It’s no surprise that sausage is something that has become something that can be found in the average household nowadays. It’s inexpensive, easy to cook, can spice up an average meal, and is just plain good. But it comes in many varieties. Fresh sausages, smoked sausages, in a casing, no casing. Well what’s the difference? Knowing the difference between different types of sausages can help when it comes to cooking them correctly and adding them to dishes.
So first up is fresh sausage…
Fun Meat Fact #1: A fresh sausage is a raw sausage, it is NOT fully cooked. Cooking a raw sausage requires it to be cooked to it’s required internal temperature (for a ground pork product, 160 degrees). A fresh sausage can come in three different varieties from our shop. In a sheep casing, hog casing, or no casing at all (bulk). Cooking a fresh sausage can be done by boiling, grilling, or pan-frying depending on the use. The sausages pictured above are breakfast links and are stuffed into a natural sheep casing.
Next is a smoked sausage…
Fun Meat Fact #2: A smoked sausage is one that is FULLY cooked. It only has to be heated through, NOT brought up to an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Actually, it could be eaten cold, right out of the package if you’d like. Hot dogs are also in this category of a fully cooked product.
So what makes the sausage fully cooked? Well, we cook them. Haha. First, they start out like our fresh sausages, as a raw product. But we had something to them that fresh sausages don’t get. A curing agent is added, most commonly sodium nitrite.
Although sodium nitrite lately has been getting called out as being a bad guy, it’s been used in sausage making for years and is a standard when it comes to curing products.
Fun Meat Fact #3: The most common use for sodium nitrite in sausage making is to prevent the food toxin botulism. It also allows cured and smoked products to have a longer shelf life than a fresh sausage would. Which is why we can sell our smoked sausages fresh and our fresh sausages are immediately put into the freezer after they are made. How’s that for confusing!? Anyway, more on this topic when I write the sausage making blog.
So the sausages start out raw but with the sodium nitrite added. And they look like this.
We then put them into a large oven (or smokehouse) where they run on schedule that takes them through several steps (changes in temperature, steam, smoke, etc.) and they are brought up to that temperature of 160 degrees so that they are fully cooked! And they come out looking like the photo above, ready to enjoy! Smoked sausages can be cooked much like fresh sausages: boiled, pan fried, grilled, or even microwaved. Just be sure to only heat them through, don’t try to cook them because as you’ve just learned, they are already cooked!
So next time you are in the store buying sausage, if you can’t tell, or the label doesn’t say, ASK what kind of sausage it is! It will not only help you make an informed decision on how to cook it, but also how to store it and how long it will last! Happy Friday everyone!