Food Safety of Homemade Sausage and Cured Meats

stuffing sausage with electric grinder

Stuffing elk sausage into casings with meat grinder. Meat was cured with curing salt and trays and bowls were placed in freezer prior to stuffing.

You have probably heard that curing your own meat and making your own jerky and sausage can be dangerous. Just like making potato salad, if you allow food to get contaminated and then allow bacteria to incubate, it can make you sick or even kill you. So there are a few safety considerations when making your own jerky, curing meats or making sausage.

When you purchase products from our links, we earn commissions from qualifying purchases

But before you give up and decide to leave curing meat and making sausage to the professionals, consider this: In 2011, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimated 48 million people got sick (1 person in 6), 128,000 were hospitalized and 3,000 people died from eating contaminated food (CDC 2011). The vast majority of these illnesses were caused by a few giant food processors that control the beef, pork and poultry industry in the U.S. These processors are allowed to police themselves under the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system used by the USDA.

If the professionals make one out of every six people sick each year, I think we can do a better job ourselves if we know what the dangers are and have plans and processes to deal with them. Remember, every single ounce of beef, pork and chicken that has been recalled was supposedly inspected by your federal government and the giant food processors that basically tell the government how they want to be managed.

Five Things Must happen to cause Illness from Food:

  1. Food is contaminated with pathogenic bacteria or parasite
  2. Pathogen exists or multiplies to sufficient level to cause illness
  3. The Curing, Drying and/or Cooking process fails to kill pathogen
  4. Person eats contaminated food
  5. Person eating contaminated food is susceptible to the pathogen

It’s possible for a person with a good immune system to do everything wrong and still not get sick. But there are contaminates like Botulism that are potentially fatal to everyone, so we must assume that people will get sick if they eat contaminated food, especially those with compromised immune systems.

The reason we have immune systems in the first place is to kill invading bacteria, most of which enters our bodies through our mouths. Each of us eat millions of bacteria everyday, but we don’t get sick because not all bacteria are pathogens and because most of us can ingest small amounts of some pathogens without getting sick. We have to be careful because different people have different immunity to various pathogens. I can eat things that have no effect on me, but have seen others get sick. You may be able to eat a tainted hamburger with no problem, but that same hamburger may kill your children.

Thinking about DIY Making Sausage?

How Does Meat Get Contaminated?

Normally, wild and domestic animals (and humans) are walking around with organisms like Salmonella and E. coli in their intestines. Unless they have wounds or infections, the meat will be almost completely “germ free” while they are alive. But the instant an animal is shot or cut, bacteria can be introduced into the meat.

If the intestines are punctured, E. coli and other pathogens can get on and into the meat. Bacteria can also get onto the meat from the soil, from the animal’s feet or the hide. Contamination can also come directly from people handling the meat.

If we assume all meat gets contaminated, them to make sure the meat is safe to eat, it must be properly handled, dried, cured and/or cooked to kill all pathogens. Since we have to grind or slice meat before we can add curing agents or cook the meat, we must also do everything possible to prevent pathogens from multiplying in the first place.

Ground Meat has Highest Risk of Contamination

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, poultry and ground meat have the highest risk factors for causing illness. This is due to improper handling during butchering and packaging. Steaks and roasts have a medium risk factor because they are less vulnerable to contamination than ground meat or raw sausage.

hand grinding elk meat

Hand grinding elk meat and beef fat. Start with cold grinder parts and grind small batches so it can be returned to the refrigerator quickly.

The risk is lower for roasts and steaks because only the outside of those cuts (usually) are touched by contaminated hands, knives or surfaces, but all parts of ground meat and sausages have the potential for contamination as every morsel has been ground and mixed together. The problem is especially bad with mass produced ground meat because many different animals are involved and that increases the chance for the entire batch to be contaminated.

Grinding and mixing also increases the amount of Oxygen, which increases the growth of aerobic microbes. Combine that with the probability that ground meat spends more time at warmer temperatures, the chance of bacterial growth increases further. Since most sausages are made by grinding meat, they have a high risk for contamination.

Also be aware that some meat processors mechanically tenderize steaks, meaning the steaks have been stabbed many times to break up the fibers (Mechanical Meat Tenderizer). Mechanically tenderized steaks would have an increased risk of contamination, but since the USDA does not require labels on mechanically tenderized meat, you may not know.

DIY Game Processing

white tailed deer on scale

White-tailed deer at check station. Doe had not been field dressed when it arrived.

The risk of contamination from many animals is a good reason you should process your own deer or elk. Many game processors mix all the deer or elk together (deer with deer; elk with elk), so you have no way of knowing how everyone else handled their wild game before it got to the processor.

A friend dropped his deer off at a game processor and started to leave, but was told to wait a few minutes and they would load him up. He left with meat, but none of it came from the deer he shot.

I’ve seen too many deer and elk in the back of trucks that still had the guts in them many hours after they were killed. And people wonder why game tastes “gamey”.

If you still insist on taking your game to a processor, you should look the butcher in the eye and ask “Do I get back the same meat I bring in?”

Food Safety Precautions

Given the fact that contamination is likely, you must take steps to prevent the spread and growth of the contaminates.

  1. Clean – Wash hands, knives, utensils, cutting boards, bowls and grinding parts before and after every use.
  2. Separate – Keep clean hands, knives, utensils, cutting boards, bowls and grinding parts separated from dirty ones – keep cured or cooked meats separate from raw meats.
  3. Chill – Keep all meat, bowls and grinding parts as cold as possible. Marinate in the refrigerator.
  4. Cure and/or Dry and/or Cook – Use correct amount and type of Curing salt and/or heat all meat and jerky until minimal internal temperature of 160°(F) is achieved (165°(F) for poultry).

Keep Hands and all Equipment Clean

You’ve all seen this before, but seriously, wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food, using the bathroom or handling pets. Wash cutting boards, bowls, knives, utensils and counter tops with hot soapy water before and after preparing each batch of ground meat or sausage. Consider using paper towels or have many clean hand towels ready for use.

Using gloves can help keep things clean, but only if you can put them on and take them off without contaminating the gloves or other items. Remember all the trouble the health care workers had removing gloves contaminated with Ebola?

Don’t Cross Contaminate

Bacteria are spread by cross-contamination. When handling raw meats, keep the meat and the juice away from plates and food that is ready to eat. Keep bowls of meat on the bottom shelf in the refrigerator so they can’t drip on other items. Always start with clean hands, boards, bowls, knives, utensils and counter tops. Remember that a contaminated hand that touches a clean glove, bowl or hand towel contaminates that item.

Keep Food out of the Danger Zone

Food that is kept between warmer than 40° and less than 140°(F) (4.4° – 60° C) is in the danger zone. That is because bacteria can grow on food stored between those temperatures. Food that alternates between the counter top and refrigerator during processing can grow more bacteria each time it warms up. All refrigerators should be set to less than 40° F. All food that has been cooked should be kept higher than 140° F until served. Remember this next time you eat at a buffet or are forced to try Aunt Edna’s potato salad at the family reunion.

So how do we grind meat, slice jerky or make sausage and keep the meat cold?

  1. Keep all bowls, grinder parts and meat cold until used. Meat and fats can be cut into strips and partially frozen prior to grinding.
  2. Grind small batches so all meat, bowls and grinder parts can be returned to the refrigerator or freezer quickly.
  3. Use bowls of ice to keep meat cold when it can’t be held in the refrigerator or freezer.
  4. All meat should be thawed or brined in the refrigerator or a cooler to prevent the outer portions from rising above 40° F.

Curing Meat

Since we must assume the meat has been contaminated, we must assume that bacteria will be multiplying on and within the meat anytime the temperature is above 40°F. To counteract spoilage, man has cured meats with saltpeter (Potassium nitrate) since the Middle Ages.  Curing prevents or slows spoilage due to fungi or bacteria.

Modern curing salts are a mixture of table salt and Sodium nitrite and contain a pink dye to mimic the color of fresh meat. The meat industry likes to say that consumers prefer the look of cured meats compared to meat that would otherwise have a grayish color. That may be true, but since I know it is only a color difference, I would prefer not to have the dye, but have not been able to find a source. But since curing salt can be toxic if too much is used, the color also helps to distinguish between normal table salt.

Note: Always label Curing Salts properly and keep out of reach of children

Curing Salt comes in two types Curing Salt # 1 (A.K.A. Prague Powder #1 or Pink Salt #1) and Curing Salt #2 (A.K.A. Prague Powder #2 or Pink Salt #2). Curing Salt # 1 is used for meats that require a short cure, meaning the time between grinding and seasoning to cooking and consuming is to be relatively short. Curing Salt # 1 contains 6.25% sodium nitrite and is for products like fresh and smoked sausages and corned meats that will be cooked or frozen immediately after processing.  Curing Salt # 2 contains 6.25% sodium nitrite and 4% sodium nitrate and is for products like hard salami and country ham that take weeks or months to cure. The time period is long enough that the sodium nitrate should be converted to sodium nitrite.

Curing salts are a necessary precaution against Botulism when making sausage. The cause of botulism is Clostridium bacteria, which require a warm, moist, slightly acidic, oxygen free environment. That is exactly what happens when meats (especially sausages) are slow smoked. Clostridium bacteria are easily killed when cooked. Even if they are allowed to grow, the toxin which causes botulism is easily destroyed by cooking to 176° F (80°C).

Are Nitrates/Nitrites used to Cure Meat Bad?

Perhaps this should be a separate post, but since we are discussing curing salts, this is probably a good place as any. After much research and deliberation, we have made the educated choice to continue using curing salts that contain nitrates and nitrites. There seems to be lots of unclear information about the dangers of these compounds in cured meats. Many processors are using “Natural” cures derived from celery seed. The problem with that is the amount of natural nitrate/nitrite in celery seeds is and unknown quantity, but much higher than found in curing salts. We know the exact amount of nitrate/nitrite in curing salts and we know exactly how much to use to protect our food.

According to Junkfood Science, Vegetables are the primary source of nitrites that account for about 93% of nitrites we get from food. “One serving of arugula, two servings of butter lettuce, and four servings of celery or beets all have more nitrite than 467 hot dogs. (Junkfood Science Article) And your own saliva has more nitrites than all of them!”

In other words, your spit contains far more nitrites than anything you could ever eat. This is because our bodies concentrate nitrites in the saliva to fight bacteria in our mouths and stomachs. I am no longer afraid of eating nitrates or nitrites from cured meats. That does not mean I think it is healthy to eat cured meats every day and it is a decision everyone has to make for themselves and their children.

Cooking and Smoking Meat

If you refer back to the section about keeping food out of the danger zone, you will remember that foods should be cooler than 40° and more than 140° (F) to keep bacteria from growing. How do we do that when we want to smoke meat or sausage? The meat can spend hours in the danger zone.

A whole pork shoulder or beef brisket can be slow smoked because the outside of the meat is where most of the bacteria should be. The outside of the meat is usually rubbed with salt and spices or the whole piece of meat has been brined. The salt kills or slows bacterial growth and the temperature of the outer portion of the meat quickly rises above 140° F. Also, the smoke is deposited on the outside of the meat and this also kills bacteria. This is how meat can be slow smoked for 12 – 14 hours with little risk of making someone sick. If you like to inject brine into the meat, you should consider the possibility of introducing bacteria deep into the meat where it will be in the danger zone for a long time.

Smoking sausage is a different story and is exactly why you need to cure the meat first (curing salt#1). First, the meat is ground, so all parts have equal probability of being contaminated and second, slow smoking sausage sets up perfect conditions for Botulism to grow.

The center of the sausage may take a long time to warm up above 140° F and even longer to the final cooking temperature of 160 – 165°F. Also, sausages need to be slow smoked so the fat doesn’t render and drip out. As example, you might start smoking sausages at 130° for the first 2 hours to dry the casings. Then increase the temperature to 165° F until the internal temperature of a test sausage reaches 165°F (2 or more hours).

Our ancestors have a long history of curing meats and making sausages. They were tough, knowledgeable people, but had little technology. We may not be as tough, but we have more access to information and technology than they had. If we make sure to keep things clean, use modern curing salts and pay close attention to temperature, we can keep these skills alive and not have to depend on industrial farming and processing for all of our food.

More Information about Food Safety of Sausage Making

Need some upgrades for your cooking?


  1. The pink color of cured red meat comes from the reaction of Nitrite with Myoglobin, not from the dye. White meat, like chicken or turkey, with no Myoglobin, will not turn pink, or not as much, when cured. Morton Tender Quick has no dye, but has much less Nitrite than Cure No. 1, so more is required for curing (1 Tbs per Lb, recommended).

    Thanks for an informative post, as pretty much all of your posts are.

  2. Kyle Tucker says

    In the paragraph about curing you say this.
    ‘The time period is long enough that the sodium nitrate should be converted to sodium nitrite’.
    I assume you meant it turned into something different.

    • Hi Kyle: Yes, the sodium nitrate converts into sodium nitrite over time. Think of it as an extended time release when dry curing meat that requires a long time. Prague Powder #1 does not contain sodium nitrite and is used for meats requiring a short curing time. Meat requiring a long curing time should be cured with Prague Powder #2. You should not use Prague Powder #2 for meats that will be cured and eaten quickly.

  3. Is it OK to wash prosciutto under warm water? (Because the rind is so oily).

    • Do you mean wash the prosciutto and store it back in the refrigerator?
      Or do you mean to wash it and eat it right away?

      Do what you want if you plan to eat it.
      But if you intend to store in the refrigerator, you can wipe away excess grease, but I wouldn’t wash it.

      Prosciutto is a dry-cured ham. If you introduce water, you also introduce potential “habitat” for undesired microbes.

      The chance of undesired microbes growing in the refrigerator is low, but why chance it. Water will also change the texture.

  4. Brant Jurgens says

    You mentioned that cooking meat to 176F will kill botulism?
    I ask this because I’m wet curing (for 5 days with prague #1) some beef for making pastrami and was curious if any botulism spores that might potentially grown during the cure would be destroyed when I cook the meat. The meat will be hot smoked and then heated/cooked to 195F+.

    • That is not exactly what I wrote… I said the botulism toxin is destroyed by cooking to 176° F.

      “…the toxin which causes botulism is easily destroyed by cooking to 176° F (80°C)”.

      Botulism spores can survive boiling for a short time. Temperatures in the range of 240°F to 250°F (115°C to 121°C) are needed to kill the spores.

      Read more here.

      The entire point of using the Prague powder/curing salt is to prevent the growth of botulism in the first place; as is using acid (vinegar) for canning vegetables where you don’t use the nitrites found in curing salts.

      If you follow directions carefully to add the correct amount of curing salts, the meat will be safe.

      Let me know how your pastrami turns out.

      • Brant Jurgens says

        Copy that! Thanks for the clarification. I’ll let you know how it turns out… hopefully botulism free 😉

  5. Patty Bittner says

    We made brats with 50/50 deer and pork and high temp cheese using Excalibur seasoning and cure #1. It was red colored an after cooking on stove top… it tasted good but turned gray. I have never seen this before. Why did this happen? Is it safe to eat when it turned grayish?

    • Patty:
      First thing, I am not going to tell you your brats are safe or not, because I don’t know anything about how your meat was handled or how your brats were cured.

      I am more concerned with your description of “red” than gray. Cured meat should have pink color not red. How much curing salt did you use?

      Who knows what additional ingredients, preservatives or food coloring you added with the flavor packs and with the high melting point cheese?

      So I’m guessing you witnessed combination of chemical and/or heat reactions. (look up Maillard reaction)

      As meat proteins are cooked, they are denatured (chemical/physical structure is changed) so they can change from pink to tan to brown and even gray. Oxidation also happens after air and heat are combined.

      You will have to make the call to determine if your brats are safe. Double check the amount of curing salts you used.

      Just make sure not to eat green sausage.

  6. Thomas Emanuel says

    I used high mountain snack stick. I ground and stuffed the casings last night. But couldn’t smoke and cook it all tonight. Will the last 8 pounds of already stuffed sticks be OK one more day in fridge or does it need cooked tonight?

    • Hi Thomas: My post provides guidelines for a DIY sausage making. I have no idea what is in the kit you used, perhaps they include instructions and that is where you other question should be directed?

      But if the mixture is in the refrigerator at less than 40°F, bacteria growth will be minimal.

      The FDA calls any temperature between 40° – 140°F “The Danger Zone”. That is a simplistic approach, but will keep most people out of trouble if they follow that guideline.

      Basically, most bacteria can double their growth rates with a 10°C (18°F) increase in temperature. So bacterial growth will be very slow at 40°F and a little bit slower at 39°F.
      If your fridge is actually at 45°F, bacteria will be growing a little bit faster, but it should be OK for another day or so until you cook it.

      Most of the problem with slow smoking sausages is they will be in anaerobic conditions (no available Oxygen) and at temperatures between 80°- 140°F for a long time. Those temperatures will allow bacteria to grow quickly and it also has the potential to grow Botulism. That is why the meat needs to be cured with the curing salts; Curing Salt # 1 (A.K.A. Prague Powder #1 or Pink Salt #1) or Curing Salt #2 (A.K.A. Prague Powder #2 or Pink Salt #2).

      Good luck.

  7. I have an old recipe for sausage (40 yrs old).
    It calls for 4 tblsp. of curing salt for 5# of hamburger and slow cooks in the oven at 160 degrees for 9 hours. (After sitting for 24 hours)

    (Recipe states curing salt can be obtained from a feed store.)
    Is there a difference in today’s curing salt from curing salt 40 years ago.
    I want to make this recipe but am worried about using to much curing salt. I followed this exact recipe 40 years ago and it was awesome.

  8. Use Freeze-Em-Pickle when curing the meats which will keep that “redish” color and preserve flavor.

    • Freeze-Em-Pickle is an old product, which I can’t find any evidence online that it is sold anymore. Scott can you still buy it?

      I found a 1922 book online that talks about using it to cure hams. If so, this is not intended for short term cure like sausage, and especially not for smoked sausages.

      Evidently, this cure uses a fair amount of sugar. This may be OK if I wanted to sugar cure a ham, but not something I want in all of my sausage recipes.

      I also would not use this unless I could see a full list of ingredients. The documents I found online were very old, before ingredient lists were required (not that they are very complete today).

      It is possible that Freeze-Em-Pickle contains nothing except nitrate/nitrate and sugar. The amounts of nitrate/nitrate needed to cure meat is very well understood today. Who knows how much they used before the 1930s.

      Another reason I don’t think this product is available, I found where the trademark has not been renewed (amazing how you can get lost on the internet).

  9. Hi, great article. If I missed this I’m sorry but how long do I need to cure my venison sausage links before cooking them? I’m making some with 50% beef fat as a first time try.

    Thanks for the photos Sid. Looks good to me. Sid says this is about 15 lbs.

    Photo of Sid’s venison sausage ready for the smoker

    Here you go! My wife says it’s the best ever!

    Pic2 – Sid’s venison sausage after smoking

    • Hi Sid. You do not need to wait on the cure to take effect. I am sure there is a short time factor for the salt and nitrate/nitrite to kill bacteria and fungus, but that happens during the mixing process. But curing salt will not work forever.
      Make sure to keep everything that touches the meat clean and cold and get it back in the fridge or freezer as fast as possible.
      If your sausages are going in straight in the freezer, you probably don’t need to cure them at all because there is little chance for bacteria to start growing. If you are going to smoke them, you definitely need to add curing salt because bacteria will start growing while the meat is slowly heating in the smoker.
      Good luck on your venison sausage. Send me a pic and I will post it here.

  10. Sid,
    I have some link Sausage made without enough seasoning that I have made by a meat processor and it’s in need of more pork. Presently the sausage is dry with some smoking. Can I take the sausage out of the casing and add fresh pork, seasoning and the appropriate amount of curing salt and resmoke the sausage? This is after the sausage has been stuffed back into the new casings. would it be safe to do this?

    • It would be safe if you take all of the necessary precautions…
      But part of the sausage will be overcooked to get the new portion cooked…
      I don’t think it will mix well…
      Instead of monkeying with this sausage, keep it to use in dishes like soups and stew where you wont notice it being too dry…
      And spend your effort and money on making a new batch with more fat and seasonings.

  11. Quick question….I just made some ground jerky snack sticks and some summer sausages and after mixing and stuffing the first batch I realized the scale I was using was inaccurate. I almost had double the weight as I thought I had. The recipe says to use 2 tablespoons of cure per 3 pounds of meat and I ended up having roughly 5 1/2 pounds so my cure measurements are off. Do you think it will be safe to eat or have any suggestions? I plan to smoke them to the 165 degrees per instructions. BTW they have been “curing” in the refrigerator overnight. Thanks for any help

    • Sorry for slow response, I’ve been hunting… I hope you found an answer before now. One danger with curing salt is to have too much. Obviously, if you had more meat than you thought, that is not your problem. The other problem is getting enough cure in the meat to prevent bacteria from incubating at the low smoking temperatures. You could have added more cure when you realized your mistake before you smoked it.

      Meat being slow smoked inside of casings is where we have to be very careful. Some bacteria can grow at 165°F, especially while it will take the meat several hours to achieve that temp. In addition, the casings prevent Oxygen from reaching the meat, which sets up the anaerobic conditions for Botulism.
      The be completely safe, if you have any reason to believe the Botulism toxin is present, it can be denatured (broken down/destroyed) by cooking…

      Lots of info about botulism on the internet, but the simplest explanation about safe temperatures for cooking I found comes from Food Safety Authority of Ireland
      Pasteurization: 70°C (158°F) for 2 minutes) will kill Cl.botulinum bacteria but not its spores.
      To kill the spores of Cl.botulinum sterilize at 121°C (250°F) for 3 minutes.
      The botulinum toxin itself is inactivated (denatured) rapidly at temperatures greater than 80°C (176°F).

      Dropping those sausages into stew or soup and boiling them would make them safe to eat if you are concerned.

  12. I had leftover cured bolonga seasoned meat half venison and pork how long will it last in the refrigerator until I can smoke the leftovers. Thanks Wade

  13. Good information, thanks.

    I’ve been making my own ground venison for a few years now. Typically mix in 10% beef or pork fat and/or Boston butts depending on price and availability. I usually do some as unseasoned hamburger and some as bulk sausage with prepackaged Italian seasoning. This year started doing stuffed link sausage, smoking for a couple of hours at about 180° then shrink wrap and freeze. It is cooked on the grill until browned before eating.


    Is there enough salt in the seasoning mixture to safely cure the meat, or should the curing salt still be used? If so, should less cure be used considering the salt in the seasoning?

    Would it be safer to forego the smoking process? If smoking, would it be safer to fully cook the sausage in the smoker before freezing?

    • If you are cooking meat at high temp, you don’t need to cure it. The problem with sausage, is low temps are necessary so fat doesn’t render out plus the casing can create anaerobic conditions… Botulism is what we are afraid of… Use the curing salt for slow smoked sausages. Fully cooked has nothing to do with it… (Though many sources say give times and temperatures at which spores and toxin can be broken down)

  14. Travis Smith says

    Getting mixed answers. Just need some help. I just made a big batch of venison sausage. 60/40 venison/pork. kosher salt, spices, all mixed in. I got about 40 links stuffed and it hit me that I didn’t add my nitrates to the batch. First time this has ever happened. Felt so dumb. I smoke the links in a smoke house, cold smoke, for 3 days. Let it dry for about a week. Then normally pull down and chow down. Having forgot the dang nitrates, do I need to just throw all that meat out? Or is there a way to can keep from wasting it all? 30 years of doing this and I make a rookie mistake. Thanks in advance.

    • The big fear of slow smoking sausage is the risk of botulism (long time at low temp and no air inside casings)…
      The CDC site says “If in doubt, throw it out”…
      But we know botulism toxin is destroyed by cooking…
      That is why canning (esp. of low acid veggies) needs to be done in pressure cooker…
      Many sources agree that boiling for 1o minutes will kill all botulism spores and break down any toxins…
      That said, nobody will tell you it is OK to eat. That decision is yours alone.

  15. I am making sausage this weekend and am relatively new to the process. I plan on using a premix from local butcher that uses cure.

    I have a few questions/concerns though. My smoker is not large enough to smoke all of my sausage so my plan is as follows following making the sausage:
    1. Smoke the sausage I can fit and freeze the reminder of the sausage that will not fit in the smoker.

    2. Pull out an unsmoked sausage ring from the freezer and bbq or smoke from raw to 165F. Is it ok to prep and cook the sausage this way with a cure or does it have to go through the “heating” Potion of the process when it is first made?

    • If you are going to smoke the 2nd batch quickly, I would not worry about putting in the freezer, the fridge (if less than 40°) will be OK, because you are putting curing salt into it… better to just smoke the 2nd batch straight away instead of freezing, waiting to re-thaw and then smoking.
      If you can’t smoke it back to back, then yes go ahead and freeze.
      Use premix the first time while you are learning, but it is not truly DIY until you do it from scratch… (who knows what kind of junk is in a premix?) If you make your own mix from scratch, you know what’s in it.
      Good luck and enjoy

  16. Hello. I have been making my own ground venison jerky for about ten years. I really enjoy the whole process trying several different recipes and experimenting with different spices. I get all my spices from the sausage maker and follow the directions adding the appropriate amounts of spices and cure. The question/questions I have are:
    1. After the smoking process and packaging the jerky sticks in food saver sealed bags, do the packages need to be refrigerated?
    2. I just started using hi-temp cheeses in my jerky process, and the answer may lie above with the first question and then the point will be mute, but does hi-temp cheese that has gone through the smoking process and packing process as above need to be refrigerated as well?
    Thank you!

    • Hi B2… Historically, meat was preserved by salting and/or smoking and/or curing (with curing salts) without refrigeration… So if it is cured properly refrigeration should not be necessary. But since we already have refrigerators and freezers, why not store them in the fridge or freezer even if it is not “necessary”.
      I know nothing about high temperature cheese, and after looking at the ingredients, it is not something I would use.
      I would prefer to add natural cheese to the sausage when prepared for the meal.
      That said, depending on the variety of preservatives added during “processing”, the shelf life could be many months. But since you are mixing it with meat and making sausage, the potential exist that some kind of bacteria or mold could grow on it.
      Remember, old timers never refrigerated the mayonnaise… buy itself, almost nothing will grow in it, but mix it with eggs and or potatoes and it can grow all kinds of things.
      Why not refrigerate it?

  17. I used cure on my first attempt at making kielbasa.. after about 4.5 hours it was just getting to 142. About 30 minutes later it had fallen back below 140 to 138. Should I be concerned about this? I pulled at that point and finished cooking in hot water

    • I wouldn’t worry if you finished by boiling…
      That should raise internal temp to safe level and breakdown all (if any) Botulism toxin.

      There is usually a temperature stall when smoking meats, but not usually a temperature fall…
      My first question would be did your smoker turn off, run out of gas, get unplugged or lower the temp for any other reason?
      Second question would be do you trust your thermometer?
      Third thing would be do you take the temperature in the same place in the meat? That could be a big difference in large portions of meat, but would not expect that with sausage, since all pieces would be about the same thickness.

  18. It was odd! It is a charcoal smoker! The temp was up and down a little during the process as I tried to keep it between 170-200. The pit temp was 185 when I noticed the meat temp falling.. I don’t completely trust the thermometer that I was using at the time (wireless) but after they went into the hot water I used my thermapen which I do trust. In general, is there a timeframe to get the meat out of the danger zone in your opinion? Or is it the pit temp that is important if cure #1 is used?

    • Yes, can be lots of temperature variation with charcoal. Lots of good meat thermometers available now..
      Smoking sausage is a special case…
      First, the sausage is in a casing, which blocks out air and sets up conditions for botulism to grow…
      Second, we have to smoke slowly to the fats don’t render out before the sausage is cooked.
      Without curing salts, sausage would be in the danger zone the entire time the mixture is between 40°F and 140°F.
      But that is the entire point of the cure… to prevent bacteria from growing in the first place.
      As long as we use the correct curing salt for the correct purpose and use the recommended amounts, we should be safe. Low tech people have been doing this for centuries.

      We don’t worry about smoking a pork shoulder… we simply smoke it until it reaches our desired temperature, which may take 14 – 16 hours.
      We do have to worry about sausage because of the reasons I listed above, but that is why we use curing salts.

      I have done corned beef and elk both ways. Corning simply means brining and that can include curing salts.
      But since I was not worried about a supper slow smoke time (which means in the “danger zone” for a long time), I brined meat for the smoker without using curing salts, but would never try this with sausage.
      Good luck and enjoy.

  19. Hello, thanks for writing this article.
    I would like to make my own beef sausages without adding curing salts. If I cooked and ate the sausages on the same day they were made, would I still be at high risk of food poisoning?

    • I can’t say you have no chance of getting food poisoning. Cooking and eating the same day is not the only issue.
      If you mix sausage and cook quickly, chances of anything growing is low and cooking should kill everything anyway…
      The issue with sausage is often the slow smoking, where microbes can start growing…
      Curing is very important for long drying or smoking processes and less so for quick processes.

      What you are describing is not much different than making meatloaf. You grind mix and cook. No curing necessary.

  20. I bought a box of High Mountain Seasoning for summer sausage. I did the whole 30lb 24 venison 6 beef fat. Ground it mixed in the seasoning as directed and let set over night. When we were stuffing the casings I noticed about 3/4 of the way through that we were not going to have enough meat. We were exactly 3lb short. I know that if you use to much of the the cure it can make you sick. I’ve also read that the cure cooks out of it in the slow cooking process. Do I need to worry or just cook it as directed and not worry at all.

    • Don’t worry, but do follow directions on package when using Curing salts…
      It can make you sick.
      If it cooks out, why is nitrates & nitrites still listed as ingredients on fully cooked ham?
      New one on me… not even going to bother looking that up.
      Don’t believe it.

  21. if I am cold smoking my deer sausage do I need to add cure to the meat

    • Lisa, that is the most important reason to use cure and the whole reason for the post… low temperatures promote bacterial growth, casing block Oxygen and promote Botulism.
      Very important to use cure if smoking for long time at low temperature. Follow the directions for your Curing salts

  22. Teaching the kids how to make sopressata resulted in one of them dumping about 8 ounces of prague powder#2 in about 33 pounds of meat. Is it now all garbage?

    • Wow… Yes, that is a lot… about 8X too much. I might be tempted to rinse all the salt out if that were possible, but don’t know if that would work or not, because we don’t know how much was absorbed and couldn’t be washed out. Since both type 1 and type 2 curing salts can be toxic. Probably best to be safe. Good think you caught the mistake. Sorry.

  23. Charles P. Foley Sr says

    I do inject thicker cuts of meat, like corned beef rounds and pork shoulders, to make sure the cure gets all the way into the meat. In the above article, they mentioned the possibility of getting bacteria inside the cut of meat with the injection. All brine solutions should be brought up to a boil, then cooled prior to being injected. The nitrites in the solution should keep any bad bacteria out of the cooled brine till injected.

  24. Melissa M. Morgan says

    Hi, I’m interested in knowing if I made hotdogs by hand and didn’t want to cure them for medical reasons, can I hot smoke them and they still be safe? If so, at what temperature should I smoke them. We have been trying to replace processed foods with healthier versions without chemicals and preservatives. It has been a journey of finding information available for the procedures needed to be taken. For example, canning foods, there is not a lot of information about safely canning without using pectins or other ingredients that you would love to leave out. Thank you for any information you can give me in this endeavor. Melissa

    • Sure, you could make hot dogs without curing them. And yes because they are not cured, they should be smoked at a high temperature. I might even boil them for a few minutes, then put them in the smoker to finish. The problem will be the fat will want to ooze out if cooked quickly.
      As for canning,all of my grandparent’s generation knew how to can and they didn’t add much except maybe too much salt. But salt, sugar and acid make it difficult for bacteria to grow. Boiling should kill all bacteria, but some spores can still grow. Most state extension agencies have info about canning as well as the canning jar makers. Good luck on the weenies…

  25. Gerald Kauffman says

    These post are the most informative that came across great questions guys and gals, my question is a little diffrent but on the same lines. Can you introduce bacteria into your cure through the spices you use, are there spices that are processed to limit the bacteria in them made specifically for meat and sausage making?

    • Obviously, anything you add to your sausage mix could introduce fungus or bacteria.
      Luckily, dry spices are not a good place for backeria to live. I would worry more bacteria already on your meat, on your hands, your bowls and coming out of your mouth and nose than something living in a spice bottle

  26. I always use cure 1 when I hot smoke sausage and I set temperature 120-130 degrees with no smoke for 1-1/2 hours then raid temperature to165-175 degrees with smoke until internal temperature is 155 degrees, the question is can I do it the same way but partially smoke it where the internal temperature might only get to say 130 degrees or less the removing from smoke house shower with cold water or just let cool for about an hour freeze and then bbq at a later date?

  27. Robert Rugg says

    I made polish sausage using back forty sausage mix i made 7 lbs it calls for 1 3/4 tsp per pound of maple cure i used 1 3/4 tbsp per pound not relising the mistake untill i ate one of the sausage and it was really salty i threw everything away my question is will it hurt me by eating the one sausage

Comments, Opinions, Questions?