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breaking up sausage in the frying pan

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One of Mario Batali's recipies ("weeds" and sausage) has become a family favorite. It calls for sausage to be reomved from the casing and sauted until quite brown. The difficulty that I have is that I am finding it very difficult to break the sausage down once it comes out of the casing and into the pan. I have tried bulk sausage as well and the problem is the same. There has to be a better way than constantly trying to break down the larger chunks into tiny pieces by using the spatula to constantly split the chunks. Any tips would be appreciated.

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  1. I use a wooden spoon and don't find the task difficult. If it's a real problem for you, flatten the raw sausage into a flat patty inside a freezer bag, freeze till nearly solid, then dice it up and saute it over slightly higher heat, from frozen.

    1. I too use my wooden spoon and it's fine. Why don't you try breaking it into pieces using your hands before adding to the pan?

      1. Use a potato masher to squish it up. I think I saw Rachel Ray do that.

        1. I take the sausage out of the casing and break it up by hand. I then microwave the sausage for a couple minutes to drain away some of the fat and then finish it off in a skillet adding back a little of the fat if necessary to get browning/crispiness on the sausage crumbles.

          1. I have used a potato masher for many years to break up sausage and ground round when frying. My cousin gave me that tip back in the early 60s.

            1. I make lots of dishes with sausage, and the only method that provides a satisfactory result for me is to crumble the raw sausage by hand into the pan. Yes, it takes a long time, but I end up with appropriately sized pieces of sausage, depending on the dish. If I'm using sausage that's in a casing, I first slice it longways, then stand over the pan/pot and, using my fingers or the edge of a fork or knife, flick bits of sausage into the pan/pot.

              1. I usually let it cook a little bit in the pan and then start to break it up with a wooden spoon. It's easier than trying to break it up when completely raw.

                1. I know exactly what you mean. My new trick is to pulse in the cuisinart once it is cooked. I figure the amount of time it takes to break it down will be spent washing the FP, so I call it a draw.. lol

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: andieb

                    +1 on this approach

                    I make Italian sausage stuffed mushroom and got tired of standing over the stove for 20 minutes trying to break up the sausage enough to make a good stuffing. A couple of zip - zips in the fopro and I am ready to go!

                    1. re: andieb

                      +2 I've been doing this for a few years and it's saved both time and hand cramps. :)

                      I also really like the fine, minced texture I can get doing it this way. Makes for great chili.

                    2. I almost always cook in some form of stages while cooking any recipe. In the case of rendering sausage, I would break up into one inch clumps from raw and cook.....then I would try to break some down while they cooked....after the meat is rendered, I would remove and transfer to a bowl. After cooling and pat drying with paper towels to remove excess grease, I use a clear food handling glove, or an old produce bag, and break down the sausage into the crumble size I am looking for to complete the reci[e.

                      1. I break up the sausage the best I can by hand then use a wooden implement. It isn't actually a spoon more of a spatula. It is flat on the end and finishes breaking up the sausage pretty well.

                        1. i use a wooden spatula and use a combination of chopping and smearing and smearing and chopping.
                          Works every time.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: monavano

                            +1 on the smearing/chopping approach . . . more smearing to start - then more chopping as the meat browns

                          2. Use a pastry cutter, you know the thing you use to cut butter or whatever into the flour. I think it's actually called something else

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: ChrisKC

                              thanks for all the tips. I will try them out. I am sure that any or all of them will be better than my current way of doing things!

                              1. re: LJS2

                                I think this is a great question, LJS2.

                                Whenever we make tacos or other meals at home that require ground meat, I'm in charge of breaking the meats apart in the skillet. By the time the meat is crumbled size, I'm working up a cramp in my hand. lol.

                                1. re: LJS2

                                  Batli's style is often rustic so I figured he wouldn't expect an even crumble. I just looked at the photograph of the dish in his book (which I just got out of the library), and it certainly doesn't look like an even crumble. It's nice to get a bigger bit of sausage in one bite and less in the other so I don't turn it into ground beef.