cooking, which I think with some minor modification to control the stabbing-depth may well do exactly what I want to the skin on the thick end of the fillet without too much faff.

Watch this space for the third effort – I’m running out of time before Christmas now so the third time had better be the charm!

Tinker and Try Again – second burn of the DIY cold smoker

It was obvious on the first burn of the DIY cold smoker that despite my best woodworking efforts (I do *not* possess joinery skills!) it leaked like a sieve from almost every edge and corner.  It was always going to be an iterative design process, so we broke out the mastic and panel pins and sealed the sides as best we could.  Then I cut and fixed batons along the edges of the slate roof to improve the seal between this and the sides of the smoker box.   After leaving it overnight for the mastic to go off, it was time for the second burn.

The morning dawned unconvincingly, grey damp and foggy.  Even the hens seemed unimpressed when I opened their pop door before turning my attention to getting the smoker set up for its second outing.

Smoker set for second burnI chose a mix of oak (~70%) and apple (~30%) dusts for my second burn.  In the smoker I had a whole side of cured salmon, my experimental Christmas bacon, a slab of cheddar, the bulb and a half of garlic from my first smoker run which hadn’t already been eaten, and a mix of already-smoked and unsmoked chillies.  Oh, and a little muslin bag of sea salt.  It was more or less full.

The smoker was greatly improved by the modifications, and breathed whisps of smoke out through the intended ventilation gap at the front steadily for about 11 hours.  The burn time was longer on this occasion, and I’m not sure whether that was due to the different mix of wood dusts or the weather (it stayed damp and foggy all day and never got above about 7 degrees celsius).  The apple smoke smelt wonderful, sweeter and softer than the 100% oak from the previous burn.

I plan to write more about the salmon in due course.  The bacon took the smoke very nicely and I’m very pleased with the results.  The garlic has definitely benefitted from a longer total time in the smoker, so I suspect I’ll batch garlic smoking to weekends I plan to run the smoker for two consecutive days to give a stronger smoke.

The cheese was a request from a friend, so we await the verdict!  As for the salt, it *smells* of smoke, though that may be the muslin.  I’m gratified that it doesn’t appear to smell of salmon at all.  It looks entirely unchanged – photos of caramel-brown smoked salt I’ve seen on other blogs aren’t the case here, though most of those have been hot-smoker efforts – but I look forward to tasting it soon!

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Aromatics – experimenting with flavoured bacon cures

I’ve now made a couple of flavoured bacons, which I’ve then smoked in my DIY cold smoker.

Black pepper bacon – 

  • 770g piece of pork belly
  • Dry cure made up from 65g Supracure, 15g dark brown soft sugar (~10% total weight of the bacon in cure)
  • 3g of cracked black pepper added to the salt & sugar cure mix
  • Cured according to the Bringing Home the Bacon general instructions
  • Smoked for 10 hours using oak dust

This is a lovely eating bacon, and is likely to become one of our house staples.  The pepper adds mostly flavour, very little heat.  The sweet flavour from the sugar is subtle, but present, and adds nice balance.  It cooks well, too.  Highly recommended.  I think it would also be very nice unsmoked.

Christmas cure spicesChristmas bacon – first attempt

  • 530g piece of pork belly
  • 10% cure mix made up of 36g of Supracure and 17g of molasses sugar
  • One bay leaf, 10 allspice berries, 4 juniper berries, and the berry of one clove (the small ball bit on top of the stem), ground in a spice grinder and mixed well with the sugar & salt
  • Cured in the usual way and then cold smoked for 10 hours in a mix of oak and apple smoke

While the cure did smell a bit medicinal, with a dominant smell of clove, despite the tiny quantity of clove added, it did at least smell convincingly of Christmas.  The molasses sugar gives the cured bacon a really distinctive dark colour to the flesh and to the rind.  Smoked over apple and oak wood dust, it has a lovely sweet complex slightly spiced flavour, and is almost exactly what I was looking for in a Christmas bacon.  It is probably more suited to a cooking bacon (and would make awesome ‘pigs in blankets’ for Christmas dinner) but does also eat very well, caramelising beautifully, if my lunch today was anything to go by!

First smoke! Testing the DIY cold smoker

Time: 5 minutes – Patience: 10 hours – Difficulty: Trivial – Knackynes: Low

So I built a cold smoker, and then it was time to try it!

The items in my first smoke run were the cured salmon fillet, a piece of home-cured bacon, three garlic bulbs and about a dozen home-grown chillies.  These were loaded into the smoker on the racks – I considered hanging the bacon piece from a  hook but decided against this time.  The loaded smoker looks really empty so the first lesson is to have more items ready for smoking and do them all at once.

Smoker, loadedThe ProQ smoke generator lit very straightforwardly and behaved immaculately, smouldering gently without any noticeable heat output for almost exactly the advertised ten hours.  I used oak sawdust in the smoke generator for the first attempt, and the 100g pack I had was a little bit more than I needed.

ProQ cold smoke generator, litThe smoker itself leaked like a sieve from the junction between the roof and box, and also from the side of the magnetically-attached door panel.  I suspect this meant the smoke density inside the box was rather less than it might have been.  Before the next run, I plan to plug as many of these leaks as I can using silicone mastic and some batons, and we’ll see if I get a more concentrated smoke as a result.  I could conceivably run a second smoke generator, but this would increase my costs, so I’d rather not!

Overall, the salmon was a great success.  It was firm, glistened slightly with oil on the surface, and cooked wonderfully into the creamy home-smoked salmon pasta I made for dinner on Monday.  You can see photos and more discussion with the recipe.

The garlic and chillies didn’t appreciably change in appearance during smoking – at odds with the smoked garlic I’ve seen before which was dark yellow to brown in colour.  I have seen recommendations for smoking times for garlic up to 36 hours, though, so 10 may not be enough to achieve this, especially in a leaky-smoker.  They smell wonderfully of oak smoke though and the flavour of the garlic is a treat – nice fresh flavour with a subtle but distinct note of oak smoke, not too obtrusive and lovely for general cooking.  I might re-smoke one of the bulbs next time I run the smoker, if I’ve not eaten it all by then.

Bacon, salmon, garlic and chillies after smokingThe bacon has a bit of smoke staining on the rind and has darkened on the meat side.  I think you might get more discolouration on the rind with the bacon hanging rather than sat rind-up on a rack.  Apart from that, it looks and smells as I would expect from good smoked streaky bacon.  I haven’t tasted it yet – but plan to have some for my lunch!

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Creamy home-smoked salmon pasta

Time: 10 minutes – Patience: 10 minutes – Difficulty: Simple – Knackyness: Low

Yesterday, I had a first experiment at curing and smoking salmon at home.  Tonight, I made a creamy smoked salmon pasta with the cold smoked fillet I’d produced.

Smoked salmon pasta - some ingredientsIngredients –

  • One tail fillet of home-smoked salmon, around 100g
  • Two home-reared pullet’s eggs
  • One clove of home-smoked garlic, crushed
  • A small handful of grated parmesan or pecorino
  • A glug of double cream
  • Pasta of your choice, sufficient for two portions

Method –

  • In a dry frying pan, start to cook your whole smoked salmon fillet
  • In a large saucepan, bring some salted water to the boil
  • Add the pasta to the boiling water, along with a pinch of salt and a glug of olive oil
  • Once the salmon fillet is cooked, break it up into flakes in the pan, then add the crushed garlic clove and continue to fry gently for a couple more minutes
  • Meanwhile, in a bowl or jug, beat the eggs with a fork, add the glug of double cream and 2/3rds of the grated parmesan, along with a generous pinch of cracked black pepper
  • Once the pasta is cooked, drain and return to the saucepan.
  • Add the liquid ingredients to the frying pan with the salmon and garlic, and almost immediately transfer all of these into the drained pasta
  • Mix swiftly, the heat from the pasta will cook the egg, and the texture should end up thick and glossy.  But don’t worry if it looks a bit like scrambled egg with salmon in it, it will still taste marvellous
  • Serve into two bowls, topped with the rest of the grated parmesan

Simple, tasty, and all the key ingredients home-produced. And done in the ten minutes it takes to cook the pasta. What could be better?

Verdict on the smoked salmon? Undoubted success. Cooked in this dish it is distinctively and recognisably smoked salmon, has a good firm texture and slightly salty flavour and lovely smokey aroma.  Result!

I have an apology to make, however – it was a long day at work, and I was hungry… so I didn’t stop to take photos of the cooked dish, I just ate it!

A little bit fishy – first attempt at smoked salmon

Time: 15 minutes – Patience: 24 hours – Difficulty: Easy – Knackyness: Low

As the smoker build was progressing well, my mind of course turned to what to put in for the first experimental firing along with the piece of bacon I’ve been curing this week.

I’ve never smoked or even cured fish before but there were a couple of tail-piece salmon fillets in the Co-op this afternoon.  Opinions seem to vary incredibly widely on how long one should cure the salmon for (and indeed whether table salt or curing salt are required), whether to dry cure or brine, and then how long a smoke is required (with opinions ranging from 6 to 36 hours!).  Since I planned to run the smoker the next morning, and the fillet is small and thin (and has also been robbed of it’s skin – something I didn’t notice when I bought it) I went for the lowest of all the estimations, and the simplest of approaches.

I used:

  • A 125g farmed Atlantic salmon tail fillet (skinless – not ideal)
  • Very simple dry cure made from 30g of sea salt and 15g of golden caster sugar

Salmon, with cure appliedWeighed down with tinRub the cure generously into both sides of the fish with some extra under the fillet.  Then weigh the fillet down with a plate and a can of tomatoes to encourage the water to come out of it.  Leave the fillet like this in the fridge for six hours.

Salmon fillet after curingAfter six hours the fillet should be flatter, firmer, darker in colour and lighter in weight.  The photograph is the same fillet as above.  After six hours of curing there was lots of salt still left in the bowl, along with quite a bit of pickle (the liquid which has oozed out of the fish).  The fillet, rinsed and dried weighed 111g, a 14g weight loss in water in six hours.

Now put the fish, uncovered, on a rack in the fridge overnight.  In the morning it will have formed a shiny pellicle, and lost a bit more weight (mine was 109g by this time).  Time now to load my home-built cold smoker for it’s maiden voyage…

Salmon after smoking - skinned sideSalmon fillet after smokingAfter ten hours of cold oak smoke, the fillet is 106g (a 19g total weight loss which is about 16% – not far off the 17-18% I’ve seen recommended).  It has a glossy, slightly oily surface, a firm texture, and smells more of smoke than it does of fish.    I would describe it as ‘lightly smoked’, for reasons I’ll discuss further in the write-up of the first (rather experimental!) burn in the smoker.  Because I don’t know enough about the storage conditions of the fillet before I bought it, I plan to cook with it instead of eating it raw – probably tomorrow night. Expect a post-sampling update!

Smokin’!! DIY Cold Smoker – design and build

Time: 4 hours build time – Difficulty: Easy – Knackyness: Moderate (woodworking skills & equipment required)  – Cost: around £50

I’ve wanted to try cold smoking for a long time.  Hot smoking is an easily solved problem, modify a BBQ with a lid or some heavy duty tinfoil and add some woodchips, or even on the kitchen hob burning rice in an un-loved saucepan and steamer with the cooker hood running full pelt.  Hot smoked food is tasty enough, but though our American cousins have raised it to an art-form, I can’t get terribly excited about it.

Cold smoking, on the other hand, is far more interesting.  It requires more complicated equipment and, a bit like curing, feels like a sort of culinary alchemy.  The knack is to fill a space with sufficiently thick smoke for a long enough period to flavour your food, without raising the temperature so high that the food starts to cook, or worse, is at risk of spoilng.   Now someone observant once said, ‘no smoke without fire’, and therein lies the problem.  The internet, and the various books published on the subject, have a wide variety of different designs for low-cost home smokers.  The involve oil drums, modified fridges and filing cabinets, air conditioning duct, garden sheds, breeze blocks, and innumerable other approaches.  There are high tech ‘smoke generators’ and low tech fires in holes in the ground.  Then there are the purpose built smokers like the lovely-looking ones Bradley make, but they’re a bit outside my budget.

My smoker is a variation on a wooden box, and uses the ProQ cold smoke generator, which burns sawdust, as a smoke source.  I have built my smoker out of new wood, though I would have preferred to have used reclaimed wood – both on cost and ecological grounds.  If you are using reclaimed or scrap wood do make sure it’s clean and hasn’t been treated with any toxic wood preservatives.  The roof is a spare slate I happened to have, you may need to come up with something different. The structure is assembled from 2.5cm square section timber and covered with tongue-and-groove cladding, using various screws and fixings you are likely have in your toolbox.

What I bought to make the smoker –

  • The ProQ smoke generator and a few bags of wood dust
  • Set of 3 non-stick cooling racks (mine were from Amazon, but a cookshop would have similar products)
  • Four 2.5cm square 1.8m lengths of timber
  • Ten 1.8m lengths of tongue-and-groove cladding board
  • Four magnetic clips

I also used the following items I already had –

  • Wood saw, tape measure, screw driver
  • Electric drill and screwdriver, work bench (not essential, but useful)
  • Variety of screws, pins, fencing staples
  • A roof slate
  • Wood glue
  • Water-based shed stain

Smoker Frame

Smoker frame, size relative to rack

Dimensions of the smoker are 1.1m high at the front, 1.0m high at the back.  The width and depth are based on the size of the racks you want to use.

First, build the frame.  It will probably look something like this (note it is slightly narrower than the width of the rack.  Secure the horizontal timbers with long wood screws.

Frame showing slots for racksSlot the front vertical timbers to hold the racks.  The choice of spacings is yours, I placed a slot about every 15cm from about 40cm above the ground.  We cut the slots with a large drill bit and tidied up with a chisel.  There’s a bit of hit-and-miss here and while all the slots are not equally beautiful, they should do the job.  You could also slot the back timbers, but we decided to use small screws here with their heads proud to support the back of the racks,  also preventing backward and forward slip.  The highest slot is positioned to allow a rack to rest on the side timbers to take the weight of items hanging from it on hooks.

Applying claddingNext cover the back and sides with cladding going from floor level all the way to the top of the frame, including the triangle sections at the top of the sides.  I glued the tongue and groove for extra stability.  You could equally use plywood to clad the box.  We used fencing staples to secure the cladding to the frame.  Panel pins would be more traditional.

Complete smoker - openI want the whole front of the smoker box to be removable, in two sections – a large top section to allow me to load and unload the smoker racks and hooks, and a small bottom strip to allow management and monitoring of the smoke generator without letting all the smoke ‘escape’ from the box during use.  I built the main panel and secured it with three strips of 1cm baton.  The top and bottom baton positions are chosen to rest on the horizontal timbers forming the front of the structure, taking the weight of the front panel.  Four magnetic clips hold the front panel snugly in place.  The angle of the roof will allow a 1cm ventilation gap above the front panel.  A final length of cladding is used horizontally for the bottom section.

Complete smoker - closedFixing the roof will depend on your materials.  For the time being my slate just rests carefully on top, in due course we’ll come up with some sort of clip arrangement.  A plywood roof could be screwed in place.  I’m going to use a knackered old baking tray on the floor of the smoker to catch ash and any drips from the food.

The outside of the smoker will be painted with water based fence and shed stain.  The inside will not be painted, and I hope that with time exposure to smoke should provide a good seal to these surfaces.

Next, the first very experimental firing…  I can hardly wait!

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