Smoked sausages are staples in most BBQ restaurants these days, and you can get that taste at home using store-bought home-made sausages.
We’ll explain how to smoke sausages using a smoker vs. a grill, and what type of fuel to consider for your smoke source.
Smoke sausage at home: what you’ll need
When you’re smoking sausages at home it’s best to use a designated smoker, but if you don’t have one, you can rig your grill up to be a makeshift smoker.
Smoker vs. Grill
If you have the option, it’s always best to use a designated smoker when smoking meats. If you’re in a pinch though, you can turn your grill into a smoker.
How to rig a grill to smoke meat depends on the type of grill.
- If you have a charcoal grill, you can use the snake method to smoke sausages.
- If you have a gas grill, you can set it up for indirect cooking.
Regardless of what you have, we will always recommend a smoker in the long run if you intend to smoke a lot of meat.
Smoking sausages takes a lot of space, and grills usually only have one main cooking rack. Smokers on the other hand, usually have multiple racks to fit a lot of meat during one long cooking session.
Upright smokers are great for smoking sausage due to their multiple racks and easy fuel management. We recommend the Dyna-Glo DGX780BDC-D 36″ Vertical Charcoal Smoker for this very reason. It has four racks in the cooking area with a separate charcoal chamber, so you can add fuel without losing heat. That’s room for a lot of sausages.
Vertical smokers are great if you want to hang your sausages while they smoke. Offset smokers have large cooking areas, but there’s no way to hang sausages as you would with a vertical one.
The fuel options will depend on how you’ve chosen to smoke your sausages.
If you’re using a vertical smoker or you have rigged your grill to smoke, you’ll be using charcoal as your fuel. Once the charcoal is hot, add wood chunks on top of the coal bed for desired smoke flavoring.
Electric smokers will plug into a wall outlet for power. Vertical electric smokers are great options for smoking sausages as they have very accurate temperature control which is imperative when smoking cured meats.
Electric smokers also have built-in wood chip chambers that add smoke during cooking.
Pellet smokers are on the rise, and for good reason. They offer convenient set-it-and-forget-it operation along with a fuel that doubles as the smoke source as well.
Pellet smokers come in vertical options great for sausage smoking. Separate pellet-hoppers are filled without loss of heat and then fed into the burn chamber via an auger. The pellets burn to the specified temperature and give off smoke.
Pellets come in a variety of wood options for your desired smoke flavor – and you can mix a heavier wood such as hickory with a lighter fruit wood like apple and add unique flavor combinations to your meat.
Sausage types for smoking
There are various types of sausages that are smoked.
- Some are cooked fully during the smoking process. We refer to this as hot smoking.
- Some sausages that ferment during a curing process are smoked, but not hot enough to kill bacteria. This is cold smoking.
The fermentation process, rather than heat and internal temperature, keeps bacteria from growing. In this instance, smoking is merely used to add depth of flavor.
Any freshly ground sausage that doesn’t use a cure is great for hot smoking.
If you’re curing or fermenting sausage to smoke, be sure to follow the directions on the cure package for any ratio and temperature control.
How to smoke sausages at home
Now we’ll walk you through how to hot smoke your sausage. This method is used to both cook and impart smoke flavor into the meat.
1. Set your smoker to 250°F
Whatever smoking method you’re using, you want your smoker to reach a temperature of 250°F slowly, and stay there.
If you have a charcoal smoker, light lump charcoal with a chimney starter, and when they’re light grey and starting to ash, pour them into the fuel chamber of your cooker. Once the temperature reaches a steady 250°F, place your wood of choice on the lit coals to get the smoke rolling.
If you’re using a gas or electric smoker, set the thermostat to 250°F. Once the temperature levels out, it’s time to put on the wood chips.
2. Get your fuel going
For a charcoal smoker, once the temperature reaches a steady 250°F, place your wood of choice on the lit coals to get the smoke rolling. You can use wood chunks or split logs depending on the size of your fuel chamber.
For gas or electric, load the wood chip chamber with your choice of wood and the heating element will get them smoking. Follow the directions on your bag of wood chips as some need to be soaked up to thirty minutes beforehand.
Moist wood chips will smolder more and last longer than dry wood chips, but dry chips offer cleaner combustion and smoke.
3. Place sausages on smoker racks at least 2 inches apart
Time to add the meat!
Separate the links if necessary and place them flat on the cooking grates at least two inches apart for consistent air flow and smoke penetration. You can also hang your links with butcher twine as well.
You can add a couple of extra sausages as “test links” that you can poke with a probe and check the temperature. This way, you won’t be constantly poking multiple links and letting the juices run out.
4. Set and forget
Once your sausages are on at a steady 250°F with rolling smoke, you’re good to walk away for three or four hours depending on the thickness of the sausage. The sausages are done when their internal temperature reaches 165°F.
You can flip your sausages midway through cooking if you’d like, but it’s not necessary, and you may let heat out of the cook chamber. Flipping may add some grate marks to the links, but does little to affect the flavor.
5. Remove from smoker and serve or store
Once the sausages get to 165°F, they’re ready for serving. You can let them rest at room temperature for a few minutes, but they’re best served right from the cooker when they’re plump and juicy.
If you let them rest too long, the casings will start to shrivel and will lose their crispness. You can prevent this by plunging the sausage into a cold water bath to stop the cooking process and bring their temperature down. This, in turn,prevents the casings from wrinkling.
You can also store sausages for later use. They retain the smokey flavor well and last in the fridge safely up to four days.
Any longer and you’ll want to freeze them. Frozen sausages are good for up to three months before they start to lose quality.
Cured or fermented sausages that are cold smoked don’t require refrigeration if done correctly and in a controlled environment, but you’ll want to consume within three days of opening for the best quality.
Sausage and smoke
So, there you have it. Now you know how to smoke sausage, be it store-bought or homemade. If you follow this guide, you’ll have juicy, smoky sausage every time.
Once you get the hang of it, play around with a mixture of wood flavors and sausage types. A hickory and applewood combination will taste different in a bratwurst than Italian sausage. If you have any flavor recommendations, let us know in the comments below!
Have fun with it and don’t forget to share your stories with us!