How to Build a Meat Curing Chamber for under $200
NEW: Check out the video on youtube. The 30-minute video walks you through how to use this entire setup!
My meat curing chamber is a converted wine cooler in my basement. The purpose of the meat curing chamber is to create an environment in which to cure meats that were consistently 70% relative humidity at 65°F, without spending a lot of money or creating some sort of giant that I couldn’t move easily.
A quick search on craigslist.org yielded this little beauty. A Danby Millennium Home Wine Cooler. The asking price of $100 was a third of its sticker price. The original owner had kept it nice and clean. Upon inspection, I found it to be super cold inside and running quietly when they showed it. I couldn’t resist.
A quick scan of the user’s manual showed that the range of this device was 42° – 65°F, so I knew I’d have to replace the thermostat. While I was at it, I figured I’d wire in a hygrostat, too, to keep the humidity in check. These digital thermostats are actually pretty cool. They run on 120V. They tap the hot circuit to run and then offer a probe and a relay. My challenge was to wire them in parallel to provide switched power to the compressor and also be able to run a humidifier or maybe a dehumidifier, but that would come later, once I had some idea of what the humidity would be under normal operation.
Here are the basic inputs and outputs on the digital controller.
I used some heavy-duty plastic Velcro-type mounting tabs to hold them to the roof of the fridge. I had some trouble finding good, clear, instructions on how to program the controls once I got them installed. Here are some links to the pdfs of the manuals. These were the best ones that I could find:
Unlike everybody else in the world, I need a dehumidifier in my cure box. You can see the moisture on the walls. I found a tiny closet-sized Thermo-Electric Dehumidifier on Amazon.com. With a little brute strength and some sharp tools, I was able to make it even smaller. It has some condenser fins on the back of it that conveniently drip right into the drain on the back of the fridge. The drain empties into a pan under the fridge that allows the condensate to evaporate to the outside room. I’m still working on the mounting of the dehumidifier. Right now, it’s hanging with some butchers’ twine. Not great, but functional. There’s also a lot of exposed 110V circuitry but we’re not even talking about that right now. In retrospect, I would have kept the dehumidifier intact and plugged it into a 3 Pins Power Socket Plug.
The Meat Curing Chamber is a success! The digital controls are visible through the door of the old wine cooler–as are the salame! The controls work nicely with the compressor. The STC-1000 even has a programmable delay to keep the compressor from cycling on and off too quickly, thus extending its life. There’s usually a couple of ounces of water in the condensate evaporator tray. It’s right on top of the compressor, utilizing its heat to drive the evaporation.
NEW: Check out the video on youtube
2019 UPDATE: Look at this cool new controller from INKBIRD: