Smoked sausage is any type of sausage that is cooked and then smoked, or directly smoke-cooked. Smoked sausage can contain anything from pork, sausage, chicken, turkey, or any combination of the said meats. There is no one “flavor” profile for smoked sausage aside from their smoky taste as they can be any sausage variant that’s been smoked. This product is also one of the most popular processed foods in America due to its long shelf life and rich flavor.
Smoked Sausage Trivia
- Smoking was originally done to preserve meats, but now is being used as a way to cook and add flavor to the meats.
- Smoking meats and sausages is another way to impart flavor without adding large amounts of salt.
- Sausages are made in three main ways, dried, fresh, and smoked.
- Sausages have evolved from making use of scraps to being good food using choice cuts of meat.
Smoked Sausage Buying Guide
Choosing smoked sausage is all about reading the label. Make sure that the sausage you purchase is “Smoked” or “naturally Smoked” or “Hardwood Smoked” look for keywords that will indicate that the sausages have actually been smoked.
Avoid sausages that are labeled “Smoke Flavored” or “Smoke Flavor Added” and anything that might indicate that the product has not been smoked and just have liquid smoke flavoring injected into them.
Since the product has been thoroughly smoked, try and avoid smoked sausages that have added preservatives. Properly smoked meats have very little need for added preservatives as the smoking process should preserve the sausage sufficiently for preservation.
Smoked Sausage Production & Farming in Texas
Commercially Produced Smoked Sausage:
Commercially smoked sausages come in many forms, but the most common type is that of the kielbasa, as it is commonly sold as a whole sausage and not as links. Smoked sausage production is usually done in the same facility as other sausages with just an extra smoking step added to production.
A significant difference that you will see with traditional smoked sausages and commercially smoked sausage is the texture. Traditional smoked sausages will still have a nice ground meat texture to them, while commercial smoked sausages will have a very smooth texture, much like hotdogs where you can no longer tell that it is actual meat. This is due to the processing step of grinding the meat as fine as possible (sometimes almost to the meat reaching a paste-like state) and the addition of binders.
For uniformity, commercially produced smoked sausage will almost always use synthetic casings to ensure uniform size, shape, weight, and texture.
The sausages will then be either be thoroughly steam cooked then smoked afterward to add that smoked flavor, or they can be fully cooked in smokers.
There will also be sausages that are “Smoke Flavored” or “Smoke Infused,” which means that liquid smoke or smoke flavoring has been added to the meat to impart that smoky flavor without actually being smoked.
Small Batch/Artisanal Smoked Sausage Production:
Smoked sausages from small-batch or specialty butchers will typically be free of preservatives as the smoking process will naturally preserve the meats. As each butcher will have their own secret recipe and method, it is virtually impossible to describe the flavor profiles of all the available artisanal smoked sausage in each area. In most cases, the sausages will be smoke-cooked as opposed to being pre-cooked in another method then smoked for flavor.
Small-batch smoked sausages are usually more expensive than their commercial counterparts as they often use prime cuts of meats to stuff their sausages with. Not only are prime cuts used, but they will, more often than not, use locally raised animals that have been sustainably bred.
Preservatives and Chemicals:
Here are some of the additives that are commonly found in commercially smoked sausages.
- Mechanically Separated Meat
- Potassium Lactate
- Hydrolyzed Soy Protein
- Sodium Diacetate
- Sodium Erythorbate
- Sodium Nitrite
- FD&C Red 3 (food coloring)
- Annatto (natural food coloring)
- Synthetic Iron Oxide
As you can see, some commercially produced smoked sausages can contain a lot of ingredients that have been proven to be bad for your health (aside from natural food coloring and flavors). In fact, nobody uses these ingredients in the home setting or butcher shops. The use of additives and chemicals has grown exponentially to cut prices and raise consumption.
If you ever needed a reason to switch to supporting your local farmers and butchers, take a look at that list and ask yourself if you want to put all of those chemicals inside your body.
Commercially smoked sausages are vacuum packed in plastic bags to extend their shelf life as well as to protect them from contamination.
Artisanal smoked sausages are also vacuum packed to protect them from contamination and to extend their shelf life. However, some butchers who sell them on an order basis still just wrap them in butchers paper or wax paper.
Enjoying Smoked Sausages
Depending on how much you trust your butcher or supermarket, pre-cooked smoked sausages can be eaten directly out of their packaging.
For commercial smoked sausages, refer to the packaging for storage instructions.
For artisanal smoked sausages, since they are already cooked, they can be stored in the fridge for three to four days. They can also be stored in the freezer for up to nine months, but they are best consumed around the three-month mark.
Tip: When storing cooked smoked sausages in the freezer or fridge, make sure to seal them in airtight containers or in a Ziploc bag.
Smoked sausages can be reheated on the grill, on a pan, or in the oven to warm it up and intensify the flavor. Just be careful not to overdo it as this can dry out the sausages.
Smoked sausages are also added to a lot of dishes to add a smoky kick of flavor.