So you ‘re itching to get into a new hobby. Maybe something like advanced charcuterie (salami/salumi) or even cheese making. Well you’ve come to the right place because today I’ll be showing you how to build a drying/aging chamber for your salami or cheese…
Before we begin I want to say that if you don’t feel like building a drying/aging chamber and just want to buy one The Sausage Maker makes a great cabinet that can be used to make salami, cheese, prosciutto, pancetta, and all of those tasty treats that you’ve come to love. It’s not cheap but it’s a worthy investment if you want a high quality piece of equipment for your new hobby. Click hereto learn more about it: The Sausage Maker dry aging/curing cabinet
To build one yourself isn’t very complicated and you can do this with most fridges with just a few tweaks. Before we begin I just want you to know that I’m here to help, so if you choose to go down this rabbit hole you can (at the very least) count on me to help you out if you run into a situation. Just reach out in the comment section and we’ll figure it out.
Let’s get started. The first thing you need to do is figure out where you plan on having this chamber. Are you planning on putting it in a basement, outside, or in your office. Where you place your new chamber it isn’t too important but it may be the factor that determines how large it is.
Once you’ve figured out where you want your new cheese cave/ Salami chamber it’s now time to find a fridge. Any fridge will work just as long as it’s frost free (a frost free fridge keeps the environment dry inside by not allowing ice to build up on the coils). Craig’s list is a great place to find a used fridge for this hobby. Wine fridges are good as well. Dorm fridges are often not frost free but you’ll have to check. The one I used in my video cost me $100. I bought it used from a convenient store.
There are 2 big issues when it comes to producing good quality cheese or salami. The first is air flow and the second is humidity. Let’s address air flow.
The air flow in your fridge will be one of the determining factors as to the quality of your product. Too much air flow is detrimental as it will cause your product to dry too fast. In the case of salami too much air flow results in something called dry ring on in severe situations case hardening. This is where the outside dries too fast forming a tough outer “skin” or ring that prevents the inside from drying evenly.
The first thing you will want to do is monitor the air flow in your new chamber. I like to place butchers twine in various spots in the fridge to see what kind of movement is happening. If the strings are swaying back and forth then that means I’ve got too much air flow. If the strings are barely moving then I’m most likely good to go.
In the video posted below I was able to disconnect the fan from my fridge and remove it. I then replaced the fan with a low speed computer fan. The idea is to have a very gentle amount of air flow. Just enough to move the air around but not enough to feel it.
Every Fridge is Different
As you read through this tutorial remember that every fridge is slightly different and every chamber build will be unique. You will have to determine what works best for you based off of trial and error.
The second most important element to creating an effective drying chamber is humidity. The environment inside your chamber is critical. You can have the best recipe, the cleanest work space, the most technologically advanced processing equipment but if the environment in your chamber isn’t right you will not produce a high quality product. It’s important to remember that in salami or cheese production the assembly or making of it only takes 12-24 hours. The rest of the time (which can be 30-90 days) it’s in your chamber drying and aging. This is where many problems tend to happen and is almost always the difference between mediocre and greatness.
To control the environment in your chamber we need to focus on 2 pieces of equipment. One that controls the temperature and one that controls the humidity. There are a few options out there when it comes to these controllers as some are more complicated than others and require some sort of electrical knowledge. For the purpose of simplicity we are going to go the “plug & play” route. These in my opinion are the easiest to use. A great affordable option is from a company called Ink Bird.
The temperature controller from Ink Bird comes in a WiFi version or a regular version. Either work fine and both do the same thing, control the temperature in your chamber. There are 2 plugs on the controller, one for the cooling and one for the heating. All you do is plug your refrigerator into the cooling port and if you are going to be using a heating element then you would plug that into the heating port (a heating element isn’t necessary unless yo live in an area that gets really cold and your chamber is exposed to that type of weather). That’s it. Your Ink Bird Device now controls your equipment and based off of how you program it it will turn your refrigeration on or off to get you to the right temperature. Check out my blog post if you need to know how to program the ink bird ITC-308 Temperature controller
The humidity controller from Ink Bird also comes in a WiFi version or a regular version. This unit works in the same way as the temperature controller. There are 2 plugs. “Work 1 and Work 2”. Work 1 is where you plug in a humidifier and work 2 is where you plug in a dehumidifier. Once all that is plugged in your Ink Bird controller then takes over these units turning them on and off based off of your set values. This will regulate the humidity in your chamber.
Both the temperature and humidity controller have probes that go inside of your chamber. I like to place mine directly in the center but any where in the middle or on the walls is completely ok. Just be sure not to put the probes directly in the line of your humidifier’s mist.
Before we finish I do want to mention a few things about the humidifier and the dehumidifier. Your humidifier and dehumidifier need to have auto on features. This means that your unit needs to be able to automatically turn off when the power is restored to it (the controllers will be turning them on and off as they maintain the right humidity). Not all humidifiers/dehumidifiers can do this. In the Eva Dry line there are 2 units that are capable of doing this. The EDV-2500 and the EDV-1100. The EDV-2500 is perfect for the larger chambers and the EDV-1100 is perfect for smaller chambers.
Your chamber is now complete. You now have control over the three most critical elements in your chamber; air flow, temperature, and humidity. There are some (very rare) circumstances where someone might add a vent hole one the side of the fridge. I have never needed to do this but if you feel like this is something that you need to do be aware that there are gas lines that run through the walls of your fridge and if you puncture one of these gas lines repairing it is a slight pain in the a**. Trust me I know….
As far as the details go in regards to cable management, well I’ll leave that up to you just remember to completely sanitize your chamber before you use it. I like to use a sanitizer called iodophor for this purpose as it’s easy, effective, and painless to use.
Below I’ve compiled a list of suggested items that you might need when building a drying chamber. Depending on your fridge and your situation some of these are optional and some are mandatory. I’ve included several different size humidifiers and dehumidifiers as this will be dictated by the amount of space you have available. Be sure to let me know if you have any questions..
Here’s what you might need:
- A Frost Free Refrigerator (Craig’s list)
- Surge Protector power strip
- Small extension chords (be sure to check the size)
- Heavy Duty Velcro Strips
- InkBird WiFi Temperature Controller
- InkBird Wifi Humidity Controller
- Humidifier 1.5 gallon tank
- Humidifier 1 gallon tank
- Dehumidifier Eva Dry 2500 (for larger chambers)
- Dehumidifier Eva Dry 1100 (for small chambers)
- Temperature/Humidity check for inside the chamber (Optional)
- Computer fan (optional depending on your set up)
- Speed control for computer fan (Optional)
- Iodophor (Sanitizer to clean chamber)
If you want to see the different things that we use in operation our be sure to check out our new Amazon Store.
We are Amazon Affiliates which means if you happen to buy something from Amazon after clicking one of our links we get a tiny percentage. This happens at no cost to you and really helps us offset the costs of running this site. Thank you in advance.