How Long To Smoke a Sausage: The Basics
By: Jack Mancuso
When you’re searching for an easy-peasy recipe that will dazzle your family and friends alike, smoked sausage is one stellar option. You get all that rich, juicy sausage goodness coupled with sassy smoke.
Wondering how long to smoke sausage? Well, you’ll need a bit of time (on average, 3 hours). There really isn’t a terrible choice of sausage for smoking. Your options include:
- Beef sausage
- Breakfast links
- Chicken sausage
- German sausage
- Italian sausage
The only sausage we don’t recommend you smoke is a product pre-smoked before packaging. With the exception of Kielbasa and hot dogs, fresh is best every time.
How Long to Smoke Sausage, the Basics:
If you have access to a Traeger grill, it’s an outstanding setup for making your smoked sausage. The Traeger’s 6-in-1 functions ensure smoking meat perfectly. You can use other options as well, depending on what’s available.
Once you’ve prepared your grill or smoker, the “sweet spot” for sausage is 225F. When you are using a charcoal or wood smoker, temperatures may vary between the desired 225F to 240F.
Make sure your sausages aren’t crowded onto the grill top like sardines. Airflow ensures even smoking and cooking.
Bear in mind, the size of the links impacts how long to smoke sausage. Check thinner ones at the 90 minute or 2-hour mark. Check the fatter ones at the 2.5-hour mark.
In either case, if the sausage hasn’t reached an internal temperature of 155F, keep the smoker stoked. No matter how anxious you are, however, do NOT turn up the heat now unless you want charcoal casings.
Patience pays off in resting the smoked sausage too. 10-15 minutes secure all those juices right where you want them. Look for a temperature of 165F before you serve.
Using Smoked Sausage:
You rarely have to worry about cooking too much-smoked sausage. If that pound or five doesn’t fly off the table at the first setting, the remainders are highly versatile. You can use leftover sausage in:
- Pasta Dishes
- Rice Dishes
- Savory Bread Pudding
- Stuffed Potatoes
And just when you thought you’d heard everything, there is even smoked sausage ice cream. The trend began in 2018, in Scotland. A square of sausage ice cream comes on a brioche bun and is drizzled with toffee sauce… yes, really.
Storing and Freezing Smoked Sausage
Put your smoked sausage in an air-tight container. It will last this way for about 14 days in the refrigerator.
You can also freeze smoked sausage. Make sure you wrap it tightly in freezer-friendly plastic wrap, and then into a zip-style freezer storage bag. Make sure the air is out of the bag before sealing to avoid freezer burn. You can use this for up to two months.
If you see a grayish coat, or the skin feels slimy, toss it. A sour smell is also a good indicator your smoked sausage is spoiled. Remember the mantra: When in doubt, throw it out.
Tips & Tricks
- While resting is important for the cooked smoked sausage, don’t wait too long. As the sausage sits, the skins shrivel, resulting in wilted links! To keep your sausage age-free of wrinkles, put them in a cold water bath. It stops the cooking process.
- Always clean and oil your grilling grate to avoid sticking. There is nothing so sad as a torn casing with meat falling into the flames, never to be seen again.
- For oiling your grill surface, make sure you use high-heat oil like vegetables and canola. Apply it with paper towels. It’s easy; no rocket science is required.
- The best advice on smoking wood is to use 2”-3” long wood chunks. Chips burn off too quickly, meaning you have to babysit the smoking process to avoid losing smoke.
- Blend smoking chunks with hardwood charcoal. It’s the best of both worlds flavor-wise, and charcoal helps you maintain heat levels.
- Every 35-40 minutes, flip the sausage to allow for even cooking and smoke exposure.
The main variation you can get in smoked sausage comes from your choice of wood. If you have a strong-flavored sausage, it may benefit from something light and fruity like apple, cherry, or pear. Your strongest wood flavor comes from hickory, which lends a hint of bacon flavor.
Secondarily, you can look at the toppings you put on your smoked sausage. Not sure? How about:
- Barbecue sauce
- Cheese sauce
- Hot sauce
- Red sauce
- Sauteed peppers and onions
Wait, wait, WAIT! Side dishes next! Make some kick-ass baked beans, mac & cheese, coleslaw, potato wedges, or grilled veggies. You have a lot of wiggle room here, so play in your kitchen!
You can make your own sausage blend, but that is a story for another article.
Pit Master’s Memo
Now that you know how long to smoke sausage, you may wonder where this delectable dish originates.
The word sausage means “salted.” Salt was the primary form of food preservation for thousands of years. The first sausage came from Mesopotamia (modern-day Saudi Arabia and Iraq). The Sumerians living in this region started making sausage about 3100 BCE.
Turkish sausage recipes appeared around 1000BC, with China recording sausage about 580 BCE. Really, the sausage was the perfect partner for adventurers and merchants. It expanded where people could travel with meat products. Smoking sausage most often appeared in warmer climates, so refrigeration in the soil or snow wasn’t necessary.