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 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:
- It allows the meat to firm back up before shaping.
- 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.
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.
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.
Old-Fashioned Homemade Bologna
- Food processor OR stand mixer
- Plastic wrap and twist ties
- Baking Rack
- Rimmed baking sheet
- 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
- 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.