Meat Processing Equipment: 208 Low Temp Oven
Meat Processing Equipment: 208 Using Oven at Low Temperatures
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For almost any type of cured sausage one of the best things you can do is to start the temperature of your smoker or oven at no more than 20° higher than the body temperature of the animal was. This prevents the proteins in the meat from suffering too much heat shock damage.
The problem is that most home smokers or ovens won’t go that low. One of the ways people combat this is by propping the lid of their smoker or oven open to let some of the heat “bleed” out. To do this you will need a probe thermometer that has the ability to act as an ambient temp thermometer so you know what the actual temperature of the oven is. We began by setting the oven to 175° which was the lowest that our oven will go and propping the door open a good amount to let the heat escape. We quickly found out that this was too much propping and that only a very small opening was necessary.
We were able to stabilize our top rack at exactly 120° but our bottom rack continued to change dramatically so we gave up and moved everything to one rack. We are also lucky enough to have a convection oven option in this oven so for the first hour I turned that on to keep the air moving, this mimicked the are flow of a smoker with dampers wide open so it worked well for our initial drying phase.
After they had cooked for an hour at 120° we began to experiment with moving it higher and higher. We were able to get the top rack to reach 130° by closing the door even more and then 150° by opening the door more and raising the temperature and finally 180 by simply closing the door and setting it to 175°.
Finish Sous Vide Style
We also decided to pull these and finish them up sous vide style. We moved some into a sous vide cooker 100°, some at 120 and some at 135 and we moved one of the 120° pepperonis to a pot of water that we had set to 170° on the stove to prove that even if you don’t have a sous vide cooker you can still get a sous vide style finished product as long as you are patient and carful.
We have done this before and we again found that you should wait until your product is around 120-135° before moving it. The pepperoni we moved at 100° did not have as good of a texture as the ones that had dried longer in the oven/smoker.