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How to Defrost Sausages Quickly & Safely

Thawing frozen sausages can be tricky, but fear not—we’ve got some tips that will help you defrost sausages quickly and safely every time.

How to Defrost Sausage Properly

There are three safe methods for defrosting sausages.1University of Illinois. Thawing Meat. Meat Safety for the Consumer. Retrieved May 6, 2023, from https://web.extension.illinois.edu/meatsafety/thawing.cfm They are:

  • In the refrigerator, where the sausages will fully defrost within 12 to 24 hours.
  • In a bowl of cold tap water, where the sausages will fully thaw within a couple of hours.
  • Using the defrost setting on your microwave, where the sausages will thaw out in 2 to 3 minutes.

As a savvy cook, it’s important to know these different defrosting methods so that you can choose the one that works best for you and your schedule. You should also know how not to thaw sausages to avoid food poisoning.

Follow the tips and tricks below to learn how to defrost sausages properly.

Thawing Sausages in the Refrigerator

To defrost sausages in the refrigerator, transfer them from your freezer to the bottom shelf of the fridge, where it’s coldest, and leave them there overnight.

If your sausages are still in their original packaging, thaw them out that way. And if they’re not, you’ll want to take a few extra steps to make sure they defrost safely and don’t leave a mess in your fridge.

Start by placing the sausages on a plate that can catch any excess water that may leak out during the thawing process. Then, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap or put them in a plastic bag to keep them from getting tainted by the smell of other foods in your fridge.

Once the sausages are securely wrapped up, you can place them in the refrigerator and let them defrost slowly. The sausages should be fully defrosted within 12 to 24 hours.

This slow thawing process ensures that the sausage is defrosted evenly and retains its flavor and texture. Generally speaking, frozen sausages take longer to thaw out if they are jumbo-sized or stacked together.

Sausages thawed in the refrigerator can be refrozen without cooking. Refrigerator defrosting is the only method that permits this.

Thawing Sausages in a Bowl of Cold Water

Defrosting sausages in a bowl of cold tap water is a quick and effective method that can be especially helpful if you’re short on time.

Cold-water thawing takes approximately 30 minutes per pound of sausage. Usually, it takes 2 hours for a family-sized serving of sausages to fully defrost.

To start, simply fill a large bowl with cold tap water, then seal the frozen sausages in a leak-proof bag and place them in the water. Make sure the sausages are fully submerged. Use a weight, like a water-filled saucepan, if you have to.

There are three ground rules for cold-water defrosting from a food safety point of view:

  1. You should never defrost sausages in warm or hot water.
  2. You shouldn’t leave the sausages in the water for too long, as this can cause them to become overgrown with disease-causing bacteria. You must change the water every 30 minutes to ensure that it stays cold and the sausages defrost safely.2Nichols, J. (2014, April 17). The big thaw – four ways to thaw meat safely. Michigan State University Extension. Retrieved May 6, 2023, from https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/the_big_thaw_four_ways_to_thaw_meat_safely
  3. Once the sausages are fully defrosted, you must cook them right away. You can refreeze them, but only after they are cooked.

Thawing Sausages in the Microwave

The quickest method to defrost sausages is in the microwave.

Do not defrost sausages on high in the microwave to avoid partially cooking them. Use the defrost setting. If your microwave doesn’t have one, use 25% power.3Microwave defrosting: How to use the defrost setting. Whirlpool. Retrieved May 6, 2023, from https://www.whirlpool.com/blog/kitchen/microwave-defrosting.html

To defrost sausages in the microwave, remove any packaging from the sausages, split them apart for even thawing, and place them on a microwave-safe plate.

Next, set your microwave to the defrost setting and let the sausages defrost without interruption for 2 to 3 minutes until they are fully thawed.

Once the sausages are fully defrosted, remove them from the microwave and discard any excess liquid. The sausages must now be cooked immediately and cannot be refrozen without cooking.

While defrosting sausages in the microwave is quick, it isn’t the best defrosting method from a food quality perspective, as the sausages come out tough and rubbery.

The Importance of Defrosting Sausages Safely

Keep your sausages at a safe temperature during defrosting.

Disease-causing bacteria thrive in the temperature range between 40°F and 140°F. When frozen sausages are left within this range for more than 1-2 hours, they turn into a breeding ground for bacteria and can cause severe to potentially life-threatening food poisoning.

The CDC says 48 million Americans get food poisoning every year, resulting in 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.4(2018, November 5). Burden of Foodborne Illness: Overview. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved May 6, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/foodborneburden/estimates-overview.html

People aged 65 and older, children younger than 5 years, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems are most likely to get sick and have a more serious illness.5(2022, August 10). People With a Higher Risk of Food Poisoning. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved May 6, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/people-at-risk-food-poisoning.html

To keep yourself and your family safe, thaw your sausages safely, in the refrigerator, in a bowl of cold tap water, or in the microwave. Never thaw sausages by leaving them out at room temperature or submerging them in warm or hot water.

Many cooks think that cooking improperly thawed sausages makes them safe to eat again. However, this is not true. While heat exposure kills bacteria, some bacterial strains can form heat-resistant spores. Others leave behind toxins in the meat that heat doesn’t destroy, which can just as well cause a foodborne illness.

Can You Cook Sausages From Frozen?

You can cook sausages from frozen. Just know it will take longer.6USDA (2013, June 15). The Big Thaw—Safe Defrosting Methods. Food Safety and Inspection Service. Retrieved May 6, 2023, from https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/food-safety-basics/big-thaw-safe-defrosting-methods

As a general rule, sausages take 1½ times as long to cook from frozen, because the heat needs more time to get to the center of the meat.

It’s easiest to cook frozen sausages by boiling them. They will cook evenly in the hot water as long as you keep them in it for enough time. To get some browning on your sausage (browning imparts aroma, texture, and flavor to meat), you can give it a quick sear in a hot pan after it’s fully cooked.

If you intend on frying sausages from frozen, add plenty of oil to the pan and use medium-heat. The oil helps transfer heat to the sausage evenly, and medium heat allows the sausage to cook fully through the inside without burning and coming out blackened and charred on the outside.

If baking frozen sausages, preheat your oven to 325°F and place the sausages on a roasting pan with a wire rack. Space them out evenly so that the hot air can flow freely around them.

And when grilling frozen sausages, use indirect heat. Check out the guide to direct vs. indirect heat at our sister site, Barbehow, to find out how.

Bottom Line

Defrost sausages overnight in the refrigerator, for 2 hours in a bowl of cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes, or for 2 to 3 minutes using the defrost setting on the microwave.

Don’t forget that sausages defrosted in cold water or the microwave must be cooked immediately after thawing, and can only be refrozen after they’ve been cooked. Although cooking sausages from frozen is also an option, for best quality, we recommend going through the extra effort to thaw them out.

Never defrost sausages by leaving them out on the counter the whole day or submerging them in warm or hot water, as they can become overgrown with disease-causing bacteria by the time they have thawed out.

Know your author

Written by

Dim is a food writer, cookbook author, and the editor of Home Cook World. His first book, Cooking Methods & Techniques, was published in 2022. He is a certified food handler with Level 1 and Level 2 Certificates in Food Hygiene and Safety for Catering, and a trained cook with a Level 3 Professional Chef Diploma.