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What is breakfast sausage?
Breakfast sausage is as much a staple to the American breakfast plate as bacon or ham.
It’s simply seasoned ground meat that is cooked up in patties or links or browned up in crumbles and mixed into sausage gravy.
The most common meat used for breakfast sausage is ground pork, but there are no rules, you could also mix in ground beef, poultry or game meat. You can buy ground meat at your local grocery store or grind your own.
After I trim my Competition Pork Butt, I'm left with a lot of excess pork trimmings. I usually freeze them in 2-inch cubes, until I'm ready to make sausage. I grind the partially-thawed cubes into ground pork and then mix in 2 tablespoons of the breakfast sausage seasoning blend for every pound of meat.
What makes breakfast sausage unique is the flavor, which is controlled by the herbs and seasonings that you mix into the sausage. I’ve shared the seasoning blend that I use most often, but it’s completely adaptable to what you like.
This recipe is really balanced. It only has a slight heat and a touch of maple. Try out the base recipe and then mix things up and create your own breakfast sausage blend.
Substitutions: Once you master the base recipe, you can make all sorts of adjustments. If you like spicy breakfast sausage, add more cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes. If you prefer maple breakfast sausage, mix in more maple sugar.
How to make homemade breakfast sausage
This sausage seasoning makes enough for 2 pounds of sausage. You can double or triple the seasoning recipe and save the blend in your pantry for up to a year. Or, you can make a large batch of sausage and freeze the sausage logs.
- STEP ONE: In a small bowl, combine all of the seasonings until well blended.
- STEP TWO: Place one pound of ground pork in a large bowl. Sprinkle in two tablespoons of breakfast sausage seasoning. Mix throughly. I find I get a better blend, if I use my hands.
- STEP THREE: Place a sheet of plastic wrap or parchment paper on the counter. Shape the sausage mixture into a log and place it on the plastic wrap. Roll the plastic around the log and twist the ends.
If you want to make sausage gravy, there is no need to wrap the sausage. Just cook 1 pound of sausage in a large skillet, until it’s cooked through. Break it up with a wooden spatula as it cooks.
After it’s browned, add 2 tablespoons butter and let that melt. Sprinkle 1/3 cup of flour in the skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes. Then, pour in 3 1/2 cups of cold milk, 1 teaspoon of breakfast sausage seasoning and 1/2 teaspoon of Girl Carnivore Ooomami Blend. Stir until it thickens. Serve on top of my Tender Buttery Flaky Homemade Biscuits.
How to cook breakfast sausage
You can cook breakfast sausage on a griddle like a Blackstone or Ninja, in a large skillet on the stove or in an air fryer. My favorite method is in a cast iron skillet on the stove, because I like how the patties brown in cast iron.
- STEP ONE: Remove the sausage from the plastic wrap. Slice it into eight 1/4-inch thick patties.
PRO TIP: If your sausage log is partially frozen it will be easier to slice, because it will hold it’s shape. My favorite knife for slicing sausage is the Cutco cheese knife. The open blade keeps the meat from sticking.
- STEP TWO: Place a large cast iron skillet on the stove over medium heat. Add the patties to the pan in a single layer and cook for 5-7 minutes per side, until browned on the outsides and no longer pink on the inside.
To cook sausage in an air fryer, set the air fryer to 400F degrees. Place the patties on the air fryer basket in a single layer and cook for 5 minutes. Flip and cook another 3-5 minutes.
To cook homemade sausage patties on a griddle, heat the griddle to medium and cook for 10-15 minutes, flipping occasionally for even browning.
How to serve keyword
Remove the breakfast patties from your pan, air fryer or griddle and place them on a paper towel-lined plate or baking sheet to absorb any excess grease. If you’re not going to serve them right away, you can keep them warm in an oven set to low.
Serve with eggs, biscuits, waffles, pancakes, hash browns, fresh fruit or whatever you enjoy for breakfast.
Cooked sausage is also great on breakfast sandwiches or broken up and mixed in with eggs to make breakfast burritos or omelets.
How to make breakfast sausage links
Breakfast sausage links use the same recipe and meat blend from above, but it involves a little extra work.
If you want to make sausage links, you’ll need a sausage stuffer and sausage casings.
Personally, I use the LEM Products 1605 5-pound vertical sausage stuffer. Unlike my Smoked Beef Sausage, which is a thicker sausage, you’ll want to use the smallest stuffing tube for breakfast sausage.
How to smoke breakfast sausage
There are two options when smoking breakfast sausage. You can smoke it all the way to 160F degrees, so that it’s fully cooked. Or you can cold smoke it, so that it has just a hint of smoky flavor, but finishes cooking in a skillet or air fryer.
For smoking, you could just shape the sausage into logs without casing, but I prefer placing the blended meat into fibrous casings. The casings aren’t edible, but they help the meat hold its shape and they are permeable, so the smoke can penetrate into the sausage.
Soak the casing in warm water for 20-30 minutes. Squeeze out the excess water. Then, use your hands to stuff the sausage inside.
If you want to fully cook the sausages, place the stuffed sausages on a smoker set at 225F degrees with indirect heat. Smoke them until they reach 160F degrees, which will take about an hour.
Cold smoking is a little more challenging, depending on your grill. If you have a pellet grill or Ninja Woodfire Grill, you can set the temperature to 150F degrees. Then, add the sausages and smoke them for around 2 hours.
If you want to smoke them at an even lower temperature for more than 2 hours, you will need to add 1/2 teaspoon of pink curing salt #1 to the spice blend in the recipe card below. This is important because the meat will be out of the USDA safe zone, which can cause botulism.
My cousin Baron and several of his family and friends, smoke hundreds of pounds of breakfast sausage in Kentucky. They use the cold smoke method. They light a charcoal fire and let it burn down to a bed of coals. Then, they put the grill in the smokehouse and cover the coals with pre-soaked hickory wood and let it smoke overnight. He said it's important to soak the hickory wood so it doesn't catch fire and increase the heat.
With either smoking method, the fibrous casings are not edible. You can store the smoked sausage in the casing in the refrigerator or freezer, but you will need to remove it before eating the sausage.
If you make sausage in a one-pound batch, you can store the blended meat in the refrigerator wrapped tightly for 3-5 days.
I like making several pounds at a time, so I leave one pound in the fridge and freeze the additional pounds for up to six months. I roll the logs in plastic wrap and store them in a resealable plastic bag.
Once you cook the sausage, you can store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. You can also freeze cooked sausage for up to 6 months.
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Frequently Asked Questions
If you’re cooking sausage patties, it will take about 10-15 minutes for them to cook in a skillet over medium heat. You’ll know they’re done when the outside is brown and the inside is no longer pink. You can also measure the internal temperature of the meat with a digital meat thermometer. The goal temperature is 160F degrees.
Ground pork is commonly used to make breakfast sausage and Italian sausage. Breakfast sausage seasoning usually has salt, pepper and herbs like thyme, rosemary, sage and fennel. Italian sausage usually includes coriander, paprika, garlic and Italian herbs.
This recipe does not include nitrates or nitrites. However, if you want to cold smoke breakfast sausage at temperatures below 140F degrees for longer than 2 hours, you will need to add a preservative like pink curing salt #1 to prevent bacteria growth.
What to eat with breakfast sausage
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Homemade Breakfast Sausage
- 2 lbs ground pork
Breakfast Sausage Seasoning
- 4 tsp kosher salt
- 4 tsp maple sugar
- 2 tsp coarse ground black pepper
- 2 tsp thyme leaves
- 2 tsp ground rosemary
- 2 tsp ground sage
- 1 tsp ground fennel
- 1 tsp white vinegar powder
- 1 tsp MSG
- 1/2 tsp white pepper
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
- Mix: In a small bowl, combine all of the spices together, until blended.
- Add Meat: In another bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of spice blend for every 1 pound of meat. Mix well.
- To Store: Place a sheet of plastic wrap on the counter. Add 1 pound of sausage on the plastic and roll it into a log, twisting both ends. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.
- Cook: Remove the plastic from the sausage and slice it into 8 patties. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the patties and cook for 10-15 minutes, flipping a few times, until they are brown on the outside and no longer pink on the inside.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.