First time Summer Sausage - Master Forge Gasser - Feedback please

Discussion in 'Sausage' started by tjmitche, Dec 15, 2015.

  1. tjmitche

    tjmitche Smoke Blower

    My son-in-law and I had the opportunity this weekend to mix up 25 lbs of LEM Backwoods SS and make a first time attempt at smoking it in our Master Forge gassers.

    We're still in the learning curve after updating our smokers with some heavy duty steel plates.  We loaded both smokers with SS.


    For the most part I'm pleased with both the performance of the smoker and the outcome of the summer sausage.  

    I would love some feedback on the mixed results we experienced tho.

    Hanging in the smoker we were able to get four 20 inch long chubs in each smoker.  In hindsight I think we could pack it a bit tighter if we used shorter casings.  Due to the length we were very restricted in space. We had to raise the top rack to have it rest to the bolts near the roof. Even then only four would fit near the center so as not to hit the side flanges above the water pan.

    The other thing we'd do differently is use the clear casings. I think we'd have a better time seeing progress.  Cook time started around 1pm. We kept temps as low as we could, around 140 for an hour, then bumped to 150 for another couple hours.  Finally for the home stretch we moved up to 170 and settled there.  Total cook time was about 11 hrs.

    I have to say. In spite of the 20 mph winds we had here Sunday, and dropping temps all day, the smokers held their temps remarkably well.  We were able to fine tune with the side vents and temps never varied more than a degree or two. I would attribute this mostly to the nearly 70 lbs of extra plate metal that has been added to the interior. Lots of mass = steady temps.

    I decided for this cook to try my genius new location for the AMPS as well.  Location may be wonderful but if it doesn't work, well, not so genius.

    Lower door of the Master Forge, complete with AMPS mod location

    The idea behind this modification was that dropping the AMPS tube into a perfectly sized cradle right on the front door would make for easy maintenance and refilling.  Further, I thought I could avoid the flame ups and quick burns associate with placing it on the left side of the burner near the exterior vent.  Great idea, but all mods are not created equal and the issue with this one is I could not keep the tube lit.  Even if I left the door open to get a good burn going it would dwindle and die once I sealed it up.  I guess there is just too little oxygen in that location.  I haven't entirely given up yet.  I may work on adding ventilation holes slightly below the tube.  When not in use I'll set up a sliding metal plate to cover the holes. But I digress.

    The summer sausage took far longer than I expected.  I guess mostly because this was our first attempt at SS and I had no baseline. Around mdinight we finally hit 155. It was pretty interesting that both smokers hit temp within about 10 - 20 minutes of each other.  The ET-733 was fantastic to have. It allowed me to watch the chamber temp and internal temp of one of the chubs simultaneously.  The alarm chimed as soon as I hit 155.

    Finished product: Internal temp 155

    I dropped them from the smoker right into the ice bath.

    I monitored the internal temp and was surprised that it took over 10 minutes for the temps to drop below 105.

    From there they went into the fridge overnight. 

    Here's where I need some feedback.  The lower ends of the sausages had significant shrinkage and were quite a bit darker.  The tops were perfectly shaped.  My theory is the bottoms were victims of being closer to the heat source for so long in spite of the full water pan directly below them.  I did switch over to apple wood chips half way thru, after my AMPS ran out.  This may have contributed to more direct heat as well.

    Here is the "south" end of the finished product. It tasted a bit meally and you can see it appears the fat likely rendered.  Flavor was OK, but texture was not great.

    Note the casing contraction and the lack of fat marbling.

    The tops 80% of these same pieces couldn't look better:

    The texture is perfect, and the flavor, while a tad less smokey is fantastic. I think only the bottom few inches will be an issue.

    So what are your thoughts?  I don't think we did too bad for a couple first timers at SS.   

    Shorter casings? Slower ramp up? Does anyone flip ends half way thru a cook?   Other ideas.  

    I forgot to mention what we were cooking.  This is a 70/30 venison/fatty beef mix. We ground it in a #5 Gander Mtn grinder and then stuffed it with our brand new LEM 5 lbs stuffer.  

    They both worked like a dream.  With the stuffer we did in minutes what has taken us hours to do with just the grinder/stuffer.

    The beef came from deboning some very tasty looking beef rib tips.  My wife thought that was a bit of a tragedy but a sacrifice worth the cause.

    I'm looking forward to all you experienced fella sharing your thoughts and wisdom.


    Todd M
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2015
  2. crankybuzzard

    crankybuzzard Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Looks and sounds like the 2 of you have it going on!

    I agree with you about the bottom ends, they probably got too hot and had a fat out situation.  I haven't rotated before, but it might not be a bad idea, but a better plan would be smaller chubs   That would also possibly assist in getting done a bit faster.

    As for time, SS is like brisket, it has a mind of its own!  Some batches take 6-8 hours while others will almost go 24 before hitting the magic number.  

    Keep it up!
  3. crazymoon

    crazymoon Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    T, nice job on the SS, I like to use pork with my venison instead of beef but yours looks great.[​IMG]
  4. maple sticks

    maple sticks Smoking Fanatic

    Get some tiny S hooks so they hang higher.
  5. mfreel

    mfreel Smoking Fanatic

    I agree with your assessment.  The bottom ends were too close to the heat and you had a bit of a fat-out.  It happens to me, too, when I try to get to 180 too fast in the smoker.  I need to bring it up more gradually and then stick around 170.  But that means a lot more time to get to 165 IT.  I like going a little on the high side.  I think I may have to adjust my attitude down to 155.  
    tjmitche likes this.
  6. reinhard

    reinhard Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I think you should adjust the stick size to the size of your smoker.  I lay my sticks on the racks vs hanging for the most part.  But I would have had the same problem if I put the sausage so close to the heat source.  The amps does do a great job with the smoke, however it does give out some heat.  I make sure that I do not put any sausage near the amps [close] when I cold smoke as well.  As far as mix, I use pork instead of beef.  Straight pork butt.  I do not use pure fat.  Pork butt on it's own without the fat cap has a average of 35% fat content.  You did a great job on the stuffing and your methods used were spot on as far as temps ect.  We never stop learning.  At least here you can get a lot of help with ideas.  Reinhard
  7. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Into use a gas smoker at this time for summer sausage. I hang the chubs as you did. Mine however are further away from the heat source. I also use a cast iron griddle just above the burner to diffuse the heat and I also have the water pan in (no water).

    I use 5/8" wood dowels to hang the meat from. This allows me to get them up higher than what your system allows.

    I also ramp up the temp, I start as low as I can go. This depends on outdoor temp and wind. 130 is usually the lowest. With that said the other day I was able to maintain 120. I am using a needle valve for temp control. I wouldn't use a propane smoker without one. I leave my lower vents shut as far as they go and my exhaust is always wide open. Then I ramp up the temp 10 every hour until the smoker hits 180. It's a slow process and takes as you found out a long time. I have had them go anywhere from 10-18 hours. The more you load up the smoker the longer it will take too.

    Here's a few pictures of how I hang meat:

    Originally when I put the Tri tip in they were hanging to low so I adjusted my loops. When I hang chubs they are tight to the wood rods. I have 4 rods that I use and I can get 3-4 chubs on each one if needed.
  8. donr

    donr Smoking Fanatic

    I personally prefer to use the 1-1/2" dia. x 12" long casings.  They are already cracker sized and I don't eat near as much as when I crack open a giant chub.  This would also get the one end further away from the heat. 

    The small chubs should lay down on the racks and you would be able to fit quite a number of them in there.  You can also rotate entire racks if you wish.  I believe the only issue with laying them down is the racks will leave slight cosmetic marks on the casings.  If you roll the chubs every so often, I would think this would minimize the visual displeasure of the lines.

    Flipping the chubs would help a little, I have thought about it, but the set up I rigged is a little more difficult to do that.

    Folks also make there own muslin bags to make summer sausage in, you could make them any size you want.

  9. mds51

    mds51 Meat Mopper

    I have been making Summer Sausage or Salami for a few years now and have experienced almost everything you have shown and described. I use a MES 40 to do my smoking and have found that the Clear Collagen Casings from The Sausage Maker Company work very well for this application. I use the 65MM or 21/2 x 18 inch flat casings that are Pre-tied. I end up with four 13 inch long Salamis and enough left in the stuffer to make a little chub almost 6 inches.  I use 10 pound tubes of 80/20 Ground Beef and have had excellent results. One thing that I do differently than most is that I only smoke the Salami for 5 hours to get an internal temperature of 120 degrees and then I put them in a 170 degree hot water bath to get them to an internal temperature of 152 degrees. This method gives me a nice amount of smoke flavor and color but allows my seasoning blend to come through. I also hang the Salamis for two weeks in my high tech curing chamber ( third bedroom closet) and they lose 30 percent of there weight and become delicious hard Salami. This process uses Cure #1 and tastes like the Salami that you get in the Delis in New York and Chicago. They do the same thing with there Salami and the results are the same.

    As mentioned above I use small S hooks to keep the Salami above the water pan and I do not crowd the smoker. When I have done double batches or 20 pounds it works but sometimes the Salamis are too close and or touch the walls of the smoker. And of course it takes longer for the product to come up to proper internal temperature. I have found smoking more often and not crowding this type smoker gives me better results. For all of my smoking I use the AMNPS Pellet smoker and have never used the chip box once in this unit. The AMNPS has always given me the perfect amount of smoke I need for may various meats, fish and cheeses. I hope this helps and I wish my first attempt had turned out as good as yours.

  10. tjmitche

    tjmitche Smoke Blower


    I think going forward we'll just use shorting casings.  Until we use up what's left we'll either cut em in half or rotate throughout the cook.  The Master Forge just isn't built to hang 20 inch chubs in.

    I totally agree with your brisket analogy.  These stalled at about 144 degrees for a good 3+ hours.  Thought I was cooking a pork shoulder there for awhile.  But once they took off again it didn't take long to hit the magic number.


  11. tjmitche

    tjmitche Smoke Blower

    Actually there is a smidge of pork we used up in these as well. In half of the batch we have a 70/20/10 mix of Venison, Beef and Pork.  We'll taste test and see if we can see a difference, but usually we save the pork for brats and such.  But half the fun is experimenting.


  12. tjmitche

    tjmitche Smoke Blower

    Thanks for the feedback Reinhard.  Its true about the learning curve and this group has helped us short cut that to a large degree.  This has been sorta been my encyclopedia of smoking for the past year. Its awesome to put the knowledge to use.  Next batch will and shorter chubs and maybe on a rack high up vs hanging.  We'll see what our batch size looks like.


  13. tjmitche

    tjmitche Smoke Blower

    Thanks DS,

    The need valve is next on my list of Mods.  The original valve controller is way too sloppy and it tough to even know when you're moving it up and down.  Can you let me know which needle valve you added and where you got it?  

    As far as the vents go, I've had the opposite experience.  With 'em wide open I get the coolest temps and can bring up the temp by as much as 30 degrees by going from wide open to closed down tight.


    Last edited: Dec 16, 2015
  14. tjmitche

    tjmitche Smoke Blower


    Thanks!  Good stuff.  I like the idea of the 12" casings.  Not sure that would slow down my binging on the things once they're ready to eat though.  [​IMG]
  15. tjmitche

    tjmitche Smoke Blower

    Thanks fro the kinds words.  We would not have been this lucky on our first run had we not had the wisdom of this group to tap into.  

    I love your idea about the aging, however my wife may balk at the idea of hijacking a closet.  On the upside I could give up my Old Spice and just go with Odeur De Salami fragrance...  :)

  16. mds51

    mds51 Meat Mopper

    Funny you would mention the fragrance from the dry curing> I had the entire closet rod full of about 12 Salamis and some special Lop Chong I was making for the first time and that over powering fragrance was everywhere in the back of my house. One batch is not too bad but I am making more each week until the end of the year for parties and gifts so that over powering fragrance will return. I wish they could make a perfume from garlic!!!


    tjmitche likes this.
  17. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    The needle valve that I use I robbed off a rusted out Bayou Classic outdoor burner. You can get them at Amazon. Either with hose and regulator or the inline version that you cut your existing hose and put it in. Go to Amazon and type in Bayou Classic Needle valve. Check your fitting at the orifice if you go with the hose valve combo to make sure you get the right end. They have male and female fittings. For the inline valve you have to install  barbs into the hose to make it work. No matter what check all your joints for leaks before firing up.

    Here's a photo of mine.

  18. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I robbed mine off my burnt out Bayou Classic outdoor burner about 8 years ago. You can order them through Amazon, just make sure you have the right fitting. There are several types.  You can get them with hoses (male or female ends for connection at smoker orifice) or just plain inline valves that you need to cut your existing hose and retro fit in.

    When using my smoker I leave the smoker control valve wide open and use the needle valve to control the the flow of propane. I can consistently keep the smoker around 120 with babysitting and the lower vent closed. Or 130° with almost no baby sitting. I can go higher than 500° (my therm only goes to 500°) if I want, but I never do. Very small changes to adjust the temp. Less is more with a needle valve.

    With Hose, female end

    Inline vavle

    Photo of the one I robbed off my rusted out burner:

    tjmitche likes this.
  19. tjmitche

    tjmitche Smoke Blower

    I'm gonna have to take a peak at mine. If I recall I've got a crimped end that would have to be cut and replaced with a brass barb fitting.  

    Lots of choices on Amazon from Bayou classic.

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