Rookie Questions on Smoker Sausage

  • I’ve made my first two attempts to make smoked beef kielbasa - practice runs for duck and goose sausage, once I get it right. The flavor is OK, but the natural hog casing is so tough when it comes out of the smoker, I have to peel it off in order to bite into the sausage. Also, the meat filling itself is somewhat dense in texture, even though I use the coarse grinding plate and only run the meat through the grinder one time. I’m using the Kitchen Aid grinder and auger-type sausage stuffer. Ingredients are mostly beef, some pork shoulder and pork fat. Total fat is approximately 25 - 30%. Very much appreciate your suggestions.

  • Team Blue

    mikesr I’ve had good luck with natural casings and kielbasa when I hang them overnight in the walk-in or on a sheet pan with rack overnight in the fridge. Drying the casing a bit seems to help with that ‘snap’ of a perfect bite. Smoke also adheres better to a drier product whether sausage, bacon, pastrami, etc… I apply the same technique to a nice beef steak.

  • Team Orange Masterbuilt Big Green Egg Dry Cured Sausage Sous Vide Canning Power User

    mikesr what is your smoke/cook schedule? Are you using natural casings? How old are your casings? You may gain some benefit to your texture by doing a second grind. Are you running a water pan during the cook? How are you cooling the meat after your cook? We need a bit more info to give you some feedback.

  • Thanks Joe. Maybe that’s part of it. I’ve only chilled the stuffed sausages an hour or so before going into the smoker. The skin turns out like leather.

  • YooperDog, I’m using natural hog casings bought from my local butcher - just weeks old since purchase. I’m using an electric low-end Cookshack smoker with a water pan. The smoker doesn’t have real good temperature control - it’s hard to keep it steady below 250 degrees. The sausages were only in the smoker 2 hours before reaching 160 degrees internal. I cooled them in the fridge after they came out of the smoker. It hadn’t occurred to me that a second grind would make them less dense. I thought it would be the opposite. Thanks for your suggestions.

  • Team Orange Masterbuilt Big Green Egg Dry Cured Sausage Sous Vide Canning Power User

    mikesr I agree with @joe hell also you don’t want your casings wet because the smoke won’t adhere to them. Do you have a lot of liquid fat in your drip pan? The second grind would help with texture, though not necessary if you are happy with what you have. Have you calibrated your thermometer? My initial thought is that you are over cooking the sausage. The temp is to high and drying out the outside and fatting out. With hog casings I am assuming that you are around 30-35mm and two hours seems to me to be a little fast of a cook. Also, when you bring them out of the smoker you should put them in an ice water bath or shower them to cool them down to 1/2 the temp and then let them dry and bloom, unless of course you are going to eat them right away.

    It sounds like you are on the right track, just needing some adjustments.

    I am not familiar with your smoker brand, but something I found with my temperamental smokers is cracking the door open or turning them off if the temp got to high, basically you become the temp regulator.

  • YooperDog, There’s a considerable amount of fat in the drip pan and I think you’re right that the sausages are getting overcooked and losing both fat and water. My smoker has very poor temp control - it has swings as much as 100 degrees above the set temp. I’m thinking that this, along with the fact that I didn’t use the ice bath after smoking might also be contributing to the leathery, un-chewable skin. I’m looking into an Auber digital temp controller at this time and I think there might be a solution to temperature control there. Thanks YooperDog.

  • Team Blue Admin Walton's Employee Power User

    mikesr I’m betting your problem is smoke schedule, I’ve had that happen with casings before when I tried to smoke natural casings without paying attention to temps or humidity. I know you said 250 was what you were aiming for but can you give us what your full schedule was?

    It also could be (unlikely) that the casings weren’t prepared correctly. If you don’t soak them in hot water for about 30- 60 minutes before stuffing them they can have similar issues. I just put that in there to be safe but I am fairly confident that the issue is the smoke schedule.

  • Thanks Jonathon. I don’t really have a smoke schedule. I put a water pan in the bottom of the smoker and try to keep the temp as close to 225 as possible (the smoker is very inconsistent and will spike to higher temps unless I’m standing over it constantly). Then I just monitor the internal meat temp. It’s taken 2 hours or less for the sausage to come to fully cooked temperature, so I think that amounts to “no schedule”. I do soak the casings, but only in tap water temperature. Thanks again.

  • Team Blue Admin Walton's Employee Power User

    mikesr Stepping up your temps is the first thing I would try. Follow this smoke schedule and see if it works better
    Set up your smoker and hang your sausage on smoke sticks or lay on racks and smoke at
    125F for 1 hour
    140F for 1 hour
    155F for 2 hours
    175F until internal meat temp of 160F
    Got that from here

  • Thanks Jonathon. My smoker isn’t capable of anywhere near that degree of precision. I’m ordering a digital temp controller and I think that is going to remedy the smoking schedule / temperature situation. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

  • Team Blue Dry Cured Sausage Canning Sous Vide PK100

    mikesr I have an older charbroil electric smoker. I purchased an auber instruments WSD-1500H-W it was a little pricey at $240.00 but it works great at maintaining temperature and it’s programmable for smoke schedule. Also has an app you can use to monitor/modify schedule on your phone or tablet. It has 1 probe for smoker temperature and 2 for IT. only problem, I could have used the money to upgrade smoker 🤔.

  • Thanks Joe1. That’s the system my research has led me to. It’s great to hear that it works as advertised. I thought about upgrading my smoker too. Only problem: it’s built in to an outdoor cook center and nothing else would fit. Sounds like the Auber Instruments is at least part of the solution. Thanks!

  • Team Blue Dry Cured Sausage Canning Sous Vide PK100

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  • Team Blue Dry Cured Sausage Canning Sous Vide PK100

    mikesr here’s a screenshot of what I got from the app.

  • Thanks Joe. Looks like the real deal.

  • Team Blue

    Jonathon I prefer to soak my casings for several hours or overnight in the fridge. The standard 30-60 minutes never gives me the results I’m looking for. They don’t come off the horn as easy as ones soaked longer

  • Regular Contributors Team Grey Sous Vide Canning Dry Cured Sausage Masterbuilt Power User Meat Hack Winner Veteran

    Joe Hell Good tip, that could explain why my casings are sometimes hard to get along with

  • Thank you Joe. Many good tips here for a beginner.

  • Regular Contributors Team Grey Sous Vide Canning Dry Cured Sausage Masterbuilt Power User Meat Hack Winner Veteran

    mikesr Mike, lots of experience in the community but I don’t think you will find anyone here who hasn’t learned a few things

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