Meat Processing Cheat Sheet

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Are you interested in making sausage, bologna, ham, jerky, snack sticks, and bacon at home? There is a lot to learn, but a little guidance goes a long way in preparing these delicious meats and snacks with confidence. Here is a handy list of guidelines you will want to refer to often.

Updated March 4, 2022


General Guidelines

Note: Temperatures given are in F.

  • Always use cure for jerkies, snack sticks, summer sausages, ring bolognas, bolognas, hams, salamis, bacons, etc!

Sodium nitrite (sometimes referred to as Insta Cure #1, Prague Powder, or pink curing salt) is the one you will use most frequently. The correct ratio for sodium nitrite (with the exception of bacon, see bacon section) is 1 ounce per 25 pounds of meat or 1 teaspoon per 5 pounds of meat. Buy sodium nitrite here.  

Sodium nitrate (sometimes referred to as Insta Cure #2) is only to be used in whole muscle curing or the making of dry cured sausages or salamis.

  • If adding high temp cheese to your product, add 1 pound of cheese per 10 pounds of meat. For example, 8.5 pounds of venison + 1.5 pounds of ground beef + 1 pound of high temp cheese + 2 teaspoons of sodium nitrite + the seasoning of your choice would make a terrific summer sausage!
  • Add 1 pint of cold water per 10 pounds of meat after grinding the meat to make mixing and stuffing easier.
  • After stuffing snack sticks, summer sausages, ring bolognas, or bolognas, refrigerate them in a tightly covered container for a minimum of 4 hours (as long as overnight) to let the cure work throughout the meat. This also gives the seasonings more time to absorb into the fibers of the meat.
  • Cook to internal temperatures of 150 degrees for pork, beef, veal, lamb, and game and 160 degrees for products containing poultry.
  • After removing snack sticks, summer sausages, ring bolognas, or bolognas from the smoker, immerse them in an ice water bath for 5–10 minutes. This stops the cooking process.
  • Muscle jerky should be marinated for a minimum of 20 hours, but no more than 30 hours. After 30 hours, the cure starts to negatively change the texture of the meat.
  • When making formed jerky, squeeze the strips onto a wire rack, cover each rack with plastic wrap, and let the strips sit for 1–2 hours in the refrigerator to let the cure work throughout the meat. This also gives the seasonings more time to absorb into the fibers of the meat. Letting the meat cure before making the strips will change the texture of the meat, making it very difficult to load into your jerky gun.
  • If your smoker doesn’t run as low as 150 degrees, try cold smoking the product before smoking it at 200–225 degrees. Cold smoke snack sticks and formed jerky for 15–20 minutes, muscle jerky for 20–30 minutes, summer sausages for 1 hour, and bolognas for 2 hours. Cooking times will be slightly shorter than the times listed for cooking in an oven. This cold smoking should not be done on warm days!

Fresh Sausage

  • Using venison? Add 20-30% fatty pork or pork fat.
  • Using pork? Pork butts are perfect! Add up to 10% pork fat for really juicy sausages!

Before vacuum sealing fresh sausage, put it into bags or wrap it in plastic wrap and put the sausage into the freezer until it's very firm. This will keep it from getting smashed while vacuum sealing.

Seasoning Blends

Casings

If you're not making links, form it into patties for breakfast sausage or fry it loose for casseroles and other dishes.

Cooking Methods

Using a grill: Cook the fresh sausages at 350 degrees with medium smoke until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees.

Using a stove: Brown the sausage in a skillet over medium heat until the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees.

Snack Sticks 

  • Using venison? Add 10–20% fatty pork, pork fat, bacon, or 70–80% lean ground beef.
  • Using beef? Use 80–90% lean ground beef.

Seasoning Blends 
These come with a cure packet.

Casings

Cooking Methods

Using a smoker: Smoke them at 150 degrees for 2 hours, then increase the temperature to 200 degrees until the internal temperature of the sticks hits 150 degrees (approximately 30–60 minutes longer).

Using an oven: Add 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke per 10 pounds of meat to the seasoning blend, then cook them at 200 degrees until the internal temperature of the sticks hits 150 degrees (approximately 1 hour).

Summer Sausage or Ring Bologna

  • Using venison? Add 10–20% fatty pork, pork fat, bacon, or 70–80% lean ground beef.
  • Using beef? Use 80-90% lean ground beef.

Seasoning Blends 
These come with a cure packet.

Casings

Cooking Methods

Using a smoker: Smoke it at 150 degrees for 4 hours, then increase the temperature to 200 degrees until the internal temperature of the meat hits 150 degrees (approximately 1–2 more hours).

Using an oven: Add 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke per 10 pounds of meat to the seasoning blend, then cook it at 200 degrees until the internal temperature of the meat hits 150 degrees (approximately 3 hours).

Bologna

  • Using venison? Add 10–20% fatty pork, pork fat, bacon, or 70–80% lean ground beef.
  • Using beef? Use 80-90% lean ground beef.

Seasoning

Casings

Cooking Methods

Using a smoker: Smoke the bologna at 150 degrees for 6 hours, then increase the temperature to 200 degrees until the internal temperature of the meat hits 150 degrees (approximately 4–6 more hours).

Using an oven: Add 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke per 10 pounds of meat to the seasoning blend, then cook it at 200 degrees until the internal temp of the meat hits 150 degrees (approximately 6–7 hours).

Muscle Jerky 

  • Using venison? The hindquarters or the backstraps make great muscle jerky!
  • Using beef? Brisket flat, top round, or eye round are great choices.

Seasonings (available in our store)

Preparation Methods

Using a smoker: Smoke the jerky at 150 degrees until it is rigid, but tender enough that it doesn't snap when bent (approximately 6–8 hours).

Using an oven: Add 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke per 10 pounds of meat to the marinade. Set the oven as low as possible (usually 175–200 degrees), and prop the door open 1–2” to let some of the heat escape. Cook the jerky until it is rigid, but tender enough that it doesn't snap when bent (approximately 4–6 hours).

Using a dehydrator: Add 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke per 10 pounds of meat to the marinade. Set the dehydrator at 150 degrees or as low as possible. Dry the meat until it is rigid, but tender enough that it doesn't snap when bent (approximately 6–8 hours).

Formed Jerky 

  • Using venison? Any ground venison works fine.
  • Using beef? Use the leanest ground beef you can possibly find!

See "Muscle Jerky" for recommended seasonings.

Preparation Methods

Using a smoker: Smoke the jerky at 150 degrees until it is rigid, but tender enough that it doesn't snap when bent (approximately 6–8 hours).

Using an oven: Add 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke per 10 pounds of meat to the seasoning blend. Set the oven as low as possible (usually 175–200 degrees), and prop the door open 1–2” to let some of the heat escape. Cook the jerky until it is rigid, but tender enough that it doesn't snap when bent (approximately 2–3 hours).

Using a dehydrator: Add 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke per 10 pounds of meat to the seasoning blend. Set the dehydrator at 150 degrees or as low as possible. Dry the meat until it is rigid, but tender enough that it doesn't snap when bent (approximately 3–4 hours).

Bacon

Use a skinned pork belly.

Basic cure for a 10-pound pork belly (adjust as needed to match the weight):

  • 4 ounces kosher salt
  • 2.25 ounces dark brown sugar
  • 0.75 ounces cure #1 (sodium nitrite)

For a maple bacon, slather the belly in maple syrup before applying the cure mixture. For a peppered bacon, add 3 tablespoons coarsely-ground black pepper to the basic cure mixture and lightly dust the belly with more before refrigerating for the pellicle formation.

Mix the cure ingredients well and apply the cure to all sides of the belly. Put the belly in a large zip lock bag or covered container. Refrigerate it for seven days and flip the belly once a day. Very thick bellies might take an extra day or two to cure; the belly should feel fairly firm to the touch.

After the curing process is completed, remove the belly from the bag, rinse it well, and soak it in cold water for 30 minutes. Then pat it dry with paper towels, set it on a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet, and put it back in the refrigerator uncovered for 18–24 hours to form a pellicle.

Preparation Methods

Using a smoker: Smoke the belly at 150 degrees for 2 hours, then at 200 degrees until the internal temperature of the bacon hits 150 degrees (approximately 2–3 more hours).

Using an oven: Cook the belly at 200 degrees until the internal temperature of the bacon reaches 150 degrees (approximately 3–4 hours).

Let it cool on the counter for 30–40 minutes before slicing, refrigerating, or freezing it.

We carry a full line of meat processing equipment and supplies, including grinders, stuffers, seasoning blends, and casings. Our staff is also happy to help you with your meat processing questions! Visit us during store hours or browse some of our products in our online catalog here:

Location:
Meadow Creek Barbecue Supply
140 W Main St
New Holland, PA 17557

Phone: (717) 355-0779

Hours:
Monday – Thursday: 8:00 am – 4:30 pm
Friday: 8:00 am – 7:00 pm
Saturday: 8:00 am – 1:00 pm
Sunday: Closed

How to Make Fresh Sausage

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In this article you will discover the "master ratio" for making sausage from scratch and a few easy steps for making your first batch.

Are you interested in processing more of your own meat and figuring out how to grind, cure, and stuff meats?

Does eating and serving sausages, snack sticks, and jerky that you made with your own hands sound like a rewarding adventure?

We believe the place to start is by making a small batch of fresh sausage. First of all, everyone loves sausage, and while it may seem like rocket science at first, you'll quickly find that it's not that hard to do. After a batch or two of sausage, I think you'll be ready to expand on what you've learned and maybe even tackle some cured meats, such as snack sticks and bacon.

The cool thing about this approach is that you don't have to raise your own pigs or commit to breaking down an entire carcass to make your own sausage. In fact, you can start with one pork butt from your local grocery store!

Sound exciting? Let's dig in!

If you've been cooking outdoors, you know how that process works. We take raw cuts of meat, season them with a dry rub, and cook them with a balance of smoke and heat. Making fresh sausage from scratch takes things a step further by grinding the meat before cooking it to a finished internal temperature.

Note: Fresh sausage does not require a cure.

Basic steps for making fresh sausage:

  • Chunk the meat
  • Season the meat
  • Grind the meat with some fat
  • Stuff the sausage or simply form it into patties
  • Cook the sausage

If you've never made sausage before, it may seem intimidating, especially as you taste various sausages from professionals with secret recipes, but once you understand the ratios of meat to fat and how to build a flavor profile with seasonings, you'll have the formula you need for making a delicious homemade sausage.

Did you know we carry a full line of meat processing equipment in our store? Besides the grinders, stuffers, and other equipment and supplies we carry, we also enjoy talking about recipes and helping our customers with their meat processing questions. Call us at (717) 355-0779 or visit us at 140 W Main Street in New Holland, PA, and we'll do our best to help.

The Master Ratio

A good sausage is based on the following ratio of ingredients. 

  • 5 pounds of meat and fat (use 25% fat)
  • 1.5 ounces of salt (use weight instead of volume)
  • Seasonings
  • 1 cup liquid (water or maple syrup)

By using this ratio and the list of ingredients printed on the package, you should be able to reverse engineer your favorite store-bought sausage or create some tasty sausages of your own.

The Meat and the Fat

Two keys to a good sausage are a good quality meat and the right amount of fat.

  • A good rule of thumb is 75% meat to 25% fat. If the meat is too lean, the sausage will be dry.
  • Pork butts are often used to make sausage. Add up to 10% of pork fat for really juicy sausages! Or use a pork loin and add 25% pork fat.
  • It is best to purchase the meat the day you make the sausage. If this is not possible, keep the meat in the fridge for no more than two days before that.
  • When adding fat to sausage, always use pork fat. Pork fat renders at 155–160 degrees F and beef fat renders at 140 degrees.

Need fat? We sell fat for adding to sausage and snack sticks in our retail store at 140 W Main Street in New Holland, Pennsylvania.

The Seasoning

Almost every sausage contains salt and a form of pepper. For breakfast sausage, we add some sage; for Italian, we add fennel or anise; and for kielbasa, we add marjoram, an aromatic spice. Cayenne makes a hot sausage and sugar makes a sweet sausage. Paprika and garlic are also common ingredients.

Here is a basic recipe to get you started:

Fresh Garlic Sausage

  • 5 pounds pork butt
  • 1-1/2 ounces non-iodized salt (Kosher or canning salt)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh garlic
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 cup liquid (water or red wine)

To make the sausage, debone the pork butt and cut it into chunks small enough to fit into the throat of your grinder. Sprinkle the meat with the seasoning and toss it until the seasoning is evenly distributed. The meat is now ready to grind. After the meat is ground, add the liquid and mix it in.

A note about salt: Never use iodized salt in your sausage. Kosher salt is the perfect kind of salt to use.

Pre-made sausage mixes: In case you'd rather use a store-bought sausage seasoning, we carry a variety of sausage seasoning blends including regular, breakfast, and Italian. Come visit our store at 140 W Main Street in New Holland, Pennsylvania, and we'll be happy to answer your questions and help you choose the seasoning blend that is right for you.

Grinding and Stuffing

  • Sanitation and refrigeration is extremely important when making sausage. Always wash your equipment before using it and keep the meat cold and clean.
  • Cool your grinder, stuffer, and other equipment in a refrigerator to keep the fat from smearing.
  • The grind of the meat influences the texture of the sausage. Use a 3/8" grinder plate and then run it back through with a 1/8".
  • After grinding the sausage, you can either form it into patties for breakfast sausages and grill or fry them immediately or put it into freezer bags for eating later.
  • If you want to make links, at this point the meat is ready for stuffing.

We carry LEM's Big Bite Grinders which are designed to grind meat faster and with less clogging than other similar grinders. Our customers love them because of the professional performance they offer at a hobby-level price point, their warranty, and the manufacturer's customer support. If you're in the market for a grinder, we'd be happy to help you choose a grinder that's right for you. 

We also carry a variety of collagen and natural casings and sausage stuffers in our store. We invite you to come visit us during store hours and check out our full line of meat processing equipment!

Browse some of our meat processing supplies and equipment here.

There is a lot more that could be said about making sausage, stuffing, choosing casings, etc, but my goal in this article was to show you how easy it is to make your first batch of sausage. I hope you've been inspired to dive in and make some sausage. ​

If you have any questions that are not covered here, please call us at 717-355-0779 or come visit us and we'd be happy to help you in any way we can.

Cooking

  • We recommend cooking sausage to a minimum of 160 degrees to be safe, but pork fat renders at 155–160 degrees F so don't take the internal temperature higher than that or the fat will render out and the sausage will become dry.
  • Sausage patties are usually cooked over direct heat on a grill or in a frying pan. Links can be grilled over direct heat or cooked in a smoker, but low temperatures tend to make the casings tough so we prefer cooking them at a minimum of 275 degrees. Loose sausage can also be formed into a loaf and smoked, then sliced and served on sandwiches.

Did you know we carry a full line of meat processing equipment in our store? Besides the grinders, stuffers, and other equipment and supplies we carry, we also enjoy talking about recipes and helping our customers with their meat processing questions. Call us at (717) 355-0779 or visit us at 140 W Main Street in New Holland, PA, and we'll do our best to help.


​About the author: Lavern Gingerich is a writer and the digital marketing manager for Meadow Creek Barbecue Supply​.

30% off: Meat Processing Equipment Clearance

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​It's the season for do-it-yourself meat processing here in Pennsylvania. Whether you're a deer hunter looking to pick up some equipment on a budget or a farmer with a steer or a few hogs to turn into some ​delicious eats, we've got an outstanding deal for you!

​​The following items on clearance at 30% off of retail prices ​while supplies last.​ ​The quantities available may change at any time and are not updated here in real-time, so if you're interested, place an order ​​now to secure the item.

To make a purchase: ​Call us at (717) 355-0779 during business hours or come see us at 140 W Main St, New Holland, PA 17557, and we'll be glad to ​help you choose the right equipment for your needs. We take credit cards over the phone too if you want to place an order and have us hold it until you can ​pick it up.


TSM ​#22 Electric Meat Grinder

2 available




​TSM 10" Heavy Duty Food Slicer

​SOLD


​TSM 15​ ​lb. USA Made ​Sausage Stuffer

​SOLD



​​TSM 5​ ​lb. USA Made Sausage Stuffer

​SOLD


​TSM ​D-5 Dehydrator With Stainless Steel Shelves

​SOLD


​TSM ​D-10 Dehydrator With Stainless Steel Shelves

​SOLD


Voted #1 2017 Stainless Steel Dehydrator by DehydratorBlog!


Updated ​March 8, 2018

​Have questions?

Call us at (717) 355-0779 during business hours or come see us at 140 W Main St, New Holland, PA 17557.