Confessions of a fisherman, hunter and tinkerer

Video internal temp for summer sausage

Ok, I want to cover the cooking for summer sausage and snack sticks and the Internal Temperature (IT) they need to be. I have seen people posting on the internet being told by kit information to cook to 162 or 165 internal temperature. So I am writing this because I am growing tired of retyping it on forums now that I have learned this. It is pretty easy to get snack sticks and hot dogs this high, but very hard with Summer sausage without having the smoker too hot.

When I first started I did the same thing and started shooting for 160° IT for the summer sausage. My wife insisted on it and I just listened. I ended up with fatted out and dry, crumbly, summer sausage. The problem with that is you need to keep the smoker under 180 and it is really hard to get an IT of 160° on a 3″ bologna only going to 180° in the smoker. So I raised the smoker temp to 190° and dried out the product. So, I started poking around, asking questions and reading a lot.

I found a lot of guys smoking to a IT of 152° in theirs and I thought that is better, but I want to understand the how and why. I started asking around more. I got educated, by my internet buddy Dave, which is probably reading this, as he follows my blog. Dave educated me to the FSIS Government standards for cooking sausages.

log lethality Confessions of a fisherman, hunter and tinkerer

There is a lot more to this chart, but I want to cover what I call the break over area in temperature, which would be 140-145°. Salmonella bacteria starts dying around 126° but you need higher or sustained temperatures to kill them all. Notice how there is a big change from 130° to 140 ° and 140 ° to 145 °. Even 150 ° and 152 ° are hardly noticeable in difference for time needed.

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So, you can get a log 7 kill at 130° in 2 hours if you hold that internal temperature. Once you get the internal temperature to 140° you only need 12 minutes. Then at 145° you need 4 minutes and 150° barely over 1 minute. to have a safe bacteria free product.

Ok, now lets cover the technical part which I did not understand right away. LOG, what is that? Well log stand for logarithm because it is the math formula that determined the length of time for cooking at that temperature. Different logs are the 10 time reduction in bacteria killed.

Logs defined in bacteria killed

  • 1 log = 10 times reduction in bacteria on the product
  • 2 log = 100 times reduction in bacteria on the product
  • 3 log = 1,000 times reduction in bacteria on the product
  • 4 log = 10,000 times reduction in bacteria on the product
  • 5 log = 100,000 times reduction in bacteria on the product
  • 6 log = 1,000,000 times reduction in bacteria on the product
  • 7 log – 10,000,000 times reduction in bacteria on the product

So I can get a 10 million times reduction in cooking to 158° immediately or I can cook to 145° IT and rest it there for 4 minutes plus. I don’t know the formula and won’t bother trying, but I tend to hold for 15 minutes at 145° IT and sometimes it creeps as high at 147 – 149° IT. So I am killing way more than a 10 Million times reduction and at a lower temperature.

I have found in my experience the lower temperature and hold times leaves me with a better product that is moister and never over cooked. In my smokehouse to get a 2.5″ to 3″ summer sausage to 160° IT, I have to get my smokehouse over 180° which is a risk for fat out on your sausages. Or they need to cook past 8 hours as it takes so long for that temperature to set in. There is always a variance of 10-20° in smokehouse to product IT temps. You need the higher cooking temp to set it into the summer sausage or product. The product, especially thick summer sausage, does not get to be the same temperature as the smokehouse.

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Plus my smokehouse has warmer zones near the bottom and the higher I raise it, the higher the difference in the heat zones. A 2′ summer sausage could be cooking at 178° at the top and in 190° or higher at the bottom and I have fatted out and dried out the bottoms.

So when cooking to 145 and resting the summer sausage and snack stick there for 15 minutes or longer I can be assured it all reached this temp and even if the bottom got slightly warmer it is in the low 150+ area. The product is cooked and very moist still. Plus, I have found I can eliminate the ice bath. I hate the ice baths, water gets under the casings and I needed to remove the casings or cut them and stand them on ends on paper towels to get the water out. Ice baths are only to cool the product and stop cooking. You only need to use them if you are on the verge of over cooking and you will not be, if you use lower cooking temperatures to finish the product.

I normally make my products after hunting season and it is cold and I just shut off the fire box and throw open the smokehouse door. I have watched those 148° summer sausage drop to below 120° easy in an hour and then there is no cooking going on. Even in the summer time they drop quickly in 80° days.

As I said, I learned all this from my friend Dave, the master on cooking safety and temperatures. Pretty much all this I have learned was by listening to his posts, private messages answering my questions and reading the links he posted.

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log lethality 2 Confessions of a fisherman, hunter and tinkerer

If you notice Dave is only cooking his sausage to 135° which is a lot lower than I am, but he is maintaining that temperature rest for 28 minutes. If you want to learn more on this and you can join the forum at Smoking meats forum dot com and learn about it there. He also posts a lot of stuff like this in the Food Safety section.

Learn to make better summer sausage at lower temperatures and never overcook it or need an ice bath to prevent overcooking.


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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>