Best practices for sausage making

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crankybuzzard

Smoking Guru
Original poster
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
Jan 4, 2014
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Richardson, TX
Well, best practices at my place at least...
  1. Make sure EVERYTHING is squeaky clean!  ALL surfaces and ALL tools!
     
  2. Install the grinder blade in the correct direction.  Cutting edge mates with the plate surface.
     
  3. Cube your meat BEFORE you have the grinder and all other items set up.  By cubing the meat with all your tools and utensils on the same counter, you risk contamination.
     
  4. Grind your meat while it’s VERY cold.  This assists in getting a good grind, less fat smear, and is a good practice of safe food handling.
     
  5. If grinding lots of meat or different types of meat, place ALL meat that is not in process back into the refrigerator.  The meat needs to stay at or below 40° F as much as possible prior to adding cure.
     
  6. Buy a decent scale that measures in grams.  All measuring spoons are not created equally.  This small investment will help you in repeating your recipe time and again, this will also assure you that you are using the correct amounts of curing agents.
     
  7. When mixing your meats, spices, and cure together, mix it well and then mix it some more.  You want the meat mixture to become VERY sticky.  When the mixture is very sticky, you know that the myosin has been released from the meat.  Myosin is a natural protein in the meat that will help your sausage have a good texture and bond.
     
  8. BEFORE you begin stuffing your sausage, test fry a patty of it to see if you have everything you need in it.  This is also when you can find out that you failed to put in your cure!  Meat that is gray inside when cooked means no cure…  That’s a heartbreaker to find out after stuffing and smoking…
     
  9. If you’re using natural casings, rinse and start soaking them around 24 hours before use.
     
  10. If using collagen casings, don’t soak them, you’ll be very angry when they blow out.  Not all casings require the same treatment.  Read the manufacturer’s instructions, or ask on here if you aren’t sure how to handle them.
     
  11. Before starting to stuff your sausages, remove all the non-essential items from the work surface.  A cluttered area will impede your ability to move and work with the links as they are coming out of the stuffer.
     
  12. When stuffing, don’t get in a hurry.  Rushing or forcing the meat into the casing can lead to blow outs on the casing and possibly damage to your stuffer.  Slow and easy will also provide you with uniform sizes in your sausages.
     
Have a plan of where the links, sticks, chubs, etc., will sit/hang while you finish stuffing the remainder of your sausages.



Smoking your sausages means that you’re almost ready to sample the result of all your hard work.  Follow this guideline to help prevent fat out and to get a good smoke flavor.
  1. Preheat your smoker to 120° with no smoke
     
  2. Place the sausages into the preheated smoker and allow them to “dry out” for at least one hour at this temperature.
     
  3. Then, if the exterior of the sausage is fairly dry, add smoke and raise the temperature 10° to 130.  Allow the sausages to smoke at this temperature for 30 minutes.
     
  4. After 30 minutes, raise the temperature 10° to 140°.
     
  5. Each 30 minutes, raise the temperature 10° until you hit 170°.  Don’t go much higher than this or you risk the fat rendering out of your sausage.  That’s a bad thing.
     
  6. Continue cooking until the internal temperature of the sausage is 152°. 
     
  7. To stop the cooking action, place the sausages into an ice water bath or shower them with cold water.
     
  8. Now, it may take MANY hours for some sausages to reach an internal temperature of 152°.  I’ve had summer sausage take 14 hours to get to the mark!  You’ll be tempted to raise the pit temperature, but by doing so you risk fat out.
     
  9. After the water bath, allow the sausages to hang, or place them into paper sacks to rest a while before packaging up for the refrigerator or the freezer.
     
  10. Finally, if you’re still reading this, you cannot cook sausage to time!  You must cook it to temperature.  A good thermometer is one of your most valuable tools in this hobby. 
Any corrections or additions?
 

disco

Epic Pitmaster
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
Oct 31, 2012
11,135
5,261
Canadian Rockies
 
Well, best practices at my place at least...
  1. Make sure EVERYTHING is squeaky clean!  ALL surfaces and ALL tools!
     
  2. Install the grinder blade in the correct direction.  Cutting edge mates with the plate surface.
     
  3. Cube your meat BEFORE you have the grinder and all other items set up.  By cubing the meat with all your tools and utensils on the same counter, you risk contamination.
     
  4. Grind your meat while it’s VERY cold.  This assists in getting a good grind, less fat smear, and is a good practice of safe food handling.
     
  5. If grinding lots of meat or different types of meat, place ALL meat that is not in process back into the refrigerator.  The meat needs to stay at or below 40° F as much as possible prior to adding cure.
     
  6. Buy a decent scale that measures in grams.  All measuring spoons are not created equally.  This small investment will help you in repeating your recipe time and again, this will also assure you that you are using the correct amounts of curing agents.
     
  7. When mixing your meats, spices, and cure together, mix it well and then mix it some more.  You want the meat mixture to become VERY sticky.  When the mixture is very sticky, you know that the myosin has been released from the meat.  Myosin is a natural protein in the meat that will help your sausage have a good texture and bond.
     
  8. BEFORE you begin stuffing your sausage, test fry a patty of it to see if you have everything you need in it.  This is also when you can find out that you failed to put in your cure!  Meat that is gray inside when cooked means no cure…  That’s a heartbreaker to find out after stuffing and smoking…
     
  9. If you’re using natural casings, rinse and start soaking them around 24 hours before use.
     
  10. If using collagen casings, don’t soak them, you’ll be very angry when they blow out.  Not all casings require the same treatment.  Read the manufacturer’s instructions, or ask on here if you aren’t sure how to handle them.
     
  11. Before starting to stuff your sausages, remove all the non-essential items from the work surface.  A cluttered area will impede your ability to move and work with the links as they are coming out of the stuffer.
     
  12. When stuffing, don’t get in a hurry.  Rushing or forcing the meat into the casing can lead to blow outs on the casing and possibly damage to your stuffer.  Slow and easy will also provide you with uniform sizes in your sausages.
     
Have a plan of where the links, sticks, chubs, etc., will sit/hang while you finish stuffing the remainder of your sausages.



Smoking your sausages means that you’re almost ready to sample the result of all your hard work.  Follow this guideline to help prevent fat out and to get a good smoke flavor.
  1. Preheat your smoker to 120° with no smoke
     
  2. Place the sausages into the preheated smoker and allow them to “dry out” for at least one hour at this temperature.
     
  3. Then, if the exterior of the sausage is fairly dry, add smoke and raise the temperature 10° to 130.  Allow the sausages to smoke at this temperature for 30 minutes.
     
  4. After 30 minutes, raise the temperature 10° to 140°.
     
  5. Each 30 minutes, raise the temperature 10° until you hit 170°.  Don’t go much higher than this or you risk the fat rendering out of your sausage.  That’s a bad thing.
     
  6. Continue cooking until the internal temperature of the sausage is 152°. 
     
  7. To stop the cooking action, place the sausages into an ice water bath or shower them with cold water.
     
  8. Now, it may take MANY hours for some sausages to reach an internal temperature of 152°.  I’ve had summer sausage take 14 hours to get to the mark!  You’ll be tempted to raise the pit temperature, but by doing so you risk fat out.
     
  9. After the water bath, allow the sausages to hang, or place them into paper sacks to rest a while before packaging up for the refrigerator or the freezer.
     
  10. Finally, if you’re still reading this, you cannot cook sausage to time!  You must cook it to temperature.  A good thermometer is one of your most valuable tools in this hobby. 
Any corrections or additions?
This should be a sticky. Just saying. Point by the way.
 
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gary s

Gone but not forgotten. RIP
OTBS Member
Jan 6, 2011
26,256
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Great Info Charlie This is the type stuff I love to see on the Forum.  
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Information that all the Newbies and Oldies can follow    
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Gary
 
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worktogthr

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
Nov 3, 2013
2,928
1,031
Massapequa, NY (Long Island)
Points for laying this all out there!  If I would have read this a couple of years ago, it would have saved me all sorts of aggravation, bad batches, and wasted time.
 

cdn offroader

Meat Mopper
Nov 14, 2013
292
63
St Albert, AB
I would add in about using a hot water bath to save many hours of smoking. After 6-8 hours of smoke, you aren't really gaining any smoke flavor(hot smoking) Using a hot water bath to get to the correct IT saves so much time.

Otherwise good write up.
 

crankybuzzard

Smoking Guru
Original poster
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
Thread starter
Jan 4, 2014
5,245
2,116
Richardson, TX
Thanks all.

I had been seeing a lot of the same questions and mistakes being discussed, so I figured I'd write them all up.  I know there's a lot more, but this should cover the basics.
 

muddydogs

Smoking Fanatic
Oct 19, 2016
330
73
Ogden Utah
Question, why raise the temps in 10 degree increments? I understand starting low to dry things out but what does raising the temp every hour do over just making the 50 degree jump from 120 to 170?
 

dirtsailor2003

Epic Pitmaster
OTBS Member
Oct 4, 2012
21,920
4,136
Bend Oregon
YOU FORGOT THE NUMBER ONE RULE!

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crankybuzzard

Smoking Guru
Original poster
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
Thread starter
Jan 4, 2014
5,245
2,116
Richardson, TX
 
Question, why raise the temps in 10 degree increments? I understand starting low to dry things out but what does raising the temp every hour do over just making the 50 degree jump from 120 to 170?
Helps to prevent case hardening and makes for even cooking at the beginning.
 

oberst

Meat Mopper
Jan 8, 2015
245
158
St Louis
Wish I would have understood how important it is not to overheat early on. I tried to finish a batch of sticks a little faster and ran the heat up and had a fat out. Thought I could at least use the sausage in a stir fry or something but I eventually threw it all out. Was crumbly and tasted lousy.