Smoking Breakfast Sausages — taking good to great!

I like my breakfast meats.  Whether it be smoked ham, bacon, or breakfast sausage (or even hot links or chorizo, when I’m feeling adventurous), if I’m having a real breakfast, there had better be a breakfast meat involved.  Our Sunday School class has a couple of breakfast potlucks per year, and the first few years, the categories included egg dishes, potato dishes, fruit, and juice, but no meat!  So I wrote in my own meat category, and put my name there.  I did my smoked ham a couple of times, and I did bacon once or twice (wrapping it in foil and rushing it to our class, which is fortunately less than 5 minutes away), but one year I didn’t have a ham available, but I still wanted to smoke something, so I decided to smoke some breakfast sausage!

It was super easy, and turned out really well.  In fact, as soon as I opened the plastic-wrapped, foil-covered sausage plate in the room, every guy in the class picked up their plate and got in line!  I’m pretty sure I even broke somebody’s temporary no-meat diet with the smell of the smoked links.

You can use standard store-bought JohnsonvilleJimmy Dean, or Farmer John’s breakfast sausages, and while I have done both cased and uncased sausages, most experienced smokers recommend you use the cased versions.  Some brush their sausage links with maple syrup before smoking, but I don’t think these links need any additional help at all.

You can do this on any kind of smoker, and I’ve done it with my upright charcoal water smoker, as well as my offset firebox smoker.  If you are unsure how to set up a smoker, or what kind you might want, read my primer on smoking meats here.  Another guy who has a great website on the science of smoking is Meathead, from AmazingRibs.com, whose site I almost always consult when I’m smoking something new.

As I researched this post to see what other people have done, there is a lot of concern about smoking breakfast sausages sufficiently long to make them safe.  Any ground meat is more susceptible to contamination and bacteria than a whole cut of meat is, and most of those writing about smoking sausages were over-cautious about cooking them thoroughly.  One smoking chart I found that included breakfast sausages suggested cooking it at 230 degrees for 3 hours, to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.

Obviously, determing the internal temperature of a thin breakfast sausage link is tricky, and requires running a link through with a good digital probe. I did mine at about 250 degrees for about two hours, and they have turned out fine.   Had I done more research ahead of time, I might have been more concerned with how I did mine (without a temperature probe) and serving it to my Sunday School friends, but since I’ve now done it my way 4 times serving 15-20 people each time without a single food poisoning outbreak, I think my method is okay.

Because I’m not the kind of guy who gets up a moment earlier in the morning than necessary, waking up 3 hours before breakfast to properly start a smoker and cook the sausage has been pretty much out of the question.  Instead, I have always smoked my sausages the night before, and then re-heated them on a plate in the micro-wave shortly before serving them, and they have turned out great.

They work great as a standard sausage side by themselves, but I have also used them in omelettes and scrambles and they were really, really good.  You can smoke a big batch all at once, and freeze the rest, taking them out as needed as either a side or as an ingredient in other breakfast dishes.  It is safe to say, that smoking the sausages at home took them from a good breakfast meat to a great breakfast meat!

Jeff's Smoked Breakfast Sausage

Sausages laid out on the smoker grill.

Jeff's Smoked Breakfast Sausage

Sausages ready to eat! Notice you can see the water pan to the left.

Smoked Breakfast Sausages
 
Weight Watchers Info: PointsPlus Value & serving size vary by brand; calculate according to the package nutrition label. Farmer John Pork Links (4 PointsPlus for 2), Farmer John Original Links (3 PointsPlus for 2), Jimmy Dean Turkey Links (3 PointsPlus for 3), Jimmy Dean Pork Links (5-8 PointsPlus for 3), Johnsonville Breakfast Links (6 PointsPlus for 3).
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast, Brunch
Serves: Varies
Ingredients
  • 2 to 200 Cased Breakfast Sausage Links (Johnsonville, Jimmy Dean, Farmer John’s or whatever)
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat smoker (with water pan) to 225-250
  2. Add sausage links to grill, laying across the grates, ensuring there is at least a half inch of space between each one.
  3. Add 2-3 wood chunks (hickory, apple, pecan, almond) or a foil packet of wood chips to the charcoal.
  4. Smoke between 2-3 hours, until the meat reaches a temperature of 160 degrees with a probe, or until you feel they are thoroughly cooked (I refuse to be held responsible for any deaths resulting from undercooked sausage).
  5. Serve or save for later!
Notes
If your sausages are thin, and your grates are wide, and you are afraid you sausages might fall through, put aluminum foil over the grate and slice venting holes between the grates. This will allow the smoke and heat to penetrate, but keep the sausage from falling. You can also use a grill grid for this. If you use the off-set firebox style smoker, you may want to rotate your sausages halfway through cooking, as the sausages closer to the firebox will cook faster than those further from the firebox. That’s what I did in the pictures above, where you can see the more cooked sausages have already been moved away from the hottest part of the smoker.

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