Tips on buying the right equipment to process wild game for homemade sausage and more
Chef and Author, Eileen Clarke shares valuable insight into buying the right meat grinder, mixer and sausage equipment for home processing wild game.
If your house is like ours, buying a gift for the guy in your home isn’t easy, which is not to say I haven’t lit on some pretty good presents in the past, but the Dad in our house is now in his 6th decade. He has a bunch of stuff already, and anything else he wants, he just goes out and buys. So what do you buy for the guy who has everything? Oh, wait. Guys like meat. What about sausage making equipment? He’ll be happy and the whole family will eat sausage. Sounds like a win-win. Here’s what you need to get started.
The most expensive item is a grinder. If you home butcher you probably already have one, but if you make a lot of sausage you might need to upgrade. We upgraded to a ¾ horse power grinder for Christmas 8 or 10 years ago. It was about $300 then, but we’d already spent at least that much on $100 grinders that didn’t last 3 seasons each. The ¾ horse is quieter–so we no longer have to wear hearing protection–and it’s faster. What used to be an afternoon chore is now done in 45 to 60 minutes. That’s good. The down side is the ¾ horse grinder is heavier than those cheaper grinders: 27 pounds. It’s tempting to get more horse power but that means more weight and twenty-seven pounds is enough to keep the grinder stable when it’s running—and run more quietly–but not so heavy you can’t pack it around the kitchen. So when you’re shopping, balance weight vs horsepower and look for all-metal moving parts so the innards will last longer.
The next thing you need is a mixer. I’ve seen video where people throw the sausage mix on the table and tumble it around a few minutes. That won’t get the signature creamy sausage texture you want. You need more mixing. The good news is that unless you’re making a fifty pound batch of sausage, a heavy stand mixer works well. I have a KitchenAid™, which can mix 3 pounds of sausage at a time using the standard paddle that comes with it. And there’s no reason you can’t do several 3-pound batches in a row. I also own a hand-crank 25-pound mixer, but prefer having a big assortment of several different sausages on hand, rather than 25 or 50 pounds of just one, so don’t use the big mixer often.
Third, is a stuffer. Now, there’s no rule that says you have to case sausage. In fact, a grilled or fried sausage patty, shaped appropriately, fits in a bun just as well. But if you’re going to stuff it, a dedicated stuffer will keep the mix cooler, stuff lots more cases in less time, and is much, much easier to clean. I own a hand-crank 5-pound Lem™ sausage stuffer that costs about $150 and, since time is money, it’s worth every penny.