Chicken Sausage The Ultimate Guide And Chicken Sausage Recipes

Chicken Sausage

The Ultimate Guide to Chicken Sausage

Chicken sausage is a popular variety of sausage made primarily from ground chicken meat mixed with various seasonings and ingredients. Over the past decade, chicken sausage has exploded in popularity due to its versatile flavor profile and lean nutrition compared to pork or beef sausage.

This comprehensive guide will explore everything you need to know about chicken sausage, from different types and flavors to proper cooking methods and recipes. We’ll also cover some tips for buying quality chicken sausage and popular brands on the market.

So whether you’re a seasoned chicken sausage fan or looking to try it for the first time, read on to become a total expert!

A Brief History of Chicken Sausage

While pork and beef sausage have a long tradition dating back thousands of years, chicken sausage is a relatively new creation that only originated within the past 50 years. With rising concern over fat and cholesterol in pork products, poultry companies saw an opportunity in the 1970s to develop a leaner, lighter sausage.

The first mass-market chicken sausages were produced by Perdue Farms in the early 1970s. As health trends continued picking up steam into the 1980s and 90s, more companies followed suit with their own chicken sausage products. The lean protein and versatility of chicken sausage made it much quicker for everyday home cooks to incorporate into meals.

Over the past decade, the chicken sausage market has rapidly expanded thanks to creative new flavor varieties and brands. Specialty flavors like sundried tomato, spinach, and apple have joined traditional offerings like Italian, breakfast, and Andouille chicken sausage. The overall market continues trending upward at over 5% annual growth.

Different Types of Chicken Sausage

The wonderful thing about chicken sausage is the incredible variety available from different brands and recipes. Here are some of the main types of chicken sausage you’ll encounter:

By Flavor/Style

  • Breakfast chicken sausage – Seasoned similarly to pork breakfast sausage with sage, black pepper, thyme and other warm spices. Often sold in patty form.
  • Andouille chicken sausage – Feature the bold spices characteristic of Andouille Cajun cuisine like paprika, cayenne, onions, and garlic.
  • Italian chicken sausage – Packed with traditional Italian spices like fennel, oregano, basil and red pepper flakes.
  • Apple chicken sausage – Sweet and savory flavors combining chicken with apple, maple syrup, sage and other spices.
  • Spinach feta chicken sausage – Blending the bright flavors of spinach and feta cheese for a Mediterranean flair.
  • Southwestern chicken sausage – Tex-Mex style seasoning with peppers, cumin, chili powder and cilantro.
  • Hawaiian chicken sausage – Tropical twist combining pineapple, mango and teriyaki.
  • Smoked chicken sausage – Smoky flavor similar to kielbasa created by smoking chicken over wood chips during processing.

By Form/Texture

  • Link chicken sausages – Stuffed into a tubular cellulose or lamb casing to form the traditional link shape.
  • Patty chicken sausages – Formed into round, flat patties ideal for breakfast sandwiches or pasta dishes.
  • Pre-crumbled chicken sausage – Loose ground sausage crumbles to sprinkle into recipes without casing.

Key Ingredients in Chicken Sausage

While recipes can vary widely between brands, most chicken sausages contain a standard set of core ingredients:

  • Ground chicken meat – Typically 85-90% of total content. Ideally uses boneless, skinless thigh meat for richer flavor vs breast.
  • Seasonings – Spice blends tailored to specific sausage styles. Common spices include garlic, paprika, fennel, sage, rosemary and oregano.
  • Binders – Help binding and moisture retention. Binders like breadcrumbs or flour allow the ground meat to form a solid link shape after stuffing into casings.
  • Preservatives – Ensure flavor and texture consistency. Many chicken sausages use sodium nitrite to prevent spoilage and maintain quality during shipping.
  • Fat – Provides juiciness and texture. Pork or beef fat is sometimes added to balance the lean chicken.
  • Casings – The outer layer containing the sausage blend. Traditionally pork intestines but now often cellulose or collagen.

Nutritional Profile of Chicken Sausage

One of the main reasons for chicken sausage’s popularity is its stellar nutritional profile compared to beef or pork sausage options:

  • High protein – On average 16-18g protein per link thanks to the lean ground chicken meat. A 4 oz chicken sausage contains up to 50% of the RDA for protein intake.
  • Low fat – Roughly 3-7g of (mostly unsaturated) fat per link vs up to 25g in some pork sausages.
  • Lower sodium – 300-500mg sodium on average per sausage. Still moderately high for some dietary needs but less than other processed meats.
  • Fewer calories – Approximately 130 calories per average chicken sausage link. Up to 50% less than equivalent uncooked pork or beef sausages.
  • Rich source of B vitamins – Particularly high levels of niacin, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. Help convert nutrients to energy and maintain healthy nervous system.

For those managing weight, sodium intake or heart health, swapping traditional pork or beef sausages for chicken sausages makes good nutritional sense. Just be aware of sodium levels between brands and any added sugars or fats.

Chicken Sausage The Ultimate Guide And Chicken Sausage Recipes
Chicken Sausage The Ultimate Guide And Chicken Sausage Recipes

How Commercial Chicken Sausages Are Made

Now that we know what goes into chicken sausages, let’s look closer at the step-by-step process professional manufacturers use:

Chicken Meat Selection & Grinding

The first step is sourcing quality chicken meat. Skinless, boneless chicken thighs are often preferable to white breast meat alone since dark meat provides richer texture and flavor. The meat is run through industrial grinders to produce a shredded ground chicken blend.

Mixing & Seasoning

Next the ground chicken is transferred to large mixing drums where all other dry and wet ingredients like seasonings, preservatives and binders get blended together until fully incorporated. Different seasoning blends create unique chicken sausage styles.

Stuffing the Mixture into Casings

The well-mixed chicken sausage blend must then be carefully pumped into casings to shape the links. Traditionally pork intestines were used but today collagen or cellulose casings are more common. The stuffing process requires special equipment to evenly fill the delicate casings.

Cooking & Processing

Once stuffed, sausages are slowly smoked and cooked using controlled time and temperature to fully cook meat to safe internal temperature while avoiding overcooking. Some style may skip smoking for flavor. Finally, sausages are quickly chilled then packaged for distribution and sale.

Key Benefits & Drawbacks of Chicken Sausage

Benefits

  • High protein – Chicken sausage packs 16-20g protein per 3-4oz serving, 50% RDA for most adults. Ideal for health, fitness and weight management goals.
  • Flavor versatility – Fun flavors like sundried tomato, mango habanero or spinach artichoke make chicken sausage exciting and versatile for recipes.
  • Lower fat than pork/beef – Roughly 4g fat per link and mostly heart-healthy fats compared to fatty pork products.
  • Pre-cooked convenience – Fully cooked and ready to heat and serve, saving prep time.
  • Kid friendly – Mild seasoning and flavors make chicken sausage a great intro to sausage for kids.

Drawbacks

  • Can be high sodium – While less than other sausages, most chicken sausages still contain 300-500mg sodium per link.
  • Not whole food – As a processed meat, chicken sausage is less healthy than homemade seasoned chicken.
  • May cause gastrointestinal issues – Some sensitive individuals report casings cause stomach upset.

How to Cook Chicken Sausage Perfectly Every Time

One of the best qualities of fully cooked chicken sausage is how quick and easy it is to prepare…if you use the right technique. Here are pro tips for pan-frying, grilling and baking chicken sausage so it turns out perfectly juicy and flavorful every time:

Pan Frying

Pan frying is the quickest and easiest chicken sausage cooking method for weeknight meals:

  • Use medium-high heat so chicken sausage browns without over or undercooking. Cast iron or nonstick skillets work best.
  • Don’t overcrowd the pan or sausages will steam instead of browning. Use a wide skillet and work in batches if needed.
  • Brown both sides for maximum flavor. Aim for evenly golden brown casing and internal temp over 160°F (71°C).
  • Butter or oil help prevent sticking but aren’t strictly necessary since chicken sausage contains fat.
  • Slice larger sausages in half lengthwise so insides cook faster – thick sausages may overbrown outside before heating through.

Grilling

During warmer months, moving the cooking outside to the grill adds wonderful smoky char flavor:

  • Use medium-high grill heat for best results just like the st
  • Use medium-high grill heat for best results just like the stove. Keep temperature around 375-400°F (190-205°C).
  • Grill sausage for 4-5 minutes per side. Roll to evenly brown on all sides.
  • Avoid flare ups from rendered chicken fat by moving sausages to indirect heat.
  • Apply BBQ glazes/sauces only during last 1-2 minutes or they’ll burn.
  • If casing splits, remove sausage from grill grate to prevent dryness/overcooking.

Baking

For feeding a crowd or meal prepping recipes, baking ensures perfect results:

  • Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Line sheet pan with parchment paper for easy cleanup.
  • Arrange raw sausages on pan with 1-2 inches between links to allow airflow.
  • Bake for 15-18 minutes until browned on both sides, flipping halfway through. Insert thermometer to confirm 160°F+ (71°C+) internal temp.
  • Pour excess drippings into pan away from sausages to prevent greasiness.

Follow these simple methods with a meat thermometer and even thick chicken sausage links will turn out perfectly juicy every time without splitting.

 

Storage & Food Safety

Like any perishable meat, proper storage is crucial for safety and quality:

  • Store unopened chicken sausage packages in the freezer at 0°F (-18°C) for 3-4 months maximum before quality declines. Thaw overnight in fridge before cooking.
  • Cooked leftover chicken sausage keeps 3-4 days refrigerated. Seal tightly in airtight container to prevent drying out.
  • Don’t leave cooked sausages longer than 2 hours at room temperature or food poisoning risk occurs.
  • Discard chicken sausage with off odors, visible slime or fuzzy mold immediately. Don’t taste questionable sausage. Safety first!

5 Top Chicken Sausage Brands

In today’s market, there is no shortage of brands producing high-quality convenient chicken sausage options. Here are 5 of top makers that consistently deliver delicious flavor and quality:

Aidells

This award-winning San Francisco Bay Area company helped pioneer specialty flavored chicken sausages with unique infusions like pineapple teriyaki, mango habanero and more.

Applegate Farms

Known for their commitment to sustainable meat production without GMOs or chemical processing, Applegate Farms’ organic free-range chicken sausages offer premium quality.

Johnsonville

As the largest sausage brand in the country, Johnsonville brings their trademark Wisconsin-style 60+ years of sausage mastery to flavors like sundried tomato pesto and spinach asiago chicken sausage.

Al Fresco

Al Fresco all-natural chicken apple sausage strikes a perfect sweet and savory balance packed with fresh apple chunks and maple syrup.

Jennie-O

This line from turkey giant Jennie-O offers lower-cost chicken sausage in traditional breakfast and Italian flavors. Less frills but still tasty.

There are certainly more niche high-end chicken sausage producers but these widely available brands deliver consistent quality that makes it easy to incorporate chicken sausage into your routine.

5 Delicious Chicken Sausage Recipes

Besides serving chicken sausage solo as a quick protein on busy nights, there is an endless variety of ways to incorporate it into recipes from breakfast to dinner. Here are just 5 scrumptious ideas to inspire you in the kitchen:

Chicken Sausage Frittata Recipe

  • This spin on classic egg bake adds pre-cooked Italian chicken sausage, bell pepper, spinach and goat cheese for a protein-packed brunch option the whole family will devour.

YouTube video

Pasta with Chicken Sausage & Sun-dried Tomatoes

  • Fettuccine gets an upgrade from this classic chicken sausage pasta loaded with sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, garlicky breadcrumbs and Pecorino Romano cheese.

YouTube video

Sheet Pan Gnocchi & Chicken Sausage Dinner

  • Skipping boiling and dirty pans, this sheet pan meal bakes store-bought gnocchi alongside chicken sausage, Brussels sprouts and butternut squash for a hearty 30 minute meal.

Chicken Sausage & Peppers Sheet Pan Sandwiches

  • Build your own sausage sandwich feast with this easy recipe using chicken sausage links and bell peppers under the broiler – no grill required!

YouTube video

15 Minute Chicken Sausage Tortellini Soup

  • Transforming convenient chicken sausage and cheese tortellini into an ultra-quick creamy tomato soup that feels like you spent all afternoon in the kitchen.

YouTube video

As you can see, the options are practically endless for recipes to take chicken sausage flavor to the next level. Get creative trying chicken sausage in all your favorite pasta, sandwiches, eggs and soup recipes!

Where to Buy Quality Chicken Sausage

Thanks to chicken sausage’s mainstream popularity now, locating several varieties is convenient whether shopping locally or online:

Grocery Chains

Most major supermarket chains like Kroger, Safeway, Whole Foods, etc. carry at least a couple chicken sausage options today in the fresh packaged meat section. Inventory varies by region and store.

Club Stores

Mass volume warehouse retailers like Costco and Sam’s Club regularly stock large value packs of basic chicken sausage links in Italian or breakfast flavors.

Specialty Markets

Natural food co-ops, gourmet butchers and upscale chains like Trader Joe’s offer more premium regional and artisanal chicken sausage selections.

Online Shops

Major ecommerce sites like Amazon, Walmart and specialty online meat purveyors allow buying chicken sausage online shipped frozen. This opens unique flavors and brands not locally available.

If your regular grocer has limited variety, explore alternative food retailers in your area or online to discover new chicken sausage flavors and high quality options.

Key Takeaways on Enjoying Chicken Sausage

Hopefully this deep dive has gotten your taste buds excited at the possibilities with versatile chicken sausage! Here are some final tips as you explore preparing chicken sausage:

  • Seek interesting global flavors that complement ingredients you use often – Italian, Mexican, Greek, etc.
  • Mix textures with crumbled patties for pasta sauce or keep links whole for sandwiches/breakfast.
  • Compare nutrition labels between brands for optimal protein, fat and sodium based on your needs.
  • Properly stored frozen, chicken sausage keeps 3-4 months for grabbing anytime inspiration strikes.
  • Cook to minimum safe internal temperature of 160°F (165°F if stuffed with cheese/veggies)
  • Branch out from frying alone – baked, grilled and simmered in soups/stews are all fast easy cooking methods.

Now you’re a chicken sausage expert ready to make gourmet creations to impress family, friends…even yourself on busy weeknights! What flavors or cooking methods are you excited to try first?

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