How to: Smoke Sausage on a Pellet Grill/Smoker
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How to: Smoke Sausage on a Pellet Grill/Smoker
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Thread: How to: Smoke Sausage on a Pellet Grill/Smoker

  1. #1
    Moderator TentHunter's Avatar
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    How to: Smoke Sausage on a Pellet Grill/Smoker

    Disclaimer: Making & smoking sausage and other cured meats carries responsibility on YOUR part! You alone are responsible for your own health and food safety, so PLEASE understand what you're doing and make food safety your #1 priority.

    Also keep in mind, the methods and techniques presented here are geared towards using Pellet Grills/Smokers.

    Thank you!
    <><
    MAK 1 Star General #651 - 2014 Model
    former owner - MAK 1 Star General #171
    22.5" Weber Performer with Stoven Pellet Grill attachment
    27 + year old 22.5" Weber Kettle (still works fine)
    Modified Horizontal Offset Smoker - used mainly for cold smoking.

  2. #2
    Moderator TentHunter's Avatar
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    Post Section 1 - Cold Smoking Sausage on a Pellet Grill

    Cold smoking sausage is really not much different than cold smoking Bacon or Hams. The very first, and most important rule for cold smoking is this:

    NEVER - attempt to cold-smoke uncured & fresh sausages!

    Doing so might risk the chance of Botulism or other food-borne illness. ONLY sausages that have first been cured using nitrite/nitrates are safe for cold-smoking! Even though Botulism is rare, it should be taken seriously.

    For more info see: Salt, Nitrites/Nitrates & Botulism
    Section 2 - Hot Smoking Sausage on a pellet Grill - Cured & Fresh



    The second thing to know is: Cold-smoking is totally optional for cured sausage!

    The advantage, of course, is a deeper smoke flavor and aroma. Many Dry & Semi-dry sausages such as salami, and artisan hams or bacon are cold-smoked only.



    Cold Smoke Generators

    Cold smoking requires temperatures below 100 so the sausages can absorb smoke, but don't cook. To achieve this you will need some kind of cold-smoke generator.

    The MAK 2 Star Generals have a built-in cold smoke chamber that you can use for cold smoking!

    Here are a couple of other options for pellet grills:

    SMOKE DADDY Cold Smoke Generator - these are tried & true, but be aware that you may have to modify your grill which could void your warranty.

    A-MAZE-N Pellet Smokers - these work extremely well are versatile and will not affect your grill's warranty.

    This is the A-MAZE-N Pellet Tube Smoker and some 100% Flavorwood Pellets (both available at www.bigpoppasmokers.com). They work very well and are relatively inexpensive.



    If you don't have a cold-smoke generator, that's no problem. You can still turn out some amazing smoked sausage. Just skip the cold smoke and move straight to a Hot-Smoke!


    The Cold Smoke:

    Step 1 - Prep the sausages: Pat any moisture off the sausages using clean paper towels. If you have a sausage hanger, space them evenly on the rods. If you don't have any way of hanging sausage, then just use wire racks or your grates.

    Stackable jerky racks also work very well. You can also let them sit in the fridge overnight if you prefer.

    You can let them sit at room temp to let the casings dry a little if you prefer, but it's not really necessary.

    Step 2 - Prep the Pellet Grill and your cold smoke device: Get the grill ready, but leave it off!

    Follow the manufacturer's directions to start your cold smoke generator.

    Use whatever flavor pellets you like. I find a mix of either Apple & Hickory, or Cherry & Hickory works really well. The cherry gives a really nice mahogany color while the apple gives a little stronger smoke smell. Sugar Maple is also surprisingly nice, especially for beef smoked sausage. I recommend 100% flavorwood Pellets for cold smoking.

    Put the sausage hanger, or racks in place or just lay the sausages on the second level grate. Be sure they are not touching each other so smoke can surround each sausage.




    Apply smoke for as little as 1 hour or as long as a whole day. The longer the cold smoke; the deeper the smoke flavor. I typically let them go for around 4 - 6 hours with very smoky results.

    You are now ready to move on to Hot-Smoking to finish the sausages!
    Last edited by TentHunter; 08-24-2015 at 03:50 PM.
    <><
    MAK 1 Star General #651 - 2014 Model
    former owner - MAK 1 Star General #171
    22.5" Weber Performer with Stoven Pellet Grill attachment
    27 + year old 22.5" Weber Kettle (still works fine)
    Modified Horizontal Offset Smoker - used mainly for cold smoking.

  3. #3
    Moderator TentHunter's Avatar
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    Post Section 2 - Hot Smoking Sausage on a pellet Grill - Cured & Fresh

    Note: Please keep in mind, the methods and techniques presented here are geared towards using Pellet Grills/Smokers.

    This Hot-Smoke method works equally for Cured or Fresh/Un-cured sausages!


    Can I safely smoke fresh uncured sausages?
    This is a question I get asked a lot. The answer is, Yes, but ONLY if they're hot-smoked properly, AND minimum safe temperature guidelines are followed to ensure that any harmful bacteria has been killed!

    For more info see: Salt, Nitrites/Nitrates & Botulism





    Hot smoking utilizes temps between 165 - 185 and does a few things:

    For Cured Sausages: it applies smoke and cooks the sausage to a finish temp.

    For Uncured Sausages: Hot-smoking does three things: It applies smoke. It cooks the sausages, pushing them through the danger zone temperatures (40 - 140 F) quickly enough to keep harmful bacteria below dangerous levels.

    It also allows enough time for the sausages to react with nitrogen dioxide and develop a deep smoke ring almost all the way, but not quite to the center of the sausage, giving it that classic pink color and texture. The nitric acid that's formed will have a slight curing effect on the sausage, but minimum temperature guidelines must still be followed.


    Items you will need:

    - A second tier upper grate for your grill, or if your fire pot is off to one side, enough room on the lower rack to keep the sausage away from the direct heat. Sausage hangers are even better.
    - A temperature probe to monitor the sausage temperature.
    - A Sausage pricker.
    - A cooler, tub or clean sink with plenty of cold water.

    Don't have a sausage pricker? No problem, just use one of these: a corn-on-the-cob holder. A small clean brad (nail) will also work.



    *If you are hot-smoking cured sausages that were already cold smoked, then skip to step 3.

    Step 1 - Prep the sausages: Pat any moisture off the sausages using clean paper towels. Prick the sausages about every inch or so using a sausage pricker. I do not recommend skipping this step as it prevents any pressure from building and cooking the sausage too quickly. Place the sausages on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels and return them to the fridge to keep them as cold as possible while you prep the grill.


    Step 2 - Prep the Pellet Grill: Get it ready, but DO NOT preheat your grill; leave it off! Be sure to install your upper grate.

    If you have a product like an A-MAZE-N pellet smoker and want to use it to generate extra smoke, now's the time to get it ready, in place, and lit.

    Use whatever flavor pellets you like. I find a mix of either Apple & Hickory, or Cherry & Hickory works really well. The cherry gives a really nice mahogany color while the apple gives a little stronger smoke smell. Sugar Maple is also surprisingly nice especially for beef smoked sausage.

    If you have a sausage hanger, space them evenly on the rods. Otherwise lay the sausages on the second level grate (or at the far end of your grill if your fire pot is off to one side). Be sure they are not touching each other so smoke can surround each sausage.


    Step 3 - The Hot-Smoke: Insert a temperature probe into one of the sausages length wise, making sure the end of the probe is positioned in the middle of the sausage so you're getting an accurate reading. Turn the grill on to smoke mode. If your grill lets you set a specific temp, then set it to hot smoke temps 165 - 185. [i]If your grill only goes down to 200 the sausages will cook a little quicker and the smoke ring won't be quite as deep, but it will still work.[i]



    What's Happening: Basically you're taking advantage of the extra smoke and warm-up period of the grill. Since the grill and sausage are both cold, the sausages won't be shocked by immediate heat hitting them. As they warm up more slowly, it will have a tempering effect on the sausage to help keep it from fatting out. It also extends the time in which smoke can be absorbed.




    Step 4 - Finishing & Cooling: Cured sausage is usually done hot-smoking when they reach a minimum internal temp of 150 (152 - 154 for uncured sausages).

    For Uncured hot-smoked sausages (1 - 1 " diameter), this usually happens somewhere around the 3 hour mark, (depending on exact pit temp) which is a good time frame for keeping them within safe parameters. If it looks like your uncured sausages might take much longer; just bump the temp up to around 200 to get them finished.

    Thicker Cured sausages such a 3" Summer Sausage will take longer, sometimes hours longer, which is fine because they're cured and safe!

    Cooling:
    If using a cold water bath, have it ready to go! Carefully immerse the sausages in the cold water and let them cool (a little ice in the water helps).

    In case you're wondering... No, the water bath does NOT make the sausages soggy nor does it wash away the smoke flavor & smell.


    For Cured Sausages: The water bath is optional, depending upon the type of sausage and desired outcome, but it does do two things: It stops the cooking so the fat doesn't melt off and it keeps the sausages plump. Some folks prefer a shriveled look so they will skip the water bath. Dry and refrigerate, or let bloom at room temperature if desired, before packaging & freezing.

    Note: Blooming is when you allow cured sausage (such as Summer Sausage) to sit exposed to air at room temperatures, after cooking. The meat oxidizes and becomes darker in color.

    For Uncured, Hot-smoked sausages: The water bath is a MUST! Don't skip it, as it does three things: It stops the cooking so the fat doesn't melt off. It keeps the sausages plump. Most importantly, it gets them cooled back down below danger zone temps much quicker. Dry them carefully with clean paper towels and get them into the fridge quickly to finish cooling below 41 F.




    Here's a picture showing the difference in color between cured and uncured (fresh) hot-smoked sausage.
    Last edited by TentHunter; 08-24-2015 at 03:54 PM.
    <><
    MAK 1 Star General #651 - 2014 Model
    former owner - MAK 1 Star General #171
    22.5" Weber Performer with Stoven Pellet Grill attachment
    27 + year old 22.5" Weber Kettle (still works fine)
    Modified Horizontal Offset Smoker - used mainly for cold smoking.

  4. #4
    Senior Member scott6049's Avatar
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    Very clear and informative post Cliff, thank you so much for taking the time to educate on the steps of making cured and uncured sausages. Also the steps of hot and cold smoking. I am definitely printing this post out to use as a reference. FANTASTIC POST !
    MAK 2 Star General #1366
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  5. #5
    Moderator TentHunter's Avatar
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    Post The Danger Zone & Hot-Smoking

    This is a really good question from another thread that's very relevant to this topic, so I posted it here.



    Quote Originally Posted by TrickyDick View Post
    How long is the sausage in the 40-140 degree danger zone while on the 170 degree smoker? The Kutas book has raised my awareness and paranoia to a new level.

    TD
    I don't think you're being paranoid at all; just cautious, and there's nothing wrong with that!

    To answer your question, in that particular case it didn't matter because the sausages were cured. However, it's still a really good question.

    Here's the statement from the Book:
    ...To be sure, whenever you smoke any kind of product in the low range of 40 F-140 F, it should be cured. If you can't cure it, don't smoke it... "

    "Great Sausage Recipes & Meat Curing", p. 14.
    He is absolutely right. You should NEVER attempt to smoke uncured sausage in THAT TEMP RANGE. It's just too risky!

    HOWEVER... the "low temp range of 40- 140," to which Kutas refers, does NOT include hot-smoking or BBQ temps between 165 - 250. Otherwise, we'd never be able to BBQ/smoke pork shoulder, ribs or brisket for the extended times that we do.

    It's the "Low Temp range" itself that is creating the problem.
    Anaerobic Bacterial Mesophiles multiply fastest between 68 - 113 F (117 per FDA standards). According to the USDA, temps below 130 cannot kill any bacteria even on the surface of the meat. So, these perfect conditions allow harmful bacteria (and toxins) in uncured sausage to multiply, unchecked, to potentially dangerous levels.

    Hot-Smoke temps (165-185), however, and BBQ temps (185 - 250) are different.
    First, you are actually cooking the meat, not merely smoking it. Temps higher than 158 kill surface bacteria very quickly and the relatively small size of the sausage allows it to get above 117 and subsequently 130 quickly enough that bacterial growth significantly slows and pasteurization begins BEFORE the bacteria has reached potentially risky levels.

    Once pasteurization starts and the temp continues to rise the bacteria dies off even quicker. By time it's held above the minimum 150 and taken to 152 - 154, it's surpassed the minimum USDA pasteurization guidelines.

    Here's the bonus for us pellet grillers! In a pellet-fired grill, you also have the added benefit of the Nitrogen Dioxide (released during wood combustion) being converted to the Nitric Acid. At hot smoke temps this nitric acid is absorbed quite deeply into the sausage creating a deep smoke ring. Nitric acid (HNO3) contains the nitrate ion (NO3-), so it actually has a slight curing effect on the meat and starts killing bacteria even before pasteurization temps are reached.

    This does NOT happen at the cold-smoke temps and cannot happen in electric smokers.

    Now having said all of that, What is my preference? My preference is to cure the sausage (like I did for this thread). But this is for flavor and color development, as well as safety.

    Even though I believe properly hot-smoked fresh sausages are fully cooked and safe, I'd still follow USDA guidelines and ALWAYS cook them to the minimum 160 BEFORE consuming!



    I hope all of this makes sense and helps to set your mind at ease a little!

    Cliff


    Special Thanks: I am fortunate to have a close friend, Dr. Kevin Gallat, who has a PhD in chemistry and has worked in microbiology. I love that I can bounce this stuff off of him and get clear answers when needed. I talked with him at great length to be sure that this info was accurate, before posting.
    Last edited by TentHunter; 12-23-2013 at 10:07 PM.
    <><
    MAK 1 Star General #651 - 2014 Model
    former owner - MAK 1 Star General #171
    22.5" Weber Performer with Stoven Pellet Grill attachment
    27 + year old 22.5" Weber Kettle (still works fine)
    Modified Horizontal Offset Smoker - used mainly for cold smoking.

  6. #6
    Senior Member CDN Smoker's Avatar
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    Many Thanks Tent, sausage is a long way out for me but I do like reading about it.

  7. #7
    Senior Member TrickyDick's Avatar
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    Thanks for a great HOW-TO guide!

    TD

  8. #8
    reduce to use it as much as possible

  9. #9
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    Awesome post, thank you. There are some pre-cooked garlic sausages I buy from Costco and I was looking to add some smoke to them. Using my MAK 1, I don't have the cold smoke option but I'll make the 175-degree smoke mode work for me.

  10. #10
    Moderator TentHunter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PappyFatcap View Post
    Awesome post, thank you. There are some pre-cooked garlic sausages I buy from Costco and I was looking to add some smoke to them. Using my MAK 1, I don't have the cold smoke option but I'll make the 175-degree smoke mode work for me.
    Be sure to get some pics to post in the Gallery section!
    <><
    MAK 1 Star General #651 - 2014 Model
    former owner - MAK 1 Star General #171
    22.5" Weber Performer with Stoven Pellet Grill attachment
    27 + year old 22.5" Weber Kettle (still works fine)
    Modified Horizontal Offset Smoker - used mainly for cold smoking.

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