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The Ultimate Breakfast Sausage Taste Test

The Ultimate Breakfast Sausage Taste Test

Along with bacon, breakfast sausage is an indispensable part of any hearty breakfast. Traditionally made from pork, breakfast sausage links can be found everywhere from a traditional English breakfast to chafing dishes at hotel buffets. We shopped around and found 11 varieties of breakfast sausage at local supermarkets, and put them all — pork, chicken, turkey, and vegetarian alike — to the test.

The Ultimate Breakfast Sausage Taste Test (Slideshow)

Breakfast sausages are unlike all other sausages, largely thanks to the spice mix. The spices are usually heavier on the sage and black pepper than other sausages, and the flavors work incredibly well with everything else that usually finds its way onto a heaping breakfast plate, like eggs, pancakes, waffles, bacon, and maple syrup. One of the great things about breakfast is that it’s comforting, delicious, and a combination of delicious flavors, and breakfast sausage really is an integral part of it.

In order to prepare these sausages, we pan-fried them all according to the directions on the box, in order to keep the playing field even. Some required a little bit of oil, some a layer of water, and others just a bare nonstick pan. But at the end of the cooking process, we were confident that all of these sausages had been prepared as flawlessly as they could have been. Then we brought in the tasters.

Our panel was told to the judge the sausages on the following criteria: smell, taste, texture, grease factor, balance of salt to fat to sage to other spices to pepper, and overall enjoyment factor. In all, we sampled 11 brands: five pork, two chicken, two turkey, one mixture of pork and turkey, and one vegetarian. While they all tasted different, they all hit that "breakfast sausage" spot, and some were much better than others.

Click here to find out which one came out on top.


Cheesy Sausage Hash Brown Breakfast Casserole

Today we’ll be cooking the ultimate make-ahead lazy morning meal. Combine frozen hash brown potatoes with sausage, eggs, plenty of cheese and flavor it with some sour cream and mustard for this hearty breakfast casserole.

Since you can make it ahead of time, it’s perfect when you need to feed a crowd first thing in the morning. Think of Christmas or Thanksgiving mornings, or when you want that weekend brunch with friends. It even works with smaller groups or couples because just like hash brown egg nests or on-the-go breakfast muffins, leftovers taste just as good. So let’s get started.

CHEESY SAUSAGE HASH BROWN BREAKFAST CASSEROLE TIPS AND TRICKS

Prep in advance: To make this in advance, cover and refrigerate overnight but let it sit at room temperature on the counter for about 30 minutes before baking the next day. Depending on your oven, you may have to increase cooking time by 5-10 minutes. The best way to check if it is done is to insert a knife into the middle of the casserole. If it comes out clean, it is done cooking.

Sausage: I ended up using Jimmy Dean’s sage sausage but you can use any kind of sausage for this recipe. You won’t need any oil to brown it as it will eventually render and cook in its own fat. The quickest way to break up clumps is to use a potato masher in the pan once the sausage has fully browned. Depending on what brand of sausage you use, you might need to drain any fat from the pan.

Bell peppers: I went with red bell peppers but you can go for green or yellow or a combination of all three. For an easier way to add a splash of color, try using pre-packaged baby bell peppers.

Spice it up: If you want to spice things up a little, try adding some hot sauce or diced jalapeños to the egg mixture. Another suggestion would be to add some smoked paprika.

Load it up: For even more flavor, try adding some bacon bits as well.

Mustard: Use any kind of mustard you have in your fridge like spicy, honey, Dijon or coarse. I had coarse ground mustard leftover from making this honey mustard salmon recipe, so I ended up using that.

Sour cream: I added sour cream and mustard to give it more flavor but if you don’t like sour cream, feel free to skip it and add another 1/2 cup of milk to the egg mixture instead.

Cheese: I used a triple cheddar mix with Vermont white cheddar, sharp cheddar, and mild cheddar cheese. Feel free to mix it up with other cheese blends like Mexican cheese or Italian cheese.

Toppings: Add some color or freshness with chopped green onions or parsley. You can also incorporate these directly into the casserole.

Leftovers: These keep well in the fridge for 3-4 days. Reheat them in the microwave or oven.

And that’s about it. Save some room for this because it’s so filling and hearty and you will want to finish the whole plate. Enjoy and happy brunching!

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Common Seasonings Used in Italian Sausage

Popular flavors in the U.S.

Hot! This spicy option includes chilli for a hit of heat.

Mild. Thanks to the absence of chilli, this one’s milder.

Sweet. The basil imparts a slightly sweeter flavor.

How it’s made in Italy

The Italians are well known for using every part of the pig. Around Christmas, throughout the country pigs are killed. The pork meat is then transformed into sausage, ham, salami and many other meats. The internal organs, the flesh, the ears – everything has its use.

Every region of Italy has it’s own special recipe handed down through the generations. However, some themes remain constant throughout the country. The pig is chopped into pieces, then either salt and pepper is added or chilli. The meat sits for 24 hours to absorb the seasonings then it’s stuffed into sausage casings.

If you ever make it to Italy, you’ll find the further south you head, the hotter the seasoning tends to get. So once you hit Calabria and Sicily be wary of locally made sausage if you can’t handle hot foods.


Aldi, six Specially Selected Pork Sausages, £1.99

Aldi sausages. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

Remarkably, these bland bangers – less sausages, more non-committal shrugs stuffed into overly chewy natural casings – won a Great Taste award in 2013 (just the one star, but still). In what will become a theme in this taste test, the Aldi sausages ejaculate juices at the first cut, but don't be deceived. It is not glorious fat, but a kind of thin, fatty water. Adding water (it is the third listed ingredient) presumably gives the meat (90% pork) its brief, deceptive moistness which disappears almost immediately, after which any flavour flatlines.
2/10


If you stop and think too hard about Panera's bagel, well, just don't. It doesn't taste like much but in the context of this sandwich, it sort of works (and was better than their ciabatta option). It's pressed, giving what could be a big chewingmonster a flatter, crispier edge instead. The bacon inside had a nice smoky, salty taste—alright, maybe a little too salty, and we like our salt. The sharp cheddar was the sharpest of any breakfast sandwich cheese we tried. So much that it kind of overpowered the rest of the sandwich.

If you like your breakfast sandwiches more like a grilled cheese with a side of breakfast, than here you go. We all agreed we'd buy it.


In a small bowl stir together pure maple syrup (not pancake syrup,) salt, dried sage, pepper, and dried marjoram leaf to create a slurry then pour it over ground pork and mix with your hands until everything is just combined. Resist the urge to over-mix lest your sausage patties turn out tough and rubbery.

Shape the mixture into 12 patties then place on a plastic wrap covered baking sheet, cover, and then refrigerate overnight to give the flavors a chance to meld. You absolutely CAN cook the sausage patties right away, but they’ll taste best after the flavors have had a chance to meld.

Vegetable Egg Casserole


What is the best breakfast sausage?

My quest for the best breakfast sausage might need some background information though.

For years our family raised hogs. Not on a big scale, but we raised a few every year. My husband was extremely picky on what type of pigs we bought. We were also extremely picky on what we fed the pigs. Because of that our meat was so good. It was lean and full of flavor.

We never processed the meat ourselves. We found a great butcher that we loved. The way they butchered and processed the meat was so good. The way they seasoned the hams and sausage was delicious.

We loved having freezer full of pork. We had all kinds of options when it came to pork and I loved cooking with it.

Two years ago though we stopped raising hogs. Or at least we took a break from raising them. We may again in the future, but for now we are not raising them.

Over the last two years I have rationed our pork, especially the different sausages that we had because I knew I would have trouble finding high quality, lean, good tasting, sausage that we would like.

A few months ago I finally ran out of ground breakfast sausage. The kind that comes in a one pound package. Think Jimmy Dean style, but way better.

Since then I have tried quite a few different brands and have struggled to find one that we loved.

We liked the Braum’s breakfast sausage, but didn’t love it. For those not familiar with Braum’s it is an Oklahoma dairy company that is in the OK, TX, KS, area. They have a restaurant/store and sell dairy, and a few meat and grocery type products.

So far we have also tried a few of the main brands that most grocery stores carry. Jimmy Dean is the one I usually end up buying, but again it is not our favorite. Mainly because it has so much fat.

I am used to lean sausage. I don’t like all the fat that I have to drain off most of the sausage that I have bought recently.

I am thinking that I need to try a higher end ground breakfast sausage. Maybe one like Costco or a higher end grocery or specialty store might sell.

What breakfast sausage do you like? Which brands should I try? What is the best breakfast sausage? Please leave a comment letting me know your thoughts? As I try your suggestions I will come back and share my thoughts on them.


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Purple Hull Peas and Sausage

The Spruce / Diana Rattray

Fresh purple hull or black-eyed peas grow very well in the South, which is why they are a popular ingredient in Southern-style dishes. With just a few simple ingredients—peas, onion, garlic, chicken broth, and andouille sausage—you will have a filling and flavorful dish that is perfect as a hearty lunch or satisfying dinner.


The Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich

Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen

Yield: 1 sandwich

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

For the Sriracha Butter:

¼ cup (½ stick) room-temperature unsalted butter

For the Breakfast Sandwich:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 slices thin-cut bacon, cooked

Directions

1. Make the Sriracha butter: Using a rubber spatula, combine the butter and Sriracha in a small bowl.

2. Make the breakfast sandwich: Toast the English muffin and spread the inside halves evenly with the Sriracha butter.

3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the milk and season with salt.

4. In a large nonstick skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. When the butter begins to foam, add the eggs and reduce the heat to low. Using a rubber spatula, stir constantly, scraping down and around the sides, until mostly set on the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes. Fold the omelet over itself to make a half moon. Fold again to resemble a square shape.

5. To serve, top the bottom half of the English muffin with the egg, cheese slices and bacon. Close with the remaining top half and eat immediately.