Old-Fashioned Homemade Bologna Recipe

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Old-Fashioned Homemade Bologna is thick, meaty, and full of deep flavors. No wonder Grandpa enjoyed it with a smear of mustard and a slab of cheese on homemade bread!

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. Now you can enjoy it, too, with none of the guilt for eating the fatty, flavorless stuff from the store.

How to Make Homemade Bologna

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. For equipment, you can get away with using a food processor, but a stand mixer is even easier.

Tender Quick is Optional…Sort Of.

One ingredient for this homemade bologna that you probably don’t have in the pantry (unless you cure a lot of meat at home) is Morton’s Tender Quick.

I’ve made it both with and without Tender Quick, and the flavor is much deeper when it’s used. If you’re skipping it, you may want to double the amount of garlic and onion powder, and possibly add a bit more liquid smoke.

Emulsifying ground beef and seasonings in a stand mixer bowl

Emulsifying is a MUST

Unlike the floppy pink slices from the store, old-fashioned 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.

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.

Keep Things Chilled Throughout

Once you’ve combined the meat and ice water, you must transfer the bowl to the freezer. This step accomplishes two things:

  1. It allows the meat to firm back up before shaping.
  2. And it’s essential for food safety. Ten minutes should do it.

Wrap and Secure It

After chilling the emulsified mixture, take half of the meat out and shape it into a log. Wrap this tightly with plastic wrap and use a twist-tie to keep the ends shut, so the log maintains its shape.

Overhead view of beef bologna ingredients formed into logs and tightly wrapped in plastic before chiling

Overnight Rest to Meld Flavors

Proceed with the remainder of the meat, then transfer the logs to the refrigerator to chill and rest 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.

Why The Cooking Temperature Changes

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.

Storage

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 Tender Quick, which acts as a curing preservative, it’ll stay good for at least a month in the refrigerator.

Homemade Bologna - The old-fashioned kind your grandpa loved
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4.84 from 6 votes

Old-Fashioned Homemade Bologna

Old world-style bologna with a hint of smoky garlic flavor. Excellent on sandwiches, or served with cheese and crackers.
Course Snack
Cuisine American
Keyword beef, freezes well, keto, low-carb
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 3 hrs
Chilling Time 1 d
Total Time 1 d 4 hrs
Makes 32 servings
Calories 110kcal
Created by Katie Berry

Equipment

  • Food processor OR stand mixer
  • Plastic wrap and twist ties
  • Baking Rack
  • Rimmed baking sheet

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds ground beef - no leaner than 80/20
  • 1 cup water - ice cold
  • 1.5 teaspoon Morton's Tender Quick - OR 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon all-natural liquid smoke flavor
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder - May increase to 1 teaspoon if not using Tender Quick
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder - May increase to 1 teaspoon if not using Tender Quick

Instructions

  • 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 to an internal temperature of 160° F. Remove from oven and allow to cool  completely. Refrigerate up to 3 days. May be frozen for longer storage.

Notes

For easiest slicing, chill the cooked bologna for 20 minutes and use a sharp, non-serrated knife.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 110kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 30mg | Sodium: 113mg | Potassium: 115mg | Sugar: 1g | Calcium: 8mg | Iron: 1mg

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37 Comments

  1. I never did like the store bought bologna that would always be in my lunch as a child. This seems like a time consuming recipe, but one I would like to try still. I’m so curious to know how real bologna tastes! Lol.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      It does take a bit of time, but it’s fun and it makes really yummy sandwiches.

    2. Danie Munzert-Wilder says:

      Hi there, glad i found your pin, however I’m looking to preserve longer. How would I do that? I make other deli meats and i water-bath them in jars, next in boily bags inside a can, to keep shape. Can I just store in vacuum bags in fridge or freezer?
      Thank you😊

    3. Katie Berry says:

      I haven’t tried water-bath canning this. But, as it states, if you skip the TenderQuick, eat it within 3 days or freeze it. If you use TenderQuick, it will stay good in the fridge for at least a month and you can freeze it for longer.

  2. Charlene@A Pinch of Joy says:

    My mother in law used to make summer sausage using this same process. It is sooo much better (and healthier) than store bought. This sounds really good and would be so easy to make starting with 3 lbs of meat! Thanks for sharing on Busy Monday!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      You’re welcome! If your mother-in-law would be willing to share her summer sausage recipe, I have a husband who absolutely loves that stuff!

  3. Dave Van De Cappelle says:

    I would omit the liquid smoke and put the sausage in my smoker. I would also use the sea salt, but also the amount needed for the amount meat, of curing pink salt.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      An excellent suggestion, Dave. I’ve been waiting for Spring to fire up our smoker, and this is now going on my list to try. What flavor of wood chip would you recommend?

    2. Dave Van De Cappelle says:

      i use a standard mix of about 60 to 70% Apple, the rest is Hickory, for a good smoke flavour on everything. And waiting fro Spring????? I do mine all winter long, even with 4 feet of snow in the back yard! I keep my smoker in my shed, at the back of the property and keep the route to it shoveled out all winter. I BBQ and Smoke most every weekend, all year long.

    3. Katie Berry says:

      Alas, no shed here. My mean little homeowner’s association ruins all my fun! So I’m relegated to using a Weber smoker on the deck and, well, I’m a wimp so I wait until it’s warm outside.

      Thanks for the suggestion on the wood mix. I happen to have some hog casings in the fridge and think I’ll give them a try!

    4. 5 stars
      Can curing salt be used instead tender quick?

    5. Katie Berry says:

      I’ve never tried using it in this recipe, so I can’t really answer your question.

  4. Katie Berry says:

    Joe, this is rather moot since the recipe clearly states to (a) cook the meat to a proper internal temperature; then (b) eat or freeze within 3 days.

  5. 5 stars
    I am so glad I found your recipe. It was delicious and I received many compliments. I only changed one thing and that was cutting down on the liquid smoke just a little. I smoked the two chubs on my Traeger 300 for 30 Minute’s then 250 for about two hours. It was perfect and so juicy. This is a keeper recipe. Thanks for sharing.
    Next time I may add some red pepper flakes. Yumm.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Glad you enjoyed it, Andrea! Your addition of red pepper flakes sounds like a fantastic idea — I may try that next time, too!

  6. 5 stars
    I’ve got this in the fridge now for cooking tomorrow. So simple! I cannot wait to cook it and try it. My boys are already salivating for it!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Doesn’t it smell amazing?

  7. 5 stars
    Just took this out of the oven and it is delicious!!
    Going in the recipe book for sure!
    Can’t wait to fry some up later to get a nice crispy edge and have it on a sandwich!
    Thanks!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I am so glad you enjoyed it! Fried on a sandwich sounds delicious.

  8. Good base recipe. We thought it definitely needed more salt and a little bit more of a “kick”. I will add 1 1/2 T. of the salt next time and add some pepper and maybe double the spices. Also, when the meat and water are in the mixer, I beat it on high for around 8 minutes and the texture seemed right to us. Thank you!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Thanks for sharing your tip on the time needed for mixing it! Glad you were able to tailor it to your tastes. 🙂

  9. Tammie Johnson says:

    I am on a very low sodium diet and I miss my bologna sandwiches. Can I use potassium chloride instead of the salt and nitrites?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Tammie,
      Unfortunately, substitution isn’t safe in this recipe since the salt and nitrites act as preservatives.

  10. Michael D Dunn says:

    Could you put this into a casing instead of plastic wrap and then smoke them?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      You sure could, just make sure it hits the proper internal temperature.

  11. cheryl welch says:

    5 stars
    I made this and it’s wonderful!
    I made it with 81% ground beef and then canned it in wide-mouth pints for 90 minutes.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I’m so glad you liked it, Cheryl! Canning it sounds like a fantastic idea. Enjoy!

  12. 4 stars
    I can’t find the internal temperature anywhere in recipe or comments. Can anyone help? Thanks in advance.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Lyn,
      Ground beef products like this homemade bologna recipe should always be cooked to an internal temperature of 160. The times provided in the recipe will get you there. Enjoy!

      Katie

  13. I am excited to try this—smoking it shall be for the first batch! Does the fat content of the meat factor in much? I

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Unfortunately, it does. The fat keeps it from drying out too much during the long cooking process and is essential for emulsifying.

  14. What would you say if I wanted to add some peppercorns to the recipe. I too, would smoke in my Traeger.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I could see doing that, making it more like salami than bologna. Let me know how it turns out!

  15. Gary Winter says:

    Really looking forward to making this. I don’t see what kind of beef to use(what fat percentage)

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Gary,
      I’ve updated the recipe to reflect an 80/20 mixture is the leanest you should use.

  16. Gary Winter says:

    Could you use a combination of pork and beef?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I haven’t tried it using pork. If you do, let me know how it turns out!

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