A Guide to Grocery Store Sausage

Hot Italian sausage and cavatelli
Hot Italian sausage and orecchiette

Sausage is a magical food. It exists in dozens of forms, across cultures, and is filled with a variety of spices. There are so many types and flavors that it becomes hard to define what exactly qualifies as sausage. It can be a link or a patty, smoked or dried, pork, beef, or even seafood. 

With all of these available options, it’s easy to descend into panic in the meat aisle when faced with a recipe that just calls for sausage. Consider this guide your helpful grocery store companion. It will teach you the difference between kielbasa and salami, and help you figure out what to toss on top of a pizza. 

Fresh

Plump in appearance and pale in color, these sausages are made of uncooked seasoned ground meat and spices. They’re packaged in casings, sometimes all linked together like cartoon sausages. There are usually several varieties of fresh sausage available at a supermarket, including hot Italian sausage, sweet Italian sausage, and breakfast sausage. These three types are all pork sausage, and are distinguished primarily by their spices. Generally, hot and sweet Italian sausage can be substituted for one another, but breakfast sausage is an entirely different flavor profile. It’s important to remember that these sausages are raw, so they require a longer cooking time than their pre-cooked counterparts (more on that below). Grill them whole and slice them up, or remove them from the casing while still raw, sauté the meat, and toss into soups or on a pizza.

browning loose sausage
Browning meat

Pre-cooked 

These often have a smooth, more uniform texture than fresh whole sausages. This texture comes from the meat itself, which has been finely processed or pureed before cooking. Examples include the beloved hot dog, bologna, and mortadella. Precooked sausages will be more opaque and firmer to the touch; if you can’t tell if a sausage has been precooked, read the label closely or ask a store employee, preferably someone working at the meat counter. Pre-cooked sausages are technically safe to eat right out of the package, but heating them will bring out their best flavors. They can be grilled, pan-fried, or boiled. The larger versions, like bologna, are a staple in deli and lunch meat counters, while the smaller options are popular with home cooks. Their short preparation time makes them an easy way to bulk up a weeknight dinner.  

Cured 

Cured sausages are salted and dried in cool conditions. Over time, the salt draws out the moisture and effectively “cooks” the meat, although heat is never applied. Salami, saucisson, sopressata, and pepperoni are all cured sausages. They’re perfect to slice up and serve on a charcuterie board, tuck into sandwiches, or even slice and toss into a hearty salad. Even though they don’t need to be cooked, applying heat to a cured sausage will render the fat, and give them a wonderfully crunchy texture. This transformation is what makes the crispy pepperoni on top of a pizza so delicious. 

Smoked 

For smoked sausages the meat is ground, packed, and hung to dry in a smoker or smokehouse where there is a low, cool fire. The meat is preserved by time, salt, and smoke, but not cooked by the heat of the fire. The smoke not only preserves the meat, but also flavors it; think of rich sweet kielbasa or smoky lap cheong. Smoked sausage also doesn’t need to be cooked, but warming it to room temperature or above will bring out its best flavors. Grilling it can add another dimension of charred flavor. Smoked sausages can be served on their own or sliced and added to other foods like soups or stews. These sausages are commonly found at deli counters.

smoked sausage
Mmm, smoky

Loose 

Just because it’s not in a casing, doesn’t mean it’s not a sausage. Basically, any flavored and ground meat qualifies. Loose sausage can be formed into patties and fried, or broken up and sautéed. This top-rated Blue Apron recipe uses loose hot Italian sausage to spice up a pasta dish for a satisfying weeknight dinner. 

Ground pork 

Ok, ground pork is technically not a sausage…yet. That being said, if you’re in a grocery store on the hunt for fresh sausage, ground pork would be a better substitution than something smoked or pre-cooked. Once you have the ground meat at home, you can spice it up yourself. Empty the meat into a large bowl, and assemble some spices. For a classic sweet Italian sausage try cracked black pepper, minced garlic, whole fennel seed, salt, and chopped parsley. Before you cook up the whole batch, place a quarter-sized amount in a frying pan. Flip once, make sure it’s cooked through, and then give it a taste. Not only is that the best way to check the seasoning of homemade sausage, it’s also a fun little treat for the chef.

Four Burger Mix-ins to Make Your Cookout Memorable

burger mix-in with mushrooms
A Blue Apron burger with shiitake and hoisin

A good burger is a thing of beauty. It’s a perfect marriage of crispy caramelization and rich meat. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always pan out that way. Far too many burgers end up flavorless and underwhelming. For patties that are packed with flavor every time, try bringing a few more ingredients into the mix. Follow these four ideas for burger mix-ins to switch up your backyard grilling game.

Mix in some mushrooms:

In this top-rated Blue Apron recipe, a beef patty gets bulked up with shiitake mushrooms. The mushrooms stretch out the beef a bit, making the entire burger experience lighter, while also adding some complex texture and a deep layer of savory umami goodness. This recipe uses rehydrated shiitakes, but feel free to swap in your favorite mushroom.  

grilling burger mix-ins
Not everyone has a grill!

Stuff it with cheese:

Ok, pairing cheese with a burger isn’t exactly new, but we’re willing to bet you usually slap a slice on top of your patty. To switch things up a little bit, treat your cheese like a filling. Sometimes referred to as a Juicy Lucy, this recipe calls for forming a burger patty around two slices of American cheese. For maximum melting, it’s best to stick to the recipe, but if American cheese doesn’t work for you, sub in your favorite. Just be sure to have some napkins on hand. 

Stir in some sauce: 

When it comes to burger mix-ins, this method might be the easiest way to pack in extra flavor. During the mixing process, add in a few tablespoons of your favorite condiment—from barbecue sauce to hoisin. Expect a spiced and delicious result. 

When in doubt, bulk up with bacon: 

If you’re hoping for a burger that’s rich, smoky, and doesn’t pull its punches, try mixing in some diced bacon. Not only will this add flavor and depth, the bacon-y bits provide a fun crunch. This recipe tops it all off with pimento cheese for a truly loaded burger experience.

What’s the best way to dress up a burger?

Looking for the perfect cookout dessert? Try this lemon curd ice box cake.

Yes, You Can Make Hibachi at Home

A homemade hibachi meal

What comes to mind when you hear the word hibachi? A giant grill, flashes of flame, and an onion volcano? You’re not alone.

Technically, hibachi refers to a style of grill, but the hibachi experience in the U.S. is about way more than food. It’s dinner and a show rolled into one. Hibachi chefs rose to fame for their knife twirling and shrimp tossing antics, even though several of the most famous examples are actually cooking on a teppanyaki grill. 

For John Adler, head chef of Blue Apron, hibachi is defined by its flavor profile. Namely: a balance of sweetness and pleasant bitterness. The sweetness comes from the sauces and natural sugars in the ingredients, the bitterness is from creating hard sear over high heat. 

Luckily, those flavors don’t have to come off of a hibachi grill. Maybe you can’t make an onion volcano at home, but according to chef John, “you can create all the same flavors with a really good pan.” 

If you’re looking for a cooking challenge, grab a pan and keep reading. This is everything you need to know to attempt hibachi at home. 

Steak and shrimp, all plated up

Go for a diversity of proteins: 

Chef John chose steak and shrimp for a luxe and delicious dinner 

Turn up the heat

Hibachi is all about high heat. You need a super hot surface to achieve the signature char flavor of a hibachi meal. Don’t despair if your stove top is a little finicky; Chef John recommends taking your oven safe pan, and preheating it in a 400-degree oven for 15 minutes. That will give you a jump start, and make sure your pan is up to temperature before you start searing. Just watch out for the hot handle! 

Searing a steak
Just look at that beautiful carmelization

Don’t fear the sear 

This part is important. After you’ve made sure that your pan is truly hot, you need to let the heat do its work. Don’t be afraid to leave your proteins in the pan without touching them for a few minutes. You’ll know they’re ready to be flipped when you start to smell a slightly sweet charred aroma. 

Choose your vegetables wisely 

Chef John says vegetables with a high natural sugar content will stand up to the high-heat and caramelize beautifully. 

peas in a pan
Peas, cabbage, and carrots will all hold up the the high heat

Don’t forget a rice element:

A hibachi rice dish could incorporate cooked vegetables, like fried rice, or it could be a simple steamed rice with a few nice herbs.

hibachi shrimp in a pan
Tip: keep the shrimp tails on for extra flavor

Season with a vision

In a restaurant, the hibachi experience isn’t exactly subtle: protein is flying through the air, knives are flashing, and everyone is laughing in delight. By cooking hibachi at home, you’ll be able to appreciate some of the more delicate flavors in a more subdued environment. One of Chef John’s favorite hibachi elements is the continuity of flavor that is found throughout the elements of the dish. For his version, Chef John chose to season his proteins with togarashi, a spice blend that includes orange peel. To complement that flavor, he also created a citrus ponzu that’s served alongside the meal. These two citrus elements serve to tie the meal together. 

Learn about making hibachi at home, and other advanced cooking techniques, with Blue Apron Premium

A Million Ways to Meatball

Even if it’s not the meal your mother used to make, meatballs are unmistakably a family-friendly food. 

italian meatball recipe

The best part? There’s no wrong way to go about it. Meatballs can be Italian, Persian, Vietnamese, and countless other nationalities. When it’s time to eat, you can serve them in soup, with pasta, or straight out of the pan. They’re delicious no matter what. 

Our basic recipe is designed with spaghetti in mind. This is a classic beef meatball with a hint of garlic and a few fresh herbs for nuance. If that’s not what you’re craving, feel free to use it as a jumping off point. Swap in your favorite spices, or dial up the heat with red pepper flakes. Just remember, there’s no wrong way to meatball. 

Basic meatball recipe

  • 1⅛ lbs Ground Beef
  • 1 Cage-Free Farm Egg
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • ¼ cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • ¼ cup Panko Breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup Parsley

Fist, add the ground beef, breadcrumbs, egg, and cheese to a large bowl. Roughly chop the garlic and parsley, and add them in as well. Season the whole mixture with salt and pepper. Mix until just combined, the more gently the better. A soft touch will keep your meatballs tender and moist.

Now it’s time to shape your meatballs. Using your clean hands, form the mixture into 10 to 12 equal-sized meatballs. Again, a soft touch it key. Transfer your formed meatballs to a plate.

In a pan, heat a drizzle of olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the meatballs and cook, turning occasionally, 4 to 6 minutes, or until browned. 

cooking meatballs

Now, it’s time to let your creativity shine. You could scoot your meatballs into a pot of simple tomato sauce, where they’ll finish cooking and flavor the whole mixture with their juices. If sauce doesn’t sound right, you could keep them in the skillet until they’re cooked through, and serve them alongside a spiced rice. If you’re really craving something cozy, assemble your own meatball sandwich.

finished meatball recipe

No matter what form they take, this recipe is pure comfort.

DIY Beef Jerky for Father’s Day

Beef Jerky Cooling

With Father’s Day around the corner, this year we’re opting for a homemade gift, and cooking up something special for dad. Beef jerky, to be exact.

The traditional method of making beef jerky involves slowly baking the beef in low heat for 4 to 6 hours. But this Vietnamese method doesn’t use the oven at all – it’s marinated and braised on the stove with rich, Vietnamese flavors like roasted chile paste, fish sauce, and garlic, and is much quicker than the traditional technique.  Braising results in a softer, more tender finished product that still packs a punch from the spicy Thai chili. (That reminds us – please don’t prep these with your bare hands!)

So, without further ado, here’s our recipe for Vietnamese-Style Beef Jerky.

 INGREDIENTS:

Braising Liquid:
1 ½ Cups Soy Sauce
8 Scallions
2 Pounds Beef Top Round, Preferably 1-2 Pieces

Marinade:
½ Cup Soy Sauce
3 Tablespoons Honey
1 Tablespoon Roasted Chile Paste
1 Tablespoon Fish Sauce
5 Cloves Garlic
1 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
3 Thai Chile Peppers

 

COOKING INSTRUCTIONS:

Trim off and discard the tops and root ends of the scallions. Peel and mince the garlic. While wearing protective gloves, trim the stem of the chile, then halve and discard the ribs and seeds. Mince the chile to yield 1 tablespoon.

In a large pot combine 1 ½ cups soy sauce, scallions and 8 cups water. Add the beef and heat to a boil on high. Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for 60 to 75 minutes, or until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 160°F. Strain the beef and set aside to cool to room temperature. Discard the braising liquid.

While the beef cools, make the marinade. In a large bowl, combine the ½ cup of soy sauce, honey, chile paste, fish sauce, half of the minced garlic, red pepper flakes, thai chile and 1 cup water; season with salt. Whisk to combine.

Once the beef is cool, thinly slice with the grain into ⅛-inch-thick slices. Add the slices to the marinade and toss to coat.

Beef Jerky Step 2 Marinade

Transfer the beef and marinade to a large pan. Cook on medium-low, stirring occasionally, 18 to 20 minutes, or until liquid has almost completely reduced and the beef is glazed. Remove from heat.

Set a wire rack on a rimmed sheet pan. Arrange the glazed beef in a single layer and cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.

Beef jerky in bag

Hope dad enjoys it!

The Ultimate Burger Guide for Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day Weekend calls for sunshine with a 100% chance of burgers, so we’ve rounded up some of our favorites to give you a head start with recipe planning. Whether you’re vegetarian, pescatarian, an adventurous eater or far from it, we’ve got something you’ll enjoy between a bun.

Short Rib Burger with Hoppy Cheddar Sauce: This burger means business. We’d don’t recommend grilling this one up if you’re looking for an active weekend because this recipe for deliciousness is served with a side of long naps on the beach.

Short Rib Burger

Spiced Chickpea Burger: A good veggie burger is a back-pocket must-have. We’ve taken the liberty of spicing up an old classic so its just as exciting as your long weekend plans!

Chickpea Burger

Salmon Burger: This feel-good burger is a primer in cooking with whole foods. You’ll start with a whole salmon fillet, turn it into a patty then pair it with succulent tomatoes and corn on the cob!

salmon burger lead

Harissa-Spiced Lamb Burger: Here’s a burger for the foodies among us! Whether you’re spending the weekend at home or taking a quick getaway, this burger will have you convinced you’re dining on the banks of the Mediterranean.

Lamb Burder

Thai Chicken Burger: This burger recipe is one-of-a-kind. If you’re looking for a break from the traditional burger, this is the recipe for your Memorial Day celebration!

Thai Chicken Burger

 

Tell us – what are you excited to cook over the long weekend?

How to Make a Pan Sauce for Your Steak

The main factors for making a perfect steak happen long before you think about sauce. You want a flavorful cut of meat, a hot pan, and a good pinch of salt. Often, a squeeze of lemon is all the sauce a steak needs. But other times, a simple pan sauce can take your steak up a notch, to the gourmet regions of restaurant-style cooking.Hanger Steak with Pan Sauce

A pan sauce consists of a handful of ingredients, simmered down, then poured atop your (rested) meat. More important than any one particular ingredient in your pan sauce is the pan in which you make that sauce, also known as the same pan in which you seared the steak. By reusing the pan, you not only save on dishes, but you also allow your sauce to pick up the tasty browned bits left in the pan after cooking meat. They’re known as sucs, and they add previously unknown levels of flavor to your sauce.

Hanger Steak with Pan Sauce3Hanger Steak with Pan Sauce2

In many of our recipes, we’ll actually finish the side dish we’re making–like the purple potatoes above–as we throw together the sauce. Here’s how we make the simplest, most delicious pan sauces around:

  1. After you’ve finished cooking your steak (or chicken), remove the meat to a plate, and set aside. You can tent the meat with a small piece of foil, or just leave it uncovered. The meat will get juicier as it rests.
  2. If there’s plenty of fat leftover from cooking the meat, you’re good. If there’s not much, add a drizzle of olive oil. If there’s a ton, drain some off so you’ve got just enough left to film the surface.
  3. Add aromatics. Typically, we use shallots, but other good options are: minced red or yellow onion, garlic, leeks, scallions, or spring specialties like green garlic or ramps. Sauté, then pour in a bit of vinegar or citrus juice.
  4. Let the liquid bubble down, stirring to deglaze the pan (picking up all the sucs). 
  5. Season with salt, pepper, and fresh herbs or chives.
  6. Pour over your meat or chicken, and enjoy your meal!

 

5 Tricks to a Great Slider

Sliders: more than just little burgers. There’s an art to making delicious sliders. Follow these five tricks for ultimate slider deliciousness, every time you grill turkey, mushrooms, or chicken.

1. Little Buns

You’ve got to find the right buns for your sliders to get the proper bread-to-filling ratio. If you can’t find good brioche slider rolls, consider cutting hot dog buns in halves or thirds.

2. Mayonnaise

You’ll want something rich and gooey to ensure moistness in every slider bite. Garlic-rosemary aioli fits the bill.

3. Pickles

They add an excellent crunch. You can even make your own.

4. Sloppiness

All sliders are messy–that’s a given. But some are so rich and gooey you can’t resist ’em–notably, Sloppy Joe Sliders

5. Make ’em Veg

Mini portobellos are completely key.

This post is part of Food Network’s Comfort Food Feast. See the other sliders participants made by clicking the links below:

Jeanette’s Healthy Living: Gluten-Free Maryland Crab Cake Sliders
The Heritage Cook: Italian Sliders with Fried Polenta and Marinara Sauce
Elephants and the Coconut Trees: Shredded Beef Sliders
Haute Apple Pie: Easy Pan Cheeseburger Sliders
Devour: Pick Your Slider Stuffing for Super Bowl
Dishin & Dishes: Philly Cheesesteak Sliders
Weelicious: Mexican Chicken Sliders
Taste With The Eyes: Classic Chicago-Style Polish Sausage Sliders
Virtually Homemade: Meatball Sliders
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Buffalo Sliders with Bacon & Cheddar
Red or Green: Buffalo Chicken Sliders with Bacon & Celery
The Sensitive Epicure: Arepas — The Ultimate Gluten-Free Slider with South American Flair
Domesticate Me: Cheesy Buffalo Chicken Meatball Sliders
Daily*Dishin: Italian Roast Beef-Smoked Almond Creamy Cheesy Sliders
FN Dish: Super Sliders