Trail Bologna vs. Summer Sausage: What’s the Difference?

We can easily say that sausages are a staple of American cuisine. But with so many choices now available, it can be difficult to distinguish the different varieties.

If you’re wondering about the differences between Trail bologna and summer sausage, you’re in the right spot. The main differences to note that trail bologna is only made or beef, while summer sausage can be made of almost any meat (but mostly pork, venison, or beef). Also trail bologna is usually served cold while summer sausage can be served warm or cold.

In this trail bologna vs summer sausage breakdown, I’m going to compare these two meat delicacies. I’ll explain what they’re made of, how they’re cooked, what food they pair well with, and much more.

slices of summer sausage trail bologna

What Is Trail Bologna?   

Trail bologna is a famous Midwest sausage that originates from a small settlement called Trail in Ohio. Trail is an Amish country hamlet that is now known all over the U.S. thanks to this ring bologna. What makes this bologna unique is that it doesn’t rely on typical fillers used for mass bologna production.

Another thing that makes this ring bologna different from other bologna sausages is its leanness. The smokehouses make this sausage with leaner meat, but Trail bologna still has a pretty firm texture.

What Meat is Trail Bologna Made Of?

If you’ve tried other bologna sausages before, you might know they’re typically made with pork. However, Trail bologna is made exclusively from beef. One of the reasons for that is that it’s produced in Troyer’s Genuine Trail Bologna factory specializing in all-beef products.

However, you can also find Trail bologna sausages with cheddar inside. The company decided to improvise since most Americans eat bologna and other sausages with cheddar anyways.

How to Cook Trail Bologna

Usually, Trail bologna comes pre-cooked and ready to eat. The manufacturers will typically cold smoke it for two to three days.

However, if you don’t like the all-beef texture of your Trail bologna sausage, you can make a few adjustments and make one of your own. All you need to do is add some fatty pork to the ground beef.

trail bologna meat processing kit

It’s best to use 70% beef and 30% pork shoulder or other fatty parts. You can also add any spices you want, such as white pepper, paprika, garlic, cardamon, etc. It’s best to smoke these sausages starting from 140°F, then gradually increasing the temperature every hour until you get to 170°F. After that, just cook the sausages at 180°F until their internal temperature reaches 155°F.

What Pairs Well With Trail Bologna?

Although usually served with cheese on charcuterie boards, this sausage can do much more.

You can make a sandwich with it when you’re just too tired to cook. Even though Trail bologna sausage comes fully cooked and ready to eat, you can also fry it with eggs for breakfast.

Alternatively, you can add it to sauerkraut soup or make a bologna salad with mayonnaise and pickles.

What Is Summer Sausage?

Summer sausage is a European sausage dating back to the time before refrigeration. It is called summer sausage because people who made it wanted to enjoy it even in the hot summer months. The secret lies in curing the meat, a preservation method that results in longer shelf life.

Today, summer sausage is one of America’s favorites. Sausages very similar to it include salami and thuringer cevelat.

What Meat is Summer Sausage Made Of?

The most commonly used meat type in summer sausage is beef, along with venison or pork.

The pork will add a little bit of fat, making the sausage less dry. However, for those who like their meat dry, there are several beef-only sausages out there.

Summer sausage is usually seasoned with garlic, mustard seeds, and black pepper. There are some variations with coriander, ginger, or allspice.

smoked garlic summer sausage

Many Americans like to make this sausage at home. When it comes to choosing the meat, beef chuck works great with some pork hind cuts. And the ratio depends on your personal preferences.

If you want your summer sausage to be less fatty, you can do 75% beef and 25% pork. You could equally enjoy 60% pork and 40% beef if you want a juicier, fattier summer sausage.

How to Cook Summer Sausage

There are multiple options when it comes to cooking summer sausage. You can grill, smoke, or bake this all-time favorite. Also, summer sausage really adds to the dish’s flavor when added to a casserole or any other baking dish.

However, to get the most of its tangy taste, it’s best to smoke it. You want to stick with electric sausage smokers or those that can maintain lower temperatures.

The temperature is one of the key elements if you want to cook summer sausages properly. The desired internal temperature is 160°F, and the sausage should smoke for at least three hours.

You want to set the smoker at 120°F, slowly increase to 160°F, and finish up at 190°F. If you don’t have a smoker, use an oven instead. You should pre-heat it to 170°F and gradually increase the temperature to 190°F.

What Pairs Well With Summer Sausage?

Whether you eat it warm or cold, summer sausage tastes excellent. That’s why it’s one of the most popular choices for charcuterie boards or lazy Sunday dinners.

It also goes well with green salads, cheese, crackers and gives a great flavor to your sandwiches.

When it comes to drinks, you want to pair summer sausage with a nice bottle of Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir.

Trail Bologna vs. Summer Sausage: Differences and Similarities

To help you differentiate between Trail bologna and summer sausage, I’ve prepared a table to summarize everything we’ve covered so far.

MeatTastePreparationPairs Well WithBest Served
Summer SausagePork, venison, beefTangySmokedCheese, wineWarm, cold
Trail Bologna SausageBeefSmokyCold smokedCheese, eggsCold

As you can see, there are a couple of significant differences between these two sausage types.

While the summer sausage can be made of three meat types, the Trail bologna is made of beef only. The latter is cold smoked and best served cold, while you can enjoy your summer sausage warm or cold.

In Summary

Hopefully, I’ve given you enough information in the Trail bologna vs. summer sausage debate.

As the summer sausage is cured and firmer than Trail bologna, you might prefer it on your charcuterie board or as a cold snack. On the other hand, Trail bologna might be a better option as an addition to your omelets or sandwiches.

And don’t forget, you can enjoy both of these with some cheddar, as an all-American classic.