Best ideas for a DIY scalder?

Sunny Side Up

Count your many blessings...
11 Years
Mar 12, 2008
Loxahatchee, Florida
I'm processing chickens on a very small scale here, no more than 6 and usually only 3-4 at a time, only once a week or even less often. We're certainly getting an education with each session and constantly trying to figure out how to do it better the next time.

We've just been using a styrofoam cooler for the scalding water, one that came with a pal's Omaha Steak order. We heat a big pot of water to boiling on the stove inside and then keep it warm outdoors in the fire pit until we need it. Then it's poured into the cooler and water from the hose is added until a meat thermometer stuck in reads 140 degrees.

But this last time we decided we should use something taller & more narrow for a scalding container, so we can get better vertical agitation of the birds, so the hot water gets through the feathers & reaches the skin more effectively.

I was thinking of using a plastic 5-gallon bucket, or a sturdy plastic wastepaper basket. Nothing too big or then we'd have to heat lots more water. But tall enough to swish the birds up & down completely.

Is it safe to use a plastic container with that hot of water? Will it melt or leach out something unhealthy? Will it allow the water to cool too quickly? We usually butcher the birds in pairs from start-finish, then go on to the next pair.

For my very occasional purposes I don't need/want to spend much time/money on this, though I do want to have something more efficient for scalding. Please let me know what you use at your home. Thank you!
We use our turkey frying pot. Its real tall and seems to do the job okay. I'm sure someone will post a more creative idea that we'll both want to change over too though
Food grade plastic barrels are usually rated for boiling water, but they are expensive. The other suggestions of the biggest turkey fryer would be best.

An alternative would be to get hold of an aluminum Sanke Keg. These are the type beer is delivered to bars in, and are 15.5 gallons.

Often they can be picked up cheap. You will need to have a hole cut in the top.
I use my water bath canner. It works well for me. Outside, I can put it on a hotplate and plug it in (add hot water from the house first) since I don't have a small propane burner.
We used a tall lobster pot on an ouside burner on our grill, keeps the water at a boil and everything can be done outside.
We have a Kraft factory close by and one of the local utility rental places picks up their used cheese barrels and sells them for about $10. They are a heavier gauge than the standard 55 gallon drum (which is a suitable alternate for me). I have a turkey fryer and use the propane heater to heat the drum to about 130 F or so. It's usually less than half full, depending on the number of chickens.

Probably not the most efficient method in the world, especially considering the price of propane now. I might be looking at wood. Eventually, I'd like a 3' x 3' square tank made from 1/2" plate steel. I'll put fire brick around it to insulate (except the bottom) and I'll use wood heat.
I'll have to keep searching the thrift stores & post on FreeCycle for a nice big stock pot like you mentioned, a turkey fryer or lobster pot. And I'll ask at my local grocery store if they have any sturdy food-grade plastic buckets they could spare.

I also have been planning how to use (free) firewood to keep the water hot enough for scalding. Right now I use a burner attatchment that goes on those little bottles of fuel you use for the camp stoves, but that's getting expensive. It seems I go through a bottle every 2 or 3 times I butcher.

I don't think it should be too hard to switch to wood, if I build up a square of bricks with some ventilation, get a fire started an hour before in order to have some good hot coals to rake into the bricks. I have a piece of metal mesh to put on the bricks over the coals, I can put the water pot on that.

Thanks for the ideas, keep them coming!
Fiberglas mop sink on legs, hole drilled near bottom for an electric water heater element to fit in, appropriate bolts to hold element in sink, water heater thermostat for temp regulation.

About sisty bucks if you buy everything new at Home Depot...cheaper if you scrounge parts.


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