Whether you're cooking up eggs for a fortifying morning meal or treating yourself to breakfast for dinner, a crispy sausage link or two is a must for the full experience. But as delicious as sausages can be, they can also be full of not-so-great ingredients and additives. These affect the texture, look, and flavor of your meal. Plus, eating high amounts of preservatives like nitrates and nitrites, can eventually take a toll on your health.
That's why I decided to find the best-tasting breakfast sausages, with an eye toward limited ingredients. I tested six of the most popular frozen breakfast sausage links from the grocery store and cooked each one according to the package instructions.
After tasting each sausage, here's how I'd rank them from least favorite to the absolute best.
Jimmy Dean Fully Cooked Original Pork Sausage Links
Jimmy Dean pork sausages reminded me of my elementary school cafeteria's "breakfast for lunch" day. They smelled strongly of maple flavoring and had a high fat and saturated fat content per three-link serving.
The look: The sausage links were shorter than others that I tried, darker brown (they are made with added caramel color for this effect), and wrinkly—even a bit shriveled. After being cooked in a skillet, the sausages were fragrant and shiny with grease.
The taste: I found that these pork sausages tasted more fake than natural. They were a bit rubbery and had a strong black pepper flavor. The greasy texture was also hard to overlook.
Banquet Brown 'N Serve Original Sausage Links
These sausage links are made with a combination of pork and turkey meat. They're also fortified with soy protein, so Banquet can't make the same claim as Jimmy Dean about using 100% pork. However, these sausages have 10 fewer grams of fat per serving than Jimmy Dean.
The look: As the Brown 'N Serve name suggests, these sausage links browned faster than most. They were also shorter and pudgier than the other links I sampled. They weren't as oily as the Jimmy Dean sausages, but they still had a sheen after cooking.
The taste: These smaller sausages were a bit drier than Jimmy Dean's, but that also meant that they weren't drenched in grease. They were well-seasoned and sweeter than some of the others I tried, and certainly not cloying.
Johnsonville Fully Cooked Original Breakfast Sausage Links
The serving size of these sausages from Johnsonville is two links, compared to most other brands' three. Despite this, they pack a high amount of fat, including 5 grams of saturated fat. I preferred the flavor and texture of Johnsonville's links to that of Jimmy Dean and Brown 'N Serve. They also come in a handy resealable bag that limits freezer burn.
The look: These links were longer and thinner than several of the other sausages I sampled. They were also lighter in color, probably because they are not made with added coloring (though they do contain corn syrup for sweetness).
The taste: The only protein in Johnsonville's fully cooked sausages is pork, which contributes to their uniformly moist texture and mild, savory flavor. They're well-seasoned. There wasn't one spice that dominated, nor did they taste too salty.
Jones Dairy Farm Mild Pork Sausage
These sausages from Jones Dairy Farm have a short and sweet five-item ingredient list that's free of preservatives (other than salt and sugar). Though they're higher in fat than most of the other sausages I sampled, they're not greasy.
The look: The sausages were light in color, came naturally ribbed, and browned up easily in a skillet. They became crisp in spots and shiny with cooking, but I didn't experience the pools of fat as with other sausages I sampled.
The taste: Jones Dairy Farm sausages tasted as they should: mild and meaty. They were more savory than sweet and had a natural texture that was far from rubbery. They came lightly seasoned with a spice blend that tasted more background music than main stage—leaving the meaty flavor to dominate.
Fork In the Road Foods Vermont Maple Syrup Breakfast Sausage
These sausages are nitrate- and nitrite-free, with their two leading ingredients being pork and Vermont maple syrup. Unlike the others, these sausages have a natural casing similar to what you'd find on an Italian sausage, and they have a similar fresh look.
The look: Because these sausages are significantly larger than the others I tried, a serving size is a single link. They were lighter in color and almost looked uncooked, thanks to the smooth, taught outer casing.
The taste: The larger size made these sausages extra satisfying. The natural casing kept the sausages juicy and sweet, and I could taste the real Vermont maple syrup in every bite. They also tasted fresher than the other sausages I tried, and the crispy edges I got from searing them in a skillet added appeal.
Teton Waters Ranch Original Beef Breakfast Sausage
If you love the flavor of beef, these all-beef breakfast sausages from Teton Waters Ranch are a treat. They're also packed with protein and are made with 100% grass-fed beef with no added sugar or sweeteners.
The look: These looked much like the frozen pork sausage links in size and shape. They're slightly darker reddish-brown than the pork. They also had a rounder, plumper, and less shriveled look after cooking.
The taste: The sausages tasted deeply of beef, almost like a burger. They were soft and juicy, not rubbery at all, and had no trace of sweetness. There was a hint of herbiness, but overall these are great-tasting beef sausages that would be at home on any breakfast, lunch, or dinner table.