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Mar 23, 2011 09:52 AM

Why was my sausage crumbly?

Made some sausages using a ruhlman recipe..

Italian Sausages- ( anyone find them to be a little too intense in flavor?) Recipe posted below.

(Granted. i was short on the required meat.. but i didnt use all of the seasoning,)

I grinded my meat and it looked like hamburger ground beef.. although towards the end it came out slightly mushy...

so i put the paddle on to create the primary bind... after 20 seconds.. it began to look mushy.. i was worried if iwent longer it would get paste like.

so i then stuffed -

When i cooked my sausage- It was a lil crumbly in texture.

Was this because i didnt mix it long enough ?

What shoudl the meat look like after mixing ?


4.5 pounds pork shoulder
8 0z pork fat
1.5 oz kosher salt
2TBL toasted fennel seeds
1TBL toasted coriander seeds
3 TBL paprika
1/2 TEA cayenne
4 TBL Oregano
4 TBL Basil
2 TBL red pepper
2 TEA Black pepper
3/4 ice water
1/4 red wine vinegar chilled/

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. either:

    too little fat


    most likely, broken forcemeat. meat got too warm when grinding. use half frozen meat, chill all your grinder parts and the bowl that catches the meat. if you have an electric grinder, it might just be getting too hot. maybe do two smaller batches or something.

    3 Replies
    1. re: j8715

      +1 - my focus though, would be on the probability of using too little or the wrong type of fat. Your fat content is somewhere around 11%. That's pretty skimpy for a good sausage.
      Use visceral fat and avoid using the fat between the skin (subcutaneous fat) or the caul fat.

      1. re: todao

        What kind of fat should i be using?

        what about the mixing? should it look mushy ?

        1. re: todao

          his fat content is higher than that provided he didn't trim the fat from the shoulder. back fat / fat back is probably the easiest fat to find, be careful that it isn't salted though as some places do this for some reason.


        This is a very very easy mistake to make. Your description of the "mushy" meat at the end makes me think that the forcemeat had begun to smear. The fat does not emulsify with the meat at that point and you end up with sausage that is crumbly and dry.

        The pieces may be very near frozen when you put them through the (chilled) grinder. When they hit the (chilled) bowl, they should be very distinct pieces, almost like a bowl full of Good 'n Plenty's.

        When you mix it, it is going to look sticky and furry. It's hard to describe but you'll know it when you get it right. The mix will not look smooth, shiny or wet.

        Everything that goes into the meat prior to being stuffed should be cold cold cold. It isn't hard to get the mix right but it is just as easy to cut corners and blow an entire batch.

        Good luck!

        3 Replies
        1. re: Ernie Diamond

          I did chill the meat.. but not too the point of near freezing.

          i also didnt chill my grinder.. i will try this next time.

          i did set my bowl in ice.. but i dont think the bowl got very cold.

          should i have chilled the meat before mixing or before stuffing?

          also - im going to pick up these casings.. looks like i get alot.. should i just measure what i need and then just soak that ?

          whats the proper way to do this?


          1. re: lestblight

            It's tough for the equipment or ingredients to be too cold. My most successful endeavors have involved using meats that were frosted, but not quite frozen through. It is also important that your grinder blade be sharp and that the piece mesh well against the plate (the part with the holes). What kind of grinder are you using? Stuffer?

            I suspect that if you are using Ruhlman, you aren't too far off base. Make sure you have a serious chill on equipment and on ingredients before proceeding. As to whether to chill the mix before stuffing or mixing, dropping into a chilled bowl with ice should be sufficient to stay cold at this point.

            Keep us updated on progress!

            1. re: lestblight

              Yes, definitely chill the grinder attachment.

              As for the taste, yes, it is highly seasoned. But I enjoyed it when I made it.

          2. Third vote for not cold enough.

            And, I don't find that recipe to be too heavily seasoned. I like it. But that is the wonder of sausage when made at home. You get to find the perfect seasonings for your taste.

            13 Replies
            1. re: smtucker

              My grinder was the KA attachment.. that worked fine.. grinded quickly.

              The stuffer was a bit more of a hassle. I would like to get a standalone stuffer that works better.

              I also worry that the meat is getting pulverized in the stuffer.

              How would i cut my casings? If i orer in bulk.. do i just measure the 2 feet for 5 pounds and just cut it and rinse it? or do i need torinse th ewhole thing?


              1. re: lestblight

                Couple of thoughts:

                Fat content looks too low -- did you segregate the lean & fat of your shoulder and keep track of the overall fat %? Should be at least 25% IMHO, and $30 is better.

                The mushiness may be the result of sinew clogging the plate and the blade -- you need to clean it after about 2 lbs grinding.

                If the meat & particularly the fat wasn't semi frozen, you're likely to get smear, which results in crumbliness.

                Not sure I'd use the paddle to bind -- I just knead and mix by hand. Don't get fussed about your hands warming the mix -- if its cold enough to start with, your hands will get cold quickly enough. But really get in there & mix -- use your fingers like an eggbeater.
                BTW -- the description of the desired texture as "sticky & furry" is spot on.

                i doubt its worth chilling your grinder -- its plastic and won't stay cold long enough to make a difference.

                Told you that the KA stuffer isn't great. Get a stainless vertical press from Its not cheap, but worth it. Don't be tempted to save $ with the cast iron one that looks like a horn -- the piston doesn't seal and you waste a lot.

                Casings: Just rinse what you plan to use & leave the rest packed in salt in the fridge.

                1. re: rjbh20

                  I did seperate but maybe i didnt do a good job at this?

                  Normally you would seperate all lean from fat and use additional fat as well correct?

                  Liek for a 5 pound recipe. what should the lean weight be to fat weight?

                  This will help get the right amount of fat i need.

                  Also what stuffer do you recommend? probably wont make more then 5 pounds at a time.

                  Thanks again.

                  Like i said i was short on meat

                  1. re: lestblight

                    I seam out pork butts (aka Boston Butt), segregate the fat and lean and grind in a ratio of about 2.5 lbs lean per lb of fat. I usually get extra fat just in case, but don't always need it -- depends on how the butts are trimmed. So for 5 lbs of lean, you need 2 lbs fat. BTW, when you're seaming the meat, its helpful to remove as much sinew and silverskin as you can -- helps with the grinder clogging issue.

                    This is an excellent stuffer. Not cheap by any means, but you'll never need another and the design is excellent, particularly the blowout preventer


                    Edit: this one is less expensive and should work just as well for home use.


                    I'd also invest in a vacuum sealer -- as long as you're making sausage, might as well make a lot and this extends the freezer life considerably.

                    1. re: lestblight


                      This is the stuffer I use. I would not use any other. I love it.

                      Good thinking on the sinew. I generally don't worry about it but it can be a problem if the blade is dull, the meat pieces too large or the cuts too tough.

                      I use the KA Grinder and find that it does just fine for the most part. Not the best but not bad.

                  2. re: lestblight

                    So I am going to disagree with rjbh on just a few points. [Not personal, I promise!]

                    I do chill down the metal parts before grinding. I feel it makes a difference. When I prep the pork, I remove all sinew and other tough bits that I find. I find that this makes the whole process go more smoothly. I chill the bowl I will be grinding into, and in the warm months, keep that bowl on ice until the grinding is complete.

                    I like the fat content as a percentage in Ruhlman's book. I can buy good quality pork fat from my market which makes controlling the amount of fat very easy. If the fat on my pork piece is, now I am searching for a good word here, rubbery... and hard to cut, then I don't use that fat and replace with the purchased fat.

                    Now that I clean the pork more carefully, I find that I don't need to clean my grinder at all while doing up to 10lbs of meat.

                    If the ground meat seems to have warmed during grinding, I will throw the whole bowl into the freezer for 10 minutes to chill before mixing in the other ingredients with the paddle.

                    As for stuffer, I use the KA. I find it is much easier if there are two people [one of whom is taller than I am.] So the tall one puts the meat mixture into the feeder, while the short one [me] manages the casing. If I was a singleton with no other set of hands, I would try to figure out a way to have a catch tray at the same height as the attachment so that I was not having to fight gravity.

                    I would say that my third sausage making venture was the first one that was really successful. Like anything else, you learn by repeating, and feeling the textures, and understanding how what you smell translates into what you taste. I do make a mini-patty to cook before stuffing to test the seasonings.

                    1. re: smtucker

                      Nothing personal at all -- whatever works for you.

                      I do think that using the KA stuffer, which runs the mix thru the augur again, tends to overwork the mix and can lead to smear. But that's just my experience. I will say that since i got my stuffer, my output has been consistently better, to say nothing of faster. And its easy to do with one set of hands, unlike the KA. And i learned from experience that the KA isn't good at all for light textured sausage like fresh seafood sausage or weisswurst.

                      1. re: rjbh20

                        Of course I would love a nicer stuffer, but it is a question of kitchen space and cost. At the moment I could not possibly justify on either count given the amount of sausage I make in a year.

                        I haven't tried lighter textured sausages yet. I am allergic to shellfish so the seafood sausage recipes I have seen aren't an option. Now a nice weisswurst would be nice indeed. No! No! Still can not justify.

                        1. re: smtucker

                          So i tried this again..

                          better results.. but i dont think it was there yet.

                          Not as dry or crumbly.

                          Did a better job of getting rid of sinew and froze longer..

                          Chilled grinder and meat.. meat was VERY cold but no hardened edges from the ice box.

                          So my recipe called for

                          4.5 pounds pork shoulder
                          8 0z pork fat

                          should the 4.5 pork shoulder be lean meat or should that include the fat as well?
                          the 8 oz includes the fat from the shoulder and the additional fat ?
                          or just the additional fat?

                          I also dont think i reached the fuzzy/furry stage in the mixing.

                          Anyone have a photo of this?

                          Thanks much

                            1. re: lestblight

                              Congratulation on the improvement.

                              I was looking for a photo online but wasn't able to find any that I liked. I suspect that your meat may be a bit lean. The pork shoulder should include some fatty pieces as that is the reason you are not being asked to add more pure fat. My suggestion is to find a good butcher who makes his own sausage and ask for five pounds of suitable meat for you to take home and grind yourself. I have had very good results with this approach.

                              Will keep looking for a photo of furry sausage meat...

                              Update: Go here.


                              The pic 1/3 down the page of the man loading the meat into the stuffer gives a pretty good idea of what the mix should look like; shaggy, sticky and furry.

                              1. re: Ernie Diamond

                                I would use the approximation that pork shoulder butt is about 20% fat.

                                so that would make your mix about 28% which should be fine, shoot for around 30%, if it is too greasy you can always render it out slowly and pour it off. if you are worried that its too lean a piece you could try and cut it all out and measure it separately. . .

                                What type of fat did you end up using?