Recipe: Meatball Sausage

The most magical part about barbecue comes from transforming through long hours in the smoker, a tough and oddly shaped piece of meat into a beautiful, tender, juicy, barky brisket. This happens with pulled pork, our beef cheeks, barbacoa, and maybe most impressively, our Meatball Sausage.

In our latest Patreon video, I demonstrated our method for this dish which has us braising and then smoking the sausages, a method that would seem backwards to the uninitiated. However, we use supposedly unusable meat in this sausage and it has, to date, been our biggest flavor surprise. Sometimes we really get some crazy ideas and they just end up working better than we could have ever imagined. This is one of those cases.

We use really fatty beef cheek scraps, the same stuff that we use to make our barbacoa. It’s full of connective tissue, fascia, and fat that in most other cases, nobody would want to put in their mouth. But through grinding and braising this meat, we turn it into an unctuous blend of classic meatball and Italian sausage that will have you questioning your entire existence.

Meatball Sausage

5 lb Beef cheeks

2.5 TB Kosher Salt

4 TB (separated into 2 and 2) mixed Italian herbs

2 TB Granulated garlic

1 TB Fennel seed

1 TB Crushed red pepper

1/2 C Bread crumbs

1/4 C Parmesan cheese

3 large Eggs

1/4 C Red wine vinegar

1 5oz can Tomato paste

In our video and at the food truck, we use our beef cheek scraps, but this recipe calls for whole beef cheeks for a meatier sausage. If you want to cook and smoke trimmed beef cheeks according to our other recipe and video, by all means do that!

Grind the cheeks through a large die meat grinder plate. Once ground, mix in the spices, bread crumbs, eggs, vinegar, and cheese. Grind again through a small die and mix thoroughly by hand until the meat mix is tacky.

Case the sausages into 6" links and line a baking pan with the links.

In a blender, combine the tomato paste with 10 oz of water and the extra Italian herbs. Throw in a splash of the red wine you are drinking as well and season it with salt. You can also totally use a jarred tomato sauce for this step. It makes it really easy.

Cover the sausages in the tomato sauce and braise them for 3–4 hours at 275F or until they reach an internal temperature of 200F. The sausages will leech out some liquid and fat and combine with the sauce. Cool them in the sauce overnight.

The next day remove the sausages from the sauce and wipe of any excess sauce before smoking them at 250F for 45–60 minutes or until hot. Separately, heat the sauce up in a small sauce pot on the stove and serve the sausages over spaghetti or in a toasted roll with melted provolone and pickled banana peppers.

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Evan LeRoy

Evan LeRoy

Chef/Pitmaster from Austin, Texas