Sausage is one of the best treats during the holiday season. It is easy to pack, it has a long shelf life, and it is delicious.
By definition, summer sausage is cured and smoked, which means the meat is preserved and has a delayed growth of bacteria.
Summer sausage does not require cooking. Summer sausage is often served as an appetizer, especially in the South.
There is no need to cook or prepare summer sausage if you bought it from the store or butcher’s shop.
You can serve summer sausage straight from the package and it is an excellent match for any charcuterie board you want to serve at the next dinner party.
Is it possible that you are making summer sausage yourself at home?
The answer depends on your definition of cook, but the meat has to be heat processed to be resistant to bacteria.
In this article, I will give more information on smoking and summer sausage cooking.
Do I Need to Cook Summer Sausage?
Sausages used to be cured, dried, and smoked in the summer. The process eliminates most of the water from the meat, which makes it unsuitable for the growth of bacteria.
People needed to find a use for meat they had available at the time when the sausages were developed, so they developed them centuries ago.
If properly prepared, summer sausage can be an effective long-term storage solution for leftover meat that won’t lose its taste for years if adequately prepared.
Modern summer sausage is made by adding other curing agents and flavor enhancers to circumvent the long smoking process and make it suitable for consumption.
If you buy a real summer sausage from the store, you won’t have to cook it in any way.
It can be cut up and eaten directly or added to other dishes as a fresh meat supplement or alternative.
It won’t need to be cooked either, because homemade summer sausage is smoked and prepared the same way.
When homemade sausage is put on the grill or mixed into other dishes, the difference in preparation processes can make a big difference.
If you toss a summer sausage on the skillet, you can give it a nice char.
It doesn’t fare well in high heat, so you will need to remove the collagen casing.
Some of the flavors of summer sausage will be passed on to the rest of the dish if it is combined with other foods.
Smoking Summer Sausage
You need to go through the curing and smoking process to make summer sausage that is appetizing and shelf-stable.
Just like any other fresh meat, if you don’t smoke the sausage or bake it in the oven, it will grow bacteria and spoil.
Adding more flavor to the meat with spices is the main job of the curing process, and it doesn’t help enough.
How long do you need to cook summer sausage, and can you do it with your home appliances?
If you plan on going through the preparation process, the answer will depend on that.
The traditional method for preparing summer sausage is smoking, although modern appliances can replicate the result without too much hassle.
It used to be that you needed to light a fire and keep it going for a long time to allow enough smoke to do the work.
What Is The Right Temperature to Smoke Summer Sausage?
Smoking adds more flavor to your sausage after it has cured and been filled.
Depending on how you plan to finish making the sausages, you will need different temperatures to provide a safe result that is safe for consumption.
If you want to make summer sausage in the oven, you need to preheat the oven to at least 185F and then leave the sausages out of the fridge to get to room temperature.
If you put sausages in the oven, make sure to check the temperature with an internal meat thermometer.
The temperature you should be aiming for is 165F. Once baking is done, remove the sausages from the oven and let them cool at room temperature.
If you are using a smoker to finish the summer sausage, you need to preheat it to 145F and open the damper.
After the smoker is heated, put room temperature sausages into the smoker and let them dry for an hour.
After the first hour, turn the smoker up to 180F, add some wood chips, and let the sausages smoke for another two to three hours.
If you want to finish smoking, add water to the smoker and turn the heat up to 185-190F until the sausages reach their internal temperature.
Allow the sausage to cool off after removing it from the smoker. Sausages need to be put in the fridge or freezer after they cool down.
Unlike industrial summer sausages, this smoking process is relatively short by comparison and doesn’t fully protect the sausages against bacteria.
How Long Do I Need To Smoke Summer Sausage?
The time it takes for summer sausage to smoke will depend on several factors, including the meat, spices, and casings used to prepare it, in addition to the curing process.
Sausage needs to be put into the smoker or oven at a certain temperature. It will take a longer time to smoke if you put it in the refrigerator.
If you use an oven to smoke the sausages, the process will take a long time, usually several hours. The use of time as an indicator of doneness is not something I recommend.
If you want the sausages to be cooked through, use an internal meat thermometer. Around the 165F mark is the ideal temperature for oven-baked sausages.
The baking time will be dependent on the oven’s temperature, but higher temperatures won’t equate to a higher quality product.
Depending on the type of oven you have, the baking time can be anywhere from four to six hours.
The sausages will take considerably longer to dry and smoke if the oven is set at 185F.
When using an electric smoker, the time required will depend on the smoker’s temperature and the types of wood used in the smoking process.
The process usually takes between six and eight hours from the first time you turn the smoker on.
To get the sausages to an acceptable internal temperature, you will need to increase the smoker’s heat gradually.
Do I Need To Use a Water Pan When Smoking Summer Sausage?
It is possible to prevent sausages from drying out completely by using a water pan. Adding water to the sausage can help it stay moist while drying out the meat inside.
Sausages can’t be burned if the smoker is too hot, which is why it protects them from direct heat. Water vapor can help smoke enter certain types of sausages.
Follow the instructions to get the best result, if you’ve purchased the casings from the store. If you need help, you can contact a butcher.
The use of a water pan is a personal preference. It won’t affect the result in a meaningful way, but it might shorten the smoking time.
What Size Casing Do I Need To Use for Summer Sausage?
Sausage made during the summer season should be made with inedible, smoked, or collagen casings.
Sausages that are too wide will not cook as evenly, and smoking times will be influenced by the sausage’s width.
If you want to get the best result, use a 2” or 2.5” sausage casing.
If you want a thicker sausage, you can use one of the 4” or 1” sausages, or if you want to serve it with crackers, you can use one of the 1” sausages.
How Long Should I Need to Ice Bath Summer Sausage?
After the summer sausage has reached the desired internal temperature, you need to work quickly.
If you let the sausages cool down on their own, they will lose their flavor and appearance.
Since most of the casings are inedible, it will be difficult to separate them from the meat.
The hot sausages need to be placed in an ice bath to reduce their heat in the shortest possible time.
The sausages should be in the ice bath until their internal temperature drops to 120F or lower.
This will usually take 10 minutes to complete.
If you don’t have enough ice for a thorough ice bath, you can just shower the sausages with a hose or dunk them in the tub and run the cold-water faucet until they reach a desirable temperature.
Collagen casings might not require an ice bath, since they can break down. You should consult the instructions given to you to make sure you are using them correctly.
What Size Grinder Plate Should I Use for Summer Sausage?
Depending on the type of grinder you own, the size of the plate will be determined. The diameter of the holes on the plate is the most important thing.
When making summer sausages, you might want to use smaller holes because they will give it a better texture. 14” and 5/16” grinder plates are compatible with your grinder.
The number of holes in the plate will be determined by the size of the grinder and the size of the plate.
The difference between the two recommended hole sizes won’t make a difference in the end product.
If you want to ensure a more even product, you can use a larger hole plate for the first grind and a smaller plate for the second grind.
To give a correct meat-to-fat ratio, the fat needs to be ground well and mixed with the meat.
When grinding, make sure the meat is very cold or partially frozen, as that will ensure the grinder slices the meat into small chunks rather than mushing it together.
The blade of the grinder could be dull if the meat is still mushed. Changing the cutting blade is one of the things that need to be done since they get dull at the same time.
What Size Stuffing Tube Should I Use for Summer Sausage?
Stuffing tubes have different sizes to help push the meat into the sausage. The preferred casing sizes are larger for summer sausages.
Any casings that are more than 1” wide will work with the most common stuffing tubes that have 19mm in diameter.
The tube should be about 40% smaller than the casing for best results. The technique is more important than tube size to make sure there are no air pockets in the sockets.
Keeping the thumb on the filling horn and the index finger on the sausage is necessary to handle the sausage delicately.
If you have another person crank the filling, you can keep a firm grip on the sausage and fill it without the need for air pockets.
Once it’s smoked, summer sausage with smaller air bubbles will be perfectly fine.
In most cases, the casing will loosen, which will allow the air inside to flow.
If the sausage has inflated after being put in the fridge, there is a chance that something inside is making gas and isn’t suitable for consumption.
If you have some spare time and access to high-quality meat, you can make your summer sausage.
Store-bought summer sausage is cured, dried, and smoked using climate-controlled and verified methods, and the meat is ready for use as it is.
The result of homemade summer sausage can be better than store-bought ones since you control the meat and spices going into the product.
It depends on how you get the sausage and whether or not you need to cook summer sausage.
Sausages that are homemade need to be cooked in the oven or steamer to get a finished product.
I hope you have a good time making your summer sausage or eating the ones you received.