Smoking Sausage – How to & Recipes

SMOKING SAUSAGE FEATURED IMAGE

There’s nothing better than a smoked sausage and pepper sandwich to close your day as night starts to fall in early. This is simple smoked sausage sandwich where all the flavor comes from the wood.

Like all of your best-smoked work, choose your meat wisely. If you really want the best sausage and peppers sandwich you can make your own sausage at home, but finding the right sausage at the store can be done.

KISS Rule

Linked sausage in smoker

We all know the saying, ‘keep it simple stupid’…and we have all probably said it to ourselves at times. The beauty of smoking sausage is that it is nothing but simple. You almost can’t break the KISS rule, with perhaps one or two things we might point out. But when it comes to putting out good food from your smoker, it doesn’t get much easier than smoking sausages.

We need to narrow our scope here somewhat so we can address specific aspects of successfully smoking sausages for you and yours to enjoy. Virtually all the details we are going to share relate to raw cased sausages, the kind with a skin and tubular shaped spirals or links. Why raw? In broad but strong terms, raw meat takes smoke better than meat that has been cooked. In our experience, and from fellow geeks, raw meat takes smoke by a factor of as much as ten times more effectively than already cooked meats.

You can certainly throw pre-smoked fully cooked sausages in your smoker, just understand that you are basically using your smoker like an oven. Granted, it is an oven that will impart some additional flavors while it accomplishes the goal of creating hot food. Therein lies the other risk factor, overpoweringly strong flavors. Yes, it is sadly true that you can get too much smoke flavor into food, and that is a risk when smoking already smoked sausages.

Making Your Own Sausage

Man Making sausage at home

Another aspect of sausages that we will not be covering is making your own. We wholly endorse making your own sausages. We do have our own really tasty Italian sausage recipe for our fellow geeks right here. Sausage making is a medium skill level project, and casing them will take some practice to master. But the results will be well worth it.

For what we are accomplishing here, our premise is that you have the raw sausage ready to work with, purchased or homemade. We will explore and explain the process that you will want to put a completed cased sausage through for a meal at this time, and for future storage and enjoyment.

Wood for Smoking Sausage

woods in smoker

Matches made in heaven; obviously a smoker and sausages is the first match. But there are a boatload of different sausages out there to choose from. There are also a lot of trees in the forest to break down, dry, and fire up for flavor in your smoker. Some folks say that the difference between woods is negligible for your finished product, and some of them are quite expert in the field. While they may be mostly correct, part of being a true geek is learning all the minutiae that influences our project, so we will plow forward on the topic.

The best way to calculate what matches well is to look at intensity levels. Hickory smoke lays in stronger flavor than many woods and compliments sweet flavors. So a hot Italian sausage, keeping in mind that some Italian sausages are sweet, would do very well allowing for a sweet savory combo. Fruit woods, apple, cherry, etc. favor the milder sausages, brats and kielbasa and such.  Hardwoods like oak and maple are going to do well with your zestier links, andouille, and chorizo and the like.

Safety First

Man checking sausage temperature

Even though we are in essence playing with fire when we smoke foods, we also need to be cognizant of the times and temperatures that we use. Buying raw sausages in the market will generally mean that they have not been cured, they are in fact completely raw. That means you need to be aware of the time it spends in the thermal danger zone. That makes them a bad candidate for cold smoking, under 150°F.

Since cured meats from the market almost always mean they are also fully cooked, they’re not the best candidates for what we’re doing. If you are a savvy enough home sausage smith that you are making cased sausages with curatives (salts, nitrates, etc.) then you understand the whole process. You can start cold smoking and step it up for your finished product. We are going to pick up the process at the later steps.

For ground meats in particular, the finished internal target temperature range is 160 degrees. This helps insure safe and wholesome food for you and your guests. Be aware that going over that too much, hitting 170, will dry out the meat, even giving it ugly dark coloration. We strongly encourage using a thermometer, and even better a Bluetooth monitoring system, to get the safest and tastiest best results.

Smoking Sausage

Sausages on racks in smoker

You’ve got the sausages you want to cook. You have selected the wood that will best enhance the flavors you want to create. It is go time. You will get a generally more tender result if you pull the sausages out of the fridge about 30 minutes before cooking. Get your smoking chamber up to 200 degrees, preferably with a pan of water or such to maintain a high humidity. Another great choice that will also add flavor is to spritz the links with apple juice or such to keep them moist while cooking.

If you are using a heatproof or remote thermometer, get it placed in the center of the largest link(s) you will be cooking. Place your sausages on the rack with an inch or two between links for good smoke and heat circulation.

Close the cover and walk away. Ideally leave the chamber closed up until you have reached the target temp. If your heat source comes from underneath in the chamber then the sausages may need to be turned and rotated position for even heating. If so, work quickly and get things buttoned up as soon as you can. Feel free to spritz them again at the turn time.

Time is on your side

There is so much variety between sausage dimensions along with the vagaries of temperatures in a smoker that it becomes very hard to say cook them for a certain time. Most sausages will be at temp in just over an hour. Don’t be surprised if they take longer though. You will see recipes that suggest 3 hour smoke times for sausages.

Like everything we do in the realm of smoking, patience will win out. It is also easier to hold a product for a bit than to rush it getting to temperature. If your links are coming up quick get your oven ready at the warm setting to cover and hold them until it is time to eat.

Now what

You have your favorite sausage smoked to perfection with a great ring and looking delicious. Now what do you want to do with it? If you have cooked more than you plan on serving immediately, good job! This is great meal prep because of how versatile the sausages can be. Here’s a pro tip however. Rinse the extra sausages immediately. You can prevent the casing from shriveling up by using a quick cool bath, driving the temperature down to 120 degrees as quickly as possible. Running them under cold water, or having a large bowl of cold water to toss them in, will work great to save a good look and will not diminish the taste.

Smoking Sausage in cold water

Sausage in cold water to prevent from shriveling up

Slice the links up and add them to any pasta dish you can imagine. Whether tossing the noodles in olive oil and garlic with the sausage, or building a creamy Alfredo then adding the sausage with the noodles, they are great with pasta. Cannellini beans or barbecue baked beans, both dishes and every bean dish (or soup!) will benefit from freshly smoked sausages added in.  If you are an early riser, this is the ultimate way to fill out that breakfast plate of eggs taters and sausages, or slice them up for a killer omelet.

Smoked Sausage Sandwich

Smoked sausage sandwich with extra topping

Ah yes, heaven on a baguette or hoagie. So hmm, we have the smoker all fired up at a working temperature. Heat equals cooking. Throw the links on the smoker and get busy. Lop the top and bottom off some red and green peppers, getting rid of the seeds and stem. Spritz them with juice also if that is the process you like. Give them 30 minutes or so at your 200 degree temp. Pull everything off the smoker, slice the peppers, and the sausages if you want, and put them in a split baguette or hoagie.

Simple ingredients to recap:

  • Your favorite sausages
  • Red and green peppers
  • Apple juice
  • Hoagies or Baguette

Additional Toppings

Onions- they are right at home here, Slice them about ¼” and put them on the smoker with the peppers, chop them up and add to the sandwich. If sautéing them is more to your liking, feel free, they will still be a great addition.


Onions on wood board

Onions


Gardiniera peppers in glass bowl

Gardiniera peppers


Italian cheese on table

Cheese

Gardiniera peppers are one of our favorite additions. Store bought or homemade, their juices add great flavors, a little bit of heat and a nice vinegary tang.

The works! For an ultimate grinder add all of the above and a ladle of marinara. Top with your favorite Italian cheese – parm, mozz, fontina, asiago, provolone or a mix – then give it a quick melt under the broiler. That’s a mess made in flavor heaven.

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