Fresh Sausage 101 - What Is Fresh Sausage?
Fresh Sausage 101 - What Is Fresh Sausage?
Attend this entry level class from Meatgistics University by watching the video, reading the article and post any questions you have!
What is Fresh Sausage?
Fresh Sausage is a traditionally a product that has been ground, seasoned and then most times stuffed into a casing for cooking. The size of the sausage can vary from as small as breakfast sausage link all the way up to 35mm Bratwurst style sausage. It can be made from beef, pork, poultry or wild game or other meats and even some non-meat items are being called sausage now.
Initially, sausage was made to use as much of an animal as possible so organ meats, connective tissue, and other non-desirable cuts were ground, salted and then stuffed into the intestines of the animal to be either cooked or cured. Over time it proved to be so popular due to its taste that the practice of using lower quality cuts is no longer common.
Today some common types of Fresh Sausage are Breakfast whether it is in links, patties or just made as a ground product, Italian, Bratwurst, Mexican Chorizo, and even some Boudin. Because a cure is not used for fresh products they need to be refrigerated or consumed right away. When cooking them you can add smoke if desired but it is less common.
Sausage can be made from almost any meat. Pork is the most common as it is readily available and relatively inexpensive but beef is also fairly common and chicken sausage is also becoming much more common and commercially available. Regardless of what meat block is being used at least 80/20 fat ratio is standard but we like 70/30 and some even go closer to 50/50. This means if a leaner wild game such as venison is being used the correct amount of pork fat will need to be added or the finished product will be less flavorful and overly dry. The best time to add this pork fat is during the second grind so it can mix in well with the lean meat. For most types of fresh sausage, the meat should be ground twice through a 3/16" plate to achieve the ideal particle size.
Fresh Sausage, especially Bratwurst and Breakfast Link Sausage does not have the same texture as a cured sausage. This is because we do not need to achieve protein extraction during the mixing process as we are not smoking this, meaning there is less of a danger of the fat rendering out of the meat during the cooking process. The end result is that when you cut one open it will have a more coarse appearance and mouthfeel.
Fresh Sausage can be stuffed into natural casings, like hog and sheep, or you can use fresh collagen casings. Since Fresh Sausage can cover everything from Breakfast Links to Bratwurst you might be using casings as small as 21mm collagen or as large as 35mm natural hog casings.
Depending on the meat that you are using to make your sausage you will need to cook it to different internal temperatures. For example, beef and pork sausages need to be cooked to an internal temperature of 160° F while chicken and other poultry need to be cooked to 165°F. The reason that sausage needs to be cooked higher than a whole muscle cut, like steak, is that very little harmful bacteria live inside the muscle, the majority of it is on the surface. Once you have ground that however you have exposed all of the meat to that bacteria and it must be properly cooked to be safe to eat.
Either cook your sausage right away or freeze and then vacuum pack it for future use. If you do not freeze the sausage first and try to vacuum pack it you will end up crushing your sausage and it will either have flat sides to it or it will be pushed out of the casing altogether.
I do it all the time. Still remember my mom saying it’s not a good idea. I’m sure if you are buying a nice steak and intend it eat it as a grilled T-bone you might notice some flesh cell break down (texture change). If you are going to use it in sausage you will not notice any difference. Made brats last night. Once frozen pork and elk. Refroze the brats. I do it time and time again.
Here is a link to a website that has a handy Excel spreadsheet. It is, as it says a free non-commercial site.
As for Waltons dropping the ball, I vote they are doing a great job.
I think for all of us there are general guidelines, but unless you have a temperature and humidity controlled environment, both for the preparation, cooking (if you cook them) smoking, hanging etc, the results are bound to vary from batch to batch.
Personally, I am searching how to get my home made smoked and dry cured pepperoni to the exact texture and firmness of Margarita pepperoni from the store.
Through trial and error I have the flavor where I want it, but not the texture or firmness. I know time, temperature and humidity are all crucial, but the best I can do is in the basement and then subject to the environment that is there.
I figure as long as I am not killing anyone or making anyone sick I am making progress. Thanks Waltons for all of the great information so far.
Having said that, it would be nice to have your chart in an Excel spreadsheet.
Thanks Jonathon! One question tho! You eluded to 178 being high for a temp! Don’t you guys recommend setting the temp at 175 during the final stage to completion to internal temp? Three degrees shouldn’t make that much difference should it??
Sounds reasonable. Thanks for your input. Pulling the meat at 152 will make a big difference I bet! Thanks again.
@Kinger Thanks for the information. Your process, other than going to 178, is on in my mind. The only thing I do differently is an ice bath for 20 minutes. Showering for 10 minutes, if you are running a cycle and a fan in your smoker can work, but I still think an ice bath would bring it down faster and more. Last time I did thick summer sausage it was down to 110 in 20 minutes, I also tried showering it at 2 minutes on 2 minutes off for 20 minutes and it was only down to 136 (ish) but i did not have a fan running on them.
One more thing you might want to try, if you are stalled towards the end you can finish them up by putting them in a vacuum bag (I have done then hot, right from the smoker, some condensation in the bag but it still gets a good vac) and get some water going at around 165, it should get up to temp in under an hour depending on the thickness.