Our Pitmaster Club can up your game!
Benefits include:

• No more ads, faster page loads!
• "The Pit" forum with tons of info & scores of recipes
• Monthly newsletter
• Video seminars with top pitmasters
• Weekly podcast with news and interviews
• Comprehensive Temperature Magnet ($10 retail)
• Monthly giveaways of Gold Medal grills and smokers
• Discounts on products we love
• Educational and social Meat-Ups
• Support for Operation BBQ Relief
• Support for Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves
• Support for AmazingRibs.com!

AmazingRibs.com BBQ Logo

Improved Cleveland Polish Boy

"Sausage is a great deal like life. You get out of it about what you put into it." Jimmy Dean

The Cleveland Polish Boy is a specialty found in many bars, barbecue joints, chicken shacks, and hot dog stands in The Forest City (when did it get that unlikely nickname?). The sandwich is a similarly unlikely combo of a sausage on a bun, topped with fries, slathered with sweet red barbecue sauce, and crowned with cole slaw. Not necessarily in that order.

In 2008 Esquire magazine dubbed the one at Freddie's Southern Style Rib House "soul on white" and one of the best sandwiches in America (alas, it is now closed). According to Douglas Trattner in Cleveland Scene, the first Polish Boy was fashioned by Virgil Whitmore, of Whitmore's Bar-B-Q in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood in the 1940s. Cleveland's Chef Michael Symon cited the sandwich from the Seti's Polish Boy food truck as "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" on the Food Network.

The sausage is called a kielbasa or Polie in Cleveland, and many are made of beef. In Poland, the word kielbasa (pronounced "kew-ba-sa" in Polish) is a generic word for sausage, so it can be both pork or beef, but the most famous is the Polska Kielbasa Wedzona, Polish Smoked Sausage. In Poland more than 100 sausages are regulated by the Polish Bureau of Standards. The Polska Kielbasa Wedzona must be no less than 80% pork, no more than 20% beef, fat, salt, pepper, sugar, garlic, and marjoram. Many are all pork. The meat is cured with sodium nitrite before it is coarsely ground, mixed with the spices, stuffed into hog casings, and then smoked.

In the US, butchers make "kielbasa" and "Polish sausage" (sometimes called "Polies") to their tastes with their favorite ingredients.The blends vary significantly, although my favorites are pork based and smoked. The best are fatter than a hot dog and made with coarsely ground pork and highly seasoned with garlic and black pepper. My faves are the Chicago Maxwell Street Polish style (Chicago has the largest Polish population outside of Poland). The Vienna Beef brand is widely available in stores and on Amazon and Bobak's, a pork beef blend, is available on the internet. A good nationally available example is the Hillshire Farms Polska Kilebasa, made with medium grind pork, beef, and turkey. It is more than 1" thick.

For the Polish Boy, the sausage can be grilled or griddled, and some are even flash fried after cooking to give the casing extra snap. There are variations. Chili sauce has appeared on some, cheese on others, hot sauce on many, and a few swap the slaw for kraut. I've even heard of a Polish Girl that has pulled pork on top! Noting the creative license taken in Cleveland, I took some liberties with my interpretation.

My improvements

I don't do much deep frying at home, especially for a small quantity, and, although one can come close to good French fies in the oven, I make my Polish Boy with oven baked Tater Tots because they stay crunchy longer than fries. The original Polish Boy calls for sweet red barbecue sauce, but when I see pork sausage, I reach for mustard. I just happen to think mustard is better on a Polie than ketchup based sauce. To make it authentic, you should use the original Bertman Ballpark Mustard, the official mustard of the Indians and the Browns and it has been in just about every fridge in Cleveland since 1925. Finally, most of the Cleveland versions use a creamy cole slaw, but I think my Sweet Sour Slaw does a much better job of cutting the fat and brightening the whole thing up.

Improved Polish Boy Recipe

Takes. 45 minutes
Makes. 4 sandwiches

24 Tater Tots
4 hoagy rolls
4 smoked pork "Polish" sausages
4 tablespoons Sweet Sour Slaw
4 tablespoons Bertman Ballpark Mustard (or make my Columbia Gold)
lots of napkins

About the hoagy rolls. You can use hot dog buns, but they will disintegrate quickly. You need something more substantial to stand up to all the juice.

About the sausage. If you can't find a good Polie, get a good bratwurst and hot smoke it. Then grill or griddle it til it is crispy.

1) Follow the instructions on the bag and bake the Tater Tots, usually about 30 minutes at 425°F.

2) Open the rolls and toast them on the grill. Try to keep the hinge intact in order to hold everything in.

3) Grill raw sausages til brown and crunchy outside and at least 155°F inside. If the sausage has been precooked or smoked, you only need to go to 145°F.

4) Usually the slaw goes on top of the sausage, but then it gets contaminated by the BBQ sauce, and I like to keep its integrity. So I lay down the slaw first, then the sausage, then the sauce, then the Tots.

Return to top

Please read this before posting a comment or question

grouchy?1) Please use the table of contents or the search box at the top of every page before you ask for help, then please post your question on the appropriate page.

2) Please tell us everything we need to know to answer your question such as the type of cooker and thermometer you are using. Dial thermometers are often off by as much as 50°F so if you are not using a good digital thermometer we probably can't help you. Please read this article about thermometers.

3) If you post a photo, wait a minute for a thumbnail to appear. It will happen even if you don't see it happen.

4) Click here to learn more about our comment system and our privacy promise. Remember, your login info for comments is probably different from your Pitmaster Club login info if you are a member.


 Click to Show Comments or Add Your Own

Return to top

Logos of various organizations that we support

Return to top

LeaderDog.org Ad on BBQ site

About this website. AmazingRibs.com is all about the science of barbecue, grilling, and outdoor cooking, with great BBQ recipes, tips on technique, science, mythbusting, and unbiased equipment reviews. Learn how to set up your grills and smokers properly, the thermodynamics of what happens when heat hits meat, and how to cook great food outdoors. There are also buying guides to hundreds of barbeque smokers, grills, accessories, and thermometers, as well as hundreds of excellent tested recipes including all the classics: Baby back ribs, pulled pork, Texas brisket, burgers, chicken, smoked turkey, lamb, steaks, chili, barbecue sauces, spice rubs, and side dishes, with the world's best all edited by Meathead Goldwyn.

Brought to you by readers who support us with their membership in our Pitmaster Club. Click here to learn more about benefits to membership.

Advertising. AmazingRibs.com is by far the most popular barbecue website in the world, still growing rapidly, and one of the 25 most popular food websites in the US according to comScore, Quantcast, and Alexa. Click here for analytics and advertising info.

© Copyright 2016 - 2017 by AmazingRibs.com. All text, recipes, photos, and computer code are owned by AmazingRibs.com and fully protected by US copyright law unless otherwise noted. This means that it is a Federal crime to copy and publish or distribute anything on this website without permission. But we're easy! We usually grant permission and don't charge a fee. To get reprint rights, just click here. You do not need permission to link to this website.