Smoking Uncured Sausage: Can It Be Done?
Do you prefer to not use cure in your sausage meat? Knowing that usually cured sausage is smoked, have you wondered if smoking uncured sausage is okay to do? After all, we all love a good, smoky flavor when it comes to meat.
What it really comes down to is how you’re smoking it: cold smoking or hot smoking. The answer in short is that you can smoke uncured sausage, but you should hot smoke it. Read on to learn why.
Do You Need to Cure Sausage Before Smoking?
Whether or not you need to cure sausage before smoking really depends on the type of sausage being made, as well as the kind of meat that was used in the first place. Some sausages need to be cured before they’re smoked, whereas others do not.
The curing process does of course come with a few benefits, with one of those being that it can help add some good flavor to the mix. If the right curing agents are used, it can also help the sausage retain more moisture over time, so it doesn’t dry out.
However, the main point of curing is actually to keep you safe, or in other words, to prevent the sausage from becoming contaminated with various bacteria, mainly those that cause botulism, among others. Botulism bacteria can occur when meat is exposed to a low-oxygen environment that is only slightly acidic, warm, and moist, which is exactly the kind of environment that slow smoking produces.
So, if you plan on slow smoking (or in other words, cold smoking) your sausages, it’s best to cure them first, because it’ll help prevent these dangerous bacteria from taking hold during the smoking process.
Next, sausages that are fast smoked (or hot smoked), don’t need to be cured, as the smoking process also cooks them at the same time, unlike cold or slow smoking which adds smoky flavor, but doesn’t cook the meat.
On that same note, sausages that are first fully cooked and then smoked don’t need to be cured. The cooking process should take care of the bacteria, although in terms of long-term preservation, curing definitely won’t hurt.
The bottom line here is that if you cook your sausages before smoking, they probably don’t need to be cured. Also, if you fast smoke your sausages (not slow smoke), even if the meat is not cooked first, they don’t need to be cured. However, if you plan on slow smoking uncooked sausages, then you definitely want to cure them. It may even be wise to cure cooked sausage that is to be slow smoked.
Let’s take a quick look at a few different types of sausages to figure out whether or not they need to be cured before smoking.
- Fresh smoked sausage that is cold smoked should first be cured.
- Fresh smoked sausage that is hot or fast smoked doesn’tt need to be cured.
- Fully cooked sausage does not need to be cured.
- Dry sausage that is not cooked, such as salami, needs to be cured.
How to Smoke Fresh Sausage
When you’re smoking fresh sausage, adding cure to the meat is up to you and also depends on if you’re doing a cold smoke or a hot smoke (see the section above).
Some say that curing salts can add to the flavor, although you may wish to experiment with this to see if you can obtain a better taste.
If you’re going to smoke your fresh, uncured sausages, you should get your smoker to a temperature of between 200°F to 250°F (95°C to 120°C). To avoid any issues with bacteria and food poisoning, don’t start cooking your cold fresh sausages until your smoker reaches the 250°F mark.
Smoking your fresh sausages should take between 90 minutes and 2 hours. As they smoke, you should rotate your sausages so that they’re evenly cooked throughout. The ideal temperature for your fresh sausage is 165°F (74°C) internally, and this is best checked using a meat temperature probe.
You should also note that due to the absence of curing preservatives in fresh sausages, they’ll likely be a grayish rather than a pinkish color as they cook.
Tips For Smoking Fresh Sausage
Here are a few simple tips that should help you safely smoke your fresh sausage.
- To avoid the risk of food poisoning, ensure your smoker has reached the minimum temperature for cooking fresh sausages.
- You might want to air dry your sausages before smoking them, which may produce more red/brown color in the meat when it cooks.
- Place the sausages at least 2 inches apart to allow the air to circulate around them evenly and for consistent smoke penetration.
- Rather than piercing every sausage to check temperatures, just use 1 or 2 of them as ‘tester’ sausages.
- After cooking, don’t leave the sausages sitting too long as their skins may start to crease, making them look less than appetizing.
- Smoked sausages can be frozen for up to 3 months or stored in the fridge, where they’ll retain their smoky flavor for up to 4 days.
- Natural sausage casings are the most popular for smoking. Fibrous casings can be used too but take longer to smoke.
Smoking uncured sausage can certainly be done if you want to add a nice, smoky flavor to your sausage. You can do this with sausage you’ve made yourself or with sausage you bought at the store. Just make sure that you’re hot smoking (and not cold smoking) it.
Since your sausage won’t have cure to prevent bacterial contamination, hot smoking it ensures you’re cooking it fully to kill off the bacteria.
Remember to follow my tips above for your next batch!