Once you start making your own homemade sausage, it will be nearly impossible for you to revert to the store-bought kind. When you grind the meat yourself, you have complete control over the quality, the fat content, and—perhaps most importantly—the salt.
Salt is an essential component of sausage, but it’s easy to get the blend wrong. Too little salt, and the sausages will be bland. Too much, and they’ll be unpleasant to eat (and rough on the blood pressure to boot). Here’s our guide to achieving the right balance.
Sausage Salt Ratio
Most home sausage makers agree that you should use 1.5 to 2 percent salt in your recipe. To find out how much salt that is, convert the weight of the sausage into grams, then calculate the percentage from there. If you don’t have a kitchen scale to weigh the salt, you can convert the grams into tablespoons using an online tool.
Why It’s Important
Even if you’re a novice in the kitchen, you probably know that salt plays a major role in many recipes. It brings out flavors and adds a savoriness of its own, provided you don’t overdo it.
Even sweet dishes often call for a hint of salt to help keep the flavors in balance. For example, chocolate chip cookies wouldn’t be nearly as delicious if they were salt-free.
When it comes to creating homemade sausages, salt does more than just enhance the flavor of your other ingredients. It also keeps the mixture from becoming too dry and prevents bacterial growth so that the sausages will last longer.
Salt is a binding agent as well. This gives the sausages more structure and a firmer texture. If you don’t use enough salt, your hard work will yield less satisfactory results.
Choosing the Right Salt
There are many types of salt on the market, and the kind you choose will affect your homemade sausages just as much as the proportions will. For fresh sausages, kosher salt is the best option.
Because kosher salt is a coarse salt, it has a lower density than table (or iodized) salt. The flakes are larger, so there are more air pockets in between the crystals. That means kosher salt won’t taste as, well, salty as table salt.
If you were to use table salt in your recipe, the sausage would have a sharp, almost metallic flavor and a bitter aftertaste. You might be able to offset this by reducing the amount you use, but in truth, kosher salt tastes better anyway.
What’s more, kosher salt dissolves easily and blends in well with other ingredients. Best of all, it won’t put a huge dent in your budget. You can substitute coarsely ground sea salt if you’d like, but it’s usually more expensive.
What About Curing Salt?
There’s no need to use curing salt when you’re making fresh sausage. The only time you’ll need to include this preservative is when you’re making a type of cured sausage, such as salami or pepperoni.
Why the difference? Cured sausages are often not refrigerated, which means they need stronger preservatives to prevent bacterial growth. Since curing salts contain sodium nitrate, sodium nitrite, or both, they keep the sausages stable at room temperature.
Prague powder, a popular curing salt, is pink in color. In fact, it’s also referred to simply as “pink curing salt.” If you’ve ever wondered what gives those types of sausage their rosy hue, there’s your answer.
Ideal Sausage Salt Ratio
Exactly how much salt do you need to make fresh sausage?
Things can get confusing if you’re following a recipe that calls for table salt. Since there’s such a difference in volume between the two, your sausage would turn out bland if you tried to substitute kosher salt instead.
The effect would be exacerbated if you were to make a large batch of sausage. Though you can adjust the totals by using about 25 percent more kosher salt than you would table salt, it’s better to keep a basic sausage salt ratio in mind.
Assuming that you’ll be using kosher or sea salt, the recommended volume is 1.5 to 2 percent of the total weight of the meat you’re using. Feel free to experiment within this range—or even go a tad above or below it—to find out what you prefer.
Some types of meat require more salt in order to bring all the flavors into perfect balance, while others won’t need much. While commercially prepared pork sausage is often higher in sodium than chicken sausage, that doesn’t have to be the case.
If you’re making loose sausage instead of using casings, you can cook off a small portion of the mixture to test the seasoning, then adjust as needed. Never taste raw sausage, as the undercooked meat may contain bacteria that could make you sick.
How To Calculate
How do you determine how much salt you need for your batch of sausage? The easiest way to do it is to convert the weight of the meat into grams, then calculate the percentage.
To begin, know that 1 pound equals 453.6 grams. So if you have 5 pounds of sausage meat, start by multiplying 5 by 453.6. That equals 2268 grams.
If you want to add 2 percent salt to your recipe, multiply 2268 by .02. That gives you 45.36, which is the amount of salt you’ll need in grams. To reduce the salt content to 1.5 percent, you should add 34 grams (2268 x .015).
It’s a good idea to invest in a kitchen scale if you want to be exact about your amounts. They don’t cost much, and they’ll come in handy for more applications than sausage making.
Alternatively, you can convert the grams to teaspoons (or tablespoons, depending on how much sausage you’re making). This isn’t our favorite method because the conversion can be less than accurate, but it will work in a pinch.
One gram of kosher salt equals about 0.2 teaspoons. Using this formula, multiply 45.36 grams by 0.2, which comes out to about 9 teaspoons (or 3 tablespoons). 34 grams would convert to around 6-3/4 teaspoons.
The Bottom Line
The total sausage salt ratio depends on the ingredients in your recipe, as well as your personal taste. But it’s nice to have a general template to follow. You can always make adjustments as you become more acclimated to the process.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!