How to Smoke Sausages on an Offset Pit

Sausage and BBQ go hand in hand. That is why smoked sausages are a staple of BBQ joints across the country. This is especially the case in Texas, where German and Czech influences and the availability of livestock came together.  

One of the stalwarts of Texas BBQ is The Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood, Texas. There they use a two-step process to cook their famed sausages. First, they gently warm the sausage by hanging them over open pits. Their pitmasters finish off the sausages on the grates of the pit over direct heat (Roberts 202). Using a similar 2-step process on an Oklahoma Joe’s offset pit produces delicious results.

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Step 1 Of 7
Starting the Fire
1. Start by building a low temperature fire in the firebox of your smoker. Load approximately 5 pounds or half of a charcoal basket of natural lump briquettes into your smoker’s firebox. Light one corner of the coal using 1-2 fire starters. You can use other lighting methods as well, but avoid dumping an entire chimney of hot coals into the firebox. Leave the firebox door and smokestack dampers wide open as the coals ignite. Ignition willl take around 8-10 minutes. Then close the door and open the intake vent on the door. Slowly close both the vent and smokestack damper as you approach your cooking temperature.
Ideal Cooking Temperature
1. Experts agree that gentle cooking is the key. Harold McGee explains that moderate cooking temperatures keep the interior from boiling and splitting the exterior of the sausage (171). If the casing splits, juices and flavor will spill out of the sausage. Kenji Alt-Lopez warns that too low of a temperature can result in a pale, yet overcooked sausage that shrivels up when cooled (513). A cooking temperature of 300-350°F is a good balance between the two extremes.
Cooking the Sausage
1. Once the fire is stable and clean burning, add a small split of oak or pecan wood partially over the section of burning coals. Let the wood ignite, and then place your sausages in the cooler section of your smoker, the area furthest from the firebox (if using a Longhorn Reverse Flow, take out the tuning plates for this cook).
2. Let the sausages cook at this lower temperature until they reach an internal temperature of 140°F. They should be firm to the touch but still look a little pale. The cook time depends on the sausages you choose. Fresh, raw sausages bought at a butcher will take 1 ½ to 2 hours. Cooked sausages found in the prepared meats section of a grocery store will only take 30-45 minutes.
3. Open the air intake vent to bring up the temperature. Shift your sausages from the cooler side of the smoker to the warmer section closest to the fire box. Let the sausages cook another 10-15 minutes, flipping once or twice. When the sausages reach 160°F and are deeply colored, it is time to remove them from the smoker.
Serving the Sausage
1. It is important to let the cooked sausages rest, but don’t wait too long. Scott Roberts, Pitmaster of The Salt Lick, notes that it is important to serve sausage hot so the fat coats the ground meat in the sausage (201). Three to five minutes is a good rest for a warm and juicy sausage.
2. Most BBQ joints in Texas serve the hot links, either whole or cut into sections, alongside beef brisket and maybe pork ribs. Of course, there is always the class white bread and onions option with pickles on the side. Smoked sausages are fantastic as an ingredient in other dishes like BBQ pit beans or red beans and rice. Want to impress a crowd? Serve up a sausage tray loaded with a variety of sliced sausages, smoked cheeses and other finger foods.
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