Cured Sausage 101 - What Is Cured Sausage?
Cured Sausage 101 - What Is Cured Sausage?
Attend this entry-level class from Meatgistics University by watching the video, reading the article and post any questions you have!
What Is Cured Sausage?
Sausage is a traditionally a meat product that has been ground, seasoned and then stuffed into a casing for cooking. Cured Sausage has a few extra steps, it has just had either nitrate or nitrites added to it to allow it to be smoked or slow cured. Cured Sausage covers a wide variety of meat snacks, everything from Snack Sticks and Summer Sausage to Bologna, Salami even a Hot Dog is also technically a Cured Sausage.
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.
What Does Sure Cure Do?
The cure that is used when wanting to keep a product safe through the smoking process contains sodium nitrite, also known as Sure Cure, Cure #1 or Prague Powder. The salt and cure block the growth of botulism spores, impart a cured flavor and are responsible for burning the meat a nice pinkish red color. Meat cured with salt alone will not have the same color, as the nitrites help burn that nice red color into the meat and then set it there during the thermal processing stage.
Cured Sausage will have a smooth interior texture with small particle size. This happens because we need to achieve protein extraction and we have to grind it twice, first through a larger plate like a 3/16" and then a smaller plate like a 1/8". Then we will need to mix this until the protein begins to extract from the meat and bind together. All of this extra working of the meat will create a very fine texture.
Cured Sausage covers such a wide variety of Sausages, from Snack Sticks to Summer Sausage that many different casings will be used including Fibrous (Summer Sausage) Collagen (Snack Sticks and Larger) Natural (Snack Sticks and Larger) and even Cellulose Casings (Skinless Hotdogs).
The cooking or smoking schedules for Cured Sausage will generally be more complicated than fresh sausage. Since we have added a cure to the meat we are able to cook it at lower initial temperatures as the cure will keep the meat safe through this process. Cured Sausage can be cooked on a grill, in a smoker, in an oven or even on a stove top if desired.
Depending on the pH and the Water Activity of your meat, you very well might have a shelf stable product. However, since you probably do not have a way to test either of these at home you should keep these items in a refrigerator or vacuum pack and put them in a freezer.
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.
@Newbe There might be some breaking down of the meat but this shouldnt cause you too many issues. I have bought pork butts fresh, then froze them then processed and froze the product again. The taste might not be the BEST possible but it certainly wont be bad.
@vjbutler no problem let us know