Convert a Fridge to a Curing Chamber


lomo dryingAlthough it's a common topic of discussion on the sausage making forum, I've never got around to writing about converting my fridge into an air-drying chamber. Before I start, I accept no responsibility for what you do with the information here; it's up to you to ensure that what you do is safe and complies with any relevant regulations/legislation. If in doubt, please seek the advice of a professionally qualified person.

This information relates to converting a fridge for use in the UK. For details of converting a fridge in the US, please see this article on the Cured Meats website.

Firstly, let's look at the conditions we need; there are 3 main phases during the process of making air-dried products, curing, fermentation and drying. Ideal conditions for these are:

  • Curing - normal fridge temperatures are fine, ideally at the higher end around 5° - 8°C.
  • Fermenting - used when making sausage and occasionally with dried meats. The product is held at temperatures around 24°C with a very high relative humidity, around 90% - 95%, for a period that can vary from 12 hours to several days, to enable bacteria to make the sausage more acidic, which makes it safe to eat. The exact temperatures and times depend on the specific bacteria added, so follow the manufacturers guidelines or the recipe carefully.
  • Drying - a period of weeks, or months, during which we want the product to dry slowly and evenly which will add to its safety. The conditions for doing this are ideally between 10° - 15°C with a relative humidity between 70% and 85%. Our aim is to keep the humidity of the chamber just slightly below that of the product, whilst it dries. Regular changes of air are also beneficial. My own experience, along with that of fellow home sausage-makers, suggests that there are less problems when the drying is takes place at the lower end of this temperature range. Many favour a temperature of 12°C, or thereabouts, as do I.

Most people have little problem creating the conditions for the first two phases, but often have problems with the third; modern houses tend not to have places with these conditions. A cellar or pantry is often ideal, or can be adapted easily. If you can beg or borrow the use of one, then do so: the larger the area, the easier it seems to be to control. However, for the rest of us, the only economic option is to adapt a fridge or freezer to create the conditions required.

Firstly, you'll need a fridge to convert - 'auto-defrost' is the type to go for as these tend to have very low humidity; it's easier to increase humidity than decrease it!

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Friday 16 January 2015 at 4:52 pm
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