UK BBQ Mag Winter 2015/2016 - Page 23

The 'science bit'

Ours and any good sausages are made with a careful mix of lean and fat to provide a moist, flavourful and tender treat (think of it like a perfectly marbled steak) consistent and with an even amount of all of its ingredients spread throughout. Especially important among these are the fat and the salt.

The fat gives that 'juicy' bite. The total fat content in our sausages varies from recipe to recipe but is generally around 25% to 30% and this ensures they are tasty, rich and moist (and remember with our pastured meats this is good healthy fat too!).

The salt gives the sausage its perfect texture as well as seasoning. It is the salt that helps break down the protein fibres ensuring it will shrink less and helping keep the cooked sausage moist as this even salt content means that when cooked correctly it can retain moisture better than any chop or steak could ever hope to.

The effect of Temperature

The golden rules of meat cooking still apply here, you do not want to overcook and this means understanding what's happening in that banger when you are cooking it

At 140°F (60°C): At this temperature for around 10-12 mins the meat and fat inside a sausage are cooked through and opaque. Some shrinkage may well have occurred, but at this point it is the meats themselves that are holding in the juices not the casing.

Above 155°F (68.3 °C): The Proteins will go on shrinking and shrivelling, eventually squeezing out that juice and fat meaning that it can no longer be held. Eventually the heat will just wring all that is good out of that sausage and it will either pool under the skin or leak away for good.

How to do it right

The simplest solution to all of this is to cook a sausage gently over low to moderate heat, whether on a grill, in the smoker (both ideal!), in a pan or an oven. Keep moving them so that they come up to temp gradually and colour up evenly as they do so until the exterior ideally reaches a perfect crisp, brown just as the sausage reaches 150ºF internal temp.

Using this method, you can get an evenly cooked sausage with plenty of flavour and will soon learn how to get it spot on every time. As with all things patience is the key.

Another solution is much more reliable, and the one we recommended to our trade customers: simmer or poach them first.

This can either be achieved by covering the sausages in cold water, stock or any other cooking liquid, such as beer, whether in a pan on the hob or a tin foil dish on the BBQ grill, and slowly bringing them up to 145-150°F, you can get them cooked perfectly evenly from edge to edge this way. Then all they need is a quick flash, over a higher heat, to colour them up and you're done.

This method also works really well as the basis for getting your meal started, so as well as a little 'braising liquid' you could use onions or peppers, tomatoes or sauerkraut (basically whatever you are also preparing for the meal or as a side) along with accompaniments like a little mustard, herbs etc. to help with the simmering and then this means that the rest of a nice quick meal is more or less ready by the time you have whipped the sausages out and given them some higher heat for a matter of moments to get a little colour and crust.

To sum up

Cook gently and only to a max 145-150ºF over a low to moderate heat or with the 'simmer in the veg/side' then brown method.

The main benefit from either of the methods I recommend is that you will lose only about half of the moisture when compared to a fast high cook approach and this means immeasurably better results, every time.

Effectively what you are looking for is the classic slow start and then sear finish that you would often use for other meats which gives you evenly cooked meat with a lovely caramelised exterior.

So now you know! Sorry for going on a bit, but a good sausage is a miraculous thing and I just want you to enjoy eating your sausages as much as I enjoy making them.

Twitter: @quietwatersfarm