Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Making Sausage & Smoked Products from Frozen Meat

Tom from Pekin, IL asked:

Can you make sausage and smoked meat from frozen meat?


For sausage, so long as the meat is not already ground, then yes, you sure can! You can simply watch any of our online Sausage How-To Videos and make a great product. You'll simply drop your frozen, cubed meat into the grinder just as you would unfrozen and go from there! 

If it has already been ground, then you're limited to the products that you can make. You'll have a texture issue with sausage, so no, I do not recommend making sausage from frozen ground meat. Most ground products where the texture matters - I would not use frozen ground meat.

One smoked product that I like to make from already ground and frozen hamburger is ground jerky. You can simply add your seasonings, grind it one or two more times to get it to a nice fine texture, and get your seasonings mixed well. Then, you push it out through the Weston Jerky Gun and load it into your smoker. That's one of my favorites - Here's the post and video about how to do it: Hamburger Jerky.

As for making smoked meat from frozen meat...
The issue with freezing any meat is that it damages cells. When you freeze meat, the moisture inside turns into ice crystals, which puncture the muscle cells. When the meat thaws, all of the fluid - holding those good salts and proteins - floods out of the holes that were made. The result is more loss of moisture when you cook the meat than you would have lost starting from raw meat. That said, this isn't really a problem in sausage making because you're going to grind the meat anyway. 

It comes into play more with roasts and steaks. If you're talking about smoking a chunk of frozen meat, then no, it's not the best way to do things. It's not unsafe, and it will get the job done. However: the point of thawing is even cooking. If the meat is frozen, it will take longer for the internal temperature to rise - so the outside of your meat will be overcooked by the time the inside of it gets to where it needs to be for safe eating. The moisture will also have left so quickly that you'll be left with a tougher product. Obviously, it's frozen, so it's going to take quite a while to cook. At that point, you'll probably have been better off just taking the time to thaw it.  But my advice is this: If you're going to smoke frozen meat, use a thermometer to check the internal temperature, and go low and slow. You can do it, it's just going to bring the quality down. 

Finally, if you're talking about the age-old myth that you can't freeze and thaw meat, then make anything from it - that's just an old wives' tale. Most of the meat products we receive in the commercial processing industry have already been frozen before we ever receive them. Like I said before, there's some damage caused by freezing, but if you're not cooking a filet mignon, it won't make enough difference to truly affect quality so long as you're thawing it first. The way you prepare and cook it will be much more important. 

Good luck and let us know how it turns out!

Brad Lockwood

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