Out of the Box

Out of the Box: The Packaged Breakfast Meat that Ford Fry Can’t Resist

The prolific Southern chef admits a weakness for one North Carolina–based grocery staple

Photo: Courtesy of Neese's Country Sausage, Inc.

photo: Andrew Thomas Lee
Chef Ford Fry.

A five-time James Beard Award semifinalist, the chef Ford Fry leads a restaurant empire that spans from Atlanta to Houston, with stops in Nashville and Charlotte along the way. His gastronomic expertise knows no boundaries; he serves seafood at the Optimist, Italian fare at No. 246, and Tex-Mex at Superica, to name just a few of his endeavors.

At home, the native Texan usually cooks from scratch, but when it comes to breakfast in a rush, Neese’s Hot Sausage is his go-to. “I’m a glutton when it comes to that breakfast sausage,” Fry says. “One time I sat down and ate maybe 60 to 75 percent of a whole log. I don’t know what’s in it. I don’t really care. It’s just good.”

For those who are curious what’s in it, Neese’s Hot Sausage is made from pork, salt, sugar, and a proprietary blend of spices, and the fourth-generation family business that makes it—along with assorted other meats, including liver pudding and chitterling loaf—says it’s fresh, never frozen, and preservative-free. Founder J.T. Neese began hand-grinding sausage in the early 1900s, which he sold out of the back of a covered wagon, and by 1933, his company had established a home in Greensboro, North Carolina, where it’s still based today.

“When I make sausage, it leeches out a lot of fat,” Fry says. “When [Neese’s] makes sausage, the fat somehow stays in there, which means you’re eating it.” He’s not saying that’s a bad thing: “It makes for a crunchy texture outside and soft and juicy inside.”

Fry is happy to spread the Neese’s love when friends come to visit. He’ll cut thick slices of the hot sausage, smash them flat, and fry them in butter. He pairs the sausage with Happy-brand eggs and American cheese and stacks it all in biscuits.