If you have a smoker and you’re looking for one of the simplest and most delicious items you can pop in there, then sausages should be high up on your list.
There is so much variety to choose from, and they make the perfect introductory meat if you’re new to smoking.
Unlike cuts of meat such as beef brisket or pork shoulder, which can take 12+ hours to smoke to perfection, sausages can be perfectly smoked in only 3-4 hours.
Many veteran smokers love to prepare them for parties and events since it takes the humble sausage to a whole other level.
If you want to take your backyard BBQ from basic to amazing, learning to smoke sausages is a great way to do so.
They are pretty fail-safe and there are so many flavor and styles to choose from that you can provide a lot of variety, without a lot of effort.
There are couple of things to look out for when you’re deciding on the perfect sausage to smoke.
First, make sure it has a high-fat content, so they stay moist. Second, avoid sausages that are already smoked. And third, figure out how you are going to use them so choose the best flavor profile!
So, what are the 7 best sausages for smoking? I love using a variety of Italian sausages, sweet sausages such as maple breakfast or honey garlic, bratwurst, chorizo, Polish sausage (kielbasa), cheddar sausage, and finally a chicken or beef sausage for some variety.
Read on to discover how to choose the best sausages for smoking, what the 7 best sausages for smoking taste like, and how to use them in your kitchen.
What To Look For In The Best Sausages To Smoke
When it comes to smoking sausages, there are a couple of key characteristics to look out for to make sure you have the best texture and flavor once the smoking process is done.
I’ll go into more detail about specific sausages and how they smoke below, but for now here are a couple of things to look for:
1. Look For A High-Fat Content
Smoking a sausage takes a lot longer than your typical grilling time since you are using a much lower temperature to cook the meat. An average sausage can take about 3-4 hours to smoke at a temperature of 250°F.
Instead of using direct heat to cook the sausage, generally it is the hot smoke that cooks the meat through, which can take a lot longer.
With that in mind, it is important that you choose a sausage that has a high-fat content since this will help keep your sausage tender and moist.
If you use lean meat like chicken breast or turkey that doesn’t have any extra fat added to it, you may end up with a crumbly and dry sausage at the end of your smoking period.
So regardless of the type of meat and flavor of sausage you choose, make sure that it has enough fat content to stay tender and juicy for the 3-4 hour cooking period.
2. Figure Out What You’re Pairing Your Sausage With
The other main thing to figure out before you pick the type of sausage you want to smoke is how you’re planning on enjoying it.
If you’re having a basic sausage in a bun, then really you can choose whatever type of sausage flavor you most enjoy.
But if you want to use your smoked sausage in a specific dish such as jambalaya, then you will want to choose a particular type of sausage-like Andouille.
Some sausages are going to be spicy, some will be sweet, and others might be a little cheesy, so figuring out what you plan to pair them with can help you decide which sausage will be best to smoke for your situation.
3. Don’t Smoke Already-Smoked Sausage
This suggestion might seem obvious, but I wanted to put it on the list so that you double-check the package of sausages before you buy them.
Some brands and styles of sausage are pre-smoked, so you wouldn’t really want to smoke them again, since it’s a waste of time and would dry them out.
Kielbasa and Andouille are two sausages that are commonly smoked before packaging, though you can find unsmoked varieties.
Luckily, most brands will say right on the front label whether they are raw or already smoked, so just keep an eye out for that.
That said, if you don’t have the time or energy to smoke your own sausage, buying an already smoked sausage can be a great shortcut.
The 7 Best Sausages For Smoking
Now that you know a couple of things to look for when it comes to smoking your sausages, let’s take a look at some of the best sausages you can smoke, what they taste like, and why they’re so great to smoke.
1. Italian Sausage
I put Italian sausage at the top of the list because they are pretty universally adored and there are several varieties to choose from, which means you can typically find a flavor for every palate:
A typical Italian sausage will include fennel, red pepper/chili flakes, salt, garlic, onion, parsley, paprika, oregano, thyme, and sugar.
The number of pepper flakes will increase or decrease the spiciness level, with sweet Italian sausage containing no hot pepper flakes at all.
I love the combination of spicy, sweet, salty, and smoky; it provides a true flavor explosion on your taste buds. Italian sausages can also be used in many ways after smoking:
- Chop them up and pop them on a pizza or toss them in a pasta dish.
- Serve them in a roll with fried onions and red peppers.
- Add chopped sausage to tomato sauces or soups.
- Eat them plain right off the grill.
There are lots of other ways you can enjoy them, but these are some of the most classic usages. Adding the extra layer of flavor from the smoke will take your classic dishes to a whole other level.
These sausages are made with fatty pork, so they hold up well to smoking, retaining their tender texture.
If you’ve never smoked sausages before, Italian sausages are a pretty safe bet since they have lots of spice levels to choose from and you can use them in many ways.
2. Maple Breakfast Or Honey Garlic Sausages
Though these sausages are second on the list, they take first spot in my heart.
The reason I love smoking these types of sausages is because the sweetness of either the maple syrup or the honey is an amazing compliment to the complex smokey flavor you get from the smoking process.
There’s truly nothing more satisfying to me than a smokey, salty, and sweet combination.
These sausages can be enjoyed as they are, chopped up and added to a soup, popped into a bun with sauerkraut, or served alongside some hash browns and eggs for a decadent breakfast.
Both of these types of sausages are generally made with pork, so they will typically contain a good amount of fat.
That means that they will stay moist throughout the 3-4 hour smoking process. In terms of a great sausage to smoke, you can’t beat a sweet pork sausage.
This hearty sausage comes all the way from Germany and if you travel overseas then there are many varieties that you can choose from.
In the United States, however, bratwurst is generally made from a combination of pork and veal, which will give the smoked sausage a super tender texture.
To flavor bratwurst, you will typically see salt, ginger, nutmeg, and caraway, which gives the sausages a slightly spicy, aromatic flavor that goes well with the deep intensity you get from smoking.
These sausages taste incredible with a side of tangy sauerkraut to cut through the rich flavor and texture.
They do well with smoking since the lower temperatures will help prevent the casings from splitting and all the fat and juices from dripping out.
That means you will be left with a tender, flavorful, sausage that you can enjoy in a bun with sauerkraut, onions, and mustard.
4. Chorizo Sausage
If you are a spice lover, then chorizo sausage should make your list of the best sausages to smoke.
In the United States, most chorizo refers to the Mexican sausage that is a combination of pork, port fat, salt, whole peppercorns, vinegar, chilies, cinnamon, achiote, and other spices.
While you may find cured chorizo sausage in the market, that’s not the variety you want to use in your smoker, since the moisture has already been removed.
That means if you smoke it, you are likely to end up with a dry piece of boot leather.
Make sure you find a package of uncured chorizo sausage to smoke. The intense flavors hold up amazingly well to the smokiness that is imparted during cooking.
Thanks to the pork fat that is added to the mix, you will end up with an incredibly flavorful, tender, moist, and luscious sausage.
You can use chorizo in many preparations such as:
- The classic breakfast pairing of chorizo and eggs.
- Chopped up and added to pasta sauces, stews, and soups.
- Once smoked, you can crisp it in a pan and use it like bacon bits in a salad for a spicy, smoky hit of flavor.
- Try chopping it into rounds and serving it with Manchego cheese and olives for a delicious appetizer.
- Chop it up and add it to your stuffing recipes.
- Roast it with your favorite vegetables, like Brussels sprouts or cauliflower.
When it comes to using smoked chorizo sausage, the sky is the limit so long as you love spice.
5. Polish Sausages (Unsmoked Kielbasa)
Typically you will find kielbasa in the States that is made with pork.
In Poland, where these sausages originate kielbasa means any type of sausage, but in the US it refers to a country-style pork sausage that comes in long links flavored with garlic, juniper, and marjoram that are perfect for smoking.
The important thing to look for if you want to smoke your kielbasa is to make sure that it hasn’t already been smoked.
Double smoking will likely dry it out and is also a bit of a waste of time. You could also look for a partially smoked kielbasa and finish the smoking yourself.
If you buy partially smoked, then you can cut the smoking time down to about an hour and a half or until it reaches the proper internal temperature.
Once you smoke your kielbasa, you can use it in tons of delicious ways such as:
- Served over mashed potatoes.
- Chopped up and stirred into soups and stews.
- As a really decadent breakfast with eggs and hash browns.
- Sauteed with onions, garlic, and peppers.
6. Cheddar Sausages
Is there anything better than a melty, gooey, cheesy sausage? In fact, there is!
Smoking that already cheesy, delicious sausage so that you get the tender, melty texture of a cheddar sausage combined with the rich flavor from your smoker is one way you can make something already great even greater!
There’s a reason cheddar smokies are so popular and it’s because this flavor combination is almost irresistible.
If you want to get an authentic smokiness to your cheddar sausage, then I highly recommend buying unsmoked cheddar sausage and doing the smoking yourself.
These sausages are made from a combination of pork, cheddar cheese, and sweetener.
The fat from the pork and the cheese holds up really well to the longer smoking time so that when you’re done you are left with a super moist and tender sausage.
Thanks to the sweetener in these sausages, there is a lovely balance of salty, smoky, cheesy, sweetness that tastes amazing on its own or popped into a bun with mustard, onions, and ketchup.
I’m a big fan of eating them right out of the smoker with no toppings since the flavor stands up so well on its own, but you can of course get creative with your toppings.
7. Beef Or Chicken Sausages
If you are looking for a different meat flavor and texture, then you can always try smoking chicken or beef sausages.
Just make sure when you look in the ingredients that there is some kind of fat added since these meats can be leaner than pork. And we don’t want dry sausage!
If you are looking for a more delicate meat to go with the rich smoky flavor, then chicken makes a great choice.
It has a pretty neutral flavor that goes well with all kinds of spices, herbs, and sweeteners, so you can find a flavor profile that works for you.
Look for sausages made with dark meat or with some fat added for the best texture.
Beef sausages are going to have a deeper flavor than either chicken or pork, which can hold up well to smoking. Just avoid any sausage made with lean or extra lean beef since these will end up dry as dust by the end of the smoking process.
The deeper flavor of beef holds up well to a lot of spice and strong flavors, so they make a great choice for folks who are looking for a real flavor explosion with their smoked sausage.
The texture is typically firmer than pork and chicken, which can be a nice contrast.
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