How to Make Sausage at Home
There’s nothing quite like a well-cooked juicy sausage to complete a meal. Sadly, we’ve all experienced a disappointingly tough and tasteless store-bought sausage at some point. If your sausages aren’t turning out flavorful, odds are your cooking skills aren’t to blame — it’s just low-quality sausage.
But you’re in luck, making fresh sausage at home is straightforward and easy. Follow our simple sausage-making instructions, and you’ll never have to worry about buying sausage reminiscent of cardboard again.
This ultimate guide to making sausage at home will tell you all you need to know about the different types of sausages, sausage seasonings and styles, along with how to make homemade sausages so you can become a meat-making expert. And for those who’ve ever wondered how to cook sausage on the grill, we’ve got three grilling methods that are sure to turn you into a true pitmaster.
Types of Sausages
At the most basic level, sausage is a ground meat mixture of meat, fat, salt and seasonings stuffed inside a casing or formed into a patty. This common definition unites all sausage types, but there are still many different cooking processes that sausage can go through before it gets to your plate.
Here are the main four methods most commonly used to make sausage:
Pre-cooked sausages are the type of meat product that you most likely remember from your childhood. Hot dogs, bologna, frankfurters and most German-style bratwursts all fall under the category of pre-cooked sausage.
As the name suggests, pre-cooked sausages are purchased already cooked and safe to eat straight out of the package. Pre-cooked sausage casings get stuffed with smooth, evenly pureed fillings and are then cooked thoroughly. Sometimes, even the pre-cooked sausage’s filling is cooked before entering the casing and getting cooked again.
However, you should still cook pre-cooked sausage yourself to draw out the best flavor. At the very least, you should try to bring pre-cooked sausage up to room temperature. Using pre-cooked sausage is convenient for a busy night because it takes raw meat out of the equation, meaning you don’t have to worry about cooking the sausages through or taking the time to get them to temperature.
Smoked sausage is the result of a smoking technique in which the meat is hung in a smoker or smokehouse, and a cool fire is stoked to slowly burn, creating an ample amount of smoke to cook, flavor and preserve the sausage. After going through the smoking process, sausage can be eaten as-is, heated on its own or chopped up and added into other recipes.
Similar to pre-cooked sausage, smoked sausage can be found around the deli counter and is often used in sandwiches. Examples of smoked sausage include kielbasa, andouille and some Italian sausages.
The most common examples of cured sausage are pepperoni, Genoa salami and Spanish chorizo. Cured sausage is the type of sausage that gets made fresh, salted and then left exposed to the air for weeks or even months to dry out. Over time, the salt and the air will “cook” the meat and make it safe to eat. When sliced as thinly as possible, cured sausage makes a delicious appetizer, sandwich ingredient, pizza topping or snack.
Fresh sausage is uncooked and must be kept refrigerated or frozen until ready to be used. Fresh sausage includes breakfast links, Mexican chorizo, bratwurst, sausage patties and any other type of sausage that’s filled with chopped, ground or pureed uncooked meat filling.
In addition to being cooked as-is, fresh sausage can be cut up or taken out of its casing to be cooked in crumbles. No matter which variation of fresh sausage you’re working with, be careful to cook it thoroughly before consuming it.
Fresh sausage is a grill’s best friend. Grilled sausage achieves a flavor fit for kings. Keep reading to find out how you can create your own flavor-packed fresh sausage and grill it to perfection.
Sausage Making Recipes
Store-bought sausages can come stuffed with harmful preservatives or nitrates, so making your own sausage is the best way to ensure you know exactly what’s in it. Making homemade sausage also allows you to choose what meat, herbs and spices go into your sausage. Plus, it’s a fresh culinary adventure for any pitmaster looking for a new cooking challenge.
Whether you’re attempting to make homemade sausage for the sake of health, flavor or fun, you’ll need to know some sausage basics before beginning the sausage-making process. Thinking about what sort of recipe you’re going to use your sausage for and whether the sausage will stand alone or be incorporated into another dish’s flavors will help you determine what type of meat and seasonings you should use in your sausage.
To get started, here are the different types of meats you can use to make your sausage:
- Pork: Pork is the most common kind of meat used in sausage because of its natural fattiness. The best type of pork to use for sausage-making comes from the pig’s shoulder.
- Beef: Sausage fillings frequently consist of a pork and beef mix, but that doesn’t mean sausage can’t be purely beef. Any cut of beef is suitable for sausage making — you don’t have to purchase an expensive steak.
- Lamb: Lamb sausage is less common than pork or beef sausage, but lamb meat can still be used to make a rich, flavorful sausage filling. If you decide to use lamb in your homemade sausage, look for leg meat to get the nicest outcome.
- Poultry: Recently, turkey and chicken have become increasingly popular in sausage-form. If you prefer poultry, you can easily grind turkey or chicken and use it for making your own sausages.
Once you’ve decided which meat to use for your homemade sausage, you’ll need to consider what other ingredients to add:
- Basic: There are some basic ingredients that you can confidently toss into just about any type of sausage. Seasonings like salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder are classics that will fit right in with just about any sausage filling.
- Hot: Spice your sausage up a bit by adding chili peppers, paprika, cumin or red pepper. These flavors are common in Mexican cuisine and add a bold pop to any sausage.
- Crisp: Take a walk on the lighter side with refreshing herbs like parsley, chives, cilantro or basil. Garden ingredients like these can brighten up an otherwise heavy sausage and make any dish less dense.
- Warm: Wintry spices like nutmeg, anise and cinnamon are comforting and cozy, complementing the rich flavors of fattier meats. This flavor profile also extends to nuttier spices like coriander, caraway and fennel, which are especially popular ingredients in pork sausage.
- Specialty: Some types of sausages, such as boudin or blood sausage, will call for more obscure sausage ingredients, like cream or pig’s blood. Even if you’re not following one of these recipes, try getting creative with your sausage filling by incorporating ingredients like breadcrumbs, egg or citrus peel.
Before putting random ingredients in your sausages, consider which seasonings work well together and what taste you’re trying to achieve. Having a clear idea of what style of sausage you’re making or what dish you want to use your homemade sausage in will help you narrow down which ingredients you should use.
Here are some popular types of sausage and what kinds of recipes you can use them for:
Kielbasa is a Polish sausage most often served alongside sauerkraut and apple or in a hearty stew. The comforting tastes of kielbasa come from the pork fat, pepper, garlic and thyme or marjoram mixed into its filling. Typically, kielbasa is made from pork and beef, but it’s not uncommon to find lamb or poultry versions.
Mexican chorizo is a spicy pork sausage that is a staple in dishes like tacos, burritos and empanadas. This sausage gets its spice by combining chili powder, paprika, garlic and a bit of cilantro to temper it. You can adjust the spice according to your personal tolerance, so if you’re not afraid of some heat, go heavy on the chili powder.
Bratwurst is perhaps Germany’s most well-known sausage type. Never aged or smoked, bratwurst is supposed to be fresh, succulent and enjoyed with sauerkraut and potato salad. There are many variations of the famous dish throughout Germany, but traditional German bratwurst is made from a pork and veal blend, onion, garlic, coriander, caraway, nutmeg and dry milk.
Dating back to the Ancient Roman era, Italian sausage is timeless, and so are its flavors. Keep it classically Italian by using fresh pork as the meat and serving the cooked sausage with crusty bread or crumbled into a pasta sauce, or put a modern twist on Italian sausage by stuffing them into mushrooms.
Although they offer varying levels of heat and sweetness, the mark of all Italian sausages is the distinct taste of fennel or anise. Sweeter Italian sausages use seasonings like garlic and sugar, while hot Italian sausages contain spices like paprika and chili pepper.
Steps for Making Sausage at Home
Now that you’ve decided what kind of sausage you want to make, it’s finally time to strap on your apron. The supplies you’ll need for making sausage include a meat grinder and a sausage stuffer, which are both stand mixer attachments, along with casings for the filling.
Natural casings work well with most sausages, but if you’re making bratwurst or Italian sausage, you should use hog casings. Cut the casings into segments about two feet long and then place them in warm water to soak overnight, which will get them ready for stuffing by softening them.
After the casings have finished soaking, follow these ten simple steps to make your own sausage right in your kitchen:
1. Gather the ingredients: Make sure you have everything you need to make your sausage handy and ready to go. You’ll also need to assemble the spices and herbs required for your choice of sausage style.
2. Clean the casings: One by one, connect an end of each casing to a funnel and pour cold water through it several times to ensure the casings are thoroughly rinsed before using.
3. Combine the seasonings: Measure out your spices and stir them together to make your sausage’s seasoning mix.
4. Cut the meat: Slice whatever type of meat you’re using into cubes small enough to fit into the meat grinder you’re using. Make sure the fatback is cut small enough as well and then dump both the fatback and the meat into a bowl.
5. Flavor the meat: Pour your seasoning mix into the bowl and lightly toss the meat and fatback in the spices until it’s coated evenly. Don’t be afraid to get dirty — use your hands to gently mix the meat, so the fat doesn’t warm up and melt.
6. Start grinding: Turn on the grinder and put a bowl at the mouth of the grinder to catch the meat. Then, start the mixer at a slow speed. Add the meat mixture to the grinder using a wooden stomper to push it through the grinder feed tube.
7. Add any extra ingredients: After all the meat is ground, mix in any liquid ingredients or additional seasonings you want.
8. Assemble sausage stuffer: Remove the grinder attachment from your mixer and replace it with the sausage stuffer accessory. Feed a piece of casing onto the sausage stuffer with a few inches of extra casing hanging off the end and a knot tied at the bottom of the casing.
9. Stuff the casings: Turn the mixer on to its slowest speed and start feeding small bits of the ground meat into the hopper of the sausage grinder. Hold the casing steady as it fills with air first, then the meat filling. Leave a few inches of empty casing on the end before taking it off the grinder.
10. Shape the sausage links: Beginning at the knotted end of the casing, measure how long you want one link to be and squeeze the sausage to mark the end of the first link. Continue measuring the length of links and marking where they start and end. Then twist the sausage where the marks are to form definite links. Once you reach the end of the sausage chain, tie a knot after the last link.
Congratulations — you are officially a sausage chef! To store your homemade sausage, coil it on a sheet pan and put it in the refrigerator uncovered to set overnight before cooking. If you notice any air bubbles in the sausage during this process, squeeze them out so that the sausage doesn’t split when you cook it.
How to Cook Your Homemade Sausage
So now that your fridge is stocked with beautiful homemade sausage, what do you do? From pan-frying to poaching, your sausage cooking options are limitless, but the method you choose will depend on what you want to use your sausage for. For example, some soup recipes call for boiling the sausage right along with the other ingredients.If you plan to serve your homemade sausage straight up, there’s no better way to cook them than on the grill. Grilling your sausages will bring out their flavor and keep the casing from hardening. But even within grilling, there are different techniques.
1. Split and Grill
To cook sausages using the split and grill method, start by cutting the sausages lengthwise, slicing most of the way through the meat, but not all the way. Fold the sausage out and lay it flat, skin-side up, so that the skin doesn’t dry out. Then, place the sausage on the grill until cooked through.
This method of cooking is fast and will get you a leaner final product by letting the sausage’s juices drip out, but it will also make the meat less flavorful. This approach is fine for sausages going into a recipe like a sauce, but you’ll want to use a different cooking technique that keeps the sausage juicy if it’s going to be served as the star of the meal.
How do you know when sausages are cooked? By using a meat thermometer to check when it has reached the minimum temperature requirement or when you don’t see any pink color when you cut it open.
2. Boil and Grill
This approach, also known as parboiling, partly cooks the sausage links by boiling them before tossing them on the grill to finish the job. Although using plain water to boil the sausages will pull flavor from them, using something along with the water, such as beer, will add to the overall flavor.
To begin parboiling, bring whatever liquids you’re using to a boil and then drop the sausages into the pot for long enough to tighten the skin. Pull the sausage out just as the fat inside the filling is starting to liquefy.
Now it’s time to move to the grill. Turn the grill on to a medium-low heat and place the sausage on it to finish cooking. This slow-burning way of cooking will keep the sausage juicy and prevent the casings from getting too tough.
3. Straight Grill
To get a sausage bursting with that freshly-grilled flavor and perfect grill marks, the best cooking method is to simply grill the meat. Although there’s nothing wrong with a nice char, too often, novice pitmasters make the mistake of firing up the grill to high heat and burning the outer surface of the sausage before the middle has a chance to get properly cooked. Grilling the sausage low and slow will both prevent uneven cooking and result in a more flavorful sausage.
Another blunder to avoid when grilling sausage is leaking juices, which can cause the grill to flare-up and burn the meat. Again, keeping the heat low and cooking the sausage gently is the solution because it helps keep the sausage’s casing intact, holding in its juices and preserving flavor. Some recipes suggest puncturing the sausage’s skin while cooking, but you should never do this because it lets out some of the sausage’s juices and could cause a fire if they drip into the grill.
Use a Grilla Grill
If you want to bring the best possible flavor out of your homemade sausage, cook it over a wood-pellet grill from Grilla Grills. A wood-pellet Grilla Grill makes you a star in your backyard by giving everything you grill a wood-fired flavor unmatched by any other cooking method. Grilla Grills give you total temp control, so you can keep your sausage’s filling juicy and its casing tender.
Plus, the quality of a Grilla Grill doesn’t stop at flavor — Grilla products are built to last. Our team of highly skilled steel engineers ensures Grilla Grills are as durable as possible, so you can grill all year round without worrying about burning your grill out.