Smoking has been a long-standing tradition for family gatherings and those special events. The beauty of it is you can smoke a wide variety of meats from brisket, pork, lamb to beef.
Sausage is no exemption from this catalog. On the contrary, it’s one of the easiest and fastest meats to prepare when you’re pressed for time. Not forgetting what a delicacy it cranks up.
So when it comes to smoking sausage, what is there to know? Fortunately, it’s a pretty straightforward process once you get the hang of it. Even without a wealth of experience smoking, anyone can hop onto this BBQ bandwagon and get it right. Enough chit-chat. Let’s get into the finer details.
Cured vs Uncured
Before we cross onto the step-by-step guide, you must understand the sausage types out there. Ideally, they come in all shapes and sizes meaning there’s a long list to choose from. But that’s not what we’re here for. For the most part, what creates a dividing line amidst the several options is whether or not the sausage has been cured.
Simply put, curing is a special kind of treatment where nitrides or sodium nitrate are introduced to the sausage. Not only does this treatment expand their shelf life but also, because of the fermentation, a unique zest is achieved altogether. More so the red-pink center that pitmasters world over strives to achieve. When smoked, you can taste the difference. And this is often referred to as cold smoking.
If you chose to go with freshly ground sausages, you’re technically doing a hot smoke. This is where everything is cooked from scratch with high temperatures until it is safe for human consumption. Either way, whatever you decide to go by is simply a matter of personal preference. Both sausages give exquisite results when cooked correctly.
Equipment to Use
Unless you’re buying already smoked sausages from the store, you’ll need the right cookware to get the job done. Straight off the bat, a smoker is advisably the best fit. The name says it all. It’s built essentially for smoking and would typically generate better flavor. For those lucky enough to have one lying around the house, you’re a step ahead!
Benefits of using a smoker include
- Greater cooking grill space, especially if you’ll be smoking a ton. Offset smokers provide up to about 619 square inches of cooking space and some extra more for grilling.
- With big vertical smokers, you could pack a whole lot more.
- Smokers are easy to apply a set-and-forget cooking technique.
- Better fuel management.
The second most important gradient is the wood. This is the secret additive that infuses the meats with that begrimed flavor that sets it apart. Luckily, there are countless smoke wood options in the market for you to pick from. If you like a strong flavor, heavy wood like hickory works perfectly. But if mild is kind of your go-to, then consider pecan.
Sometimes throwing in a different blend like apple-flavored wood could really give you that burst of savor. Similarly, don’t be afraid to mix and match the woods to get the best of both worlds. Of course, the confidence to do this will grow as you get familiar with the art of smoking sausages, but if you’re willing to take the risk earlier on, it certainly proves worthy.
Another thing worth noting with wood is the moisture level. Some prefer to use soaked versions because they stay on longer and smolder easily. This is good but the only downside is you may experience a dirty smoke side effect. If that’s a concern to you then dry wood is best for cleaner combustion.
Conclusively, be careful to read the instructions on the packaging to understand how to best use the woods. Some need to be presoaked for a couple of minutes before they are ready. Look out for this.
Perhaps you have at best a grill and are worried about parting with an insane amount of bucks for a quality smoker. The good news is that you can rig your grill to smoke with a few techniques. It may not exactly be the same, but hey! It works fairly as well.
Depending on what grill you have, there are different ways to go about it. But the bottom line is to use an indirect cooking method. With a charcoal grill, you want to lump all the coals into one side in a somewhat half-circle ring. Throw in a lit briquette to get the fuel going and give it time to get to the right temperature range. This technique is more formally referred to as the snake method.
In the case of a gas or electric grill, a two-fire zone setup will allow low and controlled cooking which is crucial. It’s being able to get a crunchy outside with the delicate balance of accurate internal temperatures that makes the sausage a tasteful delight.
What Fuel is Needed?
When it comes to deciding the fuel, as you can imagine, your cookware should guide you in the decision. If you substituted your smoker for a grill though, there’s a need for some inexpensive add ons to make the smoking successful.
For instance, a gas or electric grill would do with a smoker box, and a packet or two of wood chips. Electric grills particularly are exceptional in thermal control compared to the charcoal models. It’s hard to over-smoke the sausage because of the built-in internal thermostat. The latter on the other hand needs careful manipulation to prevent popping the external sausage casing due to excess heat. Nonetheless, if that’s your smoking source, lay on top of your charcoal bed some wood chunks sized in balance with the heat energy required.
Anyone looking for convenience should consider a pellet smoker. They burst onto the scene for being dual cookware. The pellets serve as both the fuel and smoke source combined hence this eliminates the worry of having to buy spare wood chips. Plus, using the equipment is similarly quite easy.
Step By Step Guide on How to Smoke Sausage
It’s been a long way coming but we’re finally here! Once you have your sausages laid out and the tools ready, it’s time to smoke! Follow these steps:
- Preheat your Cooker
Whatever cooking cabinet you use has to be warmed up to roughly 225°F -250°F. Slow and steady is the name of the game. Getting up to high temperatures ensures no bacteria can survive when the sausages heat the smoker. At this point, you can now go ahead to pile your wood blocks/chips in.
Measure an amount that your chambers can accommodate in case you have an inbuilt wood compartment. Also, ensure that only after seeing a good smoke that you proceed to the next step.
- Layout your Sausages
With a grill set up, it only makes sense to separate the sausage links first. Have your sausages spread out at least 2 inches apart for good smoke contact and circulation? This however will not be a problem if you’re using a vertical smoker.
- Allow about 2-3 hours Cooking Time
Set your timer and get along with other things. Keep in mind that the time will adjust depending on the size and filling of the sausage so an instant-read thermometer will likely be a handy tool in determining doneness. Insert it from one end towards the center to get an accurate read.
You could flip the sausages mid-way through but do this speedily. You don’t want to lose any heat in your smoker especially if it’s a charcoal one.
- Plate up
Once your thermometer registers 165°F, they’re ready! Serving them hot prevents the common shriveling problem, however here’s a remedy. An ice bath stops the cooking process; so dump them in briefly.
Otherwise, you can now enjoy your BBQ sausage with a myriad of dishes! Anything from sandwiches, soups, salads even pasta make great companions and will leave you yearning for more.
Here are a few tips for smoking bratwurst
Storing for Later
It does no harm to prepare in bulk and keep the sausages for later. Smoked well, they hold onto their tangy flavor steadily and will taste just as good the next time around. In the fridge, they can last up to 4 days but if you intend to surpass that, keep them in the freezer. While at it, ensure to wrap them in an airtight bag locking away all possible moisture. The designated time frame should not exceed 3 months.
In case you’re looking to buy a smoker, here’s our handy guide with a wealth of great options to go by. We wish you the best in your smoking endeavors!