Smoked beef sausages or smoked beef links, as some people call them, are basically pure beef sausages that have been cooked through smoking. Smoked beef links are extremely popular in Texas simply because, well, it’s beef. The traditional smoked beef sausages and links are made out of ground beef, peppercorns, ground black pepper and garlic. Other spices are optional, but for those who love the spice and taste of black pepper, the smoked beef links are the ones for you.
Smoked Beef Sausage Trivia
- There is a 10-day Bavarian food and drink celebrated in Texas called Wurstfest.
- Smoked beef sausages are also called “Hot links” in Texas and in other places in the United States.
- Each region has their own version of hot links and no single area will agree on what the actual spices used are.
Smoked Beef Sausage Buying Guide
Smoked beef sausages are typically made from beef chuck, so check the label to see if the smoked beef sausage you’re getting is made from specific cuts of beef, and not just generic “beef.”
Aside from checking if your smoked beef sausages are really made from good beef cuts, you have to also check for extenders and preservatives. If the meat used for the sausage is properly sourced and are indeed premium cuts, then other miscellaneous ingredients shouldn’t be present on the label.
Optimally, the fewer items on the ingredients panel, the better. Let me rephrase that. The fewer items on the ingredient panel that sounds like it came from a laboratory, the better.
Smoked Beef Sausage Production & Farming in Texas
Commercially Produced Smoked Beef Sausage:
Large scale smoked beef sausage or beef link production is basically just like any large-scale sausage production. The only difference is that the meat used is pure beef. While pure beef may sound like a great thing, you must remember that commercially produced smoked beef links will tend to use every single part of the cow from head to hoof. This is one of the reasons why cheap commercially produced smoked beef sausage has “natural” flavors added to it. This addition of natural flavors pretty much covers all of the tastes of the different parts of beef added to the sausage to make one generic “beefy” taste.
The meat is usually ground and mixed to a paste-like consistency and then binders are added. This explains the “hot dog”-like texture that almost all commercial sausages share.
Another thing to take note of when talking about commercially produced smoked beef sausage is to check the label to see if they are actually smoked, or if “smoke flavor” is just added to it.
Small Batch/Artisanal Smoked Beef Sausage Production:
For small-scale smoked beef sausage producers, the sausages are usually made from beef chuck or beef brisket. The amount of sausage produced per day is usually limited to the meat they get from the meat they butchered that day.
The meats that will be used for artisanal smoked beef links will be trimmed properly to remove any gristle or inedible parts. The premium price that artisanal sausages commands will demand premium treatment of the process as well as premium raw materials.
Premium smoked beef links can be made without the use of artificial preservatives by utilizing all-natural ingredients that contain natural nitrates.
Preservatives and Chemicals:
A quick look at commercially produced smoked beef sausages will reveal that there are a number of additives there that aren’t recommended for human consumption. Whatever the marketing copy on the packaging doesn’t matter, it is what’s written on the ingredient tab is what you should pay attention to. Here are a few of the ingredients that can be found on commercially produced smoked beef links.
- Isolated Soy Protein – This is added to sausages to help increase fat and water retention. This is also added to increase the nutritional values of the product on paper as it increases the protein content of the sausage.
- Potassium Chloride – This is usually added to augment the saltiness of the sausage without increasing the levels of sodium. While this is no problem for healthy people, those who have problems with excreting potassium should be very careful (people with diabetes, renal failure, etc.)
- Corn Syrup – This is one of the leading causes of obesity in the world. Corn syrup is basically sugar.
These are just the three very common items that you can find in commercially available smoked beef links. There are others like dextrose, cereal, natural flavorings, food colorings, and other ingredients that are also commonly used to preserve shelf life and to make the product more visually appealing on the shelf.
Both commercially produced and artisanal smoked beef sausages are usually packed in vacuum bags for longer shelf life and protection from contamination.
Enjoying Smoked Beef Sausages
Smoked beef sausages are already fully cooked and can be consumed directly from the package but it is our advice to heat them thoroughly to get rid of any food-borne bacteria that might be on the sausage.
For commercially produced and purchased smoked beef links, please refer to the packaging for storage details.
For artisanal or butcher sourced sausage, they can safely be stored in the fridge for up to three or four days. Just make sure to store them in air tight containers so that they won’t contaminate other foods with their smoky smell and vice versa. Smoked beef sausages can be stored in the freezer, but it is not recommended as it is already fully cooked and the texture might change if stored for extended periods frozen.
Since smoked beef links are already cooked, it is just a matter of reheating them before consumption. The best way to reheat smoked beef links is on the grill. There’s something about grill marks and an open flame that enhances the taste of smoked meat.
Aside from the grill, it can be heated in the microwave or on the stovetop. Just make sure not to overdo it as it can get too dry as beef sausages are usually pretty low in fat.