Smoking store bought sausage isn’t any trickier than smoking homemade sausage. In fact, it can save you a lot of time.
One thing you need to pay attention to is whether the sausage is already cooked. Fortunately, it’s easy to tell, even if the meat is prepackaged. This guide will tell you all you need to know about smoking store bought sausage.
Smoking Store Bought Sausage
Whether homemade or store bought, fresh sausages will need to cook to 165 degrees Fahrenheit before they’re safe to eat. This should take 2 to 3 hours when the smoker is set to 250. If the sausages are precooked, you just have to reheat them, which should take no longer than an hour.
Is The Sausage Raw or Precooked?
Raw sausages, also known as fresh sausages, always need to be cooked to a safe temperature before you serve them. The meat could be harboring bacteria that will make you sick if you eat the sausage without cooking it first.
Since sausages are made from ground meat, that means they should cook to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. You can remove them from the heat at 160 degrees and let carryover cooking take care of the rest, but 165 is the recommended serving temperature.
If that sounds high, remember that the bacteria that you’re trying to eradicate are found on the surface of whole muscle cuts. When the meat is ground and mixed together, you don’t know where the bacteria could have ended up. Your only safe bet is to cook the meat thoroughly.
If the sausages you’re buying are fresh, it may say so on the label. In this case, the term fresh just means that the meat is raw—it doesn’t have anything to do with the quality of the product. The words “Cook Thoroughly” might also appear on the package.
Even if the label doesn’t clearly indicate whether you should cook the sausage first, you should be able to tell by the texture. Fresh raw sausage is squishy and malleable, whereas cooked sausage has a firmer texture.
When in doubt, heat the sausages to an internal temperature of 160 degrees before serving. This might not be necessary for precooked sausages, but it still won’t do any harm to heat them thoroughly.
Best Types of Sausage For The Smoker
You can choose any type of sausage you like, but some are better for the smoker than others. Here are a few of our favorites.
Most Italian sausage is seasoned with fennel, giving it a delicate anise flavor. The sweet variety typically contains herbs like sweet basil, while the hot version includes red pepper flake and paprika.
A classic when paired with cold beer, this German sausage is a winner when smoked over low heat. Its flavor is slightly peppery, usually containing hints of nutmeg or ginger.
This is a spicy sausage that’s at home in a variety of dishes, from street tacos to scrambled eggs. Be sure to select the right type of chorizo, as the Spanish and Mexican versions are quite different.
The Spanish type is cured and precooked, making it a good choice for charcuterie platters. Meanwhile, the Mexican variety is seasoned with garlic and chili powder and sold fresh, often without the casings.
Smoking Fresh Store Bought Sausage
In this section, we’ll assume that the sausages you’re smoking are fresh. We would recommend starting with raw sausages anyway, as they’ll have time to take on plenty of smoke flavor.
When selecting wood for your smoked sausages, consider the type of meat they’re made of. Apple, pecan, and oak are excellent for pork sausage, while beef sausage can hold up to the bolder flavor of hickory. Stick with mild fruit woods like apple for poultry sausage.
Clean and oil the cooking grates before you begin. You don’t want the casings to stick to the metal, or the sausages will burst and lose some of their savory juices.
Similarly, make sure the sausages aren’t touching when you put them on the grate. There should be at least 1/2 inch between each one. If the links are too close together, they won’t cook evenly, and the smoke flavor could be affected as well.
Assuming that the smoker maintains a steady temperature of 250 degrees, it should take about 2 to 3 hours for the sausages to cook through. The total smoking time will depend on the type of sausage, as well as the size of the links.
It’s a good idea to turn the sausages over every 30 to 45 minutes to ensure even cooking. Even at low temperatures, the sausage could char in some spots while the rest remains underdone. Don’t open the smoker too frequently, though, or you’ll lose valuable heat and smoke.
When the sausages have lost their translucent quality and seem to be firming up, test their internal temperature using a meat thermometer. Try not to pierce the same sausage multiple times, as this can result in dry, tough meat.
Remember that sausage can be slightly pink in the middle and still be safe to eat. In fact, some cured sausages will never lose their pink color, no matter how long they cook. The internal temperature will tell you what you need to know.
Let the sausages rest for 5 minutes after removing them from the heat. This will allow them to continue cooking to a safe temperature while the juices redistribute, giving you sausages that are plump and moist when they’re ready to be served.
Smoking Precooked Sausage
Sausages that are already cooked don’t need to be heated to 165 degrees before serving. In fact, it’s fine to eat them right out of the package if you’d like.
That said, you can certainly put them in the smoker if you want to improve their flavor. This method is preferable to heating them in a skillet or the oven (or heaven forbid, the microwave). It requires a little bit more time, but the results are worth the wait.
Choose whatever wood you’d like to use to flavor the sausage and set the smoker to 250 degrees. Again, it’s better if you don’t allow the links to touch when placing them on the cooking grate.
It should only take 45 minutes to an hour for the sausages to heat through. You don’t have to test the temperature if they’re precooked, but doing so will ensure that the links are nice and hot throughout.
How To Store Leftovers
Once the sausages are smoked, they should keep in the fridge for up to 4 days. A package of store bought precooked sausages can keep for up to 2 weeks before it’s opened, but you should use them within a week once you’ve broken the seal.
Don’t leave meat products out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours, or 1 hour in hot weather. This applies whether they’re raw or cooked. The exception would be cured meats, which are treated with special salts so that they’re stable at room temperature.
Freeze any sausages that you aren’t going to use right away. They should keep in the freezer for up to 3 months without suffering any ill effects. After that, though, the meat might start to dry out, particularly if it was cooked when you froze it.
Your first step when smoking store bought sausage is to determine whether the sausages are fresh or precooked. After that, the cooking process should be a snap. After all, the meat is already seasoned and the links don’t take long to cook—what could be better?