Vertical Sausage Stuffer
Is a Vertical Sausage Stuffer for the Home Sausage Maker the Right Choice?
Though it's not really a necessity for an occasional batch of sausage, a horizontal or Vertical Sausage Stuffer will definitely make your job a lot easier.
If you've never made your own homemade sausage you don't know what you're missing!
(Sicilian Sausage with Red Wine and Cheese Image courtesy of me :-> ).
Sausage is made in a wide variety of sizes, textures and casings.The proper tools will certainly make your efforts more enjoyable and insure a higher quality finished product.
One thing I can tell you is the quality of your homemade sausage will beat any commercially made sausage hands down providing you use fresh ingredients.
Lem's Five Pound Vertical Stuffer - Not Many Products Get a 5 Star Rating!!!
Solid construction which includes a stainless steel base, metal gears, a removable cylinder for easy cleanup and air release valve makes this one a great choice for home use.
Lem's 5# Sausage Stuffer in Action - Venison Jalapeno Snack Sticks
Smaller diameter sausages like slim jims, snack sticks and breakfast sausage are easier with a stuffer of this type.
Do I Really Need A Sausage Stuffer ?
You can actually make sausage without any of the tools on this page. In fact, if you're brand spanking new to making sausage I recommend that you start out making fresh bulk sausage to get the hang of it before laying out any cash.
Just follow a basic recipe and mix in the seasonings by hand. In fact the first sausage I ever attempted was breakfast sausage shaped into patties by hand. Simple yet delicious.
Breakfast sausage and Italian sausage can be made in bulk form and fried or grilled as a patty or crumbled for use in casseroles, pizza toppings, etc. Nothing beats homemade links on the grill or some summer sausage or salami hanging in a smoker, but this requires a little more work but the results are well worth the effort.
If you have already made sausage and are considering buying a stuffer then you've probably experienced some of the same results as me and decided it's time to bite the bullet. If so, you won't regret it as it saves time, eliminates frustration and creates a professional finished product.
Stuffing Sausage With a Spoon - More Than One Way To Stuff Sausage
Though this method works, it's time consuming but for those just starting out it's a good way to get your feet (or hands) wet.
Sausage Stuffers on Amazon - Vertical Stuffers From 5 to 15lbs.
There are many more styles and capacities available starting at $19.99 on up.
Stuffing Sausage on a Saturday Night
Yee Haw !
I remember looking into the frying pan on a Saturday morning while my wife was frying up some store bought breakfast sausage patties.
The sausage was just swimming in grease and water and tasted just like it. I like a little bit of grease occasionally, but this made me wonder just what the heck is in these commercial products.
After more than just a few bad experiences with store bought sausage I was looking for alternatives and began looking into making my own sausage.
After mentioning this to an older couple that we knew, Margaret and Pete offered to show us how it's done. What a way to spend a Saturday night huh, but that was some of the best Polish sausage I ever had and that alone was enough to hook me.
We started from scratch by trimming the pork shoulder and cutting it into one inch cubes then ground it up, added fresh spices and mixed it all up. Next we fried a bit up to check the flavor and then stuffed it into 32mm casings using their Kitchen Aid.
I learned an awful lot that night and had seen how easy was to make homemade sausage and surprised that I remembered it the next day in spite of all the cold ones that were put down.
The next day I was all fired up so I started my research (1200 baud modem) to find a good book for someone just starting out. Great Sausage Recipes and Meat Curing by the late Rytek Kutas was just about everyone's recommendation. While others were reading John Grisham or Stephen King I was reading Kutas and went on a sausage making terror.
Between fresh, smoked and dry cured, you'll never be at a loss to try something new. Just being able to duplicate a sausage delicacy from the other side of the world in the comfort of your own home is reward in itself.
If you're totally new to stuffing sausage just click the Link (pun intended) and you'll get a nice overview of what's involved.
Sausage Making Books - The Process and Recipes
There are countless free recipes available on the web but these books fill in the missing gaps. Learn the best cuts of meat to use for each sausage, the proper way to trim the cuts, ingredients, cures for smoking, etc...
Fat is Great !!!
There I Said It.
One of the main things I learned is that fat is good in sausage. Now I know what you're thinking, but ...but...I heard fat is bad. Not here it isn't.
Trimming too much fat will make a dry, boring sausage that lacks flavor and you do want flavor, right. Some recipes will even call for adding certain fats and grinding them through a specific sized plate and after you take that added step and taste your finished product you'll understand why.
My first attempt was breakfast sausage and I hacked off a lot of fat from the pork butt I was trimming. I felt good knowing my family wouldn't be loading up on that nasty fat and have nothing but the freshest ingredients to boot. Oh boy, this is gonna be good.
Not really. Not an ounce of grease in the pan when cooked and boy was it dry. A little oil and butter helped save the day, but I learned an 80/20 meat to fat ratio was a good starting place.
There are commercial fat replacements available for those so inclined to use them but I use either pork backfat or beef fat (or suet) in all of my venison sausage. The choice is up to you.
Manual Meat Grinder 101
Quite the Workout!!!
This manual meat grinder is similar to the first piece of home sausage making equipment I purchased. I was on a limited budget so I decided to start with something that could basically do the whole job.
This well made tin plated cast iron grinder came with three grinding plates, knife, and a few different diameter stuffing tubes. I had a nice chunk (10" x 24" or so) of maple butcher block to screw the grinder to which could then be clamped to the kitchen counter because you do have to secure it prior to grinding.
It works great as a meat grinder and I actually prefer the grind from this over any electric I've used, but stuffing sausage with this type of device definitely has it's drawbacks. It did the job, but stuffing was a much longer process, especially on the Polish / Italian size links and don't even think about breakfast links or beef sticks.
Filling the one or two pound freezer bags or salami size casings actually went pretty fast from what I remember, but the auger style feed on a grinder, either manual or electric is still no match for a dedicated stuffer in my opinion.
Grinding was a breeze and I was amazed how fast you could grind up ten pounds of either pork, beef and the nastiest of all...venison. The one thing that will make this job so much easier is to make sure the meat to be ground is ice cold or partially frozen. I skipped this step the first time and I've never done it since. If you listen to this advice, you'll spend more time setting and cleaning up than grinding.
Many of the smaller sized manual meat grinders, like the Grizzly H6250 Stainless Steel Meat Grinder #10 have a clamp on system which makes setting up and tearing down much simpler.
In my opinion, they work just as well as the larger sized versions for grinding and are much easier to clean and store when not in use. Quality may be an issue with some of the lesser priced models so do your homework, read the reviews and make an informed buying decision.
I started out with the TSM #32 Cast Iron Manual Meat Grinder and still have it today because it still does a great job after all these years. My advice on grinding is to partially freeze the meat until firm as it grinds 10 times faster otherwise you'll find it tends to clog between the knife and plate.
Next up....A Manual Sausage Stuffer.
A Great Stuffer With a Few Exceptions
After making fresh, smoked sausage, salami and summer sausage I started thinking of an upgrade to my sausage making equipment.
There seem to be a lot more choices on the market now and at roughly half the cost of what I paid for mine it seems like a good choice for those making small amounts of sausage on occasion.
With prices starting in the 20.00 range and up to over the 100.00 mark for stainless steel manual stuffers cost should not be a big concern. The one pictured above right is in the neighborhood of $40.00 and this or one similar would be a decent entry level stuffer if you choose to go that route.
I chose the manual type and figured again that it would work for every type of sausage I made. The be all to end all. It even came with a little 3/8" stuffing horn so I could make beef sticks, hot sticks, breakfast links, etc...
This type of stuffer is relatively inexpensive, so upgrading wasn't a huge shock to my wallet and sure made the process much easier than using the grinder for stuffing.
First test was some Italian sausage and was I ever happy. I slid around three feet of casing onto the horn, filled the stuffer and pressed the plunger. In a second I had three feet of Italian sausage done, but a small problem...air.
Air gets trapped in the meat when it's placed in the stuffer so you have to be wary of this. Making sure the mix had the right amount of moisture and filling the stuffer a little slower helped a lot.
The next attempt was much better with just a few pockets of air in the sausage that I easily got rid of with a pin. So far so good, and I couldn't wait to try this out with salami or summer sausage.
A month or so later and I got my chance. I ground and mixed the meat while the casings soaked in vinegar and water (this helps removing the skin or casing after smoking) Next, I grabbed a handful of the mix, loaded the stuffer and BANG...done. It went smooth as silk and ten minutes later I had some perfectly stuffed salami waiting to hit the smoker. Bottom line is that this type of stuffer worked great for me when doing the larger sized sausage and salamis so if that's what you intend to make it should do the job for you.
My next attempt didn't turn out so well when I tried a batch of breakfast sausage. Good.... A perfect excuse to get what I really wanted in the first place and looking back it changed my perspective on a lot of things, go figure. There was only one thing I could do and that was to order the one that would do it all for me.....the horizontal stuffer.
There have been many improvements in the designs over the years by a few manufacturers that have been long overdue. The TSM brand pictured above,has changed the exit portion of the stuffer from tapered to straight which allows the plunger to travel completely to the end and increases the amount of product going into the casing.
Also the LEM Sausage Stuffer 3lb Tinned w/ SS Stuffing Tubes has a wide mouth opening for ease of loading and added gasketing to the plunger on both it's 3 and 5 pound sausage stuffer.
Vintage Enterprise Cast Iron Sausage Stuffers - Many Do Double Duty as a Lard or Juice Press.
Stuffing Sausage with a Kitchen Aid - One Tool That'll Do It All.
If you already happen to own one of these with a grinding attachment all you will need are some casings and you're good to go. Also, many stand alone grinders come with a sausage stuffing attachment.
This is how my sister and brother-in-law make venison sausage and salami. It always comes out good but I still prefer using a stuffer because of the versatility and speed. To each his own I guess :-)
Electric Meat Grinder and Stuffer
Electric Meat Grinder with Stuffing Attachments.
Another way to stuff sausage that many opt for is using an electric meat grinder. This again is an easy introduction into making your own sausage, especially if you already own a grinder so the most you may have to purchase is the stuffing attachments from your grinder manufacturer. If you intend to purchase an electric grinder, many models offer the stuffing attachments as standard equipment.
I use my electric grinder almost exclusively now because of it's small footprint and ease of cleanup afterward. However, I only use it for grinding meat and use my horizontal stuffer to fill the casings but that's my personal preference. I tried stuffing with this a few times and found it to be much slower but if you're just getting started, making small batches or on a budget you can kill two birds with one stone (sorry PETA) by doing it this way.
If I was only making a few pounds I would definitely go this route with a few modifications to the following process. Many directions call for grinding the meat, adding seasonings, remove the knife from the grinder and install the stuffing tubes. Then load the hopper with the seasoned mixture and stuff the casings.
I like a coarser texture to sausages like Polish and Italian and this process didn't give me the results I was looking for or accustomed to after using a stuffer. One of the workarounds I've seen is to mix all of the seasonings with the cubed pre-ground meat and grind and stuff in one operation. I'm not sure how well this works as I've yet to try it, but I may make a small batch of the larger size linked sausage just to see how well it works.
One thing I do have to keep in mind while trying to pass along this info is that not everyone makes large amounts of sausage like I do. In fact that's pretty evident by some of the recipes I've found on the web. Many will call for 1 to 1-1/2 lbs of meat and 3 feet of casings, and for those amounts, using a grinder / stuffer would be a great way to experiment with sausage making.
Stuffing 70 Pounds of Sausage with a Vertical Stuffer. - You'll get the same results using a horizontal stuffer.
This video shows how easy stuffing sausage can be with the right tools.
Horizontal vs. Vertical Sausage Stuffer
Either One's a Winner in My Book
I knew for sure (this time) that I finally found the one that would do everything I wanted and do it a lot easier than anything I'd used up to this point.. I went for the horizontal stuffer based on the logic that the closest distance between two points is a straight line.
One big feature I happened to overlook was the much smaller footprint of the vertical model. My horizontal stuffer takes up a lot counter space and the crank has to hang off of the edge in order to turn it. Not a deal breaker to me but it's the major reason I'm considering picking up a vertical model.
A vertical stuffer forces the meat down the cylinder and then out at 90 degrees but the horizontal's cylinder and horn are inline which may reduce pressure, at least in my mind. I'm sure my logic is flawed somewhat, especially when I look at the ratio of vertical to horizontal stuffers currently on the market.
The big advantage is that both vertical and horizontal stuffers have a gear drive which really makes it a pleasure to operate and offers consistent results.
One of the more popular models is the LEM 5 lb. Vertical Sausage Stuffer pictured above. Stainless steel construction, easy cleanup, three supplied stuffing tubes and an air release valve are all of the right features and it explains why this model is so popular and given a 4.9 out of 5 Star Rating by purchasers.
One negative comment I've seen elsewhere talks about how awkward it is to stuff the sausage because of the placement of the handle to the stuffing nozzle. I've had no problems at all and the location seems perfectly natural to me. Unless your arms are 12 inches long I don't see it as an issue :=). I just chalk statements like that up to promotional sales chatter.
There's a huge difference that's easily apparent between the manual plunger type stuffer and a gear driven stuffer in either vertical or horizontal configuration. I was eager to try it out so I decided to start with the type of sausage I had so much trouble with using the other methods.
First on my list was to make some beef hot sticks, and what a pleasure it was. It took a few turns of the crank to get used to the right speed and feed, but after that I was spending more time slipping the casing onto the stuffing horn.
Sheep casings are very fragile and not the most uniform in the world to work with, but I stuffed 10 pounds of sticks in roughly 15 minutes without a ruptured casing. This was a first for me and the main reason to finally break down and purchase a stuffer of this type. It couldn't have worked out better.
Though I really prefer the bite and texture of natural sheep casings, especially in fresh links, collagen casings have a definite advantage for me when it comes to smoked beef sticks and the like.
They were a snap to stuff because of their uniform size and wall thickness. Not much of a learning curve here, just turn the crank and let the meat feed evenly into the casing. You do have to be careful if you intend on twisting links because they become very tender after being moistened.
Since I use collagen primarily for smoked sausage I stuff them into 4 foot lengths and twist only in the middle and ends and then cut them into 6-9" lengths after smoking.
Next on my list was breakfast links, and again got great results with the sheep casings. Nice and evenly packed into the casings with no ruptures or air pockets and the texture of the meat in the casing was just the way I loaded it into the stuffer. No more emulsified beef sticks or breakfast links for me!
The next few sausage making Saturdays were spent stuffing Italian, Sicilian and Polish sausage. Again with great results and it took longer for the prep work and mixing than stuffing or the cleanup afterward.
Now what was once the hardest part of the process, especially on the smaller casings had turned into the easiest part for me. This led to a lot of experimenting with new recipes and mixes like barbecue beef and jalapeno sticks. I can still remember the wonderful aroma they put out hanging in the smoker.
One feature you may want to consider if you plan on buying a new or used horizontal or vertical sausage stuffer is an air release valve. Mine is located on the piston and whenever an excessive amount of air builds up, the valve opens and allows the air to escape. This will help to eliminate large air pockets and voids in the finished product.
A few reasons to consider a vertical stuffer if workspace is limited is the small footprint on the counter or table top and the ease of setup. I use a horizontal stuffer primarily and the one drawback is that this model requires you to setup by the edge of the table or counter to be able to operate the stuffer.
Those are minor tradeoffs in my opinion and either model is more than sufficient to handle any homemade sausage stuffing job you can throw at it. In my old house we had a breakfast counter and that was perfect for my sausage making station. Now I use a round kitchen table which seems a little awkward but works . Now all I need is that portable dropped leaf butcher block table and I'll be set....again :-).
Sausage Making Related Sites
- Lets Make Sausage
Easy to navigate site with recipes and instruction.
- 3 Men with Nothing Better to Do
Recipes and Techniques for sausage making, bbq, jerky and more.
- Lem Products
Seasonings, spices and other supplies for the sportsman.
- Smoke Ring Forum
A very active meat lovers forum.
- How To Make Homemade Sausage
Very professional tutorial on sausage making with a great recipe included.
- Hot Italian Sausage Recipe Collection
A hot Italian sausage recipe collection for the home sausage maker. How hot? You decide.
- Butcher & Packer
Just about every supply you can think of for the home sausage maker.