I love the little sausages and strange piles of meat that are ground up to in no way, shape or form resemble a chunk of animal anymore. From worst wurst to best:
25. Speckwurst: Ack blech gah what is this? TRENDY BACON, THIS IS A BRIDGE TOO FAR. Speckwurst is the worst.
24. Turkey brats: This should not be a thing, ever. Ever. Ev-er.
23. Meat loaf: How was this ever considered a good idea? For the sake of ranking, I’m going by the sad meatcake that gets paraded out next to casseroles and the other bland, seemingly pre-chewed stuff I wouldn’t touch from my childhood—not the fancy gourmet versions that might taste like something other than boring mush with ketchup. Meat loaf is bad. It’s just dull and bad.
22. Spam, raw: If I guessed on texture alone, I’d think I was eating paste, spoiled avocados, or perhaps spoiled avocados dipped in paste. Weirdly hammy. Too much salt.
21. Slim Jims and/or other commercially-processed tube-shaped meat snack: Flavor is usually overpowered by salt. More girth would be appreciated here, too. Can the hipsters make artisanal organic fair-trade landjägers A Thing already?
20. Spam, cooked: Huge improvement, but still bizarre. Maybe some of the salt cooks out. Not immediately identifiable as Spam when cooked to non-Spam enthusiasts such as myself. Still not as big a blasphemy as turkey brats.
19. “Hot guts”-style barbeque sausage: Too little hot, too much lard. Yecch. Not a fan of this style at all. It just tastes like a bunch of tough, sad fat that was overcooked in Evangeline sauce.
18. Pimiento loaf: Bologna with weird peppers in it. No thanks? Pimientos are best in cheese, not meat.
17. Cocktail wieners: Usually strangely lardy in taste and texture, despite the small size. Skip the little weenies and just slice up some regular sausage.
16. Bologna: If almost-nothing has a taste, bologna is it. Inoffensive in every single way. Offensively inoffensive.
15. Brats with little pieces of mystery cheese in them: Cheese brats sound like a good idea until you realize that it’s just sad little Velveetalike chunks with minimal flavor interrupting an otherwise okay sausage. I think this is the mystery meat with the highest disparity between your high expectations and your inevitable disappointment.
14. Vienna sausages: I don’t know why I like these so much. I’m not a huge bologna fan. They seem very, very similar in taste and composition. I think it’s the packaging.
13. Hot dogs: At worst, it’s like cooked bologna. Like spam, cooking this weirdly uniform mystery meat seems to help. The ability to be covered in chili and cheese is a plus.
12. Hamburger: Has to be exceptional to stand out in any way, shape or form. Otherwise, meh. Seriously, the only time I’ve been excited over a burger recently was when it was all farm-to-table meat covered in local goat cheese and caramelized onions—and huge. That was a ridiculously good burger. Most burgers are kind of plain and fail, and usually overcooked. Send mine out relatively fresh, thick and still mooing in the middle.
11. TIE: Chorizo/Scrapple: Both have a nice flavor, but tend to have issues with texture. Scrapple has the mystery crunch. Chorizo just tends to get cooked weirdly dry for a sausage. When vegan chorizo is usually more satisfying than the real thing, we’ve got an issue, chorizo. (Either that or our vegetarian taco joints are just that good here. Stop nuking chorizo to death!)
10. Landjägers: The OG handmade Slim Jims, only they’re a thicker, meatier dry tube of meat. If I must have packable mystery meat that doesn’t need refrigeration, this is my pick.
9. Regular, generic, run-of-the-mill barbeque sausage: Hard to screw up, so it’s a sure bet at meh ‘que eateries (unless they go for the hot guts style) and the weakest link at better joints (skip it and bring me more pork ribs).
8. Pepperoni: Tasty, but oh-so-picky on preparation. Vastly outshined by its deli counter bro, salami, but perhaps that has a lot to do with its reputation. Salami is a delicious sandwich topping. Pepperoni is the sad, overcooked meat that makes pizza extra-greasy when it’s done wrong, which is 99% of the time. Pizza joints, do better and pepperoni will jump up the list. Good pepperoni cooked perfectly is a revelation.
7. Summer sausage: Is it Christmas yet? Because summer sausage is awesome. I never understood why it was called summer sausage when I can find it the easiest in winter, though.
6. Breakfast sausage patties: I love breakfast sausage, but it’s so much better in bite-size link form that it’s not even a contest. Best eaten not as a patty, but crumbled and spread over eggs with cheese, in a taco.
5. Pork roll: Why did the team have to make pork roll at NJMP? This is a thing I should have never realized existed. Pork roll is delicious, and among the best of all mystery meats.
4. Breakfast sausage links: Let’s be honest, my ideal sit-down breakfast would include a pile of something egg-based (omelette, migas, scrambled eggs, whatever), a few slices of pork roll and an entire plate full of breakfast sausage links.
3: Salami: Best widely available sandwich meat, hands down.
2. TIE: Most other wurst not mentioned anywhere else: Wurst is generally good. Yes, even chicken brats. Chicken brats tend to be strangely tasty. Please, send to Stef. There may be a few less pleasing kinds of wurst I forgot about, but whatever. Send wurst.
1. Weisswurst: Bring. Weisswurst. Remove casing, acquire mustard, nom nom.
Not ranked for trying to masquerade too much as actual food: chicken nuggets, the McRib. Be true to your strange chewed-up origins, or NOPE.
Not ranked for not technically being meat: tofu/seitan/nut-based/etc. non-meat imitation meats. Can be good, but didn’t fit in a ranking of ground-up meat.
Long live the Coalition of Alternative Breakfast Meats! (Send pork roll.)
Photo credit: Austin Murphy had an enviable breakfast, and licensed the snapshot of it via Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0.
no, really—send pork roll