I've been running a bi-weekly backyard barbecue series for nine summers now. This has mostly been a modest affair, with 10 to 15 people at each event, giving me an audience to crowd test most recipes that end up here on Serious Eats.
This year has been a little different though. I've been finding myself with double the amount of mouths to feed. I'm learning to adapt to cooking for larger numbers, but a particularly big turnout recently had me still fretting that five racks of ribs, three chickens, and spiedies were still not enough, so I grabbed a three-pound chunk of bologna to throw on the smoker at the last minute.
What started as an act of desperation turned out to be one of the biggest hits of the day.
Only taking minutes to prepare by scoring the bologna, then slathering with mustard, followed by a sprinkle of barbecue rub, it took about two hours in a 255-degree smoker to form the nice dark crust I wanted.
Being an already cooked product, the bologna couldn't absorb much smoke in the meat, but the outside was transformed into an incredibly crisp and smoky treat that added a lot of flavor and texture to the sausage on the whole. It got even better when we grilled the bologna slices, then piled them into rolls and topped with some barbecue sauce.
In the end, I had way too much food, and while there were plenty of leftover ribs and chicken to go around, it was only this smoked bologna that almost disappeared.