/ Food & Drink
Sausages

What do you think makes the perfect banger?

As anyone who sits with me on the Subs desk at Which? will attest, I’m a big fan of sausages. In fact, there’s a few of us Subs with a predilection for them. Between us, we’re helping the nation chomp through 175,000 tonnes of sausages a year.

A tribute to sausages

So how much do I love them? Well, let me count the ways…

Served with creamy mash and lashings of gravy; smothered in brown sauce in a sandwich; forming a dam between the ‘dry’ (the bread, egg and bacon – black pudding and mushrooms, too, if it’s on offer) and ‘wet’ (the baked beans or tinned tomatoes) elements of a Full English; bobbing on the top of a beany casserole or in a toad-in-the-hole; or simply wrapped in crumbly pastry (aka sausage roll) with some piccalilli on the side. British, Turkish, Polish, pork, beef or lamb… I’ll eat one in any permutation.

And if I’m at a BBQ (which hasn’t been often this summer, perhaps we’ll be lucky this bank holiday), the sausages are the first thing I’ll put on my plate.

But I’m also pretty picky about them. They can’t be just any old sausage. For me, there’s a fine balance between the meat to breadcrumbs, herbs and seasoning ratio. Too much meat and they’re just, well, too meaty. Too little and the texture’s all gooey. They can’t be too fatty or full of gristle, either. And the salt, pepper and herbs shouldn’t be overwhelming.

Taste test

It seems that our taste testing panel agrees with me, in some part.

Of the 14 supermarket premium pork sausages rated by our experts, all had a meat content of at least 85%. When they tasted a 42%-pork sausage, they were disappointed with its ‘puréed’ texture, which one member of the panel described as being like ‘paste in a skin’. Another that contained 70% meat left a pool of fat in the pan when cooked.

The panel also agreed that a high meat content isn’t necessarily a guarantee of quality. In fact, the best and worst premium sausages both contained 97% pork.

But you might not agree – so what makes the perfect banger? And how do you like to serve your sausages?

Comments
Member

I used to be employed on a twelve person tasting panel for ingredients used by the food industry for sausages, crisps, mayonnaise etc .

My view is that as peoples tastes vary so much it is always possible that a majority verdict as to best will not suit everyone. However it is always helpful to have the market range evaluated and listed as it is very easy to get into the rut of the same old sausages.

Fortunately I can travel 10 minutes to a butcher/farm where the range of sausages made from the pigs changes by the month. The sausage is an under-rated product – and is best oven baked : )

Member
Louise cook says:
27 August 2017

What happened to organic sausages? No nitrites/nitrates that are are the culprits in processed meat.

Member

Nitrites and nitrates are added to sausages as a preservative and to maintain the pink colour of the meat. High temperature cooking such as frying and grilling produces nitrosamines, which have long been known to increase risk of cancer.

Preservative is needed to prevent the growth of extremely hazardous bacteria and there is no ideal alternative to nitrites: a.uk.com/_attachments/resources/2567_s4.pdf

I don’t eat sausages but would be interested to know which preservatives are currently used in organic sausages.

Member

Unfortunately, the link did not copy/paste correctly. Please search for: ALTERNATIVES TO NITRATES AND NITRITES IN ORGANIC MEAT PRODUCTS which is published by Campden BRI

Member

Nope. Might be an anti-virus measure.

Member

Thanks for the info, @wavechange. I’ve always grilled or dry-fried sausages – guess I should be oven baking them!

Member

What goes into food is a concern as the recent research on the gut bacteria we are very much responding to what we eat. Eat poorly and you get the wrong bacteria operating inside the colon.

This month 60 Million Consammateurs in France has shown that 18 sweets aimed at children have nanoparticles included without the proper disclosure. Interestingly all the manufacturers denied they used nanoparticles which may indicate a blind eye to what they are buying in.

Which? last mentioned nanoparticles in a Conversation in 2011. A light article which drew but five responses.

Since then we have had much talk of them in cosmetics and they are now being withdrawn – I think. However what is going on in the food industry?

” Really harmless, the nanos ?
Use the materials in the form of “nanos” offers new properties : in foods, nanoparticles help to change the color, the smell, the smoothness or the texture. Thus, the titanium dioxide (E171) in the form of nano optimizes the appearance bleaching of this dye for icings and coatings for sweets ; it also helps to prevent oxygen and moisture to alter the product.

But beyond their utility in technology, it is necessary to know if the ingestion of nanoparticles is actually harmless. The current studies do not yet allow for the knowledge, but the grip tightens around certain substances, such as the famous titanium dioxide. -E171, a food additive of concern

…… following a study by the national Institute of agronomic research (Inra) published in January 2017. The researchers ingested rats titanium dioxide containing 40-45 % of nanoparticles at doses close to those that a human can ingest. After one hundred days of exposure, they observed that the titanium dioxide resulted in the colon for an accelerated growth of lesions initially benign such as polyps.

No conclusion, however, is established for man on this potential effect “promoter” of carcinogenesis of E171. Or other results not less of a concern, such as the passage of the nanoparticles of the additive through the intestinal barrier. Further studies are needed to confirm these first results.

Things are changing so slowly. But in the meantime that the transparency is required, the more wise would be to ban foods containing the additives of the suspects.”

I think most people would agree, if they were aware of the known problems with nanoparticles, that caution is best exercised when dealing with things so small they can pass into the body and where no studies exist of long term effects.

Member

I like meaty pork sausages with onion gravy and mustard. Our food shop generally is M&S and their 97% pork suit us very well. I also like toad in the hole as mrs r makes a very good Yorkshire, Needs decent gravy though.
Occasionally a sausage sandwich in decent bread with mustard and the sausages split in half is appreciated.

Member

No one has mentioned beef sausages. I quite like them for an occasional change.

Any sausages should be well-cooked all the way round and slightly crisp on the outside. They should be cut lengthwise before cutting into portions and dipped in the runny yolk of a well-fried egg.

Tinned tomatoes are not acceptable in a proper breakfast, nor are button mushrooms.

The black pudding available these days tends to be bland and a waste of money.

Fried onion is an essential accompaniment.

Heaps of baked beans and hash browns just mess up the composition on the plate – I prefer an additional egg.

Member

Indeed, beef sausages are delicious. I think I prefer them with mash and gravy rather than at breakfast though.

And I love tinned tomatoes with a fry-up, especially with fried bread. They aren’t to everyone’s tastes though, so if I’m cooking for guests, I’ll usually do baked beans (always Heinz!). However, family members always get the tinned tomatoes option.

Member

We sometimes cook sausages in the oven, sitting in baked beans. Tinned tomatoes with breakfast are good, particularly if fried to reduce the liquid, and especially good with bacon on fried bread. For a change, try venison sausage – a stronger flavour.

We used to visit a family Italian restaurant who did delicious calves liver and this: sliced courgette fried lightly in olive oil and garlic with tinned tomatoes. We often have that as an accompaniment to other meats – quick and easy.

I used to be a fan of Heinz baked beans – still am – but we discovered M&S’s own brand was cheaper and just as nice – well, we think so.

Member

There’s only one way to cook sausages and that is in the oven 20-25 mins @ 180% depending on their thickness and they must be Lincolnshire with lots of nice herbs which add to their flavour. I never eat gravy only at Christmas with turkey. Baked beans always complement a nice sausage but these days I have unfortunately had to switch to peas and carrots instead as my tummy has now become sensitized to all brands with age 🙁

Member

I like sausages fried, grilled or baked so long as they come out right and are evenly cooked. I don’t really mind if they laugh so much they split their sides. But I have no love of sausages with all sorts of silly ingredients like tomatoes or herbs in them. A good meaty sausage does not need anything else to add to its flavour. If it doesn’t have much flavour I source an alternative. There are various things that can be put on the plate to add flavour if required, but incorporating it in the meat is unnecessary. Living as we do in pig country we savour the flavour of the unadulterated pork and we have award-winning butchers who produce the perfect sausage.

Member
bishbut says:
2 September 2017

Walls sausages were made from the disgusting parts of a pig. Someone asked if these parts were being thrown away only to be told that’s what we make sausages Several years ago I will add

[Sorry bishbut, your comment has been edited to align with our community guidelines. Thanks, mods]

Member

I presume this comment contained something offal. 🙂

Member

We’ll never know, unless someone subscribes to this Convo and gets the comments on email. I was told that lips, and tails, ears. This is an old report: https://www.theguardian.com/food/focus/story/0,,951917,00.html

On “How it’s Made” (Quest tv channel) I did watch American hot dogs being made. There were more industrial and chemical processes involved than even making cornflakes, and the resulting pink paste had as little resemblance to food as toothpaste. Just to illustrate, I came across this:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2175655/So-really-ingredients-really-sausage-Read-eat-frankfurter-again.html

Member

My father warned me about what went into sausages when I was about eight. He would only eat sausages made by the butcher.

Member

I believe there’s a difference between sausages and bangers? Ie. a sausage needs a certain amount of meat content, but bangers don’t?

Member

Hmmm. Not sure about that because vegetarian sausages are widely available.

My father used to say that during WW2, people did not know whether to fry sausages or butter them. Apparently breadcrumbs were a popular filler when meat was scarce.

Member

Not sure it’s a tea-time topic! A sausage, if pork, must contain 42% “meat” – but this can be 30% fat and 25% connective tissue. Other types must be at least 30% meat.

According to brief research “Bangers are so-called because after the First World War there was little meat in sausages — just scraps, cereal and water — so they sizzled and spluttered a lot when they were frying. It sounded as if there were mini explosions, or bangs, going on”. So presumably need have no connection (even tissue) with meat at all. 🙁

I avoid any sausages marked as “value”; they seem to be some sort of paste in a plastic tube.

Scampi and chips tonight. Preceded by sweetcorn just picked from the garden; as soon as its picked, drop it into boiling water for around 8 minutes, cover in butter, and get messy. As sweet as anything. What a treat! But leave it uncooked for too long and the sugar starts to turn to starch.