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Hello, new member looking for some advice on building a smoker in the garden. I’m hoping to start a small business providing smoked meat meals a few time’s a week. I have been looking at a lot of videos online and was amazed what’s out there. Would love some expert advice to point me on the right direction thanks in advance. 

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Hi Nav. Welcome to the forum

I totally agree with @Smokin Monkey - Your local Environmental Heath Officer will be your best friend if you talk to them early on. Several people have asked similar questions over the years and to start up a smoking business is not onerous if you are planning on selling directly to your customers. I have been running a smokery business for many years and here are a few tips to help you on your way...

  1. Decide on what your initial product offering is going to be. Do not try too many things to begin with or you will end up doing none of them well enough. Cook enough, and document each cook, so that your product is consistent. With most amateur smokers every smoke ends up slightly different - if you are offering a product every batch you sell to the customers needs to be consistent.
  2. Develop your own rubs and seasoning as this will differentiate your product. It will also be a lot cheaper than buying commercial products. There are plenty of good recipies out there and if you need help I can suggest some to start off with. You can then tweak these until you get your own distinct flavour brand.
  3. Keep a log of every smoke you do (this will be required by EHO anyway) and note any significant changes - e.g. meat supplier, temperature fluctuations, cook times, rubs used, unusual events. This will allow you to identify the reason for any variations between batches.
  4. Become as automated as you can. A smoker that can be digitally controlled will make life much easier than a back garden manual smoker.
  5. Once  you have the product quality sorted, do some customer research on friends and family to make sure that you are producing a product that is not just your own personal taste **
  6. Sort out how it will be packaged and labelled. You may need to invest in some form of packager/vacuum packer depending on what products you are selling - and also a label printer..
  7. Talk to your local Environmental Health Officer - their contact number will be on your local borough council Web site. They like being consulted in the early stages and they will offer you some excellent free advice - which could save you a lot of wasted expenditure when you first start up. With them as your friends your life will be so much more straightforward.
  8. Make sure that you have a suitable food hygiene qualification. You should have more than the minimum level 1 certificate - a Level 2 is OK but they will be impressed if you have a level 3. These are not expensive and can be taken as online courses.
  9. Read and inwardly digest the Food Standard Agencies publication "Safer Food, Better Business, For Caters" https://www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/media/document/sfbb-caterers-pack.pdf. Your local EHO will give you a copy of this and it is what they will be assessing you against. Meet all the criteria in this booklet and you will be getting your 5* food hygiene certificate for your door. The certificate is awarded by your EHO and is often required by event organisers before they will allow you to sell at their event - so it is worth getting a good rating.
  10. Have some of each of your product Lab Tested for bacterial safety testing. It isnt expensive and I would be happy to help you out with this if you dont want to set yourself up with your own account. Again, this is something that your EHO will ask you about
  11. Do not expect it to make you a fortune from day 1... or day 2... or day x. It is something that you need to scale up over time.

** I was once asked to produce smoked Feta cheese. I disliked it and so didn't produce it regularly. It turned out to be one on my biggest sellers at certain events I attended. One of my favourite products just did not sell well at all. 

I hope this helps and I am happy to provide more assistance if you need it.

Cheers, Wade

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