Our guide to buying the best sausages
Everyone loves a good sausage, but not all sausages are created equal.
The quality of sausages can vary greatly from processed Sizzlers to gourmet Italian sausages and the reasons for this are many, with issues only discovered once the sausages are home and in the pan. How many times have you eaten sausages that you have paid good money for only to think “don’t buy those again”
Below is a list of criteria we believe deliver the best sausage for your UPAN, giving you great flavour and maintaining that seasoned cast iron surface allowing for quick cleaning.
Where to buy, who makes the best sausages?
Buy local and buy fresh
Everyone has an opinion on who makes the best sausages in town, so it’s best to support the local butchers in your area, word of mouth will always provide the most current local butcher trends.
Before entering the store check out the front window. A well-stocked window shows high turnover, awards for sausages are always good to see, but they must be current.
Although we believe in supporting the local butchers, for many this is not an option. Over the last 10 years supermarket chains have changed their focus to higher end sausages therefore higher profits. So your options in this area can vary greatly, but there are good products out there.
The one advantage the supermarket provides over the local butcher is that you can pick them up and run your eye over them.
Selecting the sausages
With a new butcher start simple. Select one of the cheaper made sausages like a “Cumberland Beef” or a traditional “Italian Sausage” (pork).
If they are good, return and try what else is on offer, a lot of butchers are good with the basics but lack the skill required for the more premium sausages like ‘Duck and Orange” etc. If they are no good you have not wasted your money.
Remember: Most premium sausage will be twice the price of the standard sausage.
Is price the best guide?
But do not buy on price alone. Check out the cheapest cuts of meat the butcher sells. Sausages cost money to make and are traditionally made for the cheaper cuts of meat.
If the sausages cost less than the cheaper cuts of meat there won't be much meat in them.
What are the best Casings?
Three main types of casings are used when making sausages : natural sheep, natural hog and collagen. The natural sheep casing will be on the thinner sausages (chipolatas, what we recommend for ‘toad in the hole’), the natural hog casing on a standard sausage. With the UPAN we recommend natural casing sausages, these will crisp up and transfer the heat into the sausage far better than collagen casings which are prone to splitting .
When you buy fresh sausages, they should never be overstuffed. If they are, the casings will contract before the meat sets, forcing the excess meat out of the ends which stops the skin from crisping.
This is mainly an issue with hand linked sausages, if you get over-stuffing with machine linked sausages it would be a good indicator to move onto another butcher or a different brand.
Air in the grind mix
The first sign of a bad mix are air bubbles under the skin. It comes from air in the ground pork when the sausages are being stuffed, it is something a good butcher knows how to avoid. If you can see it in the store, don’t buy - those sausages will not cook well. Some people recommend pricking the sausage where the bubbles are, but that can lead to the sausages’ juices leaking out, lowering the UPAN surface temperature, and splitting the skins.
Once the sausages have been made most butchers will leave them to hang for at least 24hrs, this allows the sausage to rest and then set. This is when the casing takes shape. If the ends of the sausages are not pinched or open when the links are cut. They won’t have been hung for long enough.
Presentation is a good indicator of the sausage quality. When the sausages are stuffed this is always done by a machine, but they are linked it can be either by hand or machine.
Neither is better than the other as it all comes down to the butcher. If they are hand linked and all the same size, it's a good indicator of a quality sausage.
Supermarket sausage will be machine linked, so they should all be pretty consistent, if they do vary it may be an indicator that there is a lack of density(meat) in the sausages and the linking machine is running on its limit.
If some are too long or too short, they may not all fit in the UPAN. Ideally the sausage should be
Good fat content
This is another issue that will only identify itself once you are at home and is where going to a good butcher counts.
Fat content in a sausage generally needs to be between 15 - 20%. How much fat and what type of fat they add (pork or beef) will affect the sausage.
The issue with fat content is you don't know how much fat there is in each recipe until you cook the sausage. A lot of people will cook a sausage, till they “run the fat out”.
If you do find that there is a lot of fat left in the pan it’s not a bad thing, not having enough fat in a sausage will give you a dry sausage that doesn't bind well, but you are paying for all that fat left in the pan.
So, in summary, check for the following
- Natural sausage casings
- Over stuffing
- Inconsistent sizing
- If the packaging has labelling make sure it’s not hiding the bad end of a sausage
- Air bubbles
- Sausage meat content, read the labels or check the prices against the cheapest cuts of meat in the store
Lastly, selecting the best sausage is not rocket science, but knowing what makes a good sausage will lead to a much more satisfying cooking and eating experience!