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!

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Ian H Moore (@ianhmoore)

    Hi, i have some sausage related questions from an Irish stand point. I moved out to the USA a number of years back and I was very surprised by how different the sausage over here tastes. I was actually wondering … why?

    Does typical USA sausage have more black pepper in it?

    What is the % of actual pork in the product? ( I know that in the EU, it has to contain a minimum of 42% pork, however, it can also contain bread crumbs or husk to bulk out the rest). Does this vary greatly from the US requirements?

    Is there any difference between using sheep or hog casings? I have heard people complain about using cellulose casings, saying the texture is much more different.

    Andouille sausage…I’ve had it, and I love it! Is this a big seller in the USA?? ( I never even saw it in Ireland!).

    Thanks for the great blog posts and I really do enjoy reading them.

    Ian

    1. jenniferdewey

      Okay.
      Q1. I don’t know about the black pepper..? Most of our spices come pre-mixed so I am not adding pepper into them. But I don’t feel like our sausages are using a whole lot of pepper. If anything they are mostly salt based.

      Q2. I do not know what the requirements or guidelines are for sausage in the United States. However, I can tell you that for our shop, our sausages that contain all pork are 100% pork. Meaning that if we are making 50 lbs. of sausage, we weight up 50 lbs. of pork shoulder (boston butt) and then spices or additives are added ON TOP of that 50 lbs. Not all of our sausages are pork though, sausages that include beef and pork are also 100% meat. No filler or additive. The person to consult about meat related regulations would be @itweetmeat He is a wealth of knowledge and where there is something I don’t know or want more information, I consult him. :) I could probably look it up. The USDA website would be a good start.

      Q3. There is not really any difference between hog casings and sheep casings besides the size. The diameter of a sheep casing is much less than that of a hog casing. We use sheep casings for small breakfast links as well as old fashioned hot dogs. All the rest of our sausages go into hog casings. They are 22-24 mm I believe. Just from experience, the sheep casings tend to be a little more delicate. Easier to break, require more delicate handling. We only use a cellulose casing for our snack sticks. And yes, the texture is indeed very different. For a sausage, nothing beats a natural casing. :)

      Q4. YES! For us Andouille is a pretty good seller. We make it. Ours is delicious, I will have to send you some sometime! Most commonly people use it in dishes like jambalaya or something similar. So you must like heat then? Ours is rather spicy and makes it hard to eat as a sausage, works much better for cooking purposes.

      I thank YOU so much for reading! And commenting! I hope my responses answered some of your questions! :)

  2. Ian H Moore (@ianhmoore)

    Thanks for answering all those questions! It’s great to find out this stuff and know a bit more about what I’m eating. Keep up the fantastic work on this blog and I can’t wait until next Friday!

    Ian

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