As much as we love pork sausage, we recognize that it’s out of bounds—or at least out of favor—for some people. Is chicken sausage a viable alternative? And if not, what’s wrong with it?
Chicken Sausage vs Pork Sausage
Chicken is naturally lower in sodium and fat than pork, and it has a mild flavor that holds up well to various seasonings. These sausages can be on the dry side due to the lack of fat, but you can offset that issue by making your own. Remember that fresh chicken sausages should be cooked to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
About Pork Sausage
Most of the time, when we think about sausage, pork sausage is the kind that leaps instantly to mind.
To make pork sausage, you grind the meat along with a hearty dose of fat. A blend of 80 percent meat to 20 percent fat is typical. For an extra-juicy sausage, you can use a ratio of 75 percent meat to 25 percent fat.
We prefer to make our own sausage whenever possible. Some of the store-bought brands are acceptable, but most of the time they’re loaded with preservatives and other types of filler. It’s better—and healthier—if you know exactly which ingredients you’re dealing with.
About Chicken Sausage
Along with turkey sausage, chicken sausage is one of the most popular alternatives to products made with pork. Its mild flavor means you can use it as a substitute in most recipes, as it won’t interfere with bolder seasonings.
Chicken sausage also has a lower fat content than pork sausage. Since the chicken itself is lean, you can get away with purchasing store-bought brands while still enjoying this benefit. Remember, though, that commercially prepared sausage may still be high in sodium.
While we’re on the subject of fat, it bears mentioning that you might need to add a bit of extra fat if you’re making your own chicken sausage. That’s often true of pork sausage as well, but if chicken sausage is too lean, it will be unpleasantly dry and crumbly.
A Word About Serving Temperatures
You may not know this, but all ground meat products—including pork and beef—need to be cooked to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit before they’re deemed safe for consumption.
The reasoning behind this has to do with the nature of the bacteria that causes food-borne illnesses. These bacteria reside on the surface of the flesh. When preparing whole muscle cuts like pork chops, you kill off any potential bacteria by heating the meat to just 145 degrees.
If the meat is all ground up together, though, there’s no way to tell which parts were on the surface. The only way to ensure food safety is to cook the ground meat to at least 160 degrees.
When you’re dealing with chicken sausage, you should aim for an internal temp of 165 degrees. This should be easy to remember, as that’s the recommended serving temperature for chicken breasts even when they’re left whole.
Remember that these rules don’t apply to sausages that are pre-cooked. Smoked or cured sausages only need to be heated to 145 degrees before you can consume them. If you’re not sure whether yours are fully cooked or not, check the label.
Tips on Making Homemade Sausage
As we pointed out, you need to make sure that your homemade sausage has enough fat in it. Even though chicken sausage is leaner than pork sausage, it still needs to contain some fat. Aim for a meat-to-fat ratio of at least 85/15.
Also, make sure all your ingredients and equipment are well-chilled before you begin. When the meat and fat get too warm, they can clog the grinder blades. Try putting your bowls, blades, and grinder plates in the freezer for about half an hour beforehand.
It’s a good idea to fry a couple of test patties as you work to ensure that the seasoning blend is correct. Never taste the raw sausage without cooking it to a safe temperature first.
You don’t have to use casings when making homemade sausage—they turn rancid quickly and can be difficult to find in stores. If you do use casings, seek out the natural ones made from animal intestines. Artificial ones look better, but they don’t taste as good.
Can You Substitute Chicken Sausage for Pork Sausage?
If you want to offer a product that’s lower in fat and sodium, go ahead and grill up some chicken sausage as an alternative to pork sausage. Your guests might notice a difference in this case, but sausages made from poultry are delicious in their own way.
Recipes that call for pork sausage—specifically soups and casseroles—should turn out excellent even when you’ve made a swap. The other ingredients will help to mask any difference in flavor and texture.
Keep in mind that most store-bought chicken sausage may contain ingredients like sun-dried tomatoes and garlic in an effort to make the lean meat less bland. Make sure that any additions will work with the flavor profile of the dish you’re trying to create.
Is Chicken Sausage Healthy?
Sausage will never be considered a “healthy” dish. That’s because of the sodium and fat required to make the product taste so good. Although products made with chicken offer more health benefits than the pork variety, sausage is still a dish that’s best enjoyed in moderation.
If your goal is to incorporate sausage into a healthier diet, it’s always best to make your own. That way, you can control the amount of salt and fat that goes into the sausage and avoid the preservatives and fillers that are common in store-bought products.
Which Is Better: Turkey Sausage Or Chicken Sausage?
Of all the non-pork sausages on the market, turkey and chicken sausage might be the most interchangeable. After all, both are made from poultry products, and many of the same filler ingredients are added to both.
Turkey is also leaner than pork, which is one of the reasons why it’s a popular alternative. However, it might have more in common with pork than it does with chicken, at least when it comes to sausage.
Chicken and turkey are both white meats, which means they contain lower levels of myoglobin than red meats such as pork and beef. Myoglobin is what gives meat its red color—the darker the flesh, the more myoglobin it has.
In spite of these classifications, studies have shown that the rich taste of turkey has more in common with pork than with chicken. In other words, while turkey is still a lean alternative to pork, the difference in flavor won’t be as noticeable.
In the end, there’s no real winner in this race. You might prefer the milder taste of chicken sausage, depending on what other seasonings are used. Try experimenting with both turkey and chicken sausage to see if you notice a difference.
Chicken’s mild flavor profile serves as the ideal palette for a host of flavor combinations. Whether you’re interested in expanding your repertoire or you can’t eat pork for health or religious reasons, chicken sausage provides a great alternative.