Sausage is any variety of ground meat mixed with fat, salt, seasonings or preservatives and stuffed into a casing. Most sausages are made with pork, but there are also varieties made from beef, veal, lamb, chicken or game animals.
Sausage comes in several shapes, sizes and forms including fully cooked, partially cooked and uncooked. Cooked sausage is ready to eat, while partially cooked has been cooked enough to kill any trichinae (a tiny parasite that occurs in mammals, including pigs).
Uncooked sausage may or may not be ready to eat depending on whether it's been cured. This smoke or salt treatment preserves the sausage, extending storage life. Other varieties of sausage are dried from up to a few days to six months. The longer a sausage is dried, the firmer it becomes.
Popular sausages include:
Andouille—Made from pork chitterlings and tripe, this spicy, smoked sausage is traditionally used in jambalaya and gumbo.
Bologna—Precooked and highly seasoned, it's usually served as a cold cut.
Bratwurst—A German sausage made of pork, veal and spices (ginger, nutmeg, coriander) that's best grilled or sautéed.
Chorizo—Widely used in Spanish and Mexican cooking, this coarse pork sausage is seasoned with garlic and chili powder.
Italian—Usually flavored with garlic and fennel or anise seed, it comes in hot (seasoned with red peppers) or sweet styles.
Kielbasa—This chunky, smoked sausage is usually made from a combination of pork and beef.
Liverwurst—This mix of pork liver and meat can be firm for slicing or spreadable for snacks and sandwiches.
Pepperoni—Firm and dried, this Italian salami is made from pork and beef and seasoned with black and red pepper.
At the market, read the package label to really know what you're buying. Some sausages contain additives to preserve, thicken or color the meat mixture. Others may use fillers such as cereal, soybean flour or dried milk solids to stretch the meat.
All sausage should be refrigerated, but how long it will keep depends on the type.
- Uncooked, fresh: two days
- Uncooked, smoked: one week
- Cooked: four to six days
- Cooked, smoked (vacuum-sealed): unopened, two weeks; after opening, one week.
- Dry and semi-dry: three weeks.
Sausage can also be frozen for two months.
- Sausage should be cooked to a temperature of 160ºF. When pierced with a knife, the juices should run clear.