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Smoked Kielbasa - Rendered fat under skin/casing? Sausage newbie (Updated thread title)

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Joined Feb 16, 2020
Hey folks. got into sausage making only recently, but have really taken to it and am really enjoying myself, plus making some pretty great product (if I do say so myself). Recently made my 2nd batch of kielbasa. A lot of recipes I've found here and elsewhere reccomend to finish bringing the kielbasa up to 155-160 internal temp after somking by poaching in a water bath at 165 or so. Then dunking in cold/ice water bath to lower the temp before hanging to "proof". Decided to give this technique a try this time around, and noticed after removing from the ice water bath that all the sausages have water trapped under the casing in various places. Not a lot, but definitely a noticeable amount. Presumably it got in through the holes I poked in the sausage casings using my sausage pricker before smoking (to let out trapped air). So my question(s) are:

  • Is this normal?
  • If so, does it evaporate out when proofing the sausage overnight? Or do I need to do something special to get the water out?
  • If not normal, how do you prevent it (do you maybe not prick sausages youre going to finish in a water bath like this?)
Any help you can give this newbie is appreciated. Thanks guys! Oh, and I'm attaching some pictures of my various sausage efforts so far just to show off :) Top to bottom: hot italian (with curious dog-nose), andouille, merguez, bratwurst, kielbasa

EDIT: Discovered it was rendered fat/grease under the skin, not water (see post #11 below). Any ideas how this happened? Smoker never got above 140, sausage internal was at 129 when pulled from smoker. Water bath temp was at 160-165, and sausage was pulled from water when internal temp reached 156 and went into ice bath. So don't see how I overheated it? Really kinda disappointed/confused here.



 
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22
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Joined Feb 16, 2020
I believe the sausage should be in a plastic bag. Water shouldn't be touching the sausage.
Hmm, well that would make sense and prevent the water intrusion... but the recipes that I got the idea from clearly show them just dunking the sausages into the water bath. No bag used. Plus I thought some of the reason for doing the water dunk is to soften the skin so its not as chewy/tough? So not sure if they're just "living with" the water intrusion, or doing something different from me? Either way next time I'll try the bag method and see how that works out texture-wise. Thanks for the idea!
 
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Joined Feb 16, 2020
Sausage looks great!
Thanks! I've been curing and smoking stuff for a bit now (hams, bacon, pastrami, corned beef, etc etc) but only got a meat grinder and sausage stuffer about a month and a half ago. I can get cheap pork butts at the local Restaurant Depot and my local butcher hooks me up with hard backfat off-cuts for almost nothing. So I've just been trying a bunch of different stuff and sharing with friends. Really enjoying things so far!
 

indaswamp

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What temp. did you smoke the sauasges at? I ask because too high a temp.v (above 180*) will melt fat and when in the water bath, that fat will collect under the casing.
 

chopsaw

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I don't poach mine . I smoke to an internal temp of 152 and hold that for an hour or 2 . Then I ice bath , but I leave mine all coiled , or linked together ( just depends on how I did them ) in the water no bag .
20180630_211344.jpg
 
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Joined Feb 16, 2020
What temp. did you smoke the sauasges at? I ask because too high a temp.v (above 180*) will melt fat and when in the water bath, that fat will collect under the casing.
I started in smoker at about 100, tickling it up 8-10 degrees every hour or so. The smoker was at 140, and the sausage internal temp was at about 130 when I pulled them out to finish in the water poaching bath.

edit: And just for more info, the water bath was at 160-165, kept sausage in there until internal temp of 155, then transferred to ice bath until internal temp was <80
 
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I don't poach mine . I smoke to an internal temp of 152 and hold that for an hour or 2 . Then I ice bath , but I leave mine all coiled , or linked together ( just depends on how I did them ) in the water no bag .
View attachment 432543
Thats what I did the first time around (actually didnt even use a water bath, just hung them up to proof/equalize right out of the smoker). But my brother's wife and kids said they were too smokey for them (they WERE pretty smokey) and the skin was a bit tougher than I wanted. So figured I'd give the water bath technique that I'd seen in several recipes a try. Figured that way I could keep them in the smoker for shorter period (less smoke) and the water might help soften the skins?

Do you ever get any water under your skins from the ice bath dunk? Do you prick holes into your casings before smoking?
 

chopsaw

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Do you ever get any water under your skins from the ice bath dunk?
No .

Do you prick holes into your casings before smoking?
I do prick the hog casing when stuffing , just to remove air .
Casings can become tuff from a long hang in the smoker .
Make sure you dry the outside of the sausage good before starting smoke . I hang mine at room temp for an hour or so , then in smoker no smoke at 120 for a couple hours . Then I start smoke and bump temps 10 degrees an hour until I reach 165 , never more than 170 smoker temp . Top vent wide open . I pull sausage at 152 , you can finish by poaching .
 
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Joined Feb 16, 2020
Well, I just went to go check on them, and got a bit of a surprise. Now that they've cooled some more, the stuff trapped under the skin is pretty clearly fat/grease, or at least water with a fair bit of fat/grease mixed in it. If I squeeze some out through a hole in casing, it looks just about like color/consistency of neosporin or vasline. I'm not sure how I could have rendered all that fat, the smoker never got above 140* and sausage came out of the smoker at 129 internal (I monitor both using calibrated temp sensors). Then into water that stayed around 159-160 (was 165 when I first put the sausage in) until sausage internal temp got to 156, at which point they were dunked in ice water bath.

I thought rendering fat like happened from getting the sausage too hot, but I know my temp measurement systems are all accurate, so not really sure how it happened? Are there other ways to cause this problem? I'm hoping this doesn't ruing the sausage making it too dry :( We'll see tomorrow when I try some out I guess.
 

mickey jay

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Fwiw, I finish almost all my smoked sausages (a lot over the years) in a water bath without any sort of bag, mainly just to speed up the process (I've always had a difficult time getting the meat up to 153 without using smoker temps that would cause fat-out (>170)) unless it's in there for an ungodly amount of time), and have never had water intrude, and I poke all sorts of holes in the casings before and during the bath to check temps. If I had to guess, and as mentioned by Indaswamp above, you're likely getting rendered fat collecting under the casing, which means your temps are too high somewhere in your process.

A couple thoughts; try double/triple checking your smoker temps with a third-party thermometer or two. If you're using the dial thermometer on the door, these are notoriously inaccurate or at best misleading. 10 or 20 degrees is a big deal when you're talking about smoked sausage temps. Depending on the day, like if it's a bit windy or something out, I will purposely set the smoker around 160 or so, so that I have a buffer in case temps creep up while I'm not looking (knowing that I'll be sending them into the water bath to finish). So the smoker's main function is to add smoke to the equation, rather than actually cook the meat. 3-4 hours of smoke is usually enough then into the bath it goes. Also keep in mind, depending on your smoker you might have hot spots. For example, I run a propane burner, with a smallish heat diffuser. Basically anywhere directly above the diffuser or burner is going to be hotter; for that reason I swap my lower rack with the upper rack probably an hour into most smokes, and make sure to keep a thermometer probe right next to the sausages closest to the heat source. If you're hanging links, the bottom links might be considerably hotter than up top (which is why I just lay em on the racks; not sure why the hanging thing ever caught on for small setups).

Another thing that might easily get missed is the water bath heat source.. while you might be temping the water accurately, I can guarantee you the bottom of your pot is a lot hotter. If you've got links sitting on the bottom, you're going to get fat-out on those because the burner is causing the bottom metal of the pot to be at 200+ most likely. For the same reason you need a trivet or something in there for glass jars, you need to get those links up off the bottom. I use my jar rack, but like a metal strainer or something should work ok too.
 
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Joined Feb 16, 2020
... which means your temps are too high somewhere in your process.
Youre right in that its rendered fat (see my post just above yours, probably made while you were typing yours out). I'm not sure how it happened though, as I'm pretty sure temps were well under control

A couple thoughts; try double/triple checking your smoker temps with a third-party thermometer or two. If you're using the dial thermometer on the door, these are notoriously inaccurate or at best misleading. ... Also keep in mind, depending on your smoker you might have hot spots.
I'm lead engineer in an aerospace environmental test lab by day, so I run a whole lab's worth of "environmental chambers" (temperature, humidity and altitude chambers) among other equipment. I use one of our datalogger systems and T-type thermocouples, and I have our metrology lab calibrate them quarterly. I've got 5 TCs spread across the interior of my electric smoker cabinet (and another 2 inserted inside sausages), and a circulator fan inside to keep the air "well-mixed" as we say. I typically see max delta-T of only 1-2*F inside the smoker. I started the smoker at 100*F and ramped temp up by 8-10*F every hour. It was set at 140*F when I pulled the sausage (coldest air TC reading 136, hottest reading 139 right when I pulled them, though max temp was typically oscillating between 135 and 142 as the heating element cycled on/off). Both sausage TCs were reading 129 at the time

Another thing that might easily get missed is the water bath heat source.. while you might be temping the water accurately, I can guarantee you the bottom of your pot is a lot hotter. If you've got links sitting on the bottom, you're going to get fat-out on those because the burner is causing the bottom metal of the pot to be at 200+ most likely.
For water bath temp control I use a sous-vide circulator inside a special chamber I made (essentially a cambro tub with high-R-value insulation around it and a tight sealing lid). So the water is all the same temp (there is no stratification). My sous vide circulator reads about 2* high, but I monitor water temp with a calibrated TC and adjust the circulator temp setpoint accordingly. The water bath was at 165 when I put the sausage in. This dropped the temp to 159, which slowly climbed back up to to 161 right when when I pulled the sausages out. I pulled the sausage when the internal temps on both of them read 156*. Then into ice water bath until one was at 77* and the other was at 80*.

All my thermocouples and my datalogger system were calibrated by our metrology lab just 2 months ago to ANSI specs using NIST-traceable sources, but I just went back and checked them with a quick-n-dirty two point verification using boiling water and ice-water. Everything checked out like you'd expect.

All that to say, its certainly POSSIBLE there's a "hole" in my setup somewhere, and I actually overtemped the sausage (it's always possible to make mistakes no matter how thorough you are). But I think that's really unlikely. Are there other things that can cause the fat to render out at lower temps? About 20% of my total sausage weight was 80/20 store bought ground chuck, does beef fat render at notably lower temps than pork fat? Any additional insight is appreciated.

EDIT: Just wanted to add a comment for Mickey Jay: Thanks for taking the time to respond and share your knowledge. Realized my response might have read as arguing with you or refuting yours or something, but that's not the case at all. I know its easy to mis-read tone on these forums and don't want to start off here on the wrong foot. I genuinely appreciate your reply and info, and it confirms what I thought/assumed, that the fat rendering was from over-temping. I just don't understand how that would happen with my setup, and am wondering if there could be other causes? If not I will be scratching my head to figure out where the "hole" in my process is
 
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indaswamp

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Check your thermometers. If using a dial thermometer, it could be of +-25 degrees. I recommend a digital.
 

mickey jay

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You're all good man; knock on wood but this forum has somehow escaped the drama of the internet at-large so we're all really just trying to get this thing figured out together. I appreciate the details provided; it really helps to nail down issues like what you're having, although in this case it sounds like you've got the temperature thing well-managed (in fact you've got the setup I've been thinking about for years but haven't spent the money on it mainly because my existing setup works pretty well), so we're on to other maybe less obvious things.. I've not used a dedicated sous-vide, so may be off-base here but I'm still worried about the walls/heating element on that. Maybe get it up to temp and press a thermometer probe against the heating element/wall and see what it temps out to.

Aside from that, I know you mention that only like 20% was store-bought 80/20 ground beef so this is probably a non-issue, but you may want to check out the term "fat smear".. I'm going out on a limb here as I only use meats I've ground myself in sausages, but I've run across some odd-looking store/factory-ground meat over the years that I wondered how it would fair in a sausage-making environment; rather than having distinct pieces of small-grind fat mixed in, it's really hard to distinguish fat from meat (prob where the term 'pink slime' came from). Maybe this affects the render temp? I'm sure some of the pros here can comment on that. Again I'm just throwin ideas out.

One last thing would be to consider your grinder function; if your auger is off-center it could be contacting the inside of the grinder head unit, causing friction/heat in an unexpected spot. I wouldn't even bring this up except I've recently had this occur with a high-end grinder where I'd put some meat through and would smell freshly cooking hamburger. Kind of an odd thing but maybe something to look at.

But in all reality it sounds like you've got the process pretty well-managed. Run it again (maybe on a smaller batch) and see what happens. I've had fat-out before and while unsightly, it generally just cooks out (maybe with an extra slice or two in the casing to get it to drain into the pan); the kielbasa should still be pretty excellent.
 

DanMcG

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First off, I'd like to welcome ya to the forums.
For some reason I can't see your pic's, I'm not sure if it's just me or not.
Sounds like you had your temps under control, but I'm thinking it might be an issue with your process. Do you add water to the mix and develop a good bind before stuffing? and is there a chance you smeared the fat while grinding? did you stuff them tightly?
Also did you soak your casings it warm water before stuffing and do ya know what the humidity was in the chamber while smoking.
Sorry for all the questions, it would help a lot if I could see what you have for a final product.
 
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tropics

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I don't see the pics either.
What brand smoker are you using?
Are the sausages hanging or on the grates?
What grind plate ?

Richie
Welcome to SMF
 
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Do you add water to the mix and develop a good bind before stuffing? and is there a chance you smeared the fat while grinding? did you stuff them tightly?
Also did you soak your casings it warm water before stuffing and do ya know what the humidity was in the chamber while smoking.
  • I'm following the Marianski recipe (with a few tweaks to adjust for my tastes) which calls for 10% by weight cold water. I used a slurry of crushed ice and water.
  • I mixed pretty well by hand before stuffing and had a solid bind (a chunk of mix pressed into my palm would stay put and not drop when I turned my hand upside down). My first few batches of sausage a month or so back I definitely under-mixed and had not enough bind, so I know what that looks/feels like and I think this time it should have been fine (seemed similar consistency to other sausages I've done that had a nice firm bind).
  • I've heard people talk about fat smearing, and from the descriptions I don;t think I ran into that? But not 100% sure since this is still fairly new to me. I ground my meat/fat after it had been on a tray in the freezer. The fat was very hard, the meat had that barely/almost frozen firm-but-not-rock-hard texture. I froze my solid-metal grinder body/auger/cutter/plate too so it was ice-cold. When the fat came out of the grinder it was nice and firm and crumbly, not soft and pliable.
  • I stuffed them fairly full. They weren't drum-tight, but was a little concerned i might have a blow-out when twisting/linking them, so they weren't loose or soft. There were a few small air bubbles that made their way in here and there but nothing significant.
  • I had soaked and rinsed the casings, changing water every 30-40 mins, for about 4 hours before stuffing. The water was room temp (~75*).
  • I dont have a RH meter in my smoker, so I'm not sure. I'm in Florida, so ambient humidity was 70-80% over the weekend. Now, on paper, if you heat 70% RH air from 75*F to 140*F, and add no additional moisture, the new RH would be around 12%... but the combustion products from the wood chips smoking and evaporation from the sausages would both definitely add some water to the air, so really it would have to be a total guess.

What brand smoker are you using?
Are the sausages hanging or on the grates?
What grind plate ?
  • Its the standard Masterbuilt Electric Smoker. But I have modified mine with a small circulator fan for more even temp distribution, and I have the "cold smoker" attachment that I run through a length of dryer hose before going into the smoker box so that I can control smoke independent of chamber temp.
  • Sausages were hanging
  • For the pork, I used a 4.5mm (#8) plate for grinding the fat, and an 8mm (#8) for grinding the lean meat. I also had about 20-25% by weight ground chuck (80/20 blend) which was store-bought pre-ground. Not sure what grind they used but it seemed pretty fine
 
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Joined Feb 16, 2020
For some reason I can't see your pic's, I'm not sure if it's just me or not.
I don't see the pics either.
My original post I used the "insert image" button in the toolbar at the top of the reply/thread window. This time I'll try using the "attach files" button below the window and see if that works for you? The pictures were just of previous sausage efforts of mine, not this batch of kielbasa that had the fat-out happen. When I get home today I can post some pics of this latest batch with the problems, If that'd help or youre curious.
 

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