This Homemade Bologna Recipe really shows how radically food manufacturers have changed our taste expectations. That unctuous, mushy pink stuff we’ve all eaten between slices of flavorless white bread is nothing like bologna used to be.
How To Make Homemade Bologna
It starts off simply enough, using ingredients you can easily pick up at any grocery store: meat, garlic powder, onion powder, liquid smoke, salt and a bit of brown sugar if you want. As for equipment, you can get away with using a food processor.
While some of the recipes I found called for a frightening amount of Morton’s Tender Quick, a brand of curing salt that contains salt, sugar, sodium nitrate, sodium nitrite and other curing agents. The first batch I made called for 3 tablespoons of the stuff, and the result was such a salty product that it was nearly inedible. Other recipes called for Accent seasoning which is essentially MSG.
I’d never consider using MSG in a homemade product, and I couldn’t understand why the recipe called for a curing salt at all when the meat, once shaped, is cooked in the oven and then refrigerated or frozen. So after tinkering with the recipe a bit more, I decided to skip the curing powders altogether. (If you want to keep your bologna in the fridge for weeks, go ahead and use 1 1/2 tablespoons of Tender Quick instead of sea salt.)
Now, here in the Midwest, knowing how to make a good homemade bologna is a matter of pride. Unlike the floppy pink slices from the store, a homemade bologna is more like salami or summer sausage. That’s not to say it’s spicy, although you can certainly make it that way if you like. More than anything, homemade bologna is meaty no matter how thinly you slice it.
That meatiness turned me off the first time I made homemade bologna. It was more like a burger in texture than the smooth stuff of my childhood. A little research revealed the problem: I didn’t know to emulsify the meat by adding ice water before shaping and cooking it. That step has made a world of difference in the final product’s texture.
Once you’ve combined the meat and ice water you must transfer the bowl to the freezer. This accomplishes two things: first, it allows the meat to firm back up before shaping; and, second, it’s important for food safety. Ten to twenty minutes should do it.
Take half of the meat out and shape it into a log, then wrap this tightly with plastic wrap. Use a twist-tie to keep the ends shut tightly so the log maintains its shape.
Proceed with the rest of the meat, then transfer the logs to the refrigerator for 24 hours. This step improves the flavor and lets the moisture in the meat move through the entire product. After that, cook it in the oven on a baking rack propped over a rimmed baking sheet so excess fat can drip out without making the outside of the bologna greasy.
The initial cooking time of 30 minutes at 300°F dries the exterior which helps the bologna maintain its shape once it’s finished. The rest of the cooking at 250°F for 2 1/2 hours cooks the bologna all the way through without browning the outside, giving you a nice uniformly-colored roll. Once cooked, let it cool completely before refrigerating or freezing for future use.
Homemade Bologna Recipe
- 3 pounds chuck roast (or ground beef if you don't have a meat grinder)
- 1 cup ice cold water
- 1 tablespoon sea salt OR 1½ tsp. Tender Quick
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar (optional)
- 1 teaspoon all-natural liquid smoke flavor
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- Grind meat in food processor with spices.
- Add ice water and process for 30 seconds.
- Chill meat in freezer 10-20 minutes before proceeding.
- Divide meat mixture in half.
- With damp hands, form each mixture into a log, compressing with hands as you work.
- Wrap each log tightly in plastic wrap.
- Refrigerate for 24 hours.
- Preheat oven to 300 F.
- Remove plastic wrap from meat.
- Cook meat on a baking rack propped over a rimmed baking sheet for 30 minutes at 300 F, turning halfway through.
- Reduce heat to 250 F and cook an additional 2½ hours.
- Refrigerate up to 3 days. May be frozen for longer storage.
- Note: for easiest slicing, chill the cooked bologna for 20 minutes and use a sharp, non-serrated knife.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you skip the Tender Quick and use sea salt, you need to eat or freeze this within three days just as you’d need to eat anything made of ground meat in that time frame.
Frankly, it never lasts that long in our house. The instant my husband finds out that I’ve made another batch of homemade bologna, he heads for the freezer and pulls out hamburger buns so he can start making his favorite sandwiches. With a little red onion, a little mustard and some fresh lettuce, he’s on top of the world!
Equipment I Use To Make This: