Barbecue sausage is easy to make, while still boasting that unmistakable wood and smoke flavor. Find out everything you need to know with our full guide, including best woods, times and temperatures, and step-by-step recipe. Here’s how to smoke sausage.
Barbecue smoking is the best way to cook meat. Nothing compares when it comes to infusing your food with the rich and natural flavors of wood and smoke. The best news is that it’s easy to do at home and, with a little patience, anyone can do it.
Sausage is often neglected in favor of competition meats like brisket or ribs, but today I’m going to show you why it deserves its place at the BBQ dinner table.
Smoked sausage follows a similar approach to other classic barbecue meats. What makes it a great beginner meat is that it doesn’t need a lot of preparation before smoking.
Let’s take a look at what to buy, how to prep, and how to smoke it.
What’s the best sausage to smoke?
There’s good news, pork fans. Almost all types of sausage can be smoked. Different butchers across the world continue to come up with different types of sausage, experimenting with different meat varieties and ingredients to stuff into casings. Some of the best sausages used for smoking today are:
- Breakfast sausage
- Bratwurst (check out our smoked brats recipe)
- Italian sausage
- Boudin blanc
For the best results, try to pick meat that hasn’t been pre-cooked. Kielbasa and hot dogs are good exceptions though, and can actually be improved with a touch of a smokey layer on them.
How long to smoke for
Smoking time will depend on the type of meat you’ve chosen, as well as its size and thickness. For example, Italian sausages will need about three hours to be adequately smoked. Meanwhile, turkey and chicken sausages take a little less time. On average it will take between 1 and a half to 3 hours. Just make sure to turn them roughly every 45 minutes.
The ideal temperature to smoke sausage at is between 200 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit (93 – 121°C). Within this range you can smoke it for up to 3 hours. For this reason, I go for the standard 225°F temperature that we apply to most smoked meats.
If you want to smoke it in less time, you can ramp up the temperature to about 300°F (149°C). The trick is to keep checking the internal temperature of the sausage.
The most important thing to keep in mind is internal temperature. Use a smoker thermometer to monitor the progress of your sausage and this will remove the need to cut it open.
Aim for an internal temperature of 160-165°F (71-74°C). The sausage will be cooked and good to heat, so you can remove it from the smoker and serve up.
Best wood for smoking sausage
One of the reasons why we love smoked food is because it has a unique flavor that you just can not get from a regular stove or oven. The fumes are delicately infused into the food, sending your taste buds on a trip that is well worth the wait. Smoking sausage is no different.
The wood you use makes all the difference. Instead of throwing on any chunk of wood you can get your hands on, you need to choose the best wood for the job.
The best woods to use for smoking sausage are cherry, hickory, and apple. Which of these you go for should be determined by the intensity you want the meat to have. For example, hickory is especially pungent, while apple wood is more mild and slightly sweet.
In this recipe, I’m using apple wood. Its delicate and fruit notes match well with almost all types of pork, making it a great base wood to use for almost all types of sausage. If you’d like something that’s still sweet but has a bit more punch to it, try pecan.
How to smoke sausage
Start by firing up your smoker. We are aiming for a temperature of 225°F (107°C). If you’re using a charcoal smoker, this can take up to about 30 minutes. If you are using your grill, make sure that you set it up for 2-zone cooking so that you can use indirect cooking.
The following steps will depend on the type of smoker that you have, but most apply generally. Fill a water pan and place it on the racks near (but not touching) the meat. If you don’t have a water pan, you can use a bowl. The next step is to put the sausage on the rack. Make sure that there is some distance between each piece, as well as the water pan. It’s essential to make sure that none of them are touching each other.
Depending on the size of your smoker, you may be able to have more than one rack of sausages in there. Once all the racks are in, close the smoker and allow the magic to happen. Make sure to turn the sausages over every 45 minutes or so.
If you are using a regular grill, set it up for 2-zone cooking by placing your lit coals to one side underneath the grate. Once you are at 225°F, place the sausages on the grates on the other side of the grill. Add a couple of chunks of apple wood to the coals to impart a bit more flavor.
Make sure that both your intake and exhaust vents are wide open to start with, and then move them to half shut while cooking. This should manage airflow and heat well, but might need a little bit of tweaking as you go for the best results. This can take a bit of practice, but make sure you use your smoker thermometer as a guide.
The sausages should be ready in about 2 to 3 hours.
How to store leftover smoked sausage
After all that sausage, you probably have a lot left over. The good news is that it’s easy to store safely, and will have good enough longevity to stay fresh and edible for some time.
The best way to store it is to vacuum seal it. This does involve getting a vacuum sealer, but if you’re planning on getting into meat smoking then it’s one of the best investments you can make (I have this one from Amazon). Simply allow the meat to cool after smoking before vacuum sealing it and storing in the refrigerator. Ensure that it’s completely airtight and that no moisture can get into the seal.
Only use cold or chilled sausage. Smoke is attracted to cold surfaces, so cooking from chilled gives you the best chances of achieving a beautifully smokey taste.
Try finishing with a sear. If you like those iconic grill marks on your sausage, simply ramp up your grill to a sear. Once your sausages have hit 160°F, move them from the smoker to the grill and sear them for 30-60 seconds on each side.
Use a charcoal chimney. If you are new to barbecue, one of the biggest challenges you might face is learning the best and easiest way to light your coals. It’s a frustrating part of BBQ, but one of the best ways to do is by using a charcoal chimney. These little contraptions pack all your coals into one small container, restricting air exposure and making them easy to light. A charcoal chimney is one of the smartest investments you can make today (plus, they’re not expensive!)
Got any burning questions? Our frequently asked questions are here to help.
Do you have to hang sausage to smoke it?
No. For simple hot smoking, placing the meat on your smoker’s grates is fine. Hanging is best when cold smoking, which is usually used for curing meat and not for cooking it.
Can you smoke already smoked sausage?
Yes. You can smoke pre-made or pre-cooked sausage. In fact, many store-bought sausages are improved with an added layer of smoke added to them at home.