Build a Meat Curing Chamber for under $200

 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 set up!

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 was 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 ask 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 quiet when they showed it.  I couldn’t resist.

Fridge in truck
Going Home

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.

Electronic Controls
Electronic Controls

 

Here’s the basic inputs and outputs on the digital controller.

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:

  • Download the STC-1000 operating manual
  • Download the WH8040 operating manual

UPDATE 12/1/2016:   Look at this!  Now you don’t need an EE degree to build this project!  One of my readers suggested this:

 

Click on the picture…

Dehumifier Guts
Dehumidifier Guts

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, its 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.

Meat Curing Chamber
The Meat Box

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 ounces of water in the condensate evaporator tray.  It’s right on top of the compressor, utilizing it’s heat to drive the evaporation.

NEW: Check out the video on youtube

9 Comments

  1. Franz

    Nice job! Did a similar build myself recently, using the same humidity controller, but a slightly different temp controller. Mine only does either heating OR cooling, I think the STC1000 does both. I’ll have to check back to see how yours is going 🙂

    Reply
  2. Will

    Im looking into building one of these my self and this was the best way I’ve seen so far nice and compact. My question is did you need the dehumidifier because you had it set at 65 and it naturally got that humid in there at the 65 degrees ? and did you have to by pass anything out of the ordinary when doing this with the wiring? thanks for your time!

    Reply
  3. Neil

    Great post – I have been doing some home curing in an unmodified wine fridge, to some success, but I know I need to fix the humidity issue. I was curious why you replaced the thermostat – isn’t 50-60F the ideal temp?

    Also, how hard do you think it would be for someone with very minimal electrical experience to wire in a dehumidifier/hygrostat? The link to the wiring schematic didn’t work – could you send me a copy? thanks!!

    Neil

    Reply

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