Building A Dry Cure Locker
We wanted to post a tutorial on how to make a dry curing chamber out of a refrigerator. To our knowledge, nobody sells these as a complete unit, so if you want to explore the wonders of dry curing meat and fermenting sausages you have to do a little work.
We bought a 25 sq. ft. reconditioned side-by-side refrigerator from our local handyman. We’ve also built these with over-under models and the same science applies. So buy what you fancy.
There are a few different environments that sausage fermenting occur in. Fast or hot ferments produce sour sausages like pepperoni. And slower, cooler environments produce sopressata and the whole muscle cuts like pancetta and prosciutto. We are mainly focused on the slower cures. But there’s no rule that says you cant buy two fridges and do both, or change up the temperature in between cures. You can use this set-up to do either one with simple adjustments to the temperature controls.
Basically, this project adds a temperature controller, a humidity controller, a humidifier or dehumidifier, and a fan to a working refrigerator. Our goal is to make an environment that maintains a temperature of about 60F, and a humidity level of 70% with no dead air space. This target environment is where our beneficial bacteria is happiest and that is important because when the good bacteria is happy it gobbles up all the food source and multiplies at a rate that will starve out the bad bacteria.
You will need the following tools:
Cordless drill with screwdriver heads, hole punches, and metal bit.
Food grade silicone
Reciprocating saw (if using over-under fridge/freezer)
We used the following equipment:
Ivation GDM20 Thermo-Electric Dehumidifier
Honeywell HUL520B Mistmate Cool Mist Humidifier
AcuRite 00613A1 Indoor Humidity Monitor
AC Infinity AXIAL 1225, Muffin Cooling Fan, 115V AC 120mm x 120mm x 25mm Low Speed
Inkbird Itc-308 Digital Temperature Controller Outlet Thermostat, 2-stage, 1000w, w/ Sensor
WILLHI WH1436H AC 110V 240V 8A Digital Humidity Controller Control Switch Unit 1 Relay Output with Sensor
It should be noted that before you start you should make sure that your fridge is UNPLUGGED. It is also a good idea to ask a professional or consult the schematic of the fridge before you start drilling to make sure that you aren’t drilling into coils or electrics.
Remove all of the shelving, drawers, racks, etc. from the fridge and freezer.
We positioned our Humidity Controller and Temperature Controller on the outside of the fridge and made a mark with the Sharpie for a reference point for mounting them. The fan and either a humidifier or dehumidifier will be positioned on the inside of the fridge. We made a reference point with a Sharpie on the inside of the fridge so that we would know where to drill holes for our power sources. Be sure that you position the Humidity Controller and (de)humidifier within a close enough proximity to each other for the power supply to reach the controller. It would also be smart to buy the Humidity Controller to measure the humidity in the air before choosing to buy a humidifier or dehumidifier. The humidity should be at 70%. The humidifier (or dehumidifier) will be located at the bottom of the fridge.
Drill holes with a bit and mount your Temperature Controller and Humidity Controller to the outside of the fridge. Use the drill bit to mark where you will punch a hole for the fan and humidifier or dehumidifier power controls. Then use a hole punch or metal bit slightly larger than the plug to punch a hole in the bottom of your fridge. Make sure this hole is underneath your controls mounted on the outside of the fridge.
If you are using a side-by-side fridge punch 6-8 holes around 3” in diameter through the wall that separates the fridge from the freezer. This will allow air to flow between both fridge and freezer. Position one of these holes toward the bottom of the fridge for the fan. Use a file to smooth out the edges of all the holes.
If you are using an over-under fridge, use the reciprocating saw to remove the wall that separates the fridge from the freezer.
Place the fan over the hole at the bottom of the fridge and use a Sharpie to mark where the mounting holes will be drilled. Drill holes and mount fan. Run fan power source through the hole on the outside of the fridge. Run power source for humidifier or dehumidifier through the same hole.
Use a damp cloth to remove any debris from the drilled holes. Apply food grade silicone to the inside of the holes using a glove. This will keep any small bits of foam from floating around the chamber once there is activity. Allow to dry completely.
Thoroughly wash and sanitize the inside of the dry curing locker.
Plug the dry cure locker into power supply along with all controllers, humidifier or dehumidifier, and fan. Follow user manuals for controllers to set temperature to 60F and humidity to 70%. Place humidity monitor/thermometer inside the dry locker. Allow to run overnight to stabilize.
Make any necessary adjustments to controllers.
Contact us for pig parts and get to work!