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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Krakow Sausage: Process, Story, and Recipe
Brief history of polish sausage
Cooking is such an extended journey, with byways and new paths constantly opening up. As a tike watching Julia Child and Graham Kerr, following their recipes with mom, learning bread making from my great grandmother a bit later, and then exploring and spending decades in the food industry.
A trusty kettle barbecue was my first sophisticated device around the grilling smoking and barbecuing arena. I got the pleasure of a few years running fine dining, including top end steak houses, and getting exposed to multiple cooking techniques. When I bought my first restaurant it came with an electric smoker and we started turning out boneless ribs and split chickens as part of the menu. Even that was a couple decades ago.
This year we decided to make our own presents for the family and friends. My first thought was summer sausage, as I had seen friends make it with their venison. Not having venison, and not wanting to spend crazy money on beef for my learning curve, I looked deeper into the sausage culture. I also didn’t want to dive into a bunch more equipment just to stick my toe in the water.
Enter the Krakow sausage or Kielbasa Krakowska Krajana, often the best-selling sausage in Poland. This had appeal because pork prices are still reasonable, and other than buying casings, it used equipment already in the house. In the interest of full disclosure, this will be told about my second attempt to make a Krakow sausage. The first attempt was successful, but the second was unquestionably superior.
Making Krakow Sausage
Equipment; Required and Optional
The minimal equipment for this is:
- Food processor
- Canning funnel
- Something that will fit through the funnel to compress the sausage
The Fibrous Casings that I bought came with bull rings and pliers, those are the metal rings at the end of a sausage and the pliers that crimp them. You can use butcher’s twine as well. That’s about all you must have.
My kitchen tool inventory runs a little deep, so you will see more equipment that I chose to use. Included in this is a meat grinder and a stand style mixer. Processes with and without will be noted.
The process is fairly easy, only requires a small degree of patience. You will cube all the meat, mix it with ‘Pink Salt’ and let it sit refrigerated for 48 hours. This is a Nitrite product, known as Prague Powder due to the long and extensive use it has had in European sausage making, that works as a curative.
The fatty meat will be pureed with the spices and mixed with the cubes. This will act as the binder to give the sausage cohesion. You soak the casing, I cut mine down to get closer to the size I was wanting the individual sausages to be at the finish. Filling the casing had a bit of a learning curve. Getting the meat in is easy enough. Compressing it became easier after a doing it a couple of times. I found if I pinched the casing right above the filling, pulled the extra casing up with my other and gently tapped the bottom on the counter, I got good compression and a tight sausage at the end.
Then three hours at 150-180 on the pellet smoker, moved it to 225 to finish and get an internal temperature 165 degrees. I was smoking on a day that was about 37 degrees outdoors, so you may get quicker results. I let them cool on the smoker for about an hour, they came down to 80-ish, then put them in the fridge. They were left uncovered on paper towels allowing them to dry out well. In my case I vacuum sealed them as prep for gift giving.
Krakow Sausage Recipe
- Food processor
- Canning funnel
- Something that will fit through the funnel to compress the sausage
- 5 Pounds Very lean pork
- 1 Pound Fattier pork Not over 25%
- 2 Tablespoons Salt
- 1¼ Level Tablespoons Prague Powder Cure #1
- 1½ Tablespoon Ground black pepper
- 2 Tablespoons Granulated garlic
- ½ Tablespoon Ground allspice
- 2 Tablespoons Sugar
- ½ Cup Iced water
- Mix the salt and Prague powder together.
- Cube the lean pork into approximately one-inch cubes. Dice the fatty pork.
- Mix the fatty pork with 2 teaspoons of the salt mixture. Mix the lean meat with the remaining salts. Refrigerate both for 48 hours
- Preheat your smoker to 150-180 degrees.
- Soak the casings for 30 minutes in warm water.
- Mince the fatty pork or run through a meat grinder with a fine plate.
- Mix all the seasonings into the fatty pork.
- Puree the fatty pork in the food processor, adding the iced water to facilitate a better puree.
- In a large bowl, or using a stand mixer, mix the lean pork chunks with the puree until well blended.
- Stuff the meat into the casings, compress and twist the ends with the extra casing tucked underneath.
- Clip the rings or tie off the ends of each sausage, except one.
- Put a temperature probe into the center of one sausage and tie the casing as tight as possible with butcher’s twine.
- Hang sausages in the smoker, or place on the racks and smoke for three hours.
- Increase smoker temp to 225 degrees and continue smoking until an internal temperature of 165 degrees has been achieved.
- Cool then refrigerate uncovered for at least 24 hours.
- Peel, cut and enjoy!