What Is the Fat to Meat Ratio for Sausage?

Making your own sausage is a great way to control the quality and flavor of your sausages, and isn’t as difficult as you might think.

Bringing homemade sausage to your next barbecue or cookout will step up your grill game, or you can simply enjoy homemade sausages with your favorite breakfast or sandwich.

When making homemade sausage, the ratio of fat to meat is the secret to success. Here I’ll answer the important question of what is the fat to meat ratio for sausage to help you make the perfect sausage blend.

pice of bacon sliced in half to show meat and fat

Why Do You Need to Add Fat to Sausages?

Fat is an essential component in sausages, and you can’t have a great sausage without it. Here are some of the roles that fat plays in sausage.

Fat Adds Flavor

Fat molecules dissolve on your tongue, and trigger receptors in your brain that enhance the flavors of almost any food. Fat concentrates, magnifies, and transmits all the flavors in your food, making it more delicious.

Fat Improves Texture

When sausage is too lean, it can be dry and crumbly when cooking. Adding fat helps the ingredients to bind together into a moist, juicy sausage that holds together (adding water to your sausage mix also helps with this—read more here).

Fat Makes Sausage Easier to Make

When a sausage mixture is low in fat, it can be difficult to mix, grind, and stuff into casings. The right fat ratio makes sausages easier to make and work with.

Fat Reduces Cost

Generally speaking, fat is more affordable than meat, so including fat reduces the cost of sausages.

In other words, you simply can’t have sausages that are tender, juicy, and delicious without adding fat. Fat transforms meat into sausage.

What Types of Fat Can You Use in Sausages?

To make most sausages, you need white animal fat. Pork fat is the most popular, but you can also use beef fat, duck fat, or lamb fat. Most people use clarified pork fat known as lard, or pork belly to make sausage.

bacon diced into small pieces in a pile next to a knife

How Do You Calculate Fat to Meat Ratio in Sausage?

Because the amount of fat in sausage is so essential, it’s best to use lean meat and add fat, so you can control the ratio and have the most consistent, most flavorful sausages.

Ultimately, the amount of fat you add to a sausage depends on how lean your meat is, which allows you to calculate the correct ratios.

For most traditional sausages, you want a ratio of about 30% fat. In some sausages, fat percent can be as low as 25% or as high as 40%, but 30% is a great place to begin, and then adjust according to your preferences.

Therefore, to calculate, you need to know how much fat is already in your meat. In most cases, when you are buying meat at the store, the label specifies how much fat is in the meat.

Cuts of beef are typically labeled with their lean-to-fat percentage, like ground beef labeled “85% lean.” In some cases, you will need to calculate the fat percentage from the nutrition label. For example, if a label says that a 100g serving of meat contains 11g of fat, you know that meat is 11% fat.

For meats that don’t have a nutrition label, you may want to look it up in a standard chart, like this one.

Take the total amount of your meat and subtract the amount of fat in the meat to calculate the fat to meat ratio. That gives you the fat-to-lean percentage in the meat you already have. Then add enough fat to the recipe to reach 30%.

For example:

  • If you have 100 grams of 80% ground beef, you have 80 grams of meat and 20 grams of fat already in your beef. You would need to add 10 grams of fat to reach a 30% ratio.
  • If you have 100 grams of raw moose meat, it typically has less than one gram of fat. So, you would need to add 30 grams of fat to reach a 30% ratio.

Several online tools, apps, and calculators let you calculate fat percentages and scale your recipes to the type and quantity of meat you are using. 

How Much Fat and Meat Do You Put in Sausage?

The exact amount of fat and meat in sausage depends on the kind of sausage you are making, the recipe you are following, and the lean percentage of the meat in your sausage.

As a general rule, you begin by weighing your meat and calculating how much lean and fat is in the meat itself.

Add additional fat to reach your desired fat-to-meat ratio of 30%. Of course, if you are working with extremely fatty meat like pork belly, which can be nearly 50% fat, you may need to add lean meat to reduce the ratio.

In Summary

Getting the right fat percentages in sausage involves a bit of math and sometimes a bit of guesswork, but it gets easier with practice. Making sausage is easy, fun, and a great way to make the most delicious sausage you’ve ever enjoyed.