Do you want to try your hand at making your own pork sausage? Congratulations—that’s an exciting step for any meat-loving pitmaster to take. Before you begin, though, let’s find out which cuts of pork are best suited for the grinder.
Pork Loin Sausage
Pork loin sausage is a tricky concept. The loin is a naturally lean and mild-flavored cut, making it a poor choice for sausage. You can attempt to get around this by adding pork fatback or trimmings to the meat grinder, but it’s better to start with a fattier cut like Boston butt or picnic shoulder.
About Pork Loin
The loin comes from the back of the hog, beginning at the shoulder. Loin roasts are typically sold in portions that weigh 3 to 4 pounds, though the entire loin may weigh more than twice as much.
The meat from the pork loin is mild-tasting, lending itself well to various flavor combinations. Although there may be a moderate fat cap attached to one side, the meat contains very little intramuscular fat.
You can buy pork loin roasts either boneless or bone-in, depending on how you intend to cook it. If you want to try grinding the meat to make sausage, you’re better off sticking with the boneless variety, as this will make your prep chores go more smoothly.
Is Pork Loin The Same As Pork Tenderloin?
No. While the names are similar enough to cause confusion, these are actually two different cuts of pork.
The tenderloin is smaller than the regular loin, usually weighing in at 1 to 1.5 pounds. The meat is also much more tender, hence the name. It doesn’t have a great deal of pork flavor on its own, but it takes well to marinades and seasoning rubs.
Pork tenderloin cooks very quickly, although it’s possible to put it on the smoker if you follow a specific set of guidelines. As the meat is so lean, we wouldn’t recommend using this cut for sausage.
Can You Make Pork Loin Sausage?
Technically speaking, you can make sausage out of pork loin. The thing to remember is that sausage typically contains a great deal of fat, and the loin doesn’t have much on its own.
Anyone who’s ever attempted to use pork loin to make pulled pork will know what we’re talking about. The lean cuts just don’t provide enough moisture to give you the texture you’re looking for.
If you’ve found a good deal on pork loin and want to use the meat to make sausage, you’ll have to invest in some pork fatback as well. Otherwise, the sausage might have plenty of flavor, but the texture will be akin to sawdust.
A good pork sausage mixture should consist of 25 to 30 percent fat. Therefore, if you have 3 pounds of pork loin on hand, you should plan on buying at least 1 pound of fatback to make up the difference.
Those of you who prefer a leaner sausage might be able to get away with an 80-to-20 percent ratio of meat to fat. In this case, that same pound of fatback can be added to 4 pounds of pork loin to get the results you want.
Where To Get Pork Fatback or Fat Trimmings
If you smoke a lot of pork butts or pork shoulders at home, you might already have a good supply of pork fat trimmings.
Each time you trim the fat cap down to the recommended level, save the leftover fat and put it in the freezer. This provides a great incentive for making homemade sausage.
Another option would be to ask the butcher for any fatback or fat trimmings that they have on hand. That’s one of many excellent reasons why you should cultivate a good relationship with the staff at your local butcher shop.
Supermarkets will sometimes keep pork fatback in stock. Be careful not to accidentally buy salt pork instead. While salt pork is sometimes confused with regular fatback, the meat is cured, which will interfere with your chosen flavor profile.
Best Cuts For Pork Sausage
Let’s say you’ve decided not to use the pork loin after all, but you still want to whip up a batch of homemade sausage. What’s the best cut of meat to buy?
When it comes to making sausage at home, this is the cut that we would recommend above all. It’s also the best choice for pulled pork.
The pork butt, also called the Boston butt, actually comes from the area just above the foreleg, around the shoulder. The meat contains about 20 to 30 percent fat, which is the perfect ratio for sausage making.
Like the loin roast, pork butt can be sold either boneless or bone-in. Opt for boneless whenever possible, or you’ll have to take the bone out yourself before adding the meat to the grinder.
The picnic shoulder is cut from the lower segment of the pork shoulder, just above the hoof. The meat has a rich flavor that’s similar to the Boston butt, but you may have to add a bit of extra fat in order to achieve the correct texture.
Bear in mind that this cut may still have the skin attached. In this case, you’ll want to remove all of it before grinding the pork. Otherwise, it may cause the mechanisms to jam, which is both messy and time-consuming.
You’ll also need a powerful grinder in order to mince this cut. The muscle gets more of a workout than the butt, which results in meat that’s slightly tougher and leaner.
Opt for pork butt whenever possible, but feel free to use the picnic shoulder if that’s all you have on hand. The butt and the picnic are actually two halves of the whole shoulder, so it’s also permissible to grind them both together.
Tips On Making Fresh Sausage
- Make sure to remove the sinew. Connective tissue will give the sausage a stringy texture, which can be really unpleasant.
- Cut away any visible blood. This spoils faster than meat, which will give your sausage a shorter shelf life.
- Never taste raw sausage. Instead, fry up a small test patty, then correct the seasonings as needed.
- Test the texture. The sausage meat should be sticky and tacky, enough to cling to your palm when you hold it upside down. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to process the mixture further to allow the meat and fat to bind together.
- Keep all ingredients as cold as possible. This will make the mixture easier to grind. Put the containers and grinder parts in the freezer for at least 15 minutes before you begin.
- Cut the meat and fat into strips. For best results, add two strips of meat along with one strip of fat at a time.
- For fine-ground sausage, use the coarse grinding plate first, then give the mixture a turn through the fine grinding plate.
The Bottom Line
Pork loin isn’t the ideal cut for sausage, but if you prefer a leaner texture anyway, you can make it work. The thing to remember is that sausage requires a certain amount of fat, so if the meat doesn’t have enough on its own, you’ll have to bring in reinforcements.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!