Why has there been so much talk on air exchange lately and why should we be concerned?
This is a great question. There has been a lot of discussion lately based on processing time claims from manufacturers that have raised eyebrows. Any smokehouse can meet a fast processing time, however, some methods compromise the quality of the smoked product as well as the long-term performance of the smokehouse. One of the largest problems we’ve seen stems from tar and creosote build-up in the smokehouse. Tar and creosote build-up results from generators that use sawdust or log smoke and requires heavy cleaning and maintenance. These smokehouses may be able to meet fast processing times, however if not properly cleaned and maintained will experience reduced air exchanges throughout the unit, which negatively affects both the smokehouse and the product being smoked. Specifically, we’re seeing that the quality, flavor, and yield of the finished product suffers, as does the longevity of the smokehouse.
Tar and creosote build-up does not sound good. What effect does that have on air exchange?
Processors that use sawdust and log smoke generators know the importance of thoroughly cleaning their system to help prevent issues such as tar dripping on product, excessive smokehouse maintenance, and most importantly, to prevent smokehouse fires. Most processors also understand that tar and creosote build-up has a negative effect on almost every part of their smokehouse ranging from the dampers, to the plenum, and the circulating fan to name a few. They should also know that tar and creosote build-up results in reduced airflow, which ultimately leads to less intense smoke and lower quality smoked product. The reduced air exchange also extends drying and cooking times, which shrinks product yields and results in lost profit.
So cleaning sounds to be a major factor for maintaining an even air exchange throughout the smokehouse. What does this involve?
Yes, it is a major factor. Tar and creosote build-up are fire hazards associated with sawdust and log generators (and even liquid smoke systems) and require the processor to use either expensive caustic cleaning solutions or costly and ineffective cleaning systems built into the smokehouse. Manual cleaning is a very labor-intensive process on these systems and accessibility to all areas may be difficult. Automatic cleaning systems can give processors a false sense of security, as they are dependent on all parts of that cleaning system functioning properly. Just one plugged nozzle will lead to a build-up of tar and creosote over time. Labor and cleaning solution costs where there is a presence of tar and creosote typically amount to over $4,500 per unit annually. With a clean-smoking system, cleaning costs are under $800.
What recommendations can you make to help maintain a clean smokehouse and maximize air exchange?
Pro Smoker ’N Roaster and Vortron smokehouses are designed and built to maximize air exchange. With 48 years of engineering experience, we’ve designed a clean-smoking system that utilizes minimal mechanical parts minimizing downtime and a wood Pellet Smoke Generator that creates a natural denser smoke than sawdust or log. Wood pellets are the lowest emission solid-fuel burning products available. This allows our clean-smoking system to create that dense smoke that is significantly cleaner than sawdust, log, and liquid smoke systems. This virtually eliminates all tar and creosote in the smokehouse and smoke pipes. Our system allows for a quick and easy clean with a simple off-the-shelf cleaning solution.
So, it sounds like air exchange is paramount to a smokehouse, can you tie this all together and help us know what to watch out for?
Ultimately, air exchanges are the most important factor in the quality of your finished smoked product. The use of a smokehouse that can regulate its air exchanges combined with a denser smoke, allows you to move that smoke more evenly through your product in a shorter time. Again, our customers are in the business of producing smoked product, so our clean-smoke system provides a level of consistency and uniformity to their products without compromising that desired deep penetrating color and flavor profile they expect. Our system’s design allows our customers to easily maintain and clean their smokehouse as well as optimize air exchanges. This allows them to yield full capacity loads regardless of the product being smoked which saves the processor both time and money.
When analyzing the air exchange performance of your current smokehouse, or purchasing a new smokehouse, make sure to review this complete checklist:
- The design of the smokehouse fan circulation system
- Product displacement
- Smokehouse production quality. Gauge of stainless steel, fully welded seams, quality door gasket and latch mechanism
- Cleaning in terms of labor and cleaning solutions required for the smokehouse
- Maintenance and part replacement required due to tar and creosote build-up over time
- Damper positions, main smokehouse fan motor speed
- Exhaust venting as well as length of pipe outside the smokehouse
- Back-up support throughout the U.S. for processing and maintenance needs
Pro Smoker ’N Roaster and Vortron have over 8,000 working smokehouses in the field today and their customers win local, state, national and international awards annually. Their smokehouses are designed and built in Iron Ridge, Wisconsin and have been for 48 years. Their 110,000 sq. ft. facility has two fully functional test kitchens and a sales staff with over 150 years of smoking and processing history supporting their customer base.