Sausages are more versatile than many people realize. You can pile them high on pasta, eat them on their own, or stuff them into a bun and cover them with mustard. You can even turn them into meatballs! With so many wonderful ways to enjoy sausage, it's no wonder that they disappear shortly after putting them on the table.
But while sausages are delicious, they have that signature taste and texture that can sometimes be hard to get just right. The casing on them should crack as it's bitten into or sliced, and of course the interior has to be juicy and flavorful. And getting this perfect combination can be tricky if you don't know exactly how to cook them. To make sure that the next sausage you cook is sheer perfection inside and out, just follow these tips.
1. Parboil fresh sausage
Italian sausage, breakfast sausage, bratwurst and Mexican chorizo are are few examples of sausages that are sold fresh and therefore, have not yet gone through a cooking process. And because of this, they need to be fully cooked through before they can be eaten. There are a couple of ways to do this, but the best way is to parboil them first and then grill them on a barbecue or fry them up in a skillet.
To parboil sausages, place the sausages into a large pot of water. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a gentle simmer. Simmer the sausages for about 15 minutes, until the sausages are light gray in color throughout. Of course, the amount of time needed to cook them through will depend on how many sausages you have in the pot. Then you can remove them and cook them quickly over hot flames or in a hot skillet.
2. Warm cooked sausages through
Smoked sausage, kielbasa, knockwurst, and bratwurst that's been cooked or smoked are all examples of cooked sausages. And if you put them through the same cooking stages of parboiling and grilling, you'll likely ruin the meat inside. Instead, cook these sausages just by warming them through. This can be done by steaming it in a large pan with just a little bit of water, or it can be cooked within a casserole. Of course, some of these sausages, like kielbasa, are often eaten just as they are on their own, and often used as an accompaniment on a cheese board.
3. Use beer
Is there anything better way to enjoy a beautiful sausage than while sipping on an ice cold beer? Well the next time you do, cook that delicious beer flavor right into the sausages. This is easy to do by simply substituting the water for beer if you're parboiling them, or by steaming the sausages in a cup of beer instead of water. Remember to use a darker beer, as they'll have more flavor than lighter beer. And while a malt can infuse a sweet flavor that will work well with stronger-flavored sausages, lagers may impart a bitter flavor to the sausage.
4. Don't pierce the skin
There is an age old debate as to whether or not sausages should be pierced with a fork before they're cooked. The idea behind piercing them is that if you don't, the juices within the sausage could build up and burst the skin, essentially making the sausage explode. But there's really no need to worry about that.
The idea of sausages exploding is really a myth. While the skins can burst if sausages aren't cooked properly, there's no fear of sausages actually exploding and landing on your kitchen ceiling. And all piercing the skin will do is let out all those beautiful juices that you're trying to contain so that you end up with a juicy sausage and not a dry one. Instead, leave that casing intact and keep all those delicious juices inside.
5. Don't cook them over too high of heat
While leaving the casing intact and not piercing it won't make sausages split or explode, cooking them over too high of heat will. While you likely still don't have to worry about them exploding, the casing could split. And when that happens, once again all those delicious juices will end up in the pan rather than on your plate. Instead, when frying or grilling them, keep that heat just above medium and those casings will still crisp up and crackle while keeping all the other goodness inside.
6. Cut links
It can be impressive to have a whole bunch of linked sausages formed into a circle and placed onto a grill. But truthfully, sausages really aren't meant to be cooked this way. It only turns them into a much larger piece of meat that will have an overcooked exterior before the sausages at the center of the circle have a chance to cook through entirely. And because the heat won't be able to circulate around each individual sausage, they'll cook unevenly and the casing won't always be crisp and crackly. Instead, you'll end up with pieces that have a hard rubbery exterior, not something anyone wants in a sausage.
To prevent this from happening, simply cut the sausage into individual pieces instead of leaving them all linked together while cooking.
7. Turn them into meatballs
You can turn sausages into meatballs by simply starting with patties or loose sausage meat and just forming them. Or, you could take a much easier route. Just snip off the end of one sausage and squeeze a little bit of meat out of the casing until it's completely separated from the rest of the meat. You can drop these right into a hot frying pan or on a plate until you're ready to use them. Then just continue squeezing the rest of the meat out into small meatball-sized portions and then continue on with another sausage if you need more meatballs. Not only is this an easy method, but it's a delicious one, too.