Last Updated May 27, 2020
This post shares tips from a meat scientist about how to make smoked beef sausage at home, including the spices, the beef grind and smoking temps.
You are watching: How To Make Smoked Sausage Links
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by the Certified Angus Beef® brand in conjunction with a social media campaign through Sunday Supper LLC. All opinions are my own.
When I think of smoked sausage, I want that snap of the casing that reveals a beefy, well-seasoned juicy link.
Thanks to Certified Angus Beef® brand Meat Scientist Diana Clark I now have the skills to whip up my own homemade beef sausage.
Diana works for the Certified Angus Beef® brand kitchen in their Meat Lab. She has been my “science” teacher on multiple occasions.
When you step into her classroom, she teaches you all about the Different Cuts of Beef, which as you can imagine comes in pretty handy for sausage making.
On one of my adventures to Ohio, she invited a group of pitmasters to bring their own smoked beef sausage. I showed up with my Corned Beef Brisket Sausage, and Anthony DiBernardo of Swig and Swine and Kent Black from Black’s Barbecue brought some links from their restaurants.
But before sampling them all, Diana taught us her basic sausage-making formula.
The Beef Sausage Grind
All sausage starts with beef trimmings. As a competitive pitmaster, I usually have a lot of meat leftover after I trim up a competition brisket.
It turns out brisket is a great choice for sausage making, because it’s got a 60/40 meat to fat ratio. That added fat is going to help keep that sausage juicy. If you prefer something more lean, Diana provided this helpful guide below.
Meat to Fat Ratio
Chuck 85/15 – 80/20
Short ribs 80/20
Round – 85/15
Don’t feel cornered into just one cut. There is nothing wrong – and in fact everything right – with combining cuts. Experiment with a chuck / short ribs blend or a brisket / sirloin blend. Or just collect all of your trimming from various cuts, until you have 5 pounds worth to make a batch of homemade beef sausage.
If you don’t trim a lot of beef, no worries. Just grab a chuck roast and a couple steaks and cube them up for the grind. You can even start with already ground Certified Angus Beef® brand ground beef.
Throughout this process, it’s really important to keep your meat super cold. This prevents the fat from melting too early in the process. Essentially, you don’t want it to melt until it’s halfway through the cook.
Once you have your meat selected, freeze it for at least 30 minutes. Then, add your course grinding plate to your meat grinder. (This is the one with larger holes). Pass the meat through into a large bowl. And place it all back in the fridge.
Seasoning the Beef
Once you get the hang of this, you can go crazy with spice blends. In the Certified Angus Beef® brand Meat Lab, my team made Korean sausage that tasted like bulgogi, while other pitmasters made chorizo along with a cheeseburger sausage that tasted just like a White Castle burger.
Let’s start with the salt. Diana recommends that of your final mixture, 1-1 1/2% of its weight is kosher salt. This means that if you’re using 5 pounds of sausage (which equals 80 ounces), you would use .8-1.2 ounces of salt.
In other words, for every five pounds of meat, use 2 tablespoons of kosher salt.
The next ingredient is nitrite or nitrate, also referred to as Pink Curing Salt #1 and Pink Curing Salt #2. Nitrites are used for short-cured sausage like kielbasa, while nitrates are used for long cures like salami.
Both of these are preservatives. We’re going to be smoking this beef sausage at low temperatures, so we run the risk of it being in the food danger zone of 40-140F degrees for too long. The curing salt will keep us safe and help prevent botulism.
This post is about making smoked beef sausage, so we’ll be using nitrite. Diana’s method includes 1 gram of nitrite for every pound of meat.
That equates to 1 teaspoon of Pink Curing Salt #1 for every five pounds of meat.
The rest of the spices are up to you. This recipe includes some Polish kielbasa classics like marjoram and garlic along with a little kick of ancho chili powder.
Pull the ground beef out of the fridge, and blend in the spices and some ice cold water (or beer or juice). Work quickly, so the fat doesn’t melt too much. Throw it all back in the freezer for another 10 minutes or so.
The Second Grind
Change out the grinding plate and add the one with smaller holes. We’re going to pass all the meat through the grinder again to make sure everything is well blended and to break down the meat a little more.
I know you’re excited to start stuffing your sausage, but there is one more step that I learned in the Meat Lab.
You want to mix that meat together a little bit more, so that it is tacky.
This is only going to take 45 seconds. Place the meat in the bowl of your mixer. Add the paddle attachment, and get to mixing.
When you pick up a piece of the meat batter, it should be soft but firm like pictured above.
This is the point when you should taste your sausage. Make a little patty, and fry it up in a skillet. How does it taste? Keep in mind, the flavors will bloom during the next couple of stages, but if you need more sumthin sumthin, add it now.
At this point, I like to refrigerate the meat for 1-2 days. As I mentioned above, it helps the flavor bloom. But it also allows that fat to get nice and cold.
To stuff sausage, we need casings. You can use natural hog casings or edible collagen casings. If you use natural hog casings, they come packaged in salt. You’ll need to soak them in water for an hour or two before using. The collagen casings, on the other hand, can be used straight from the package.
Fill your sausage stuffer with that super cold meat. Be sure to pack it down, so there are no air pockets inside.
Slide your casings onto the stuffer tube, and start cranking. As soon as the meat reaches the tip of the tube, tie the casing in a knot.
Keep on cranking forcing the meat into the casing. Do your best to avoid air pockets. It takes some practice.
You can create a long rope and twist it into smaller sausages, or you can create kielbasa-sized ropes. Like pictured here.
Rest them on a baking rack over a sheet pan in the fridge for another 1-2 days. This will help your casings have that nice snap that we all love.
Smoking Beef Sausage
Time for these babies to hit the smoke. We’re gonna go real low. Remember all that work we did before to keep that fat from melting? We’ve gotta keep that system going. If you smoke these too fast, the fat will melt and drip out, leaving you with crumbly sausage.
Unless you have a smokehouse, I recommend using a pellet or electric smoker, because we want to start at 160F degrees, and it’s nearly impossible to get a ceramic or drum smoker that low.
Smoke in Temperature Stages
160F degrees for 1 hour
170F degrees for 1 hour
180F until internal temperature reaches 160F (about 3 hours)
Ice, Ice Baby
As soon as the smoked beef sausage reaches temp, you want to stop the cooking and shock it in an ice bath, until the internal temperature drops to about 120F degrees.
Then, place your beef sausage on a rack on a sheet pan and let it continue cooling to room temperature.
You can refrigerate it for about a week or freeze it for about nine months.
To reheat the sausage, place it on a pan in a 350F degree oven for 15-20 minutes.
Enjoy it with mustard and some crusty bread.
Or slice up the cold sausage and heat it in a skillet with some sautéed peppers and onions, and serve with white rice.