Chances are if you are wanting to show off your outdoor cooking skills to your family and/or friends at your next backyard get-together or tailgate party, you’re going to want something that can wow them. In that case, a BBQ favorite you could go for is hot smoked sausage!
But, if it’s not something you’ve really done before (or if you’ve ended up with some not-so-tasty links on your last attempt) you may be wondering how to properly smoke sausage.
So, in this article, we’ve put together some insider tips straight from the pitmasters to help ensure you know how to smoke sausage to a perfect finish - every time. Let’s take a look:
There are many different types of sausage, but not all of them necessarily do well being hot smoked. In general, you want to go for fresh raw sausage versus pre-cooked sausage. Doing so will give you much more of that rich and delicious smoked flavor you are going for.
Some good options for fresh sausage that hold smoke well include:
Feel free to experiment and cook a variety of sausages to try different ones. You don’t have to limit yourself to smoking a single type of sausage.
Just like certain types of sausage go better with smoke, certain types of wood flavors go better with sausage. So, make sure you are utilizing a complementary hardwood. Post oak is a great all-around choice with a mild yet delicious flavor. Hickory is also a good choice. It is stronger than oak but imparts a semi-sweet “bacon-like” flavor that compliments most types of sausage. Other options that work include cherry and pecan wood.
Bonus tip: Keep an eye on your wood during the cook. Around the hour and a half mark, if it is not producing much smoke anymore, change it or add new wood to continue generating the proper smoke.
Source: B&B Charcoal
While your wood is soaking, make sure you let your smoker or grill preheat to the desired temperature of 225 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are using a grill and adding wood to use it as a smoker, it is also important to set it up as a two-zone setup. This means you have one side that is direct heat and one side that is indirect heat. In this case, you will be smoking the sausages over the indirect heat side.
The indirect heat side of a two-zone grill setup can also act as a safe zone in the event of a flare-up, ensuring you don’t have to end up with burnt sausages.
The last thing you want is for the sausage to stick to the grates and the casing tear when you try to take them out of the cooker. You also don’t want them to end up tasting like bitter char. Regardless of which type of sausage you intend to smoke, it’s probably encased in a shell.
You can prevent these things from happening by making sure the cooking grates are properly clean and oiled, leaving you with a great non-stick surface. Always make sure to use high-heat cooking oil to ensure that the oil doesn’t burn off as your cooker heats up.
Bonus tip: Check out our article on natural homemade grill cleaner to help you keep your cooker spotless.
Another important tip to keep in mind is the spacing of the sausages on the grates. This is not the time to try and cram as many links in as possible. You want to make sure that there are 2-inches between each sausage.
This will give plenty of room for proper airflow, allowing the smoke to reach out evenly over the entire sausage.
Source: Oklahoma Joe’s
This is a critical part of smoking food that applies to any food item you are cooking. And as with anything, smoking sausage requires a precise temperature throughout the whole cook time. Let your smoker get too hot and you’ll dry out your sausage. If the smoker’s temperature is too low, you’ll struggle to get the sausage to reach a safe internal temperature.
When smoking sausage, you want to bring your smoker to an internal temperature of 250 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, your sausage will cook “low and slow” while still reaching a safe internal temperature. If your smoker’s temperature is not automatically controlled, make sure to keep an eye on it. Make adjustments to the fuel source or vents when needed to maintain the constant necessary temperature.
When smoking sausage, you want to flip them occasionally to ensure they cook evenly, achieve the best flavor overall, and prevent them from burning. The bottom of the sausage, the side closest to the heat source, will cook faster than the top. But don’t go crazy flipping every 20 minutes. In doing that, you will let out a lot of smoke and can negatively affect the internal temperature of your cooker.
If you’re wondering how long to smoke sausages for, it’s usually safe to assume that if your smoker has an internal temperature of 250 degrees Fahrenheit, it will take two to three hours to properly smoke sausage. But, it’s always best to cook to the desired internal temperature of the meat versus going strictly by time. So, make sure you have a good probe meat thermometer.
Use your thermometer to check the sausage after it’s been smoking for a while. The recommended minimum safe internal temperature you’re aiming for with sausage is 160 degrees Fahrenheit. So, if your thermometer is reading lower than this temperature, let the sausages smoke for a little longer.
Once your sausages come out of the smoker, you can let them rest for a few minutes at room temperature. But, to ensure they are plump and juicy, they are best served right from the cooker. If left to rest for too long, the sausages’ casings will begin to shrivel and the sausage will start to dry out.
One easy way to prevent that from happening is by putting the sausage in a cold water bath to bring their temperature down and stop the cooking process.
Also, smoked sausage retains its flavor well so it can also be stored in the fridge safely for up to four days. If you want to store them longer than that, they can be kept in the freezer for up to three full months before they start to lose quality.
By following the tips we’ve covered above, you’ll be well on your way to smoking sausage to a mouth-watering and juicy finish every time. Once you’ve started to get the hang of it, don’t be afraid to experiment with different types of sausages and different types/flavors of hardwood. You might just find a few new favorite combinations.
Plan on trying your hand at smoking sausage soon? Do you know of another tip on how to smoke sausage that we left out? Leave a comment below. We want to hear all about it!
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