The Science of Sausage

While most good sausage makers and “Wurstmachers” are referred to as artisans, there is just as much science in making good sausage as there is art, and they know this. While crafting 5 or 10 pounds for a backyard BBQ may be a lot of fun, how can that product be manufactured to those same quality standards on a much larger scale?

The first key consideration is fat. It carries flavor and provides an entirely different texture and juiciness than the meat itself. The percentage of fat used is based on the type of sausage made, but typically ranges from 24% to 42%. The next consideration is the handling of the meat. The use of fresh meat is preferred over frozen meat because thawed meat tends to release a lot of moisture and lead to an overly dry and firm sausage. The meat should not be overmixed as that breaks down fat and leads to an unpleasant texture. Finally, meat temperature must be controlled in storage and in processing to meat food safety and quality standards. Too much heat can lead to bacterial growth and unwanted melting of fat. Finally, salt is essential. It opens up the muscle fibers in the meat to want and accept fat, water, seasoning, and other ingredients as well as envelop them to get the full impact in every bite. Salt also enables the fat to blend perfectly with the meat, which gives sausage that great snap people enjoy.

Two additives often found in manufactured sausages are antioxidants and high pH additives, which help to maintain the integrity of the sausages. Antioxidants such as BHA, BHT, citric acid, and more natural compounds such as rosemary extract, prevent the fat from going rancid. High pH additives such as phosphates and sodium bicarbonate help to improve moisture retention keeping sausages juicy and delicious.

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