Sometimes, there’s nothing like a good pork sausage. But turkey sausage, which many view as a healthier alternative, has its place on the grill as well. Let’s explore the differences between turkey sausage and pork sausage.
Turkey Sausage vs Pork Sausage
Turkey sausage is lower in saturated fat than pork sausage, which makes it an appealing choice for heart-conscious consumers. It might have a drier texture as a result, and the flavor is milder, but it’s an acceptable substitute in most recipes.
About Pork Sausage
Most of the time, when people talk about sausage, they’re talking about a product that’s made from pork. The meat is ground along with fat and seasonings—a ratio of 80 percent meat to 20 percent fat is typical.
It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the process of making homemade sausage. The stuff you buy in the store is often loaded with preservatives and fillers. When you make your own, you can control the seasonings as well as the fat content.
About Turkey Sausage
As you likely guessed, turkey sausage is made from ground turkey instead of pork. Chicken sausage, which is similar in terms of texture and flavor, is also available.
For diners seeking a low-fat alternative, turkey sausage is a popular choice. The meat is mild-tasting, which means it pairs well with a wide variety of spices. Since turkey sausage is lower in fat and sodium than pork sausage, it’s a more heart-healthy option.
However, that reduced fat content comes at a price: it can make the sausage too dry if you’re not careful. If you decide to try your hand at making homemade turkey sausage, you should add some fat to make up for the difference.
You won’t have this option when buying premade turkey sausage, but you can experiment with different brands to see which one gets it right. Fresh turkey sausages are usually a better option than pre-cooked ones, but be aware that they have a shorter shelf life.
Turkey Sausage vs Pork Sausage: Breaking It Down
What are the practical differences between these two options? Let’s take a look.
You can expect to spend a bit more on turkey sausage than you would on pork sausage. That’s probably because the latter is more common, and therefore widely available.
You might be able to offset this by making your own sausage. When sold on a per-pound basis, turkey meat tends to be cheaper than pork. That’s because it takes more time and resources to raise hogs to market weight.
As we mentioned earlier, turkey sausage is leaner and therefore has a drier texture than pork sausage. Adding some fat to the recipe will help, but the difference will still be noticeable.
Some people prefer a 75-to-25 blend when making homemade pork sausage. That makes the sausages extra juicy, but you need to grind the mixture thoroughly to ensure that the fat will have a chance to render as the meat cooks.
Studies have suggested that when it comes to flavor, turkey has more in common with pork than with chicken. The meat tastes richer than chicken, which makes turkey sausages a more appealing alternative.
We’ve found that store-bought pork sausages tend to have a saltier flavor than turkey sausages, which are often flavored with things like herbs and sun-dried tomatoes in an effort to make them less bland. Again, making your own sausage allows you to experiment.
Many commercially prepared pork sausages are smoked before they’re packaged for sale. That’s not usually the case with turkey sausages. However, it’s a good idea to read the labels carefully before making a purchase, whether you prefer a smoked product or not.
Strictly speaking, sausage will never be considered healthy food. Although it is a good source of protein, the high levels of fat and sodium mean that you should consume it sparingly.
If health risks are a major concern, though, you should opt for turkey sausage over pork sausage. It’s lower in calories and saturated fat, and you’ll still get that dose of protein. This is true especially if you make your own sausage from scratch.
Do You Have To Use Casings When Making Homemade Sausage?
It’s not necessary to stuff sausage into casings, but doing so will give links a more uniform shape. If you intend to grill your sausage, we would recommend taking this step.
It’s best to use natural casings if you can find them. Unlike artificial casings, which are made from collagen and cellulose, natural casings are made from the intestines of animals (usually pigs).
If you’re trying to avoid pork altogether, though, artificial casings might be the way to go. They’ll also make the sausages look a bit more impressive.
Does Store-Bought Sausage Need To Be Cooked Through?
It depends on what kind you buy. If the meat is cured or smoked beforehand, it’s already fully cooked. You just need to reheat it to 145 degrees Fahrenheit before consuming it.
On the other hand, if you’ve made your own sausage—or even if you buy fresh ones from the supermarket—the meat needs to cook to an internal temp of 160 degrees. That will kill off any bacteria that might have found their way into the meat.
Can You Substitute Turkey Sausage For Pork Sausage?
It’s fine to substitute turkey sausage for pork sausage in most cases. This is true, especially in recipes that contain plenty of other ingredients to mask their differences. Of course, it depends on the recipe, so use your best judgment.
If you’re serving the sausages alongside eggs and toast, or keeping things simple by putting them in toasted buns, you might notice a difference in flavor and texture. In these cases, use the highest-quality fresh sausage that you can find, or make your own.
What About Veggie Sausage?
Vegetarian sausage is a plant-based alternative to sausage made from meat products. While we would argue that these products aren’t technically sausage at all, some of them are surprisingly similar to meat in their texture and flavor.
If you opt to make your own vegetarian sausage, choose ingredients like mushrooms, eggplant, and beans to give them the right texture. You’ll also need to use flour as a thickener. Those of you with gluten intolerance can opt for almond or chickpea flour.
Even more so than traditional sausage, veggie sausage relies on its seasonings to give it the right notes of salt and umami. Try experimenting with low-sodium tamari and soy sauce, as well as herbs and spices.
Does Turkey Sausage Have Nitrates?
Nitrates are compounds that are used to preserve processed meat products. While they occur naturally in certain plants and animals, the type that food manufacturers use for these purposes can cause damage when consumed regularly.
Most processed turkey will contain trace amounts of nitrates. They’re used to kill off potentially dangerous bacteria and make the product more shelf-stable.
That said, there are nitrate-free turkey sausages available. They’re just more difficult to find. If there’s a reputable turkey farm near you, you’ll probably have better luck getting your hands on unprocessed nitrate-free products.
It’s difficult for turkey sausage to replicate that juicy quality that pork sausage has. Still, it’s a viable and more heart-healthy option. Whether you’re looking to cut down on calories or you can’t eat pork for other reasons, turkey sausage fits the bill.
Hi there! I’m Darren Wayland, your BBQHost. My love of great barbecue inspired me to curate this site as a resource for all my like-minded fellow pitmasters out there. When I’m not researching and learning all I can about the latest tips and techniques, you can find me at the grill—that is, if you can spot me at all through the clouds of sweet-smelling smoke. And since you asked, yes, that probably is barbecue sauce on my face. Welcome to the party!