This Homemade Bologna Recipe shows how radically food manufacturers have changed our taste expectations. That greasy, mushy pink stuff we’ve all eaten between slices of flat white bread is nothing like bologna used to be.
Homemade Bologna is thick, meaty, and full of deep flavors. No wonder your grandpa enjoyed it with a smear of mustard and a slab of cheese on homemade bread. Now you can enjoy it, too, and with none of the guilt for eating the fatty, flavorless stuff from the store.
Homemade Bologna Recipe
It starts off simply enough, using ingredients you can 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, but a stand mixer is even easier.
One homemade bologna recipe I found called for Accent seasoning, which is MSG. I’d never use MSG in a homemade product, but if you want that home-cured taste, then Morton’s Tender Quick is a must. I’ve made it both with and without Tender Quick, and while the flavor is much deeper when I use it, it’s also good without. It’s up to you and your taste preferences.
Now, here in the Midwest, knowing how to make good homemade bologna is a matter of pride. Unlike the floppy pink slices from the store, 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. The main difference is that homemade bologna is meaty no matter how thinly you slice it.
That meatiness turned me off the first time because it seemed more like a burger 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 texture of my homemade bologna recipe.
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 essential for food safety. Ten 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, 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 beef move through the entire product. After that, unwrap and 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. The rest of the cooking at 250°F for 2 1/2 hours cooks it all the way through, which is vital to food safety. Once cooked, let it cool completely before refrigerating or freezing for future use.
The result? A smooth yet meaty homemade bologna with a hint of smoky garlic flavor that’s perfect on homemade hamburger buns or with cheese and homemade crackers.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you skip the Tender Quick and use sea salt, you need to eat or freeze this homemade bologna within three days, just as you’d need to eat anything made of ground meat in that time frame. With the TQ, it’ll stay good for at least a month in the refrigerator.
Frankly, it never lasts that long in our house. The instant my husband finds out that I’ve bought the ingredients for my homemade bologna recipe he starts defrosting hamburger buns to make his favorite sandwiches. With a little red onion, a little mustard, and some fresh lettuce, he’s on top of the world!
- 3 pounds ground beef
- 1 cup ice cold water
- 1 tablespoon sea salt OR 1½ tsp. Tender Quick
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon all-natural liquid smoke flavor
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- In the bowl of a food processor or stand mixer, combine all of the ingredients until smooth. Transfer the bowl to the freezer for 10 minutes before proceeding.
- Remove the bowl of meat from the freezer and divide the mixture in half. Using damp hands, form each half into a log. Compress it tightly as you work. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and use twist-ties to secure the ends tightly. Refrigerate flat for 24 hours.
- Preheat oven to 300° F / 150° C / gas mark 2.
- Remove plastic wrap from meat and carefully transfer both logs to a baking rack propped over a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, turning halfway through.
- Reduce heat to 250° F / 130° C / gas mark 1 and cook an additional 2½ hours. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Refrigerate up to 3 days. May be frozen for longer storage.