Few things are easier to smoke than sausages. But let’s be clear about the difference between smoking sausages and smoked sausages. These are two completely different things. However, if you simply want to throw some sausages (homemade or store-bought) on the smoker, there are just a few things you need to know.
The process of smoking sausage is simple. Place uncooked sausage in your smoker at a good smoking temperature (around 225°F) and let it run for two to three hours. All you need to decide is the type of sausage you want to smoke.
Sausage in the casing is easy to handle. It is important to prevent the casings from sticking to the cooking grate, but ensuring it is clean and oiled will solve this problem. Loose sausage, like that in those plastic tubes, is harder to work with. It tends to slip through the cooking racks as it smokes. A real mess.
If you want to smoke ground, place it in a pan to help it keep its shape. Turn occasionally and drain excess fat halfway through the smoking time.
Cold Smoking vs. Hot Smoking Sausage
When you buy smoked sausage, it is typically cold-smoked and not much different from salami, pepperoni, or kielbasa. Cold smoking is a long process of preserving meats without cooking them. In this way, smoked sausage has all the fat still inside.
Hot smoked sausage is cooked. The advantage of smoking sausage over grilling is, of course, the smoke flavor, but also the slow, gentle cooking process. Ever throw sausages on the grill only to have the burst open? This is because the fat inside turns into liquid and expands quickly. This bursts open the sausage casing. On the smoker, sausages can cook slower and render more fat but pick up more flavor.
If you are interested in cold-smoking sausage, you need the right equipment (READ MORE). Cold smoking is a more expert-level method of dealing with sausages, so make sure you know what you are doing to avoid the risk of foodborne illness.
What Kinds of Sausage can you Smoke?
We live in a wonderful age for sausage. There are so many flavors and varieties to choose from. Fortunately, your backyard smoker is the perfect cooking appliance for all these kinds of sausage.
- Andouille – Originally from France, Andouille is now most associated with Cajun and Creole cooking. Make Jumbo or Jambalaya? Use smoked Andouille for a great kick of flavor. As the man says, “Bam!”
- Bratwurst – My personal favorite. I smoke pork bratwursts, split them down the middle, and turn them into a fantastic bratwurst burger. These make the perfect gameday meal.
- Breakfast Sausage – Believe it or not, your standard breakfast sausage tastes great smoked. I smoke them in advance, so I don’t have to get up too early in the morning. Smoked, they keep in the refrigerator for three to four days. Otherwise, freeze them for future use.
- Chicken Sausage – A great choice for lighter meals. Treat as your would bratwurst. Chicken sausages are typically flavored with apple, sage, and spices.
- Chorizo – Chorizo is incredibly flavorful and spicy. Add a good smoke flavor, which becomes the perfect ingredient for many recipes. Choose Chorizo in casings because the loose stuff on the smoker is very hard to work with.
- Hot Dogs – Yes, your basic pork or beef hot dog is much better smoked than boiled or grilled. Next time you have the smoker going, throw in a few hot dogs and let your guests rediscover their childhood favorite.
- Italian Sausage– Hot, mild, sweet, or any other variation, smoked, they are great on their own but also the perfect protein for so many Italian dishes.
- Kielbasa – Typically, you find these already smoked, but if you can find them raw, they are so much better than those shrink-wrapped things in the grocery store. If you live near a good Polish butcher shop, you owe it to yourself to make the trip.
How Long to Smoke Sausage
Since we are working with raw, ground meat, safety rules apply. Sausage must be cooked until the minimum internal temperature reaches 165°F (75°C). The best smoking temperature for sausage is our favorite, 225°F (110°C). At this low and slow temperature, we can smoke to higher temperatures than the minimum for safety, but fat renders during the cooking time and can dry out the sausages. Your best bet is not to over smoke them.
Now for the problem. If you test the internal temperature of your smoked sausage with an instant-read thermometer, you are literally popping a balloon. The juices will run out quickly. Now, I won’t tell you not to test; instead, I will leave it up to you. I let my sausages smoke for between two to three hours. I feel them for firmness. A solid feel through the middle tells you that they are cooked.
When using a meat thermometer, be gentle with the point of the probe to minimize the loss of juices from the sausage.
Once the sausages come off the smoker, you can serve them immediately. I recommend covering them and letting them hold at temperature for 30 minutes to an hour. Keep them warm. This ensures doneness and makes for a juicier sausage.
Traditionally, chains of sausage links are hung on hooks to smoke. This allows juices to run over the surface, keeping the casings from drying out. Also, it keeps the casings from coming into contact with hot metal, which can tear them. I recommend this method if you have the capacity (and sausages are still linked together). If you have access to a business that makes its own sausages, it will probably be able to provide them this way.
About the Smoke
I always say that smoke volume is up to you. Some people love a deep, rich smoke flavor. Others want just a hint. So what’s the best wood to use? There is no wrong answer. Also, the casings will act to block some of the smoke taste, so you can go heavy if you like. Any wood flavor will work great with sausage. I suggest using a stronger flavor like oak, hickory, or mesquite with more robust flavored sausages. And to use more mild wood like apple, pecan, or cherry with the lighter flavors.
Uses for Smoked Sausage
Of course, you can take a smoked sausage off the cooker, throw it on a bun and enjoy. But the real power of homemade smoked sausages is that you control the smoke. And now you can add it to any recipe. The amazing flavors will benefit anything that calls for sausage, ground meat, or almost anything.
Smoked sausage goes great in a number of soups, over pasta, in stuffing, or just topped with mustard.
Freezing and Storing Smoked Sausage
Smoked sausages will stay good in your refrigerator for up to four days. Any longer, and they should be frozen. I do strongly recommend using a vacuum sealer for long-term storage. This will keep the smoke flavor in the sausage and prevent icing and freezer burn.
- 2 pounds sausage Any variety you like
- Preheat your smoker to 225°F. If you can, remove the cooking grate beforehand (unless you are hanging sausages.
- When the smoker is ready, place the cooking grate on the smoker and add the sausage.
- Smoke for two to three hours. The internal temperature of the sausage needs to be a minimum of 165°F before the sausage comes off the smoker.