Defrosting Sausages: 5 Questions & Answers

Published Categorized as Food
Sausages being cookedEdZbarzhyvetsky /Depositphotos

The things you wanted to know about sausages, but were too afraid to ask.

From German brats and Italian sausage to Cajun andouille and Mexican chorizo, sausages are a staple food for many. But there are so many varieties and sizes of them out there that not every home cook knows how to thaw and cook them.

In this article, we will address the most common questions we receive from our readers about defrosting and cooking sausages—and try to answer them in our usual simple, straightforward, and down-to-earth way.

Can You Cook Frozen Sausages?

Although you can cook frozen sausages on the grill, on the stove, in the oven, or in the air fryer, we recommend that you thaw them before cooking. Frozen sausages will cook unevenly and take longer to reach the minimum temperature required for safe consumption.

With that being said, if you’re short on time and preparing the sausages frozen is your only option, do so over gentle heat so that they don’t burn on the outside and can cook all the way through on the inside. Use indirect heat on the grill, low to medium-low heat on the stove, or pop them in a 300°F (150°C) oven.

If food safety is a non-negotiable (for example, you’re cooking for a pregnant woman, young children, or a family member with a weakened immune system), a good idea is to boil the sausages in simmering water for 10 minutes, then finish them on the grill, stove, or in the oven to make them golden brown and give them richer flavor.

Do You Need to Thaw Sausages Before Cooking?

You don’t necessarily need to thaw sausages before cooking, but we recommend that you do. Compared to their frozen counterparts, thawed sausages cook more evenly and come out better browned.

Browning gives your sausages a golden brown color and a crispy crust, and ameliorates them with hundreds of new aromas and flavors created by the Maillard reaction.

Even cooking ensures that, by the time the sausages develop a golden brown color on the outside, they’re cooked through in the middle. After all, who wants a sausage that’s blackened on the outside and bloody on the inside?

What’s All the Fuss About Thawing Sausages?

Bacteria, the kind that make food spoil and cause food poisoning, multiply rapidly at temperatures from 40°F (4°C) to 140°F (60°C). Within this range, which the USDA calls “the danger zone,” a single bacterial cell splits into two cells every 20 minutes.

This may not sound like much, but it adds up. If sausages, whether raw or cooked, are left out long enough, the bacterial population on them can quickly reach harmful levels—growing from a few dozen to thousands upon thousands—and render them unsafe to eat.

This is why the USDA’s Food Safety & Inspection Service recommends not leaving meat out at room temperature for more than 1-2 hours (especially on a sultry summer’s day, when the outside temperature is hot). This is also why sausages should never be thawed by being left out on the counter.

How Do You Thaw Sausages Properly?

The safest, most effective way to thaw sausages is to take them out of the freezer, put them in the fridge, and leave them there overnight. On the next day, when you take them out of the fridge to prep them for cooking, they will be fully defrosted.

Place the sausages in a rimmed baking sheet or deep dish to catch the moisture that drips off the meat during thawing. It’s best to place the tray on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator—since cold air sinks to the bottom and hot air rises to the top, that’s where it’s coldest.

The second-best way to thaw sausages is to seal them in a zipper bag and submerge them in ice water, in a large bowl or in the sink. Stir the bag every 10-15 minutes and add ice to the water every 30 minutes. Within 1-2 hours, the meat will be thawed and ready to cook.

The third-best way to thaw sausages is in the microwave. Put them in a microwave-safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for thawing foods using the “Defrost” setting.

If you thaw sausages in ice water or in the microwave, you must cook them immediately afterwards to keep them safe for you and the family members at the table to eat. When thawing in the refrigerator, on the other hand, you have more leeway and can prepare the sausage on your schedule.

How Long Do You Cook Thawed Sausages?

As long as the sausages are properly thawed, and we’ve explained everything you need to know about the appropriate techniques in the questions and answers above, they shouldn’t take longer than usual to cook.

The doneness of meat is measured by its internal temperature, and the only reliable way to check the cooking status of sausages is to use an instant-read meat thermometer. Simply insert the probe into the center of the meat and wait 2 to 3 seconds for a reading.

Beef, pork, veal, lamb, and venison sausages, whether single-meat or mixed-meat, are done when their internal temperature reaches 160°F (71°C). Chicken, duck, turkey, and game bird sausages are done are done at an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).

Should You Rest Cooked Sausages Before Serving?

Once your sausages are done cooking, rest them for 5 to 10 minutes before serving them on the table. During the resting period, the sausages will finish cooking in their residual heat.

The fats and juices will settle, which means they won’t run out when your diners cut through the casings with their forks and knives. A well-rested sausage is a sausage that stays juicy and tender till it’s bitten into.

By Jim Stonos

When Jim isn't in the kitchen, he is usually spending time with family and friends, and working with the HCW editorial team to answer the questions he used to ask himself back when he was learning the ropes of cooking.