Every Saturday the owner of Sunworks Farm is at the Strathcona Market griddling his chicken sausages and doling samples to passers-by.
I’m usually wary of chicken sausages. They’re often dry and mealy with no structure. The main difficulty in making sausage from poultry is the very low ratio of fat to lean, nowhere near the desired 1:3 that is easily achieved with pork.
Anyways many years ago I gambled on the Sunworks chicken sausage sample and was happy to find it was one of the best I’d ever eaten. My pleasure quickly turned to curiosity and I wondered aloud how they made it so juicy. Was there maybe pork fat added to the mix? No, the owner said, only chicken. But how do you get enough chicken fat to make a juicy sausage like this? In an act of incomprehensible generosity he told me.
He said that they use chicken skin, because it has a thin layer of subcutaneous fat attached. This is pure genius, both from a gastronomical perspective (it makes fantastic sausage) but also a practical one. I don’t have data but I assume the most popular item a poultry farmer sells is boneless, skinless chicken breast. By biological necessity you need to produce two legs and a bunch of skin to produce two breasts, and I imagine it can be difficult to keep everything in balance. What to do when the legs and skin are piling up? Make fantastic sausage.
Many years ago I wrote about using pig skin in sausage. While the result is also delicious, there are two difficulties in working with pig skin. The first is that the smaller abattoirs that process my pork have a tough time getting the skin completely clear of bristles, and bristles are definitely not good eats. The second is that pork skin needs to be cooked and de-fatted before being ground. It’s quite the process. Chicken skin on the other hand is always clean (there may be a few errant quills that are easily removed) and is tender enough that is doesn’t need to be cooked like pork skin. I do however grind the skin twice, once on it’s own and then alongside the cubed leg meat.
I decided on a style of sausage that has larger pieces of lean meat folded into a fattier, finely ground substrate. I used hog casings for the sausages pictured above, but obviously if you want the product to be pork-free you can use lamb or synthetics.
Chicken Sausage Base Formula
- 20% chicken skin
- 60% boneless skinless chicken leg meat (thigh and/or drumstick)
- 20% boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into roughly 1/4″ cubes
- 1.5% kosher salt
- 5% cold water
Example Chicken Sausage Recipe
- 200 g chicken skin
- 600 g chicken leg meat, boneless, skinless
- 200 g chicken breast meat, boneless, skinless, cut into 1/4″ cubes
- 15 g kosher salt
- 9 g minced garlic
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp black pepper, coarsely ground
- 50 g ice-cold water
- Spread the chicken skin on a sheet tray lined with parchment and store in the freezer until it is very cold, but not fully frozen.
- Grind the skin using a 3/16″ plate.
- Add the ground skin to the cubed leg meat . Spread the mixture on a sheet tray lined with parchment and store in the freezer until very cold but not fully frozen.
- Grind the skin and leg mixture using a 3/16″ plate.
- Transfer the ground mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the cubed breast meat, kosher salt, and cold water. Mix with paddle attachment on low speed for about 2 minutes. Refrigerate overnight.
- The next day stuff into desired casings and link.