Texas Hot Links: A Spicy Delight for Your Barbecue Spread

If you’ve ever indulged in the tantalizing flavors of Texas barbecue, chances are you’ve savored the delectable hot links. These smoky sausages are an essential part of the barbecue tradition, particularly in the Hill Country. Today, we’ll unveil the secrets of crafting these mouthwatering treats in the comfort of your own home.

A platter of Texas hot links sausage on a table, with sliced links and potatoes.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

The Quintessential Texas Hot Links

There exist various versions of hot links sausage, each with its unique regional influences. In my childhood, hot links resembled spicy hot dogs. Louisiana also boasts its own variation, reminiscent of the fiery andouille sausage. Nevertheless, this recipe focuses on the classic Texas hot links you’ll encounter practically anywhere in the Lone Star State, excluding the eastern regions, where they transform into short, plump links with a delightfully mushy texture similar to boudin.

Interestingly, the majority of Texas hot links aren’t overwhelmingly spicy. Some recipes employ cayenne and paprika to achieve a vibrant red hue (which mine does), while others rely solely on cayenne. Regardless, these sausages typically offer a mild, pleasing heat. However, feel free to experiment and elevate the spice level according to your personal preferences. Just be cautious with the ghost peppers or Carolina reapers—unless you’re looking for an intense inferno, of course!

Texas hot links sliced on a plate with chile-roasted potatoes.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Tips for Sausage-Making Mastery

If you’re unfamiliar with the art of sausage making, fear not—I’ve got you covered. Check out this comprehensive tutorial on making sausage to familiarize yourself with the process. Generally, hot links should have a coarse texture, achieved by grinding the meat twice. However, if you prefer a different consistency, don’t hesitate to experiment. Personally, I opt for a medium grind using a 6 or 7 mm die, and occasionally pass a portion of the meat through a finer 4.5 mm die to add an intriguing twist to the texture.

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When it comes to the liquid component, I recommend using Lone Star beer or a Mexican lager like Modelo or Carta Blanca. If you prefer, ice water can serve as a suitable substitute. As for casings, regular hog casings work perfectly fine. However, keep in mind that hot links can vary in size, ranging from skinny to charmingly plump, with the latter being a signature of the east Texas stubby links.

The Perfect Smoke

Hot links are meant to be smoked, so you’ll need a smoker for this endeavor. While any smoker will suffice, aim to smoke the links until they reach an internal temperature of approximately 150°F. This process typically takes a few hours, with a smoking temperature of around 180°F.

When it comes to wood selection, the choice is yours. However, as we’re aiming for an authentic Texan experience, I suggest either oak or mesquite. These woods infuse the hot links with a hint of smokiness that perfectly complements the flavor profile.

Indulge in the Feast

Hot links are a versatile treat that can be enjoyed in various ways. Traditionally, I relish them as part of a barbecue spread that includes brisket, barbecued chicken, barbecued pork shoulder, potato salad, coleslaw, pickles, and, for an authentic touch, Texas toast—a thicker, heartier white bread.

However, these sausages aren’t limited to barbecues alone. They can be incorporated into dishes like gumbo, jambalaya, or even substituted for spicy Italian sausage in a pasta sauce. Furthermore, try them in place of linguica to add a spicy kick to Portuguese kale soup.

Storing and Preserving Texas Hot Links

Once you’ve created your hot links, you have a couple of options. You can enjoy them immediately or refrigerate them for later consumption. In the latter case, submerge the sausages in cold water to halt the cooking process. Stored properly, Texas hot links will keep for a week in the fridge. For long-term storage, vacuum sealing enables them to maintain their quality for up to a year in the freezer.

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So, why not embark on a culinary adventure and create your own batch of Texas hot links? With their smoky flavor and delightful heat, these sausages are sure to become a highlight of your barbecue gatherings. For more inspiration and tips, visit Rowdy Hog Smokin BBQ—your go-to resource for all things barbecue. Let the smoky goodness tantalize your taste buds and transport you to the heart of Texas!