TV personality Andrew Zimmern has teamed up with our favorite meat man Pat LaFrieda to produce a new line of sausages from heritage breed animals. All 12 flavors are exclusive to LaFrieda Meats and nitrite/nitrate free (which means that none of them are cured or aged).
First off, all of the sausages come pre-cooked, which, though a good idea from a convenience and shelf-life standpoint, does limit their utility in terms of being able to cook with them. You can't, for instance, use the sage sausage in our classic sage and sausage stuffing, or use the Italian sausages in our baked pasta with sausage and mushrooms. But if you're the type who generally purchases pre-cooked sausages at the supermarket, how do these stack up?
We got our hands on all 12 flavors of sausages and tasted our way through them. Overall, they rank pretty high in the world of pre-cooked sausages. In most cases, they managed to have a juiciness and snap that is often lacking in pre-cooked sausage, while still packing plenty of flavor. Here's what we thought, from our favorites to our least favorites.
These were our favorite of the bunch. The classic breakfast sausage is plenty fatty with a good hit of sage and black pepper and just a touch of sweetness. Think of it as the idealized version of a Jimmy Dean link. The maple and apple version has nice big chunks of tender apple and a distinct sweet maple flavor. All of the breakfast sausages (even the chicken version of the maple and apple sausage) were bursting with juice.
It's rare that we find a fancy hot dog we really like, but this one, made from Piedmontese beef and spiced like a classic New York-style frank with garlic, paprika, and a touch of smoke, is excellent. Nice and snappy, with a great texture and some real beefiness.
The goat sausage is heavily spiced with warm spices like cloves and black pepper—so heavily that you wouldn't even know it's goat. None of the typical gaminess or barnyard flavors come through, which can be a good or a bad thing, depending on your love of goat. My only complaint here was a few bits of tough meat inside the casings.
Tons of black pepper dominates the flavor profile in these firm, not-too-fatty brats. As with all pre-cooked sausages, they do make you wish for the juice-spurting snap of skin that you get with a traditionally grilled or pan-fried brat, but flavor-wise, they pack the punch. I've never been a particular fan of cheese-filled sausages, but the Cheddar version of these brats delivers the cheese in big pockets, and plenty of them.
Intense fennel flavor and a very firm texture defines these sausages. Like the bratwursts, having them come pre-cooked makes for a different eating experience than you'd get form a fresh-grilled sausage. They're also quite a bit leaner than your typical italian sausage without sacrificing on flavor. If you're looking for chin-dripping fat, you won't find it here.
I'm not sure exactly what style of chorizo these are meant to be, but for a chorizo, they are quite mildly flavored, with a similar texture to the Italian sausages and bratwurst. I preferred the jalapeño version, which had a more intense flavor and plenty of heat.
Our least favorite of the bunch, but maybe only because our merguez standards are so darn high. The slender lamb-stuffed lamb casing sausages could have used more of that characteristic harissa and garlic flavor, and the texture was slightly mealy in the center.
You can expect mail order delivery options to start soon from lafrieda.com, and for them to hit retail stores in the coming months.
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.