The way trucks are loaded into a smokehouse or dehydrator greatly affects the creation and strength of the breakpoint — and can have a negative impact on the consistency of the product.
Anytime you add an object, like a smokehouse truck, into the flow of air, you change the way that air stream moves. It will either break apart or diminish if it’s hitting a wall, or it will flow around the object into a new path.
Overload product onto a truck and you’ll create a wall that prevents air from moving across product. Under load product or trucks in the oven, and air will flow to the place of least resistance.
This is why it’s critically important to know the best ways to load trucks into a smokehouse or dehydrator.
Trucks Affect Oven Airflow
Simply placing a truck inside an oven changes the way the air moves in the cabinet.
An empty oven allows air to move more freely throughout the cabinet. As you can see in the airflow simulations to the right, without a truck, the air streams move away from the walls and create a wider path along the bottom of the oven.
When a truck is placed in the oven, the air tightens up, which provides stronger velocity and ultimately a stronger and more focused breakpoint to cook your product
In an Ideal World — A Fully Loaded Oven
Any oven manufacturer who understands airflow will tell you: the best solution is to always fully load an oven with fully loaded trucks.
The best way to load trucks into a smokehouse or dehydrator: run a full batch each time! You get better consistency and coloring to your product.Click To Tweet
Pro Tip #1: Fully Load the Oven
Most ovens are designed to create breakpoints and direct airflow based on full capacity.
When a truck is left out, the stream of air will change leading to a change in the way product is cooked. Remember, air always flows to the path of least resistance. Leaving a truck (or more!) out of the oven will change where the air flows in the oven — away from your product and towards the empty area.
The Rule of 12!
When loading product, remember the Rule of 12:
- Keep trucks 12″ away from the oven walls
- Keep trucks 12″ away from each other in a double wide oven
- Keep product a minimum of 12″ from the oven floor
Trucks should be kept 12″ away from the oven walls, as that is where the high and low velocity air streams flow to create the breakpoint, and kept 12″ apart from each other to prevent a chimney affect, where air just returns straight to the return duct instead of creating the breakpoint.
Pro Tip #2: Fully Load the Truck — But Don’t Overload!
How you load product onto the truck matters as well.
Just as loading trucks into an oven, the best solution is to fully load the trucks with product. This will ensure the proper flow of air across each piece of product and provide a more consistent cooking.
The danger comes when you try to overload a truck with product.
Too much product on a single cart will negatively affect the coloring and consistency of your product. Crowded product, especially when it is in direct contact with each other, causes two-tone coloring. Any product that is lower than 12″ from the oven floor is in the path of the high velocity airflow used to create the breakpoint. This will diminish the breakpoint and cause overcooking of the product in its path.
Underloading / Uneven Loading
Underloading / Uneven Loading
Underloading or uneven loading of a truck causes its own issues.
Just as with underloading an oven, air will always flow to the path of least resistance and will move to an unloaded area on the cart, affecting the coloring and consistency of the product on the truck.
If you aren’t able to fully load the truck, make sure product is evenly spaced out on the truck. Don’t load just the top or bottom: load each level evenly. It will give you the best consistency.
In the Real World — A Partially Loaded Oven
While the ideal solution is to always have a fully loaded oven before running a cook cycle, we don’t live in an ideal world. There will be situations where a partial batch will need to be ran to hit production quotas.Running a partial batch in your smokehouse or dehydrator? Load your trucks like this to optimize airflow for better product consistency and coloring.Click To Tweet
Pro Tip #1: Align the Trucks Properly
When running a partial batch of product, there are a few truck configurations that will maximize airflow and provide you with a close to a consistent and even cook as possible.
The goal is to have air hit product as evenly as possible, without creating large open areas in the oven where air will sit. The following configurations are the best to use when not fully loading an oven.
Pro Tip #2: Avoid Large, Uneven Empty Areas
When partially loading the oven, avoid the typical temptation to load all the trucks towards the back of the oven as if doing a full load — filling it width wise and just stop when you run out of carts.
This method results in a large, empty area on the front end of the oven. Air will tend to flow to that large, uneven empty area and circle there, rather than flow evenly over your product — resulting in an inconsistent cook and coloring to your product.
The best rule of thumb: Line carts down the length of the oven — either in a straight line or staggered.
Understanding Air Flow
Trucks play a large role in affecting the air flow, and ultimately breakpoint, in any smokehouse or dehydrator.
Loading product onto the trucks and loading trucks into the oven in a proper way, will optimize the airflow in the oven, resulting in more consistent cooking and coloring of the product. When loaded incorrectly, the opposite is true: product is unevenly cooked resulting in worse consistency and yields.
Following these tips will help you get the most out of the airflow in your oven and a more consistent cook.