Homemade Bologna Recipe on the BX50 Box Smoker

Hi, I'm Marlin Gingerich, Lavern's brother. I live in southeastern Iowa with my wife and one-year-old daughter. We live in the heart of farming country, and as I'm working on this bologna recipe, our property is surrounded on three sides by ten-foot-high corn. I have enjoyed cooking on Meadow Creek equipment for 13 years.

A few years ago a friend of mine asked if I would help them smoke some homemade bologna. I had never done it before, but I was eager to try something new. We learned a few things the hard way, but that first batch was a success. I am excited to share my homemade bologna recipe and help you step out and learn this fun art.


Choose a Recipe

If you’re new to making homemade bologna, it can look overwhelming. There are many types of bologna to choose from, and you need to make sure you have the right type and amount of cure.

  • Lebanon-style bologna is a famous sandwich meat, originating in Pennsylvania, but it’s not as readily available as some other types of seasoning blends.
  • You may be more familiar with the southern-style bologna with a texture more like a hotdog. Be careful not to confuse the two when shopping for the seasoning.
  • For this story, I’m making ring bologna, trail bologna, sweet bologna, and sweet Lebanon bologna.

Here are some homemade bologna sources we recommend:

Home Butchering Supplies

I order my supplies from Home Butchering Supplies in Antigo, Wisconsin. This old-school company doesn’t have a website, but you can order a catalog from them by phone or email and check out their bologna seasonings and casings. Their seasonings come with a cure packet and instructions for mixing the proper ratio of seasoning, cure, and meat.

Meadow Creek Barbecue Supply

This store does not carry any Lebanon-style bologna seasonings, but they have some delicious ones for ring bologna and summer sausage and a wide variety of casings and other meat processing supplies and equipment with online ordering.

  • Casings
  • Sodium nitrite/cure. This tinted curing salt can be used in any recipe that calls for pink curing salt, Insta Cure #1, or Prague Powder. Use this cure to make jerky, snack sticks, summer sausage, ring bologna, bologna, ham, salami, and bacon.
  • Wyld Seasonings. These come with a cure packet; those labeled summer sausage can be used for ring bologna.

Other Vendors

  • LEM Products carries a variety of seasoning blends, including trail bologna, and a huge variety of other meat processing supplies and equipment.
  • Con Yeager Spice Company has a Dutch Country Sweet Bologna seasoning that is similar to sweet Lebanon bologna.
  • Google sweet Lebanon bologna seasoningLebanon bologna seasoning, or trail bologna seasoning to see what’s available on Amazon or meat processing specialty stores.

Prepare the Meat

You don’t have to be a butcher to make your own bolognas and sausages. You can use fresh ground meat from the grocery store or even meat you have in your freezer, like we did for this story. If you’re using frozen meat, thaw it ahead of time in the refrigerator.

Measure out the appropriate amounts of meat.

  • I’m using 4 parts ground beef, 3 parts pork sausage (substituted for ground pork), and 4 parts ground venison.
  • You may also choose to use only 80–90 percent lean ground beef.
  • If you’re using only venison, I would add 10–20 percent fatty pork, pork fat, or ground beef (70–80 percent lean).

It’s best to mix the meat and stuff the casings the day before you plan to cook it, because it can take a few hours, plus hanging time.

Make sure your smoker is big enough for the batch size you’re making and tall enough for the length of casings you’re stuffing. Plan so you can hang the casings in the smoker without touching each other. Fill the casings and trim off the excess length to match the height in the smoker.

We made six rolls in four varieties. This makes the mixing part more complicated, but I like variety!

Usually the seasoning packs include instructions for the ratio of meat, seasoning, and cure.

Sodium nitrite (sometimes referred to as Insta Cure #1, Prague Powder, or pink curing salt) is the most common cure for this. The correct ratio for sodium nitrite is 1 ounce per 25 pounds of meat or 1 teaspoon per 5 pounds of meat. Buy the cure here.

The packs I use are usually for a larger batch than I make, so I use a digital scale to calculate how many grams of seasoning and cure I need for the meat I am using.

Dissolve the seasoning and cure in the correct amount of warm water.

Add the meat and mix it by hand or with a meat mixer until it becomes sticky. If you’re using a motorized mixer, be careful not to overmix it.

Optional: Mix in small chunks of high-temp cheese. Again, I like variety, so we did some with cheese and some without. I like to mix up what I think it will take to fill two casings, stuff the first one, and then add cheese to the rest.

Stuff the Casings

Certain kinds of bologna are usually made in specific sizes of casings, but I don’t have a stuffer, so I use large casings for all types of bologna so we can stuff them by hand. While I enjoy using fun gadgets, I am an advocate of working with what you have. These larger diameter slices can easily be cut into quarters to enjoy with cheese and crackers.

Stuffing by hand can be difficult, but having a second person helping is a major plus. Pack the meat into the casing one small handful at a time, pressing out any air pockets as you go along.

I’m using #8x20 fibrous casings (these are 20 inches long and end up with a diameter of 4.75 inches). These require presoaking in warm water. Follow the instructions that come with your casings.

We use hog rings to close the end of the casing, but cooking twine also works fine.

Refrigerate It

Refrigerate the bologna in the casings overnight to let the cure and seasoning work their magic.

Set up Your Smoker

I use my Meadow Creek BX50 cabinet smoker to cook the bologna, because it works well for hanging. First, I remove all the cooking grates, then I lay wooden strips above the top grate brackets for hanging the bologna. I use stainless hooks from Home Butchering Supplies to hang the bologna on the cross-pieces, but any steel wire hook should work.

Do not put water in the water pan, as you want to run it “dry”.


Load the Smoker

I prefer loading the smoker before lighting it, so I can arrange it without smoke in my face. Arrange the casings so they don’t touch each other or the smoker.

In my experience, you can easily fit nine large rolls of bologna in the BX50 Smoker, but expect the cook time to be longer.

Cook the Bologna

Fire your BBQ smoker at 155 degrees F for the first few hours. For this cook, I used my BBQ Guru temperature controller. 

This is how I like to fire my BX50 box smoker with a BBQ Guru temperature controller:

  • Load the smoker with eighteen pounds of charcoal briquettes and a few splits of dry smoking wood. This time I used a variety of mulberry, oak, and pecan.
  • Light the charcoal with a propane torch. Leave the firebox door and stack vent open and the torch on medium to low flame until the bottom smoker thermometer nears 155 degrees.
  • Remove the torch and turn on the BBQ Guru, close the firebox door and bottom vents, and adjust the stack to 1/4 inch open.
  • Add two fistfuls of dry smoking wood chips every hour. I used cherry and did this three times.

Two and a half hours after the smoker was up to temperature, I turned the controller up to 185 degrees. It took about thirty minutes to reach 185 degrees, and that's where I kept it for the rest of the cook.


Not using a temperature controller?

  • A temperature controller eliminates the need to dial in the vents and makes it easier to maintain the low temperature of 155 degrees F, but it’s not necessary.
  • It’s harder to lower the temperature in this smoker than it is to raise it, so pay attention as it’s coming up to temperature.
  • If you’re not using a temperature controller, light the charcoal and close the firebox door. Leave the bottom vents open until it reaches 130 degrees, then start closing the vents down to maintain 155 degrees. Leave the stack open all the time.

The bologna is done once the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. I check the meat with my instant-read Thermapen. The first four rolls were done at five hours, and the last two were done at six hours.

Soak the Bologna

Remove the bologna from the smoker and immediately submerge it in cold water to reduce the internal temperature quickly. I use a five-gallon food-grade bucket and soak the rolls for twenty to thirty minutes.

Cool the Bologna

Let the meat cool at room temperature and remove the casings. Refrigerate it for eight hours or overnight.

Slice

Slice the meat for sandwiches. This batch made close to four hundred slices, so you’ll want an electric slicer for this!

Look at that delicious homemade bologna!

Vacuum Seal and Freeze

Unless you are doing a small batch, vacuum seal and freeze most of your homemade bologna to keep it fresh. If you don’t have a sealer, you can use zip-lock bags and double bag it to keep it fresher.

Closing Tips

  • Sometimes when I’m smoking homemade bologna for my friends, they show up with more then I expected, but we cram it all in anyhow. This makes the smoker lag, and it takes a long time to finish it.
  • It can be challenging to keep a BX50 at a low temperature, such as 155 degrees, because it likes to creep up over time, so extra attention to this might be required.
  • If you’re grinding your own meat, do some research on proper grinding and mixing methods. Mixing the meat too much or grinding it too fine can make your bologna dry and crumbly. If you’re like me and don’t have your own grinder, ground meat from the grocery store and mixing by hand will give you great results.

I hope you'll give my homemade bologna recipe a try! Don't let all the possibilities out there confuse you. Follow my instructions and you'll find it's not very hard to smoke a batch of amazing meat for sandwiches and snacking.


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