While breakfast sausages like those from Jimmy Dean are ubiquitous at American grocery stores, ditching store-bought in favor of your own sausage blend is easy and supremely worthwhile. Plus, it opens up a world of customization. 

If you don’t eat pork or you’re simply not into pork sausage, swap in ground beef or ground turkey (dark meat, please). Out of fresh thyme and sage? Substitute 1 tsp. each of the dried herbs, as writer Alyse Whitney suggests in her ode to this recipe, or a couple shakes of your favorite herb-and-spice blend. Unlike the Italian sausage you would use in a ragù, breakfast sausage should be a bit sweet and pack a little heat, but if you like it sweeter or hotter, you can tweak the amount of sugar and chile flakes you add to the ground meat. You could also swap in maple syrup or honey to change up the flavor. Or, for an extra spicy sausage, add a bit of cayenne pepper.

Unlike burger patties, which require a gentle hand, you really want to work the meat here. You’re looking to emulsify the fat with the flavorings. For best results, ask your butcher to run a fresh piece of pork shoulder through the meat grinder and keep it cold until you’re ready to mix.

To make your mornings easier, take care of the prep time in advance. You can shape the patties and refrigerate them in an airtight container for up to two days or freeze them for a month. Serve the cooked sausage patties with fried eggs and toast, crumble them up for the best-ever sausage gravy, or slide them into a breakfast sandwich with English muffins, eggs, and American cheese.

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