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Texas Hot Links (aka Texas Hot Guts): Bigger, Better Smoked Sausage

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Texas hot guts links

Brisket isn’t the only BBQ game in Texas

Smoked sausage is an incarnation of the Holy Trinity of Texas barbecue: Brisket, ribs, and guts.

Texas Hot Links, often called Texas Hot Guts or just Guts for short, are so named because the ground meat and spices are stuffed in natural casings made from intestines, usually pork, and because they are served hot, not because they are spicy hot, although some are. My recipe has some heat, not a lot.

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Texas sausages descend from the German and Czech immigrants who settled in central Texas and opened meat markets. No cultures are as sausage-centric as theirs. The epicenter of the sausage culture in Texas is the little town of Elgin (with a hard “G” as in “girl”), not far from Austin. The most famous spots in Elgin are Southside Market (established in 1882) and Meyer’s (1949). Those are Southside Market sausages below (their motto is “Momma don’t let your sausages grow up to be weenies!”).

Sausages at Southside Market
southside market

It is really hard to characterize a “traditional” Texas Hot Guts flavor profile because no two butchers do it the same way. There is no standard.

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That said, many are pure beef, some are beef and pork blends, and a few are pure pork. A few use chicken. I’ve even tasted cabrito sausage, made from goat. Many butchers use trimmings from their brisket and ribs. Most of my favorites are beef and pork blend although my #1 is the Spicy Pork from Mikeska Brands in Taylor. Too many of the pure beef based sausages taste like hamburger and they tend to crumble. Usually, the dominant spice is black pepper, perhaps some cayenne, and of course, salt. A few have curing salts with sodium nitrite and nitrate, but most do not. Many use “Bull Binder Flour” made from wheat, rye, oats, rice, and corn. Almost all are post-oak smoked.

I asked Tim Mikeska for his recipe, and he replied “I will tell you a few things but cannot give you the recipe. Someone did that once and he went missing soon after. You need to have both fine grind and coarse ground black pepper, salt, cayenne (or another red pepper at least at 40,000 heat units), and garlic. You want the freshest pork you can get, at least 20% fat. If you use lean pork, you can do this without a binder. I despise binders, but it’s a necessary evil when you make beef sausage. If you cut into a beef sausage link without a binder, the meat will just fall out. For beef sausage, many are using a mix of beef brisket with beef plates or navels and dehydrated milk or bull flour for the binder. I always use a natural hog casing, 34 to 35mm. Stuff them tight and smoke with hard oak wood for 2 to 3 hours. It must be indirect heat. Let me know how it works. If I don’t respond back, then I may have told you too much.”

Texas Hot Guts Recipe

Texas hot guts links
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4.10 from 111 votes
In the Lone Star state, smoked sausage is as central to barbecue as brisket. There is no standard recipe, but natural casing (the guts) always hold the ground meat mixture. IMPORTANT: Before you get started, read our article on The Science of Sausage Making. NOTE: This recipe was revised on 2/6/2024

Main Course
difficulty scale


Servings: 8 6 inch links


Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours


  • sausage stuffer
  • sausage grinder


  • 2 teaspoons  whole black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons  fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons Morton Coarse Kosher Salt
  • 2 teaspoons rubbed sage
  • 2 teaspoons mild American paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne flakes
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 16 ounces ground pork butt 80% lean
  • 16 ounces ground beef chuck 80% lean
  • 2 tablespoons dry nonfat milk this is a binder
  • cup very cold water
  • 4 feet pork sausage casings
About the pork and beef. You want about 25% fat. If it is too lean, ask the butcher to grind some fat trimmings for you. They will usually give you fat trim for free. If you grind your own meat, it is easier to guesstimate the fat-to-lean ratio.
About the chile. You can use powder or flakes. This recipe has noticeable but not strong heat. Adjust it up or down to your taste.
About the salt. Remember, kosher salt is half the concentration of table salt so if you use table salt, use half as much. Click here to read more about salt and how it works.
Metric conversion:

These recipes were created in US Customary measurements and the conversion to metric is being done by calculations. They should be accurate, but it is possible there could be an error. If you find one, please let us know in the comments at the bottom of the page


  • Prep. Put the whole black peppercorns into a plastic bag and smash the heck outta them with a small frying pan until you have chunks of cracked peppercorns. Mix them with the rest of the black pepper, paprika, garlic powder, salt, sage, and chile powder in a small bowl. Remove the seeds and stems from the jalapeño and mince it into tiny bits. Peel the onion and garlic and mince them too. Now, go to our article on the Science of Making Sausage and follow steps (1) through (16).
  • Smoke. Set up your grill or smoker and maintain a steady 225°F (107.2°C). Smoke the sausages at 225°F (107.2°C) until they hit 160°F (71.1°C) internal temperature, about 1 to 2 hours. As long as they hit that internal temp, you can experiment with the time to get your preferred level of smoke on the sausage.
  • Serve. You can serve Hot Guts nekkid on a plate with some saltine crackers and hot sauce (traditional Texas style) or with some potatoes and a salad, or on a bun, or incorporate them into a dish like German Potato Salad or Choucroute Garnie, the classic Alsatian hot dish of sauerkraut, potatoes, various charcuterie, and mustard.

Related articles

Published On: 2/10/2020 Last Modified: 2/13/2024

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  • Meathead, BBQ Hall of Famer - Founder and publisher of, Meathead is known as the site's Hedonism Evangelist and BBQ Whisperer. He is also the author of the New York Times Best Seller "Meathead, The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling", named one of the "100 Best Cookbooks of All Time" by Southern Living.


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