Hello. My name's Nathan, and I love Trader Joe's. My wife Sonia does too. She's a great shopper, has excellent taste and knows good value when she comes across it. As many of you know, Trader Joe's is unsurpassed in the world of good-value grocery stores, so we spend a lot of our time and money there. Although the store fairly consistently delivers great taste with its own unique line of food products, there are definitely some big-hits, and unfortunately, there are some misses...

After doing a couple of internet searches for reviews of TJ's food items, Sonia discerned an apparent dearth of good, quality reviews for the store's offerings. So, at her suggestion, we decided to embark on a journey of systematically reviewing every Trader Joe's product, resulting in the blog you are about to read...

A couple of months into our Trader Joe's rating adventure, an old college friend, Russ, who unbeknownst to me had been following our TJ's blog, decided that I had been slacking in my blogging duties (which, of course, I was) so he decided to contribute his own original TJ's reviews to the blog, thus enhancing it, making it more complete and adding to it a flavor of his own. He and his wife Sandy are also avid TJ's fans and, as you will soon discover, he is an excellent writer and is nearly as clever, witty and humble as I am.

Seriously though, Russ: You go, boy!

So here it is: "What's Good at Trader Joe's?"

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Trader Joe's Spicy Italian Chicken Sausage

Want to know one of my hands-down favorite things about summer? Grilling. I am of the opinion that anything and everything tastes better grilled. That's not to say I'm an expert or anything. My dad has taught me some tips and tricks over the years, most notably "Make sure you singe off your knuckle hairs every single time" but in my mind he remains the undisputed champ at it. I do alright at it. I'm pretty pleased that I can make corn-on-the cob and not completely wither a piece of boneless chicken to dry nothingness on a grilltop, but that's about where my talents end. Still, there's nothing that beats hanging out on my back deck, cold beer in hand, cool breeze coming in off the Allegheny (a short tee shot away down the hill), and a fired up grill that's about to be covered with meat and other grilled goodies, whether it's for just me and the wifey or for a bunch of buddies. I'd grill everything every day if I could.

Well, naturally, some days have more time than others. Monday was one of those nights that, between picking up the wife at work, getting her home and then having dinner together before she headed out babysitting for the evening, a quick dinner was in order. Well, that certainly doesn't mean you can't grill. I realize it's not the same art or time commitment as, say, making a rack of fall-off-the-bone ribs (not sure I could pull that off anyways [not that I would eat them-Sandy]) , but I relish every opportunity to get the CharBroil all smokey, so some TJ's Spicy Italian Chicken Sausages seemed like a good idea for a quick bite.

Hot sausage has to be one of the best meats ever invented. Has to be. It's right up there with bacon, buffalo chicken, *good* meatloaf, and medium-rare steak in the meat pantheon, Mt. Meatmore if you will. Love it, and like any good meat, a little variation with it is always welcome.

The Spicy Italian Chicken Sausages certainly fit the bill. Even though I enjoy pork and beef links quite a bit, the chicken for these made for a good stray-from-the-norm taste that's undoubtedly healthier. They're leaner, lighter, and less greasy but still pack plenty of tenderness, taste, and even a little good gristle in them. One aspect to that is they seemed to burn a little quicker than regular sausages, so keep an eye on them. And unlike other TJ products that claim to be spicy, these actually are. There's no spice-o-meter on them but instead depict a couple chile peppers on fire. I'd say compared to other stuff with the spice-o-meter, it's an accurate depiction, and thankfully, no hint of vinegar that plagues so many other purportedly spicy TJ products. It's just good, straightforward, chile heat. It's so welcome. It probably won't set your mouth on fire, but you'll notice it, no doubt.

About the only thing the two of us didn't like was the pork casing surrounding these guys. Maybe it was because of the overall tenderness and juiciness of the chicken inside, but it seemed, in comparison, kinda fake and rubbery. Sometimes, when the grill is buried under two feet of snow in February out here, we've been known to broil up some sausages in the oven. That's a method that seems to blacken and burn up the outsides all the way around a link, and with this casing, I'd imagine they'd turn revolting if made that way. Definitely I recommend these for grilling only.

Anyways, we both liked them and are happy we kept to the serving of one each so we can have another grill go around with them soon. Sandy went ahead and gave them a four, with the biggest demerit based on the casing. I'll go ahead and agree with her. I know I'd like them slightly better if I had some cheddar to wrap a slice around inside a good bun. Yeah, okay, that's not TJ's fault, but it was the only thing missing for me to give them a full pass. Oh yeah, and the casing. Next time...

Bottom line: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons


  1. Trader Joe's is a must stop for me on a weekly basis! I'm a fan of that Spicy Italian Chicken Sausage and sometimes have it for breakfast with my eggs!

  2. The sausages are precooked, I'm pretty sure, so they don't grill the same as most pork/beef ones you'd get. You're just heating up and charring a little, so that's why you need to keep an eye on them. The fat's almost gone - a little leaner to begin with, then cooked out.

  3. test comment = successful :)

  4. have you tried the mango chicken sausages? i think they're the best of the bunch

    -a tj's crew member

  5. Yeah, I think I had those last summer at some point, I'm a mango fiend so we'll be getting them again soon. Terrific and I'd rate them very similarly.

  6. Russ, I just discovered your blog and I love it!! We just got our Trader Joe's last December, so I have been having fun trying all their foods. Tonight, for our 4th of July grill out, we had our usual grilled hamburgers. Usually we have to have bacon, but alas...we had none. What was I do to??? Trader Joe's to the rescue!! I did have some of their Sweet Apple Chicken sausage, so I cut them in half lengthwise and let them on the grill for just a bit. We used them in place of the bacon on our burgers and they were outstanding. Give them a try and see what you think. I would be anxious for your opinion if you do. Thanks and I will keep on reading your blog.

  7. Hi Patty! I think I've had those before. The apple ones are really good if I recall right, as are the mango ones. I'm a fan of stacking meat on meat so what you did sounds really good to me. I'll get them soon because I think you just made me hungry for them. Thanks for the nice words too :).

  8. I don't think they are that "hot" and I am very sensitive to heat. I eat them a lot because they don't have "junk" in them, vinegar, wheat, sugar, etc...