Smoking and Curing Wild Game, Fish and Fowl

Welcome to this week’s Survive The Coming Collapse newsletter, brought to you by David’s often imitated, but never duplicated Urban Disaster Water Purification report. In it, you’ll learn how to take the nastiest water (even urine and sewage) and make it purer than freshly fallen Arctic snow using both store bought purifiers AND everyday, ordinary items that you will find lying around after a disaster. Don’t fool yourself by thinking that a cute little backpacking water filter will purify water that you’ll find in a town or city–urban water purification is a completely different ballgame and you can learn how to quickly and easily purify almost any water by getting the report >HERE< now.

(David’s Note:  Happy Easter!  This is the holiday that I’m most thankful for every year and I hope you enjoy yours.

As a matter of trivia, Easter weekend is also a pivotal weekend (along with Chinese New Year) that helps determine how strong and what strain of bird flu we’ll face for the fall.  In short, it’s a holiday where both farmers who live in close proximity to chickens AND global travelers congregate in urban areas.)

Part two of Chapter five is available, click here to continue reading.

Survival Diva here to continue how to preserve food without refrigeration. The smoking and curing of wild game, fish and fowl is nothing new. It’s believed that it was used by early man when the use of fire was discovered. Since then, man has cured and smoked meat for safekeeping to get through long winters and times when wild game was scarce. When done right, smoking offers a way to preserve meats, fish and fowl without the need for refrigeration and the benefits don’t stop there because smoking meats adds wonderful flavor!

For preppers interested in keeping meat without refrigeration, hard smoking is the best approach. Hard smoking is a method of preparing meats much like jerky that is smoked at low temperatures until most of the moisture is removed.

Without hard smoking or home canning meat, you would need a way to store it in temperatures of 34 to 37 degrees without freezing to safely keep meat—a difficult task without refrigeration. It comes down to either cold smoking the meat for long term storage, long-term salt curing (prosciutto), home canning it, or freezing it over winter if you live in a  far northern climate where freezing temperatures can be counted on.

Before we get started with the various designs and uses of a smoker, it needs to be pointed out to never use pressure-treated wood or galvanized metal in the building of a smokehouse.  If you design a cold smoker, where there will be pipe run from a covered fire pit to the smokehouse, use metal pipe, never PVC which can melt and emit off-gasses.

With the remainder of this post, the word “meats” includes fish and fowl. We’re tackling smoke houses first followed by several sites that give in-depth information on salt/sugar curing meats. If you’re not familiar with preserving meats without electricity, meat is sometimes cured with salt first, then cold smoked for longer shelf life.

The Two Methods of Smoking Meats

There are two methods of smoking meats; cold smoking and hot smoking. Just as it sounds, hot smoking involves higher heat which cooks the meat while the smoke flavors it. Cooked meat, including cooked meat done in a hot smoker, must be refrigerated.

Cold smoking will preserve meat indefinitely without refrigeration. How it works is through putting to use  the preservative quality of the smoke itself, and by slowly removing as much moisture as possible from meats to avoid spoilage.

It’s a common practice to place a pan of water in a smoker during the smoking process.  This is great way to “cheat” on a brisket or turkey that you’ll eat as soon as you pull it out of your smoker, but moisture when you’re wanting  long-term meat preservation must be avoided because excess moisture will aid in the growth of creepy crawlies that will spoil the meat.

It’s advisable to use a thermometer when cold smoking meat to keep an eye on the temperature that should not exceeded 155 degrees. The length of time needed to cold smoke meats completely depends on the amount and the type of meat.

(David’s note:  This is a much lower temperature from when you’re cooking with smoke rather than preserving with smoke.)

Traditionally, hickory, apple, mesquite or cedar chips are used when smoking because of the wonderful flavor these woods offer to smoked meats. In an emergency situation, the type of wood used would be secondary, but the choice between cold smoke and hot smoke isn’t as forgiving—cold smoke, using smoke at low temperature to harden the meat is the surest way to preserve meat  for long shelf life of up to one year.

(David’s note:  In general, you want to smoke your meat with hard woods, as mentioned above, and avoid soft, sappy woods like pine & fir because of the nasty, bitter taste they impart.)

We’ll start with emergency smoker that can be used quickly in a yard or the wilderness under stressful conditions.

Making an Emergency Fire Pit Smoker

Note: The following information on how to smoke meat for survival situations comes from the US Army FM 21-76 Field Guide.

Smoking Meat

To smoke meat, prepare an enclosure around a fire. Two ponchos snapped together will work. The fire does not need to be big or hot. The intent is to produce smoke, not heat. Do not use resinous wood (soft/sap) in the fire because its smoke will ruin the meat. Use hardwoods to produce good smoke. The wood should be somewhat green. If it is too dry, soak it. Cut the meat into thin slices, no more than 6 centimeters thick, and drape them over a framework. Make sure none of the meat touches another piece. Keep the poncho enclosure around the meat to hold the smoke and keep a close watch on the fire. Do not let the fire get too hot. Meat smoked overnight in this manner will last about 1 week. Two days of continuous smoking will preserve the meat for 2 to 4 weeks. Properly smoked meat will look like a dark, curled, brittle stick and you can eat it without further cooking. You can also use a pit to smoke meat.

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Convert An Old Refrigerator Into a Cold Smoker

Converting an old refrigerator is something I learned about as a little girl when my mother converted an old fridge into a cold smoker in preparation of a caribou hunt. I can still remember her going in to a meltdown after we took the first bite of our pan fried caribou steaks. It was melt in your mouth tender and unbelievably flavorful. She was close to tears when she said “Why did I smoke all of the meat?!”  It was too late for do-overs. The meat was already smoking in that converted refrigerator, now turned smoker. But we had a choice at the time between smoking the meat or storing it in an old-school, round-topped propane fridge whose pilot light continually went out and had to be watched constantly—and why much of our food was kept in a food cache.

During a time of grid-down, we may not have the luxury of choosing between refrigeration or smoking or home canning meats.

Most of us are partial to saving money whenever possible because prepping isn’t cheap and the goal for many of us is to get it done as soon as humanly possible, so we can rest a little easier. It took a bit of searching to find plans to convert an old refrigerator that didn’t include a hot plate of electric fans to circulate smoke. None of that is necessary, and for grid-down, it’s best to be set up for a smoker that doesn’t rely on electricity.

Making a cold smoker from an old enamel refrigerator is an inexpensive approach because old fridges can sometimes be found free or for very little at scrapyards, especially when you aren’t looking for a working fridge.

Click here for the E-How instructions titled How to Build a Cold Smoker From a Refrigerator, written by B.T. Alo, eHow Contributor

Note: It isn’t recommended to use newer refrigerators that have plastic interiors.

Building Instructions for a Wood Structure Cold Smoker 

If you enjoy building, here are great instructions to build a cold smoke house from DIY Guides, titled Building a Smoke House, contributed by Mike. Click here to go to the site.

The plans are fairly simple and the materials are not terribly extensive: 2 X 4’s, Chalk line, soaked wood chips, 18 pieces of 1.5 X 1.5 inch pine boards, a cast iron pan, a 5/8 inch deck screw, a utility knife, a steel sheet, (5) 1 X 6 5-foot pine boards w/ 9-inch tongue and groove, pencil, measuring tape, saw, two-inch strap hinges, screwdriver, and 15 pieces of 1 X 6-foot tongue and grove boards.

Do-It-Yourself Hot Smoker from a 55 Gallon Barrel

This method to build a hot smoker requires cutting and welding. However, it is a relatively inexpensive design and should you have the skills, or know someone who does, it may be worth the effort.

These plans were found on The At Home Welder. Click here for the step-by-step instructions.

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Brining (Pickling) & Dry Rubs

To write even a portion of what’s available on the web could fill a library, so I am sharing some of my favorite sites for you to pick and choose from. If there’s one common thread regarding smoking and curing meat, everyone’s opinion on the perfect method varies greatly, so here is where practice is important for success.

For a site that has information on processing wild game, smoking and curing all types of wild game, fowl, fish, and making jerky and sausage, Wedliny Domowe has the most thorough site I’ve found to date. He also gives instructions on larding meat. Click here to go to his site.

For another great site for processing and curing wild game and fish, click here for the Penn State Extension publication, Proper Processing of Wild Game and Fish.

The home and Garden Center, Clemson Extension offers a free download on curing, smoking, corning, home canning, and how to preserve meat in a sweet pickle cure, as well as how to make jerky and sausage. Click here to visit the site.

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(David’s note:  I have several smoking books and have trolled hundreds of sites on smoking and my favorite book, by far, is Smoke & Spice: Cooking with Smoke, the Real Way to Barbecue.  I usually use it as a foundation and adjust the recipes to the taste of everyone who will be eating with us and the time available.  If you have published any smoking books or have others that you love, please share below.)

If you missed the email yesterday on how to power your essentials after a disaster and cut your utility bill in the meantime, click >HERE< to learn more.

This would be an excellent time to hear from hunters and those who are familiar with smoking and curing wild game, fowl and fish. Please share your tips, recipes and how-to’s so everyone on the forum benefits by commenting below!

God bless and stay safe,

David Morris and Survival Diva


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  1. Something of note: coke is great to soak over night for game animals. Just make sure you take it out in the morning… otherwise it is a really sweet meat. You can add your favorite erbs to this to give it your personal touch. I use Mckormicks white Belgium ale spice (although it is for fish) in my coke soak. It gives it a very fresh taste that even people who don’t like venison are prone to eat… lol just make sure you use real coke a cola… others don’t have the same taste…

  2. Took me a long time to find outt this info,
    thanks for takinng thee time placing all of it here, much appreciated.

  3. great ideas, thanks

  4. Elizabethy Kirchgatter says:

    thank you so much for this info~!

  5. The real trick is smoking your meats without alerting hungry neighbors for miles around.

    • Survival Diva says:


      That’s true. I’ve looked for a way to reduce the smoke …so far, haven’t found one.

  6. Don’t forget red oak amd maple in your smoking process.

  7. Hello David & Diva,

    Being 97%-98% sustainable, we do a lot of smoking. Add to your list of wood are Alder, Cherry (remove outer layer) and Pecan. These add a lot of robust to the meats.

    • David Morris says:

      Hey Stephen…always great to hear from you.

      We LOVE using alder for smoking fish and have a big barrel of chunks sitting by our smokehouse.

  8. Hey David & Diva,
    Stephen from KY.
    As you know David we’re 97%-98% sustainable. Smoking & curing with salt are big for us.
    Regarding curing with salt, we never use commercial grade table salt; it’s absolute poison for your health due to the chemical processing it goes thru. We use real salt, such as Himalayn or Bolivian which has not been processed. Unfortunately, most sea salt is processed. If you can find some which is pure, then, by all means use it. The nutritional profile of Bolivian salt is higher than Himalayan, so it adds to the needs of what our body uses. It contains over 80 minerals many of which are required for good health. It really adds a lot of flavor to the meat without being grossly salty.

    • David Morris says:

      Hey Stephen,

      If I’m not mistaken, you’re in pig country…do you use celery salt (for the natural nitrates) when you’re smoking pork or something else for parasites?

    • Survival Diva says:


      Thank you for sharting this important information on salt!

    • As a just retired professor of biochemical nutrition from a VERY major university, I read all nutrition-related posts carefully. Most of the information that is inaccurate I just ignore because it does little or no harm. Occasionally I come across a post that needs rebuttal. Stephen from KY has posted information that is just plain wrong.

      Salt is salt, regardless of its origin. It is nothing more than crystals of sodium chloride. Just as bottled water from an exotic French glacier is identical to water that you get from your municipal tap — H2O. The difference comes in what else is contained in either the salt or the water. Processing does not change either the salt or the water. Sorry, Stephen, but you are wrong! What processing may do is to alter the concentration of the other constituents that are contained in either the salt product or the water product.

      As to the supposed superiority of unprocessed salt products, be careful. Some of the other constituents MAY be (depending on the product) toxic, including cadmium, chromium, etc. Most unprocessed salt products (such as those recommended by Stephen) WILL contain trace (up to toxic) amounts of these toxic minerals. It is for this reason that commercial salt companies (Morton, etc) refine the mined salt to remove all but the smallest amounts of these contaminants.

      Now, when it comes to salt-curing meats, what is important is to NOT use iodized salt. The iodine (added to prevent iodine deficiency and goiter) can impart an off flavor and color when used in large amounts, such as salt-curing meats. Use the un-iodized salt that is available at your grocery store in the 1 lb round boxes, or Kosher or canning salt. The latter two are just plain salt (sodium chloride crystals) that are in larger crystals than is the normal table salt.

      We’re all preppers here. My goal is to do my part to make sure that we are HEALTHY preppers, and not simply relying on false information regarding our critical food supplies and our resultant nutrition.

      • Survival Diva says:


        This is an important FYI. During the hours of research done for this post on smoking and curing meat, looking for innovative ideas, I didn’t run across specific warnings about salt. Thank you for sharing this on the forum.

      • Hello Bob R.

        I understand your concern and respect your background. However, I have been in the nutrition field since the mid 70’s and have seen much junk data as well as quality science. I have worked with many labs and clinical technicians over the decades who I respect for their unbiased information. Though, I do not have University credentials specifically in nutrition, I have studied many science journals and subscribe to many. I read 12,000-14,000 pages each year and am always in contact with working professionals. These are not junk internet blogs, but, highly respected journals which I’m sure you have had the pleasure to experience. My mother was a university professor and my sister just retired from the university. So, I do have an understanding of where you are coming from. Like my family, I, too, have higher education from UCLA & post graduate work from USC.

        Let me be clear when I state “unprocessed”. I am speaking of the use of chlorine to whiten the salt and other chemicals which are designed for marketable presentation. Of course, all salt as with any food product has a certain amount of processing to ensure safety. The consumption of the toxic minerals in salts would have to be extemely high as with any food source to be toxic. Arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, aluminum, nickel and other heavy metals are in nearly every food we consume, including “organic”. Organic certification means these heavy metals do not exceed specific levels or do not contain any, and it does significantly contain less than conventional foods. As an organic farmer I understand this well. We will consume more mineral toxicity in conventionally grown teas and coffee than we would ever get from curing our meat in the salts I have mentioned.

        I did not say processing “changes the salt” as you so stated. Chemical processing adds chemicals and it does “alter the concentration of the other constituents that are contained in either the salt product”, which you have stated and I do agree with you.

        Any commercially sold Himalayan, Bolivian and sea salt is sterilized and cleansed. For our readers, I do not suggest going out and digging your own salt to pack meat in when I refer to unprocessed salt. I am spseaking of minimizing chemical contamination in processing.

        Since you are a scientist and trust what lab reports confirm let me present to you this: All of the people I have worked with, have blood work done on a regular basis, including myself. Not one client has ever shown to have toxic levels of dangerous minerals/metals from the consumption of the salts I have presented. I certainly respect what you have to say and I strongly feel professional courtisy is important on blogs.

        Regarding your comment that salt is salt is salt because it’s all sodium chloride is somehow confusing. Himalayan Salt and Bolivian Salt have less sodium chloride and more of the other minerals as compared to table salt. Table salt is 98%-99% sodium chloride, which on that point, I do agree with you. The percentages of the pink salts are just different than table salt. Just as with quality sea salts. Of course, the greater percentage is sodium, however, there are the beneficial minerals, in minimal amounts, which we can use. I work with one of the most respected labs in the country who analyze my products I recommend and products which I have created for optimum health.

        I am not presenting this rebuttle to be argumentive. However, I do feel the need to present a more accurate explanation for you. We’re all here to help each other and if I thought for a second what I am saying is wrong or would bring harm I would never present what I’ve had to say. I am in the business of helping people enjoy vitality & health. We all need to come together and help with what we can do for each other. Should any of us disagree, we need to do so with politeness and professionalism rather than verbal attacks.

        I have found our discussion to be lively and enjoyable. Should we continue, I will be more than happy to agree or disagree with you in a respectful way.

        • Stephen;

          We are not very far apart at all. Perhaps the main area of potential misunderstanding for our readers is the meaning of the term “salt”. Salt is COMMONLY understood to refer to table salt, which is sodium chloride. As you and I both know, however, the SCIENTIFIC term salt is much broader and can include most compounds which are made up of a cation and an anion – eg, calcium carbonate, magnesium sulfate, potassium permangenate are all salts in the scientific sense.

          It’s good to debate another scientist on this forum, especially one who is as interested as am I in providing the most accurate and helpful information to our readers.

          Bottom line, I think, for the two of us is that salt as normally consumed is mostly sodium chloride and can contain many other “salts” — both beneficial as well as toxic, depending on its origin and degree of purification (in contrast to the term processing). And commercial table salt should not be considered to be “absolute poison for your health”, as you stated in your original post.

          • Hello Bob R.

            I appreciate all you have said; even about the comment I made regarding “absolute poison for your health”. I understand this is not a scientific statement, however, I do emphasize my subjective opinion and want to be clear to all readers it is my personal opinion.
            By the way, we do feed our milking cows, laying hens and other food source animals with pink salts which are not purified (not for human consumption). We test regularly and we have found no heavy metal/mineral toxicity. As you so clearly state how important the origin is, this is always a consideration for the well being of our animals as well as for us. I hope to have more interesting discussions with you and come to terms as we have to provide the best information for the readers.

  9. LewisWetzel says:

    Avoid using small branches and twigs of cherry wood.
    I’ve been told by some old timers that cherry heartwood is fine, avoid the outer layer of wood and the bark. I cannot substantiate that part, but a word to the wise is sufficient…

    • David Morris says:

      Hey Lewis,

      Great point. That’s the case for BLACK cherry, but I’m not sure about other cherry varieties.

    • Survival Diva says:


      Thank you for this feedback!

      • Homestead12 says:

        During a recent discussion I had with an experienced smoker he told me that he has been using his pruned grape vines for smoker chips. It does give a nice flavor to pork and rabbit, but I can’t attest to other meats. I thought it was a great use of “scrap”, besides being tasty. I’m tempted to try my raspberry trimmings next year too.

        • Survival Diva says:


          This is a great recommendation. It’s always good to find uses for everything. If you happen to try grape vines to smoke other meats, please share the outcome here on the forum.


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