It might seem like the last frontier of home cooking, but making your own sausage is not quite as difficult as it might seem. And with plenty of reasons to make your own sausage, from flexing your grilling chops to prepping for an at-home Oktoberfest celebration, it’s a great time to take on this new kitchen skill.
We spoke to pros from around the country to grab some easy hacks, tips and recipes to turn your kitchen into a butcher shop. So, what are you waiting for? Get your apron on and prep tools ready to take on this culinary trend.
The Right Equipment Is A Must
“If you’re a true minimalist, in the old days they would chop the meat by hand with a knife and just stuff it with a funnel, says Beau Bourgeois, fourth generation butcher and current proprietor of Bourgeois Meat Market in Thibodaux, LA. “If you are making a couple pounds this would be fine, but any more and you’ll regret it.”
You can get a reasonably-priced grinder, stuffer or all-in-one online or in sporting goods stores like Bass Pro Shops or Cabelas; look for one with a plate outfitted with small holes for a fine grind, he advises.
Nathan Anda, executive chef and head butcher at Red Apron Butcher in Washington, D.C., recommends a KitchenAid stand mixer with a food grinder attachment, which can hold a five-pound mix. A kitchen scale is also helpful to correctly measure seasonings, meat, fat and salt.
Food Safety And Hygiene Are Non-Negotiables
Make sure the meat you use is fresh and of the high quality, tools are meticulously clean, knives are sharpened and the sausage you grind is cooked to the correct internal temperature (155°F for pork and beef and 165°F for poultry), says Hinnerk von Bargen, professor of culinary arts at the Culinary Institute of America, whose father and cousin were certified master butchers.
“I like to poach the links to an internal temperature of 155°F after I stuff them, this way I don’t have to worry about if the sausage’s is completely done when I serve them,” he explains. “If you choose to pre-poach them, it is crucial to cool them rapidly in ice water after they are done to prevent the links from drying out and the casings from cracking.
Prep, Prep, Prep
“Sausages are an emulsification and best made when the protein is nice and cold, so make sure you have all of your ingredients prepped and measured before beginning the process,” Anda says.
Meat should be well-chilled or even semi-frozen, and casings need to be soaked in very warm water for at least an hour and then rinsed, with all of the water squeezed out. If you are making vegan sausages, substitute natural hog casings with those made from cellulose or vegetarian ingredients, like those available on Amazon from The Sausage Maker.
And keep in mind that most commercial pork sausages use a 35% to 40% fat ratio, which may sound like a lot but there’s a good reason behind it.
“It keeps the sausage from drying out and ensures it’s nice and tender,” Bourgeois says. “Most of it renders and drips out on the barbecue pit or in the frying pan.”
Head To Flavortown
Be creative, but keep in mind that if you are freezing or keeping the sausage refrigerated for a while before cooking, some ingredients keep better than others, Bourgeois says. So, dried green onions or pickled jalapenos in the mix freeze well as does restricted melt cheese, which gets soft and gooey but doesn’t run. Similarly to when making burgers or meatloaf, incorporate the seasonings but avoid overmixing or the sausage will end up tough.
Get On That Grind
When you put the casing over the stuffing tube, von Bargen says to make sure the tube is completely filled with the forcemeat [the mixture going through the sausage maker] before tying the casing to avoid excessive air pockets. Anda uses a sterilized thumb tack in the finished sausage to remove excess air.
“After grinding, mix the forcemeat thoroughly for about five minutes and gradually add about 10% ice-cold water relative to the weight of the meat and fat… to develop a good bind of the forcemeat,” von Bargen says.