Have you ever eaten a sausage that has a dry, crumbly texture and is difficult to slice? It’s highly probable that whoever made it didn’t use a sausage binder. Store-bought sausages all contain binders that have multiple benefits such as extra juiciness and a better appearance.
If you’re thinking about making homemade sausages, you might be wondering what you can use as a sausage binder. Example of sausage binding agents you can use are soy protein concentrate, non-fat dry milk, carrageenan gum, and maltodextrin. Read on to learn more.
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What are Sausage Binders, and Why Do We Use Them?
The purpose of all meat binders is to improve fat and moisture retention. They can also help mask specific off-flavors in sausages made from wild game. Sausage binders deliver the smoothness and the consistency of the meat.
When it comes to working with meat, binders are used for protein extraction. When you mix the binder with the meat, it promotes this process, covering the fat particles and keeping them from clumping together.
The binder’s affinity for water also helps with even fat distribution and is ultimately responsible for the juicy flavor. The goal of sausage binders is not to contribute to the meat volume, although they improve the product yield.
It’s all about holding the meat together for the “mouthfeel” and the consistency of the sausage.
The proportion of sausage binding agent used should be relatively low, up to 2% of the meat’s weight. When you use high-quality binders and thoroughly perform the protein extraction, the meat will bind better to the sausage casing. This will prevent the migration of the fat and the phenomenon known as “fat-out.”
Are Sausage Binders Necessary?
The short answer is no. They are not necessary. You can make homemade sausage without adding any sausage binding agent at all. Ultimately, it’s a matter of personal preference.
Some people feel they don’t need to use binders to successfully retain moisture in sausages. Others insist that it’s the only way. Generally, if you want to prevent the loss of volume and ensure more consistency and juiciness, you’re better off using a binder.
You can view sausage binders as insurance against having the fat rupture the casing and squirting everywhere. However, if you’re against the idea of using sausage binders, rest assured that the flavor of the sausage will stay the same. It’s the texture and moisture that will differ.
What Types of Sausage Binders Are There?
If you’re sold on the benefits of sausage binders, then you might be wondering what you can actually use as a sausage binder.
The concept of a meat binder has changed over time. In the old days, people used to use breadcrumbs as a sausage binder. However now, they can be protein-, carbohydrate- or dairy-based.
They can also contain gluten if they originated from wheat products, or they can be gluten-free. Let’s look at the most common types of sausage binders used today.
Soy Protein Concentrate
Isolated soy protein is one of the most popular sausage binders for home production. It doesn’t increase volume, but it does create a great texture and aids in moisture retention.
You can use soy protein concentrate for smoked and cooked sausage, and it will efficiently bind the fat and achieve a smoother consistency. For about five pounds of meat, you need around one cup of soy protein.
The upside of using soy protein is that it enhances the sensory property of the sausage. The main downside is that it can be somewhat expensive.
Dairy-Based Binders (Powdered Milk Sausage Binders)
Another popular and often more affordable option for a sausage binding agent is non-fat dry milk. You can get it at most stores, but it’s essential to make sure that the powdered milk sausage binder you choose is non-fat. These binders have excellent moisture-retaining properties and are especially good with wild game sausages.
Another option is high-quality whey protein, but you have to make sure it’s not flavored. Keep in mind that this might not be the best option for sausage binders for the lactose intolerant.
Carrageenan gum is a natural extract from red seaweed and has a wide purpose in the food industry. When heated, carrageenan absorbs plenty of water and traps it inside.
Unlike soy and dairy-based binders, carrageenan gum does increase volume and leads to higher cooking yields. You only need about 1% of the meat’s weight to get the result you want.
This type of binder is beneficial when making skinless sausage because it ensures an excellent texture.
Finally, you have the option of using maltodextrin as the sausage binder. It’s a white powder made from rice, potato, wheat, or corn. It’s a highly processed but safe food additive.
It’s relatively inexpensive and easy to use. It does contain higher carbohydrate levels, but you only need small amounts in sausage making.
Also, it’s gluten-free, even when made from wheat. You might be able to guess if a sausage has maltodextrin by its somewhat rubbery texture.
Homemade Sausage – the Process
Making sausage at home can be a fun and rewarding project. However, before you rush into choosing the perfect flavor combination, you have to make sure you have all the necessary tools.
You must have a meat grinder and a sausage stuffer. Often, they come as attachments for the standing mixer in your kitchen. You also have to make sure to have casings prepared. If you choose natural casings, they will provide the most flavor and that “snap” when you take a bite.
You’ll need to decide on the seasonings as well. Kosher salt is an excellent option. Some paprika, garlic powder, ground black pepper, and red pepper flakes are a must as well. Once you cut up and grind the meat, add the seasonings and the sausage binder.
You’ll know that the binder is working when the meat gets sticky. It means that the protein extraction is happening, and that’s precisely what you want. Once you have the perfect mixture, stuff the sausage in the casing, form the links, and cook the sausage.
The sausage binding agent isn’t the most essential ingredient of a tasty sausage link (unlike the type of meat and a great seasoning ratio).
You can use many things for a sausage binder, but soy protein concentrate and non-fat dry milk are common choices for homemade sausage.
If you’re making a small batch, the amount of sausage binder you’ll need is insignificant. However, it will still provide a world of difference regarding the sausage’s texture, consistency, and moisture.