Is your weeknight cooking routine starting to feel a little stale? (Chicken stir-fry, again?) We’ve got just the thing. Fresh sausage freezes well and thaws quickly, packs tons of savory flavor at a budget-friendly price, and is incredibly versatile to boot. But if you want to taste the magic, you have to know how to cook sausage properly. Here are three tried-and-true methods, peppered with some expert tips to make the most out of those juicy links.
1. How to Cook Sausage in the Oven
Roasting is an easy, mess-free way to achieve a succulent and satisfying result. This method works well when you want to serve sausages whole—all the juices (and their flavor) are retained and you get a slice of salty heaven in every bite.
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350°F and select your cooking vessel. A 9 x 13-inch pan will let you roast as many as a dozen Italian sausages at a time but any roasting dish or oven-safe pot will work.
Step 2: Fill the cooking pan with a small amount of water, keeping the liquid level shallow (about ¼ inch). For a larger dish, roughly half a cup of water is appropriate. The goal is for most of the water to evaporate during the cooking process (you don’t want to boil the sausages).
Step 3: Slide the uncovered pan into the oven and let the saucisson sizzle for 20 minutes, untouched.
Step 4: After 20 minutes, turn the sausages and continue roasting until they reach an internal temperature of 160°F. Cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the sausage, so a high-quality instant-read meat thermometer is your friend here. Or do as the chefs do—skip the instant-read thermometer and rely on that metal skewer that came with your knife set. Insert the skewer lengthwise into one end of the sausage and remove once you have reached the halfway point. Then place the tool on your inner wrist to test the temperature—if it's too hot to hold there for more than a second then the sausage is done.
2. How to Cook Sausage on the Stovetop
A simple stovetop preparation is best when your recipe only calls for sausage as a mix-in. But to ensure your broken-up bits of meat are succulent and not chewy, follow these simple steps.
Step 1: Remove casing from sausage links and discard. Then mold and pat each individual link of ground meat into a thick patty, as if you were making hamburgers.
Step 2: On medium-high or high heat, prepare a cast-iron or stainless-steel pan to sear the sausages. (A higher heat will give a better sear but adjust according to your smoke tolerance.)
Step 3: Once the pan is hot, coat it with a thin layer of oil (approximately one tablespoon).
Step 4: Gently place sausage patties into the pan, being careful to avoid any hot splashes of oil, and cook over high heat—without touching—until a deep, brown crust forms on the bottom and fond is visible in the pan. (FYI: Fond is a fancy term for the browned bits or caramelized drippings stuck to the pan when cooking meat or vegetables.) Flip and cook slightly on the other side before removing the meat and placing on a plate to rest.
Step 5: Proceed with the recipe, allowing any ingredients (like garlic, onions or crushed tomatoes) to benefit from the accumulated crust and sausage fat in the pan. When you put the sausage patties back in with the other ingredients, break them up with a spoon and they will finish cooking in just a few minutes while lending even more flavor to the meal.
3. How to Cook Sausage on the Grill
Sausages can be a grill master’s worst enemy since the high heat of a standard barbecue tends to crisp the exterior long before the meat in the middle is safe to eat. Fortunately, parboiling your links before grilling them will give you delicious—and safe-to-eat—frankfurters every time.
Step 1: Make a flavorful liquid concoction. Think beyond water and shake things up by mixing regular H2O with something more exciting like beer, wine or stock. Fill a pot and bring to a boil.
Step 2: Plop the sausages into the mixture, making sure that the links are fully covered. Simmer for about ten minutes or until the sausages start to look taut and gray throughout.
Step 3: Remove the sausages from the boiling liquid and place them on a paper-towel-lined plate before ferrying them out to the backyard barbecue. Finish the job by cooking sausages over low to medium heat on the grill until golden-brown on all sides. Extra bonus? This method cuts grilling time but still imparts that fresh-off-the-grill flavor—minus the risk of a raw interior.
6 Mouthwatering Sausage Recipes
Now that you know everything you ever wanted to know about cooking sausages...you’re hungry. Sausage makes an excellent addition to soup, pasta and pizza but that’s not the only way to enjoy this tasty protein. Try it in a sheet-pan dinner with lemon butter veggies, teamed with gnocchi and broccoli rabe or as an accompaniment to white beans and greens. Hey, it’s certainly not the wurst idea we’ve ever heard. (Sorry.)