Cooking and making sausage [split from a discussion on California board]
I've had a lot of parboiled sausage and I always find it unacceptably dry. The boiling leaches out way too much fat. It's certainly an easier and less labor-intensive means of preparing sausage, but the flavor suffers. Grilling sausage start-to-finish produces superior flavor every time, but you have to babysit the sausage to ensure complete cooking without burning.
[We've moved this discussion from the thread at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/564282 -- THE CHOWHOUND TEAM ]
Josh, I think you're right about parboiling -- the water for poaching sausages should never get above 170F, let alone to 212F.
However, done properly and at lower temperatures, I believe you'll find poaching sausages will always keep more moisture in the sausage than grilling because you can control the temperature of the whole sausage much more precisely and keep any fat at all from leaching out.
Try it at home, give the sausage a target temp of, say 145F and cook in water that is stable at 155F (heat the water to a little above temp, and then put the cold sausages in, so the water immediately stabilizes at 155F). Use an insta-read thermometer and pull the sausage out when it's at about 143F, as it will raise a few degrees after leaving the pot.
Immediately put the sausage in an ice water bath to bring it to storage temp. The next day, cook it on the grill next to a raw sausage, bringing each off the grill as soon as they are hot. (The poached will be ready sooner, as it is already cooked). I believe you will find that it has much more moisture. I have always found that.
In fact, email me should you do it, I'd like to be there for the final test to see if it comes out differently :-).
In my experience, whenever a poached sausage comes off the grill dry or crumbly, it's because:
* the meat got too warm while making the sausage, leading the fat to change its structure and become less binding (this is case probably 90% of the time)
* the sausage was poached in water which was too hot or stayed in the water too long, causing it to over cook (this is the case probably 10% of the time)
* the sausage was overcooked on the grill when heating (this is rarely the case, because the poached sausage is much more forgiving).
(Please note that these temps, while some say are safe when using pastured meat which has been properly handled and ground immediately before using, aren't approved by the health department, so they aren't allowed in a restaurant, cook and eat at your own risk, look both ways before crossing the street, etc.)
Since I no longer eat commodity meat, I'll have to file this info away for sometime when I feel like dropping large dollars on pastured sausages. I know Homegrown sells them, but they're pricey. Maybe when our current depression is over I'll think about spending that kind of money on meat. ;-)
Totally -- what MrKrispy said. If you have a kitchenaid mixer you can use the meat grinder attachment. (If you don't have a kitchenaid mixer, then I'm pretty sure you have to get married and one will appear.)
The mixer I think also has a stuffer attachment, which I've never used, but you can pick up a hand stuffer pretty inexpensively at Great News (or you can borrow one of the several I have lying around my house). Natural casings are available at Iowa Meat Farms/Seisels. (Not pastured, but I know of no source for pastured casings, and I figure it's really not meat.)
Making sasuages is a lot of fun, particularly if you get a few people involved. It takes most people a few tries to get a consistency they're satisfied with. (Some people are born naturals, unsurprisingly, I am not among them.)
Just remember to keep the meat cold! Basically every moment it spends above 30-something degrees, the fat changes composition from binding to greasy. A lot of time you put ice cubes in with the meat in the grinder to help it stay cold.
Seriously, I think you'll really enjoy it, as I believe you like food, cooking, and science/math, which kind of all come into play.
I have the stuffer attachment for the KA and I'm not sure it's the best engineered piece of equipment. I have a great deal of time using it. What I have done is to remove one of the internal pieces so that the meat can more easily extrude into the casing.
The best manual stuffer I've ever come across is one that Diana Kennedy has. It's a very large funnel where the bottom is about 1 1/2 - 2" in diameter. She had a metal worker cut out about one quarter of 1 side of the bottom. It' one of the most efficient sausage stuffers I've ever used. Once you get your fingers into a routine the actual stuffing process goes really quickly. Much quicker than with the KA stuffing attachment.
The stuffer piece is about $12. You can see it on Amazon but the reviews are not glowing (as evidenced by Diva's response). I always figured the people weren't keeping the meat cold enough as Jay mentioned. If your refrigerator has an ice maker that dispenses crushed ice it is very helpful :)