Tools and Necessities to Make Your Own Sausage
In the spirit of DIY, you're ready to try your hand at making sausage. Great! Here's what you need to have on hand for success with your first batch.
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Learn About Sausage-Making from the Experts
Sausage-making instructors Craig and Dianne Peterson have been wrist-deep in ground beef, pork, wild game and poultry for more than 50 years. What began with Craig’s multi-generational family tradition of making 60 pounds of potato sausage for the holidays has expanded into more than 25 years of sharing their passion for well-spiced meat at northern Minnesota’s popular North House Folk School.
“There are hundreds of sausages to make,” Craig says, rattling off examples such as wild rice chicken breakfast links, Polish sausage, venison brats and even kangaroo sausage, made on a trip to Australia.
If it seems intimidating, consider this: Anyone who has mixed spices with ground meat for meatballs or burgers has essentially already made what’s in sausage. (The Petersons recommend skipping pre-mixed sausage seasonings in favor of hand-mixing bulk spices from a local food co-op or spice specialists, to avoid preservatives and extra salt.)
Here’s a look at some of the best kitchen tools and necessities to help you get a good start in the world of homemade sausage. Just add meat.
Good, Sharp Knives
The right knives are essential to sausage making. A boning knife is especially useful for sausage-making, as it helps you cut around bone, ligaments and tougher tissues. A sturdier chef’s knife helps cut up thick cuts of meat into smaller chunks for a grinder. Keep your knives sharp for the best performance.
A Meat Grinder
Since most butchers or grocers will grind the meat they sell, a meat grinder isn’t a must-have. But if you’d like to invest in one, the Petersons recommend checking out several models — stores that sell hunting gear typically have them. Go with one that’s a manageable size and not so heavy that you can’t or won’t want to use it. Solid choices range from counter-clamp hand grinders to more commercial-grade electric grinders.
For what it’s worth, the Petersons have found that one-task machines offer better performance and quality than dual-purpose ones, such as meat-grinding and stuffing machines or even mixer sausage-making attachments. They say do-everything machines tend to be much slower and aren’t always designed to be as heavy-duty as they need to be for sausage making.
A Meat Tub
Any large, clean container, bowl, tub or pan works for mixing up the ground meat and spices, but the Petersons like using food-grade meat tubs that are five to seven inches deep, available at Cabela’s or Amazon. Each tub can hold up to 50 lbs., making it easier to see when the spices and meat are well-mixed. Slide it into the refrigerator overnight if you want to mix one day and stuff the next.
Sausage casing aren’t tools, of course, but they are essential for sausage-making and they’re not something you have around the house unless you’re making sausage!
The freshest, most economical and tender casings come from your butcher. You should be able to simply run water through them and be ready to go. The Petersons say fresh casings also are less salty and longer, so there’s less waste.
A sausage stuffer is the speediest and most efficient way to get your sausage meat into the casings. Stuffers typically cost $125 to $400, depending on size and what they’re made out of. Beginners may want to start out with an inexpensive five-lb. stuffer that clamps onto the table or counter. A 15-lb. vertical stuffer is a good investment if you’ll be making larger batches.
The Petersons recommend two cookbooks for sausage-making inspiration: Great Sausage Recipes and Meat Curing, by Rytek Kutas, with large-scale recipes and everything you need to know, and The Sausage-Making Cookbook by Jerry Predika, with many 5- to 10-lb. batch recipes.
“It’s always good to start with a recipe,” Craig says, though he encourages experimenting and adjusting. “Making sausage is not a science. It’s more of an art.” Once you have the recipe down and the sausages made, all that’s left if to get grilling.