Earlier this spring, my high school pal, JD, called and asked if I wanted to make sausage on Saturday. It’s much easier with a few folks to spread out the work, but I wasn’t prepared for something like 50 pounds of sausage. Nor did I expect JD to film the event.  But, ever the overachiever, he did. Our other pal, Mac, the bearded one, joined us.

So please forgive the Saturday shadow and numerous chins and the unscripted nature of the video and my limited editing skills, but do follow the basic steps to awesome sausage.  There are five, follow them all, keep your meat really cold, and you’ll have great links (or skip step 5 and make patties or use it loose).  It’s summer grilling season and there’s nothing better to sizzle on a grill than sausage, especially if you made it.

My favorite sausage, after all these years, five since the book, Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing, was published, remains the chicken sausage, and I offer the recipe here.  For the technique, watch the video. It’s easy: cut, grind, mix, taste, stuff.  And fun, especially if you have a couple friends to join you and share the work.

Chicken Sausage with Basil and Tomato (created by Brian Polcyn, adapted from our book, Charcuterie )

3-1/2 pounds/1.5 kilograms boneless, skinless chicken thigh, cubed

1-1/2/750 grams pork fat or pork belly, cubed

1.25 ounces/40 grams kosher salt (about 2-1/2 tablespoons)

1 teaspoon/3 grams freshly ground pepper

1/2 tablespoon/10 grams garlic, minced

1/2 cup/60 grams basil, chopped, tightly packed

1/2 cup/100 grams roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced

1/4 cup/60 grams sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, diced

1/4 cup/60 milliliters red wine vinegar, chilled

1/4 cup/60 milliliters extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup/60 milliliters dry red wine, chilled

10 feet/3 meters hog casings, soaked in tepid water for at least 1/2 hour and rinsed

Yield: 5 pounds of sausage or about 20 6-inch links

Update in response to comments: My thoughts on grinders and stuffers

I used a Kitchen Aid grinder attachment for years, until it broke. Then I got a new one and the blades just weren’t any good, cheap and the dulled quickly.  (And don’t even talk to me about their silly stuffer attachment; a pain and a mess).  If you grind more than 6 or 7 times a year, it’s probably worth investing in a real grinder.  Here’s the one I use. Grinders are also essential for really good hamburgers and tartare, which I would only make if I ground my own meat.

The only stuffer I really recommend is a cylinder stuffer like the one in the video.  Others are messy and difficult; making sausage is enough of a project as it is without making it difficult on yourself.  If you want to make sausage-making a part of your life, it’s worth the money.

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65 Wonderful responses to “How To Make Sausage”

  • Julian F

    I really want to try this, but I don’t eat pig products. I believe I understand the function of the pork fat and that it should be solid.
    Is there any other type of solid fat, non-porcine, that you might suggest?

    • Mike V

      I have the same issue….

      I actually just bought the Charcuterie book this past weekend to make some of the other products in it (Duck Proscuitto will be the first one…)

      But I really want to make sausage, but cannot eat anything pig-related… any suggestions for the casings to use, and the fat type to use to make up for the pork fat?

      • Mike K

        You can use lamb casings in place of the hog casings. I would think duck or lamb fat would work well as a substitute for pork fat. If you choose a fatty enough piece of meat to start with (such as a lamb shoulder), you may not need to supplement w/ additional fat at all.

        Also, one of Ruhlman’s recipes in Charcuterie (the merguez sausage recipe) calls roasted red peppers and explains that this ingredient helps boost the moisture/juiciness of the sausage. If you don’t wish to supplement your meat with additional fat, I think that adding roasted red peppers may help accomplish some of the same goals as adding the supplemental back fat.

      • Charlie

        I was wondering the same as well.. Michael.. help us out here :) What other fat can we use?

    • ruhlman

      yes, what mike k said.

      sheep casing, i prefer beef fat. veg provides additional moisture

    • bobdelgrosso

      For sausage that is meant to be cooked and straight away eaten, all that matters is that the fat to lean muscle ratio be somewhere in the neighborhood of 25:75 regardless of animal species.

    • Al W

      The grinder and stuffer both look like the ones I use. Mine were purchased from Northern Tool and Equipment online. Each was about $100, and I am pleased with both. The clicking sound while stuffing the sausage also sounds just like mine .The click is because of a broken gear tooth. This happens if you crank too hard when the piston is at the bottom of the stuffer (note Michael telling the young man to stop). With one broken tooth, it stills works great. Hope this helps.

      • ruhlman

        yes, both my stuffers have lost teeth, though clicking sound here is a loose screw attaching stuffer to board.

  • Chris Metts

    You’re right, the chicken sausage is excellent and has been quite a hit here since I got your book 10 months ago! The only problem is I continue to get beggars for more.

  • Phil

    Great video! Michael, the instructions from your book (and videos like this) have inspired me to make this my focus. And it’s made me a hero to a lot of my friends. I make bacon, various sausages, jerky, hams, dry cured meats and nothing I’ve brought to the table has fallen short of making everyone happy.

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom, and being an inspiration.

  • Kevin B

    Could you go into detail about what casings you like to use for each type of sausage? Natural or “the other stuff”? Is soaking required, etc.

    Thanks for your blog, it inspires!

    • ruhlman

      use hog casing, soak in water for 20 minutes and flush with water.

  • Nick (Macheesmo)

    I’d be interested to know what camera/audio setup you were using for this. Especially the part with the mixing looks really good and the audio is really clean.

    Sausage looks great also obviously. That’s a lot of sausage!

  • Thayer

    I adapted your chicken sausage recently and used just thighs, with no additional fat other than the fat and skin from the thighs themselves. It worked just fine–not sure if the fat percentage was quite in the 25-20% range, but it was delicious and the texture was perfect, in my opinion. I think you can have a little leaner sausage if you cook them to the perfect temperature (160 F in this case).

  • Natalie Sztern

    Michael I don’t know why you are not on television with your own Charcuterie show…you certainly have the looks, you have the presence,the knowledge, watching your technique for this probie is great…

    Like why? Why isn’t someone taking notice?

      • Carol

        Yep, my husband calls you my “foodie boyfriend”, but we know you are wonderfully married, and it’s just a joke with us (because my husband is as cute as you are, and my bacon brings men to their knees…)

      • Phil

        Speaking of television . . .

        Bourdain mentioned in his new book that a certain “project” he got you involved in ended up costing you your Food Network gig. He didn’t elaborate, but I wondered if it had anything to do with the episode of No Reservations where that little girl shot off her mouth about her father hating Emeril. I did appreciate how you handled her, but found her a bit rude.

        Maybe it’s something you can’t comment on, but I was certainly wondering. After all of the projects you’ve done with Bourdain, what could possibly have put the nail in the coffin at FN?

        • Rhonda

          Phil,

          I doubt Michael will comment on this.

          It was a long time ago and he told me FN has forgiven and are ready to move on — together.

          Nothing to do with the “No Reservations” Hudson Valley episode and Chef Pardus’ wonderful, brilliant and loquacious daughter.

          This was much funnier (at the time). Next morning — not so much. Not televised and not important in the bigger picture.

          In Michael’s defence, I dare anyone to drink copious amounts of alcohol for several days in a row with Tony Bourdain and NOT get into trouble. That is why everyone loves Tony.

          I think everyone should just let it be.

          Personally, I think it was totally worth it and if I were Michael, I would do it again. But I am not an upstanding best selling author so the rules are a little different.

          :)

          Best,

          R

    • ruhlman

      it’s called sel nitrite? it’s pink right? use it sparingly in foods youre going to smoke, dry cure or in some beef brining, corned beef. see charcuterie or this blog for more info on it. dangerous if ingested in quantity but it’s mainly salt so don’t know how this would happen, though it’s pink for a reason.

      • Sam Greenfield

        Sel nitrate is also called nitrate salt, curing salt, or pink salt. The pink color is artificially added to help distinguish it from table salt–don’t get them mixed up. Also, you shouldn’t confuse pink salt with Himalayan Pink Salt. Himalayan Pink Salt is essentially table salt.

  • Sharon Scott

    Love this. This is old school, cooking TV, PBS style. Totally organic, informative and not over produced. Maybe you should have a show?? My husband has been hooked on Charcuterie since I bought him a copy a couple months ago. He’s done bacon, pancetta, and sausage. Our neighbors , since we’re sharing the product, think he’s a genius!!

  • Jennifer S

    Thanks for the video, Michael. Even though the pictures in Charcuterie are great, there are some situations in cooking where video is a LOT more helpful.

    The fact that this video has your Saturday shadow, etc. makes it better, IMHO. Show’s you’re not some talking head who’s been produced to an inch of your life!

  • Rhonda

    I love this!

    What can I say, I love real guys being guys in the kitchen.

    Love the “shadow”. Love the sausage and the best part of your assembled crew is that you will all clean up nicely to serve this fantastic sausage to friends and family for a great (25 or more?) family meals.

    Wow! what a lot of work but beautiful results!

    Beautiful.

    • JD

      After 12 hours of shopping and prep, we finally stated drinking beer, got our spouses over, then fired up the grill for a family sausage fest at around 8:30 pm. — JD the camera man and spicer.

  • Rachel (Hounds in the Kitchen)

    Love the video!

    It’s difficult enough to feed a four year old, but now our daughter will not scarcely eat store bought sausage because of your book’s inspiration. Fortunately, sausage making is a kid friendly cooking activity.

  • Pat

    A sausage show would sell well, especially towards fall. The directives in the video were a bit too fast, I think. But slow it down and example it out with a bit more detail (sorry, I’m a teacher) and I think you have a hit show on your hands.

  • Fran

    Wow, that sure is a lot of sausage, but it looks great! I’m not in the market to buy anymore kitchen gadgets at the moment, but you’ve inspired me to make patties.

    The video looks great. The vantage point was perfect — gave us a good view of how to get sausage made. Thanks!

  • Phil

    Awesome video. My favorite sausage from Charcuterie is the Spicy Roasted Poblano Sausage.

  • luis

    Rhulman, deep down Bourdain really really hates you! doesn’t he?
    Else he could help you with your great ventures into video publishing…..Yessssssssssss I knew that! He is a hater…

  • Al W

    In Charcuterie, you salt and spice the meat cubes before you grind. Here you are seasoning after the grind. Recently, I too have been grinding and then spicing, with good results. I beat the **** out of the meat in the mixer to make sure the proteins are cooperative. It seemed to me, that when you salt/season the meat and let it sit, moisture was drawn out of the meat before grinding. And I worried how much flavor and juiciness was being lost. I just finished a batch of Andouille, which brings my stash to 30 pounds. The goal is 50 pounds by the 4th of July for a backyard party. Thank you for all your help. I look forward to the next book.

    • ruhlman

      good point. ideally, you salt and season a day ahead. salt also helps dissolve protein and give it a better bind. we only had a day though, so we seasoned as we mixed.

  • luis

    Great, I enjoy the videos. Always learn something from them. I read that the Kitchen Aid attachements work but not very well??. I guess it depends on how much sausage you happen to make.
    In your case that is yet another collection of kitchen tools we can pick up. But I will try my Kitchen Aid attachements first. Since you guys made so much you vacuum bagged them which is what I take away from this. Excellent idea. Of course it makes perfect sense, that’s a very very great use of the vacuum bagger. Super idea. Great video, great recipe. It looks like a lot of fun too…

  • Thom Stilton

    I say do a show for PBS . You’d be wasted on those clowns at Food Network. They would have you running around Cleveland partnered with Aaron McCargo doing some lame challenge for some new lamo reality show Tuschman copied from another network.

    • luis

      Thom, you are right. PBS is were all great cooking lives at. No question about it. And I think Michael Rhulman could do something for PBS on charcuttery. (hope I spelled it right?). This is Michaels passion… I just wish he’d tell us where to find the beautiful casings he is using?????

  • Chad

    Glad you reminded me of the chicken sausage – made some last year and it rocks – also good used as meat in a sauce for pasta…..Thanks!!

  • Lars

    Michael,

    I have a kitchenaid mixer, what do you think of their meat grinder attachment? Is it worth it?

      • bobdelgrosso

        I could not agree more. If you already have a Kitchenaid stand mixer, the grinder attachment is a logical and effective choice for grinding meat if you don’t grind much meat. Likewise, the Kitchenaid sausage stuffer attachment is okay if you already have a mixer and don’t plan to make sausage more than two or three times.

        However, if you want to master sausage making, you need a dedicated grinder and a piston type stuffer to fill the casings.

    • luis

      Lars, for what it’s worth the Kitchen Aid Meat grinder attachement works for me.But and there is always a but…
      I am just a home cook. Nothing comercial…

      Give it a shot…

  • phillyray

    Chicken sausage makes a great breakfast sausage, especially with sunny sides and roasted apples!

    Another great recipe from the book is the Merguez. Unless you live near a Middle-Eastern or North African stronghold it’s hard to find a good one.

    • seanrude

      I second the Merguez recommendation, it is outstanding. I would also add the fresh chorizo recipe as well

  • Susan

    Good job on the video! That was a lot of sausage. Tell me, do you have to disassemble all the grinders and stuffers to clean them between making each type of meat?

    • ruhlman

      good question. no. we ground pork first since chicken has more potential bacteria issues. but basically we were doing so much grinding it didn’t make sense from a time standpoint and really, a little bit of duck in the lamb sausage is not going to hurt.

  • Richard

    Michael, that’s a really cool video of the steps in making sausage. We go through about 150 pounds of venison/pork sausage (about 25 pounds of which is dried for dried sausage), about 30 pounds of breakfast sausage, and about 10 pounds of the salumi recipe from Charcuterie every year. The grinder we use is a Chop-Rite powered by a motor from an old refrigerator. I know that motor has to be at least 40 years old, and it still runs like a top. The stuffer is a cast iron Enterprise stuffer. My father bought it from my mom’s grandfather after his death for $20. The only thing that’s been replaced on it is the leather gasket between the stuffing horn and the stuffer body. The only clue I have to it’s age is the stuffing horn is stamped “17 JUL 07.” If that date is accurate, I’m guessing that stuffer is over 100 years old.

    Our venison/pork sausage is 60/40 pork to venison, with kosher salt, black pepper, fresh garlic, pink salt, and red pepper. Those are the ingredients, but I’m not telling on the proportions. If you follow the ratios in Charcuterie, you’ll get pretty close to it. The procedure is cut up the meat, season, grind through the large plate, mix, progressive grind through the small plate, stuff into hog casings, hang and smoke for 4 hours. You’ll never buy sausage at the grocery store after eating this. I’ve had a lot of people that claim they know what good sausage is say it’s the best they’ve ever had. If you want some, I’m sure I can make arrangements to have some shipped to Cleveland.

      • Richard

        It’s easier to do when you have abundant deer, because it takes about 3 does to make all the sausage and jerky. If I can get 35 pounds of boned meat off a deer carcass, I’m doing pretty well.

  • Therese Vidal

    I didn’t know that I could get a good meat grinder for only $142.00!! What a great deal! My Kitchenaid heavy duty grinder is too slow for when I make Merguez sausage (Moroccan lamb sausage) which we all love, so thanks for the tip, Michael. Lamb fat is not recomended to add to make the lamb moister (I do add a little water to the mix). What do you recomend that I add?

  • Jane Ridolfi

    Great video …great looking kitchen…….going to make sausage the next time I’m at the shore………………thanks!

  • RickC.

    This video was quite timely – I had signed up for a class from a local chef to learn how to make sausage. After watching your video, then actually making fresh sausage in the class, cooking and eating the sausage we made I discovered how much better this was than what you can buy in the store. Watching your great video prior to the class got me even more excited.

    I have been reading your book “Charcuterie” (picked up after reading your entry about short rib pastrami), have ordered a meat grinder and plan to make some sausage for the 4th.

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