If you’re looking to make homemade sausage, one of the most critical decisions you’ll make is whether to season before or after grinding.
This choice can impact the flavor, texture, and even appearance of your finished product.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at both methods and discuss the pros and cons of each.
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Sausage Making: The Art of Seasoning
If you’re a fan of sausage, making it at home can be a rewarding experience. Not only can you choose the type of meat you use, but you can also add any spices and seasoning you desire.
Ground Herbs and Spices
One popular option for seasoning sausage is to use ground herbs and spices. This can include ingredients like cumin, coriander, allspice, cayenne, thyme, and fennel, among others.
Using ground herbs and spices can be an easy way to add a burst of flavor to your sausage.
Whole Herbs and Spices
Another option is to use whole herbs and spices. This can include ingredients like fennel seed, black peppercorns, yellow mustard seed, and more.
Using whole herbs and spices can add a nice texture to your sausage and provide bursts of flavor.
Many people prefer to use pre-made seasoning blends when making sausage. Some popular seasoning blends include Andouille, Hot Italian, Sweet Italian, and Chorizo.
Andouille seasoning typically includes cayenne, garlic, paprika, and thyme, all with a smoky flavor.
Hot Italian seasoning includes crushed red pepper flakes, black pepper, cayenne, paprika, fennel seed, sea salt, parsley, and garlic.
Sweet Italian seasoning typically includes sea salt, brown sugar, fennel seed, coriander, black pepper, caraway, and crushed red pepper flakes.
Chorizo seasoning includes cumin, coriander, clove, bay leaf, cinnamon, oregano, thyme, garlic, sea salt, peppercorns, Ancho chile powder, paprika, and apple cider vinegar.
Salt is an essential ingredient when making sausage, as it can enhance the flavor and preserve the meat.
Kosher salt and sea salt are both commonly used types of salt for homemade fresh sausage. The amount of salt used can vary depending on personal preference and the type of sausage being made.
If you plan on curing your sausage, then you will need to use curing salts, such as sodium nitrate or sodium nitrite.
When making sausage, there exist two primary curing salts, which are commonly referred to as Cure 1 and Cure 2.
Cure 1 typically contains about 6% sodium nitrite and about 97% salt, while Cure 2 contains about 6% sodium nitrite, about 1% sodium nitrate, and about 93% salt.
Should I Season Sausage Before or After Grinding?
The decision of whether to season before or after grinding comes down to personal preference. Both methods have their pros and cons, and there is no right or wrong way to do it.
However, it’s always a good idea to experiment with both methods and see which one produces the results that you prefer.
Approach 1: Seasoning before Grinding
The first approach involves cubing the meat, mixing in the seasoning and salt, and allowing the seasoned cubes to rest in the fridge for a few hours before grinding.
More even seasoning: When seasoning before grinding, you have the opportunity to mix the seasoning and salt evenly throughout the meat. This helps to ensure that each bite of sausage is consistently flavored, rather than having uneven pockets of seasoning.
Better texture: Seasoning before grinding can also help to preserve the natural texture of the meat. When you grind meat, the texture changes, which can result in a final product that is mushy or rubbery.
By seasoning before grinding, you can help to maintain the texture of the meat, resulting in a sausage that is tender and succulent.
Customizable seasoning: When seasoning before grinding, you have more control over the flavor profile of your sausage. You can adjust the amount of seasoning and salt to your liking, creating a sausage that is perfectly seasoned to your taste.
This is especially beneficial if you have specific dietary needs or preferences, as you can tailor the seasoning to meet your requirements.
Longer preparation time: Seasoning the meat before grinding takes more time to prepare, as you need to cube the meat and let it rest in the refrigerator for a few hours.
Potential texture issues: If the meat is not cubed properly or is left in the fridge for too long, it can result in a sausage with a grainy or mushy texture.
More difficult to mix: Mixing the seasoning and salt with cubed meat can be more challenging than mixing it with ground meat, as the seasoning can sometimes clump together.
Approach 2: Seasoning after Grinding
The second approach is to grind the meat and then mix it in the seasoning. Typically, the seasoning is mixed with water or some other liquid, such as beer or wine, and then poured into the ground meat.
Faster prep time: Seasoning after grinding can be a faster approach, as you don’t need to take the time to cube the meat and mix in the seasoning before grinding.
Easier to mix in liquid: When you mix the seasoning with liquid, like water or beer, it can be easier to evenly distribute the mixture throughout the ground meat. This can help to create a more uniform flavor and texture.
Better for some types of sausage: Some types of sausage, like fresh sausages that are meant to be cooked right away, may benefit from seasoning after grinding. This can help to ensure that the spices are fresh and potent when the sausage is cooked.
Less even seasoning: When seasoning after grinding, it can be more difficult to evenly distribute the spices throughout the meat. This can result in pockets of over-seasoned or under-seasoned meat.
Texture changes: Mixing seasoning with ground meat can result in changes to the texture of the sausage, which can lead to a less appealing final product.
Limited control over seasoning: When seasoning after grinding, it can be more difficult to adjust the seasoning to your liking. You may need to taste the sausage multiple times and add more seasoning, which can be time-consuming.
Overall, seasoning after grinding can be a faster approach, but it may result in a less evenly seasoned sausage with a different texture.
It may be better suited for certain types of sausage, but seasoning before grinding provides more control over the final product’s flavor and texture.
It is evident that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to whether you should season sausage before or after grinding. Each approach has its own advantages and disadvantages, it comes down to personal preference and experience.
If you are unsure which approach to take, you can also try an in-between method of doing an initial coarse or medium-coarse grind, adding the seasoning, and then re-grinding through a fine plate on the meat grinder. This method can result in the best of both worlds, with even seasoning and a maintained texture.
In the end, the best way to determine which approach works for you is to experiment with both methods and see which results in sausages that suit your taste and preference.