At first glance, making sausage at home seems like a simple procedure. However, making great sausage that people keep coming back for can sometimes take a little more effort.
Sausage variants can be found in every meat-eating culture in the world, simply because it’s a highly effective way to use all of the meat from an animal. Traditionally sausage was made using the scraps of meat left over from bigger cuts and put into a casing.
These days, making sausage at home is much easier. It’s also possible to use a wide range of your favorite ingredients to create your own unique sausage flavor combinations. If you’re ready to start making homemade sausage, here are our top 7 tips to help you get started.
Tip 1: Prepare Your Ingredients
Before you start cutting or grinding anything, take the time to prepare everything you need for the entire sausage making process in advance. Choose your cold meat cuts, flavorings, spices and herbs and have them laid out ready to go.
You should also be sure you have all your tools ready as well. Sharpen the knives you’ll be using, have your chopping board prepared, and be sure your grinder is clean and the blades are sharp.
Tip 2: Decide on Texture
Whether you’re making homemade hot dogs, gourmet flavored sausages, or chorizo, the key to getting your sausage recipe right is to think about the texture you want to achieve. For example, a hot dog will be a smooth texture, while a breakfast sausage might be created with a coarser texture.
Getting your texture right can affect the finished sausage quality, so it’s important to consider the combination of ingredients you use.
Every sausage should contain a portion of meat, some fat, a bit of liquid and some salt. The textures you create will rely on changing the ratios of those four basic ingredients.
For example, if you want a firm sausage texture, you’ll need to add a little more water. Alternatively, a smoother sausage will have a greater ratio of fat in the mixture.
The key to getting your ratio of ingredients right is to work with a base recipe to achieve the texture you want. From there, you can add herbs, spices or aromatics to suit the flavors you want to create.
Tip 3: Prepare Your Meat
No matter what type of meat you’re using to make your sausage, take the time to prepare it properly before you begin. Be sure to cut your meat and fat into small pieces. Ideally, each piece should be smaller than the opening on your grinder so it fits in and feeds into the auger without having to push it down.
When you’ve cut your meat and fat, put them into the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes. You don’t want the meat to freeze, but you do want it to be cold, as this can help preserve the cell structure within the meat and ensure your sausage is juicy.
It’s also a good idea to put the grinder into the refrigerator too. You’ll be putting cold meat into the grinder, so you don’t want icy meat to stick to warm grinder blades on its way through the auger.
Tip 4: Get Grinding
When you’ve prepared your meat and fat, it’s time to get grinding. Take your cold meat out of the freezer and drop the pieces into the grinder. The pieces should fit easily into the opening with no resistance, so it will get caught by the auger.
As soon as one piece catches, drop another in. Continue adding more meat a little at a time, but don’t force lots of meat into the grinder all at once. Otherwise you’ll be forcing meat into the grinder faster than the blades can process it.
Tip 5: Mix the Meat
It can be tempting to put your ground meat into a food processor to mix in any other ingredients you want to add. However, there’s the risk that a food processor or mixer can get too warm, which could begin to melt the fat and change your textures.
Instead, put your ground meat into a bowl and add any herbs, spices, seasonings, or other flavorings you want to include. Then use very clean hands to mix the ingredients gently.
When you first put your ingredients into the bowl, you’ll see that each ingredient is distinctly separate. After you’ve mixed the ingredients for a while, they’ll start to combine, until they become one big sticky mass in the bowl.
You’ll know when your sausage is ready when it starts sticking to the sides of the bowl. Another easy way to test whether it’s ready is to form a small patty in your hand and hold it upside down. If the patty stays stuck to your palm, it’s sticky enough to move to the next tip.
Tip 6: Forming Your Sausage
Once you’ve finished mixing your sausage and you’re happy with the texture, it’s time to form it so it can be cooked. You can go ahead and cook it as it is, or maybe you might prefer to crumble the sausage over a pizza before sticking it in the oven.
Alternatively, you can form the sausage into patties and put them straight onto the grill, or you might want to form little meatballs to put into a pasta sauce. Of course, you might also prefer to stuff your sausage into casings and twist them into links.
If you’re using a sausage stuffer, work carefully to establish a good speed and rhythm. It’s important not to work too quickly, as you risk bursting the casing. Likewise, you also don’t want to work too slowly, as the casings could be too loose, but they also might end up too tight and burst.
The key is to find a happy medium that lets you fill the casing so you’re able to pinch a link with your fingers and twist it to form individual sausage links. Twist each link several times so they won’t unwind.
Tip 7: Cooking Your Sausage
If you’ve gone to all the effort of making good quality sausage, it makes sense that you also want to cook it right to highlight the flavors you’ve created. There are plenty of different ways you can cook your sausage, such as searing, poaching or smoking, but no matter which option you choose make certain you do it low and slow.
Whether you choose to sear your sausages on the grill or in a frying pan, do it over a medium-low heat. Cooking sausage over a high heat can make the juices inside start to boil, which makes the meat expand. Not only will you risk bursting the casing, but you’ll also lose many of those juices.
If you’re pan frying, keep the heat on medium to low. If you’re using a grill, place your sausages near the back away from direct heat. You’ll still get that great sear you want on the outside. It takes a little longer to achieve, but the results are worth the wait.