Texas Hot Links

Texas Hot Links

     When I think barbecue, I think brisket and beans and potato salad and of course sausage!! To me, a barbecue just isn’t a barbecue unless some type of sausage is involved. Last year, I decided that I was going to embark on a journey. A journey to start making my own sausage. I’ve been reading books on the topic, scouring the internet and trying to learn all I can, but before this weekend, the only sausage I’ve made was a Kasewurst. This past weekend, I decided that we were going to try to make some more sausage (actually two kinds, you’ll have to stay tuned for the second one).

Two Pork Butts

The base for most sausage is pork butt. It tends to have the ideal meat to fat ratio, so you don’t have to mess around with adding more fat to get a juicy sausage. For our sausage, I got 16lbs of butt, figuring that after deboning, the meat should weigh in at about 15lbs. Not sure if my math was correct, but it seemed like a good idea to me.

Grinding

After the meat has been removed from the bone and cubed up into pieces that will fit into your grinder, it is time to grind….well, almost. Heat is your enemy when it comes to making sausage. The fat begins to melt and there are problems feeding the pork into the grinder. So actually, the next step is to take your meat and all the metal parts of your grinder and place them into the freezer for at least 30 minutes. Then, it is time to grind.

Grinding the meat

The grinder I use is a Kitchener #12 which can be found at Northern Tools. Its a great little start up grinder and I have no complaints with it at all. If I ever get into making bigger batches of sausage, I might upgrade, but it made quick work of the two pork butts. Wanna see what two pork butts all ground up look like?

That’s alot of ground up pork!!

I guess at this point I should go ahead and give you recipe I followed.  I had decided for my second batch of sausage, I wanted something with a little more kick….and something that said Texas. After looking around the internet for a while, I kept coming across Texas Hot Links by Kevin Taylor, the BBQ Guru. Sounded like as good a place as any to start.

Texas Hot Links
From the kitchen of Kevin Taylor, the BBQ Guru

1 (6 pound) pork butt
1 bottle beer
2 tablespoons black pepper, coarsely ground
2 tablespoons red pepper, crushed
2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons paprika
3 tablespoons kosher (coarse) salt
2 tablespoons mustard seed
1/4 cup garlic, minced
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon MSG (optional)
1 teaspoon Tender Quick
1 teaspoon bay leaves , ground
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon thyme, dried

Mix all spices with beer.
Grind pork for sausage.
Mix beer/spices thoroughly into the meat.
Form into sausage links and grill or smoke.

Spices

Above, you’ll see all the spices measured out. The beer is needed for the sausage, the Jack was needed for the cook. :) After mixing up the spices, and test frying a bit in a skillet to test (and adjust if needed), the sausage mixute goes into the refrigerator overnight for the spices and the tender quick to do its work.

Stuffed

 

Linked!

Ready to be smoked!

One thing I was worried about with this sausage was smoking it. That’s right smoking it, not grilling it. And not just smoking it like you would a normal brisket or butt at around 250. No, we planned on doing this one really low. Like 130F low!  I was worried about starting a fire that low and being able to maintain it on the Egg. See, Eggs tend to like to hover around 250F, or at least mine does. Any lower, and it tends to go out. But I had a plan. I got 3 good size chunks of lump charcoal and lit them directly on my patio. Then, using tongs, I transferred them into the Egg, put in my placesetter (legs up) and then my grate. Next I plugged in my Auber Instruments Pit Controller and set it for 130. If I couldn’t maintain the temperature with that, I figured I was up a creek. But luckily, it worked out.

Egg stabilized at 130, ready to start smoking.

For the first hour, I did not use any smoke. Just straight heat. I will admit, the Egg was wanting to creep up, but I was able to keep it under 135F for one hour.

1 hour in

Maybe this was going to work out. Maybe I was worried for nothing.

Close up

After one hour, I increased the temp to 140 and added a few pecan chunks (that I had pre-lit. I was afraid that they would not start to smoke on their own with such a low temperature and such a small bed of coals) and some apple wood chunks. Once again, I was not able to keep my temperature stable at 140, and it slowly started to creep up. At the end of the second hour, we were already approaching 150. 

Now here is where my plans changed. After 2 hours, I was going to increase it to 150 for an hour, and then 160 for another hour. But my fire took longer to get started than I anticipated (and let’s be honest, I took longer to get started than anticipated), so plans had to be adapted. At the end of 2 hours, I bumped the temp to 175F. 30 minutes later I bumped it to 200. Now we were really facing a deadline. We had made plans to go over to some friends house for dinner and we were running out of time. At the end of 3 hours, I bumped it to 250. Not what I had planned on, but oh well.

Smoking away

Coming up on 3 hours and 30 minutes, I had to take a reading. The last thing I wanted to do was to pierce the casing of the sausage and let the juice run out, but I needed to know and I wanted to be safe. So I chose a link on the end that wasn’t very pretty anyway.

Testing the temp

The sausage ended up taking 3hours and 40minutes to reach 160F (and I figured it would continue to increase in temp until hitting a minimum of 165 after I pulled it). We had done it, not according to the original plan, but we hit our target temp and would still be able to make it for dinner in time.

6 lbs of Texas Hot Links smoked and done in 3 hours and 40 minutes!

Since we were heading over to our friends house for a cookout, I decided that we should at least take some of the sausage with us to share….and have them be our taste testing guinea pigs. Let me just say, this was some HOT SAUSAGE!! Not like an overwhelming burn where you couldn’t taste anything else.  More of a back of the throat burn then lighting your tongue on fire. I could definitely taste the garlic as well as the notes the herbs gave it. WE like spicy food, but Mrs. G thought we needed to tone it down on the heat. Maybe all the black pepper, red pepper and cayenne pepper was just a bit too much. Mr. and Mrs. A, also agreed that is was good, but the heat could be toned down a tad. So next time, and there will be a next time, we’ll bring the heat level down a bit, but for a second attempt at sausage, not too bad. And we have plenty left over, vacuum sealed and frozen for later use.

Stay tuned…in the next day or so, we’ll share with you how we turned the other 10 lbs of pork into Hot Italian Sausage!

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61 thoughts on “Texas Hot Links

    • I just made up a double batch of this sausage and here is what I changed (based on reading the postings).

      1. Course grind the meat (plain) first and then mix in the seasonings soaked in beer. Let sit overnight and regrind, this time using the small hole. Then stuff and smoke.
      2. Switch the cayenne powder for chipotle powder. Takes a little heat away but still leaves plenty of flavor
      3. Switch the Hungarian paprika for smoked paprika
      4. Pink salt for the Morton Tenderquick (what I had on hand)
      5. Granulated onion instead of granulated garlic
      6. Omit the ground bay (I didn’t have any…)
      7. Add 1 teaspoon (per butt) ground cumin
      8. Smoke at a constant 160 degrees F (I’m using an Ole Hickory pit)

      • Sounds like some interesting changes. I’d love to hear how it comes out. When you say pink salt, I’m assuming you mean InstaCure #1 or a similar curing salt? If so, it is not a direct conversion 1 to 1. I’d have to go back and look at my notes to see how to convert, but there is a difference in actual salt (as in sodium chloride). If you go 1 to 1, it will either be too salty or not salty enough. You might try doing a quick Google search to see how to convert from one to another.

      • I had a feeling that they may not be a one to one swap, but I have done a taste test and the salt level seems to be just fine. I may not even use the stuff next time. I’m new to sausage making and am not always sure if I want/need the cure…They head for the stuffer this afternoon and the smoker over night tonight.

        The heat level seems just about perfect. I would personally want it hotter, but my customers prefer to not suffer when at work (my cafe is in an office park here in Redmond WA). With the addition of both the smoky chipotle and the smoked paprika I’m not noticing much of a smoke presence (yet)…The applewood will get it’s chance tonight!
        :)

      • If you are going to smoke it at a low temperature for long periods of time, you are going to need some type of cure in it. Otherwise, its in the danger zone too long and you increase the risks of making somebody sick (ie botulism) and possibly dying. Cured meat is not something to mess around with if you do not know what you are doing. Now if you were to grill the sausage, quick and fast, there is no need for a cure. Please do no put your customers at risk.

      • Have you tried the Green Chorizo from Seriouseats.com? I made up a batch a couple of weeks ago and it may be the best sausage I’ve ever eaten! Next time I make it, I’m going to use some roasted jalapenos along with the serranos for more heat

      • This batch had the pink salt. Smoked for 3 hrs and then cooled down. Grilled the next day. They seemed a bit dry…I used boneless butts for convenience. I wonder if that made a difference? Seemed like the butts had a decent fat cap and I didn’t trim anything but some minor bits. Flavor and texture was great however. I’ll keep trying! Next will be my interpretation of a Portuguese sausage called Salpicon. Cheers!

    • You should try it. It’s a little work, but very rewarding in the end. I’ve heard of them (think you might have even mentioned them to me before) but never had them. What are they like?

      • They are much smaller than the hot links you and I are used to — maybe two inches in length after cooked. Also, they are dark in color and gray in the interior. Sort of gummy. Perfect with Louisiana Hot Sauce and crackers. When you want to make a pilgrimage here, I’ll buy.

      • Any idea what they put in them? I tried looking them up, but couldn’t find a recipe. Someday I will make it out there. Maybe after you finish your kitchen. :)

  1. YUM. Sounds like the spice level is right up my alley too!

    Why smoking instead of grilling or doing a saute? Just wondering since I’m thinking we need to break out sausage #2 in our house!

    We have a standing smoker, so I could smoke it, just trying to gauge how to do this.

    If you’re trying to get rid of the extra, I’m just a few hours away. :D

    • Jen, this was more of a “cured” sausage than a “fresh” one. Adding the tender quick was part of that. Cured sausages are smoked to a safe temp and then will last longer, it was a way of preserving food before refrigeration. Once its smoked, it can be eaten cold or warmed up, but you no longer have to worry about cooking it or it spoiling.

      If you don’t want to worry about all that, I would stick with a “fresh” sausage recipe does not have tender quick, cures or sodium nitrate/nitrite. But it won’t have that nice red/pink color, nor that twang that cured sausages have.

  2. WOW…..I too have never made link sausage, even though I own the actually equipment. Your last sausage inspired me to order the casings, so now I will have to try both recipes at once….

  3. Nice job! We’ve never made our own sausage, but my husband wants to try. I’ve been looking at the grinder attachment for my Kitchenaid mixer.

    These look really good! :)

    • I’ve heard (and granted, I’ve just heard) that the attachment is good for grinding small batches of meat, but as far as stuffing sausage, it’s not that great. I may have heard wrong. You might look into getting a dedicated stuffer (academy, bass pro shop, cabela’s) or get a grinder like we have that also stuffs. It is a two man operation, though, with mine.

      • Before getting a dedicated grinder for my sausage, I used the attachment for a Kitchenaid mixer. As said above, its ok for occasional, small batches, but if you want to produce sausage like I do, it will quickly overheat!. Figure the grinder was a small investment compared to the wrath of my wife if I burned up her mixer.

      • I’ve heard good and bad things about using the KA Mixer as a grinder, but a dedicated grinder is nice if you can afford one. Next up is a dedicated stuffer.

  4. Makes me wanna make some more sausage. Very impressive, Griffin! If it’s too much heat for you and the Mrs., you can always send it my way. ;)

    • It’s something I’ve become interested in. You never know what they put in sausage, and this way you can control the ingredients. Plus, its just kind of fun and rewarding.

  5. My mouth is watering! The whole reason I got into smoking was strictly for sausage..before ya know it i have my own bbq team..oi!

  6. Nice job…I have the exact same grinder but it has a different name brand as I bought it a few years ago at NT as well. Just a couple of things. It is perfectly fine to smoke sausage at higher temps, and the higher temps are actually preferred as you run the risk of being in the “danger zone” too long if you keep your fire around 130°. You do not want to keep your food in this low temp range, as it can get ugly – no fun at all! You can always test out what the sausage will almost taste like by taking a small bit of it (once all of the seasonings have bene added) and cooking up or frying a little patty in a skillet on your stove. By going this route, you can easily add more of certain ingredients to get the flavor profile you are looking for. And you can also get the casings at Bass Pro Shops as well…nice entry!

    • Thanks for the comments, Phillip. With a “fresh sausage”, I would have been worried about smoking it at those temps. But this was a “cured sausage”. Any sausage that has a cure mixed in it, like Cure #1, Prague #1 or #2 or in this case, Morton Tender Quick, can be cooked at a lower temp and not worry about the “danger zone”. The nitrites and nitrates prevents botulism which would thrive in an anaerobic condition and at these temps. I would suggest anybody trying a cured sausage go with a reputable recipe as if you don’t know what you are doing, it can get ugly, like you said. The low temperature also prevents the moisture from being pushed out resulting in a juicy sausage. As for testing out the sausage, we did follow that trick, frying up a small batch in a skillet before stuffing the sausage.

      • Oops….I did not see that when I read through the post. No problems then…I have been making sausage for about 3 years now and it is a blast…need to do it again soon.

  7. Mmm, look at the juice coming out of those bad boys- yum! I love that you grind your own meat. If I had the equipment and the patience, I’d totally grind away. I also love that you added beer to the recipe. Beer makes everything better!

  8. Youre making my mouth water! My sausages are just about ready to come off. I did a pork shoulder and brisket fat. Im 15 degrees away from happiness! Those are some perfect lookin’ sausages you made there! Seems like youve done this before…lol

  9. This looks fantastic! Sausage making is something I’ve been wanting to get into but just haven’t gotten around to yet. You have me wanting to start right now. Would help if I had a grinder lol

    • Thanks for letting me know what you thought of it. It’s a constant journey to find that perfect sausage. All you can do is record what you’ve tried and tweak it a bit the next time you try it.

  10. Pingback: Fresh Bratwurst | Griffin' s Grub

  11. We made this recipe tonight using the picnic cut. The only substitution we made was to lower the amount of red pepper and sub cayenne for chipotle powder. Using the beer to dissolve the spices was genius, it really helped the flavor to incorporate into the meat! Like others, we found this recipe a little too hot, but it was really good nonetheless. We smoked it for about 3 hours over fruit wood and the natural casing had a really nice snap.

    • Sorry, I don’t sell or ship food items, w. I’m sure there would be all kinds of legal-ese stuff involved and I’m not set up for that nor do I want to be. I just offer recipes, tips and advice.

  12. Hi,
    I am interested in making this recipe. As I have not done sausage before, and I can only get casings in bulk, I was thinking of doing this as a sausage log. Any thoughts/tips on doing that? I don’t want to cook out all of the good juices.

    Jake

    • I have not worked with that kind of big sausage casings yet so I can’t help much. Do you have an Academy, Gander Mountains, Cabella’s, Bass Pro Shop, etc near you? They usually have sausage casings in bags for 25 lbs worth. Packed in salt and you can save what you don’t use. Maybe order it online from one of them. If not, is there a butcher in your area that makes sausage? They’ll usually sell you some. Or if you grocery store makes sausage, they might sell you some. Just some idea.

  13. All of the sausage I have done so far has been patty style (including this recipe) I am re-making this recipe and plan on stuffing it. I’m not familiar with casings and how the size/length relate to the amount of meat. What diameter natural casing should I buy for this, and how many feet?

    • For most sausages, I generally buy natural hogs casings packed in salt. Take 4 or 5 of them out of the bag and soak for 30 minutes, then rinse really well. IF you have any extra left over, let dry and put back in bag with extra salt and refirgerate or freeze.

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