Of the Deli meats I enjoy, Bologna is up there as a favorite. It's one of those things that most people say they "grew up on." My lunches during middle school and even into high-school primarily consisted of bologna sandwiches, chips, and an apple. Granted, not much has changed a decade later either.
While I still eat bologna sandwiches, smoking bologna is super simple and really elevates the meat.
In my opinion, not all bologna is created equal - I also believe that to be true for hot dogs too (look for the Deutschmacher brand or Schonlands if you like hot dogs). The brand of Bologna I've always eaten is WunderBar, which is a German brand made in the USA.
For smoked bologna, you need what's referred to as a "chub." Where I'm from in New England, bologna is rarely sold as a whole packaged chub. Rather, you have to go to the deli counter and tell the Deli Employee to cut you off a chub of bologna. They should know what you're talking about - After which they weigh it out, package it, and you're set.
Apart from brand preference and buying the meat either pre-packaged as a chub or going to the deli counter and requesting it, that's all there is to it.
Smoking bologna is super straight forward. You will need the following:
The first thing to do is create cross-hatches in the bologna with your knife. This allows for smoke and the dry rub to penetrate into the bologna creating little bologna burnt ends.
If you're a bologna lover, these morsels are wonderful.
Note: When slicing, try to go about 3/4" to 1" deep, all the way around - top and bottom. Creating superficial cuts will do nothing and won't result in the desirable bologna burnt ends.
After slicing the bologna, get your mixing bowl and your BBQ rub of choice. For this recipe I used Tennesse Mojo BBQ Rub.
The main reason I used this rub was because it has a good base of sugar/brown sugar. This will create the Bologna burnt ends and will caramelize very nicely due to the maillard reaction of sugars (browning). It also has a good mixture of commonly used barbecue spices like paprika, onion and garlic powder, salt, etc.
If you don't have a commercial BBQ rub like the above, the following can suffice:
At a minimum, you really only need dark brown sugar and paprika. Most if not all commercial barbecue rubs use a brown sugar and paprika base. They then mix and match or even layer spices accordingly.
Be wary of paprika. More often than not, store bought paprika will offer very little flavor. If anything it contributes more to the color aspect than anything.
I'm a really big fan of Burlap & Barrel spices; I actively use their sweet pepper and smoked Pimentón paprika in a lot of rubs. There really is no comparison between the grocery store brands and Burlap and Barrel's.
Add your rub to the mixing bowl and simply put the bologna chub on top. Continue to pat the rub into the bologna, covering all surfaces and getting the rub in between the cracks.
I set my Grilla Grills pellet grill to 225 F on the standard mode. This mode results in more temperature swing and smoke output. The type of pellets I used were 100% Hickory wood pellets from Lumber Jack.
I placed the bologna chub to the left side of the grill and allowed the bologna to smoke for 2 hours before checking on it.
At about the 2 hour mark you'll start to see the burnt ends form as the cross-hatches start to shrink.
I test a lot of barbecue sauces and I often use meals like bologna to use up anything I have left over. For this bologna I used Yes, Dear Competition barbecue sauce.
I also had my Father over who is a big fan of apricot in barbecue sauce so I opted to put some apricot preserves in the sauce too.
In a saucepan I added roughly 2 cups of Yes, Dear competition barbecue sauce as well as 2 heaping tablespoons of apricot preserves. I put the temperature on medium-low to allow the apricot preserves to incorporate into the barbecue auce.
I then allowed the sauce to simmer until I was ready to glaze the bologna.
After I was visually satisfied with the exterior of the bologna - after 3 hours of smoking - I took it off the smoker.
Since my sauce was still simmering, I added it to another mixing bowl and brought it outside. I used tongs to place the bologna on top of the sauce in the mixing bowl and continued to strategically move the bologna with the tongs to cover all surfaces.
I then placed the bologna back onto the smoker to set the glaze. This took roughly 15 minutes.
The reason I crosshatched the top and bottom of the bologna was so that myself and my dad both got extra burnt ends on our slices. Meaning, each person got a "good" piece.
Slicing is super simple. Simply use a knife and make 1/4" to 1/2" slices. This is a big reason I noted the depth of your initial cross-hatches as the bologna chub will shrink. When you slice, you'll create a clover shape that will have a smoke ring and a caramelized exterior.
From there, serve with plain white bread and enjoy.
While I didn't have coleslaw (not a huge fan) - my father definitely likes to add coleslaw on top of the bologna when eaten as a sandwich.