Bacon-wrapped sausages – or pigs in blankets – are the ultimate muscle-building snack, providing heroic quantities of protein. So why do they get such a bad rap? Because, like most processed meat, they can come with unpleasant extras – which is why if you want to get the most out of this manliest of canapés, quality ingredients are critical.
The minimum legal minimum meat requirement for a pork sausage in the UK is just 42%, and for other sausages it drops as low as 30%. High street and specialist brands are increasingly offering sausages with higher meat percentages to appease health-savvy consumers, including cocktail-sized options that are perfect for making DIY pigs in blankets.
When it comes to bacon, there are a few factors involved in choosing a quality cut. Know the difference between dry-cured and wet cured. The first option involves rubbing the meat with salt and flavourings, which gives it a richer taste and a drier finish. Wet-cured is immersed in or even injected with brine – a salt and water solution – which is absorbed faster into the meat to help bulk it out, resulting in bacon that shrivels in your frying pan.
The next step involves picking a cut: streaky, middle or back. Streaky is taken from the pig’s belly, and has a higher fat-to-meat ratio, while back is one of the leanest cuts of pig and middle is halfway between the two. Chefs opt for streaky because it has the best flavour, but if you want to keep calories down, back is your best bet.
The final choice is smoked or unsmoked. Nutritionally there’s little if any difference between the two – the smoked variety just tends to have a stronger flavour, so it’s purely down to personal preference.
Make your own
- Preheat your oven to 200°C/gas 6.
- Lay your rashers on a chopping board, then stretch and flatten them out with the back of a knife.
- Cut each bacon strip in half, then wrap each half around a miniature sausage, using a cocktail stick to hold it together.
- Place in a tray and roast for 15 minutes until golden brown and cooked through, turning every few minutes.
Coach’s choice cuts
Abel & Cole’s 95% organic pork cocktail sausages come from pigs raised on organic, GM-free feed. For a cheaper, more widely available and only slightly lower-quality option, go with Sainsbury’s 97% Pork Cocktail Sausages.
Helen Browning’s Unsmoked Organic Back Bacon Rashers (£4 for six rashers at Ocado) are a little pricier, but have been traditionally dry-cured for ten days on Browning’s farm in Wiltshire and are free of added water and polyphosphates.
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