How To Make A Meat Curing Chamber: Tips & Equipment


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Today we’re going to have an in-depth discussion on how to make a meat-curing chamber for your salami or your cheese-making projects. This same build can do cheese like a cheesecake or salami. And so we’re going to cover all the equipment that you’re going to need. And we’re also going to look at a few things that you want to pay close attention to when building this chamber so that you can have success.

How To Build A Meat Curing Chamber: Tips & Equipment

Equipment

  1. A Frost Free Refrigerator
  2. Surge Protector power strip
  3. Small extension chords (be sure to check the size)
  4. Heavy-Duty Velcro Strips
  5. InkBird WiFi Temperature Controller
  6. InkBird Wifi Humidity Controller
  7. Humidifier 1 gallon tank
  8. Dehumidifier Eva Dry 2500 (for larger chambers)
  9. Dehumidifier Eva Dry 1100 (for small chambers)
  10. (Optional) Temperature/Humidity check inside the chamber
  11. (Optional) Computer fan
  12. (Optional) Speed control for computer fan
  13. (Sanitizer to clean section) Iodophor

Frost free fridge

The first thing is getting your hands on a frost-free fridge. Now, that’s probably not going to be very hard to do, as most of them are already frost free. Of course, you can just buy a top curing chamber for your needs and upgrade it.

How To Build A Meat Curing Chamber: Tips & Equipment

When looking for a fridge that is suitable for curing meats, it is important to look at the features and design of each model to ensure that it meets all requirements.

Temperature range

One key feature that you should consider when purchasing a frost-free fridge for a curing chamber is the temperature range. This should be adjustable between 30°F and 40°F, as this is the optimum environment needed to cure meats properly. It is also essential that the fridge have an accurate thermostat and monitor so you can ensure that the temperature remains consistent throughout. Additionally, if you plan on using your frost-free fridge for long-term storage of cured meats, then make sure to choose a model with an airtight door seal; this will help maintain ideal humidity levels within the fridge and prevent any moisture from getting into the food.

Size and Capacity

Another important factor to consider when selecting a frost-free fridge for curing meats is its overall size and capacity. Make sure to measure your space before purchasing to determine what size unit would best suit your needs.

How To Build A Meat Curing Chamber: Tips & Equipment

You also need to take into account how much meat you plan on storing in the chamber; depending on this amount, you may need either one or two separate units (or shelves). As well as space requirements, think about convenience too; opting for larger models with plenty of storage trays makes it easier when removing items from their original packaging or while rotating them during curing processes.

Safety

Finally, safety should always come first when dealing with food products. Before buying any fridge, check its certifications and labels such as NSF/ANSI Standard 7 compliant – this ensures that materials used are safe enough for contact with raw and processed foods while being easy to clean too. It’s also worth investing in a model that has advanced safety features such as interior LED lights which eliminate heat build-up and reduce the risk of fire.

In summary, several factors must be taken into account before settling on a frost-free fridge for curing chamber for meat; such as temperature range, size & capacity, convenience & ease of use, and safety standards & features. Doing thorough research before purchase will make all the difference in terms of selecting an appliance that meets all requirements and provides optimal performance throughout its lifespan.

AirFlow

But it is worth mentioning now that you have your fridge, the next thing you want to pay attention to is airflow. It’s quite possibly the most detrimental element to aging, drying cheese or salami. And so before I do anything, I want to check out the type of airflow that this refrigerator delivers.

How To Build A Meat Curing Chamber: Tips & Equipment

When I close the door, notice that little switch that I’m holding down, a fan turns on and it stays on as long as the door is closed, regardless of whether the compressor is on. And what it’s doing is that’s really drawing air from the fridge over the coils and then back down the wall again. So when I put my hand on the very back, I can feel a lot of air movement.

So my first recommendation when building a chamber is to place strings throughout the entire chamber. And this is going to kind of give you an idea of what kind of air movement is happening inside your refrigerator.

What I’m looking for is next to no movement.

Too much airflow is going to cause your cheese or salami to dry too fast. In the case of salami, it’s going to give you dry ring and in certain cases case hardening.

Notice my strings right now, depending on where they’re located. Some are moving more than others and I’m not comfortable with this level of movement. So the first thing that we need to do is unplug our refrigerator, remove the fan, and then disable that particular switch. As we begin this particular build, I want you to know that every chamber is different.

Fridge modification

Some are going to require more modification than others. So here’s what we’re going to do at the top of the fridge. When you remove that front panel, it exposes the controls.

How To Build A Meat Curing Chamber: Tips & Equipment

Here is the switch that is activating the fan and this particular fridge allows me the option to just simply unplug it. So what I’m going to do is I’m going to unplug both of those plugs. And as soon as I do that, this particular switch is now disabled, but I don’t want to leave those plugs open. So we’re just going to secure those with some electrical tape and then place them back inside.

How To Build A Meat Curing Chamber: Tips & Equipment

Now, since we’re already up here, let me just show you a couple of little things that I did directly behind the controller. You’re going to notice a hole that’s filled with that great stuff, foam. And what I did was I just went ahead and drilled in another hole opposite of that one, that particular panel, there’s no need to worry about hoses or gas lines or anything like that. And so I drilled probably what is about a one-and-three-quarter-inch hole enough to fit all of my cables through it.

If you look directly above that, I’ll put another hole at the very top. That’s just a piece of sheet metal. And what I’m going to do is I’m going to run all of my cables from the top into that refrigerator, and you’ll see how we’ll do that in a second. At the very top with some Velcro, I attached a surge protector like a socket strip, you know, kind of thing going on and that just securely fastened right there at the top of the fridge and I’m going to have everything plugged into that.

Computer Fan

Okay, so we’ve disabled the switch and now it’s time to remove the fan because it’s just blowing way too much air. I do want some air to blow across the coils. And that brings us to our very first piece of equipment that’s going to be a computer fan. Now, don’t worry, there’s going to be a link in the description box below where you can find everything that you need if you want to have this kind of build. But if you look at the computer fan, there’s going to be an arrow that tells you which direction the air is going to be blowing.

How To Build A Meat Curing Chamber: Tips & Equipment

And what we want is we want the air to blow onto the coils. And the second piece of equipment that I have is a speed control for the fan, although I would put this in the optional category, not necessarily mandatory. I normally run mine at about 80%, but these little fans don’t blow a tremendous amount of air. So if you run it at 100%, that’s fine too. Either way works.

Fan Installation

So what we’re going to do is unplug it and we’re going to go ahead and just place the fan so that the direction of the air is blowing directly onto the coils, basically the same as the other fan. Just a whole lot slower.

How To Build A Meat Curing Chamber: Tips & Equipment

And I’m going to take the plug for that fan and I’m going to run it through the holes that are pre-drilled at the top of the refrigerator. And now we have our cable inside of the fridge and we can go ahead and hook up the fan and that’s it. Our airflow issue has been solved. Now that our fan is wired up, we can go ahead and place that back and then replace that guard. I do want to make sure that the wires aren’t in the way when I do that, but this is what that’s going to look like when we’re done.

How To Build A Meat Curing Chamber: Tips & Equipment

And that particular housing is just easily mountable with a couple of pegs that are on the right and left side, and I’m pretty sure that most of them work similarly. The next thing we want to talk about is controlling the atmosphere inside our chamber. So what? We’re going to do is we’re going to put in two simple extension cords. Nothing fancy, just big enough to fit through the holes that I’ve got pre-drilled right at the very top. And then we’re going to string those into the chamber itself.

Cabel installation

I like to run the cables along the side of the shelves and it just keeps everything nice and tidy, but it doesn’t matter. Once you have your cables in place, it’s time to talk about the next piece of equipment. Now, this first thing I’m doing is completely optional, but from experience, I would highly suggest it.

How To Build A Meat Curing Chamber: Tips & Equipment

This is a black piece of foam that doesn’t absorb water, and I put it in the chamber so that I can put any electrical equipment over it. And that way it’s not sitting directly on the floor. If there’s a situation where, you know, water or a lot of moisture accumulates on the floor of this chamber.

Dehumidifier

So once that’s in place, we’re going to go ahead and bring in the first piece of equipment. And this is the ever-dry 2500 now. I can’t stress enough how important it is to get a good dehumidifier for your chamber. It’s easy to add humidity. It’s a little more difficult to remove it. And the ever-dry 2500 just does an awesome job.

How To Build A Meat Curing Chamber: Tips & Equipment

It’s built to handle 2500 cubic feet. And for this large chamber, it’s perfect. If you have a smaller chamber like the one you’ll see at the end of this video, then I’ll suggest the ever-dry 1100. And trust me when I tell you, I’ve used a lot of dehumidifiers, and not all of them, although they may look alike, work the same way ever. Dry is the only brand that we’ve used that’s given us great results consistently. So that’s my recommendation if you are looking for a dehumidifier.

Ultrasonic cool mist humidifier

Let’s talk about the second piece of equipment that you’re going to need, and that’s going to be an ultrasonic cool mist humidifier. Like I said in the description box below, there’s going to be a link for my recommendations. There are a lot of different humidifiers on the market, some better than others. Some have a larger holding capacity for water, and the one you get will inevitably depend on the size of your chamber. Both of these units work together to control the humidity inside your chamber so it never gets too high or too low, which is critical in producing great salami and great cheese.

Temperature Controller

We’re now down to the very end of this build, and we have to talk about the controllers. These controllers, in essence, take over your equipment based on the parameters that you have on set. At the controller, I’m holding here is a temperature controller where you can plug in your refrigerator that would go into the cooling port. And if you had a heating pad or a heating lamp that would go into the heating port.

How To Build A Meat Curing Chamber: Tips & Equipment

There’s also a temperature probe that comes with this particular unit and that’s going to be inside the chamber that’s going to be telling your controller what the temperature is so that it knows how to adjust the values.

Humidity Controller

The next controller that you’re going to need to get is a humidity controller. This one’s also by impart. Both of these are reliable, effective, and affordable. This particular controller controls the humidifier and the dehumidifier work. One is for the humidifier work two is for the dehumidifier. This controller also comes with a probe, but it monitors the humidity level inside your chamber, and depending on what your values are set at, it’s going to either turn on or off your humidifier or dehumidifier. Now what I’ve done here is simply attach some Velcro strips to the very back of this unit, and that way I can stick it right to the side of the refrigerator.

How To Build A Meat Curing Chamber: Tips & Equipment

It’s out of the way and I can remove it easily if I need to calibrate the unit later. And that brings me to another important point. The holes where your wires are coming into at the top of the fridge don’t seal those off permanently. I know you’re going to want to. It’d be better to just kind of backfill them with some cloth or some towels because eventually, you’re going to need to pull some of those cords out and calibrate your equipment, specifically your humidity controller and your temperature controller. And you’re going to want to calibrate that at least once every six months. So about twice a year.

Controllers Installation

Now, with that out of the way, let’s go ahead and plug in our dehumidifier and our humidifier. Remember, work one is for humidity. Work two is for Dehumidification. All right. Now we’ve got that plugged up.

How To Build A Meat Curing Chamber: Tips & Equipment

How To Build A Meat Curing Chamber: Tips & Equipment

Let’s go ahead and plug the refrigerator into the cooling port. And if you live in an area where it gets below freezing or freezing and your chamber is exposed to that kind of conditions, in that case, you’re probably going to want to have a heating element inside your chamber. I’m going to go ahead and wire in both the temperature and the humidity probes. And I’m just going to fix that to where it’s right in the center of my chamber.

How To Build A Meat Curing Chamber: Tips & Equipment

You don’t necessarily have to put yours in the center of your chamber. You could put it on one of the sidewalls. Just make sure that it’s not directly in front of where your humidifier is generating. It’s mist.

How To Build A Meat Curing Chamber: Tips & Equipment

Hygrometer & Thermometer 2-in-1 solution

All right, so now that I’ve got my wires nice and tidy, and now we’re going to come down to what I consider insurance for your chamber, I think that it’s important to not only have one but a couple of these awesome units. This unit is also by EVA Dry. It’s a thermometer and a high-growth emitter all in the same unit. You can mount this with the magnets that are on the back of the unit or it has a little kickstand if you want it freestanding. I like to put these in various places in my chamber as it reads the humidity and the temperature at all times. And it’s just a great way to ensure that your equipment is reading true.

If the numbers are too far off, it might give you some indication as to when to calibrate.

Programming controllers

And now it’s time to plug in the computer fan and the two controllers and power everything on now at this point remember these controllers operate everything. So we need to program them to make sure that the parameters are where we want them to be.

How To Build A Meat Curing Chamber: Tips & Equipment

To do that, we’re going to use the app on our smartphones. The first thing I’m going to select is the humidity controller. As you can see, it’s pretty intuitive. I’m going to make a separate video on how to use this particular controller, but I want to set my humidity level to 80%. This is a nice humidity level for cheese, for salami. It’s going to slow the drying and it’s going to give you a great product. Now, as soon as I hit Enter notice, my controller says 80%. That’s my target value. When I hit the settings, I want to make sure that I have all of the different parameters adjusted.

So we’re going to put the humidification difference value at two to three. We’re going to put the dehumidification difference value to three as well. I want my alarm to go off when the humidity level reaches roughly 95% on the high end and I want my alarm to go off when the humidity reaches 60% on the low end. If the alarm does get triggered from the app on your smartphone, you can turn it off. Now, that’s what the humidity controller and now that the humidity is all programmed up ready to go.

How To Build A Meat Curing Chamber: Tips & Equipment

Notice it says work one is on. So we’re going to go ahead and program the temperature controller. And the temperature controller is already preprogrammed because I did it in an earlier video. But 55 degrees Fahrenheit is what I typically like to keep it at. I want my heating difference to be two my cooling difference to be my high alarm to be 90, my low-temperature alarm to be at 40, and my refrigeration delay to be at 3 minutes.

And that’s important because it actually keeps the compressor from burning out and that’s our drying chamber.

Protect the front of your chamber

Notice that I’ve got a glass window pane directly in front. Now the problem with that is that my chamber is outside and it gets direct sunlight from about 9 a.m. to about 2 p.m. And when you’re making salami, the fat can easily go rancid. So you don’t want direct light. And that sunlight also affects the temperature inside the chamber. So I use a particular foil type barrier, but you can just tape aluminum foil if you happen to have a glass door to keep that from happening.

If your chamber has a glass door and it’s inside, I wouldn’t worry about it. You can leave it just like that. It’s not going to affect anything. But like I said, if yours is going to be outside like mine, then you want to protect that front to keep the temperature consistent inside your chamber.

Final words

And that’s it. With all those pieces that come together, you now have a controlled temperature environment, and a controlled humidity environment, perfect for making cheese, salami, growing mushrooms, wine, and sauerkraut.

John Storm
Meat Expert

About John: John Storm is a passionate meat enthusiast who discovered his love of the craft through an unexpected encounter with an old friend. His blog posts and website provide helpful advice and insight into this fascinating process, empowering others with the knowledge they need to embark on their own curing journey. More info

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