Sausages are a staple of many hearty meals. But for the uninitiated, telling when they’re fully cooked can be a mystery. Fortunately, you’re here, and you’re about to learn The Method.
Just like Donnie Brasco infiltrating the Mafia, you’ll be able to spot a perfectly cooked sausage from a mile away. And don’t worry, unlike Donnie, you won’t have to give up your identity for this mission — you’ll just have to pay attention and maybe get yourself a meat thermometer if you want to know for sure.
Whether you’re grilling them up for a summer barbecue or simmering them in a pot of sauerkraut, the key to delicious sausages is to cook them until they’re done, but not a moment longer. Overcook them, and you’ll end up with a dry, tasteless sausage. Undercook them, and you’ll be taking chances with food poisoning.
So, how do you tell when a sausage is done?
Telling If Sausages Are Done
Use a meat thermometer:
The most foolproof method is to use a meat thermometer. Insert the thermometer into the center of the sausage through the links, being careful to avoid piercing the casing. Beef, pork, and venison sausage is cooked when its internal temperature reaches 160°F (71.1 °C). Poultry sausage is done at 165°F (73.9 °C).
Slice the sausages and check its color:
Another way to judge if a sausage is done is to slice it and look at its color. A fully cooked sausage will have a uniform, gray or light brown color all the way through. If the sausage is still pink or red on the inside, it’s not done yet.
Of course, the drawback to this method is that, by slicing the sausage crosswise, you lose the juices. And for the carnivores who consider a dry sausage to be a crime against humanity, that’s more or less unacceptable.
Give the sausage a squish and check its firmness:
Give the sausage a gentle squeeze. If it feels firm to the touch, then it’s likely done. If it feels soft and squishy, the way ground meat does when you press it through the package, then it needs more time.
Are All These Methods Accurate?
Slicing the sausages and checking its color and firmness can give you an idea of doneness, but these two methods are not really reliable as they can be affected by the the type of meat and spices used. For example, if the sausage contains paprika, the color of meat will be red, and the juices will run blood red — even if the sausage is perfectly done.
The most dependable way to ensure that your sausages are fully cooked is by taking its internal temperature with a meat thermometer. You can’t rely on your senses alone to detect any harmful bacteria that may be present in the meat, which can cause food poisoning. By heating the sausages to the appropriate temperature, you can kill those bacteria and ensure the safety of yourself and those you’re serving the meal to.1Sethi, M. (1995). Catering Management: An Integrated Approach. New Age International (P) Limited.2McGee, H. (2007). On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Scribner.
How to Cook Sausages Evenly
Cooking sausages evenly can be tricky, but we have good news: with a few techniques up your sleeve, you’ll be able to achieve perfectly cooked sausages every time.
On the stovetop: Let’s start with cooking sausages on the stovetop. The key to frying up sausages in pan is to use medium heat. If the heat is too high, the outside of the sausages will burn before the inside cooks through. Medium heat will allow the sausages to cook evenly, ensuring that the inside is cooked to and the outside comes out nice and crispy.
In the oven: A temperature of 350°F (ca. 180°C) is ideal for cooking sausages evenly. This temperature will allow the sausage to cook through, while giving it a nice golden brown color. Not all ovens are created equal, so it’s a good idea to check the sausages a few minutes before the recommended cooking time to ensure they are cooked to your liking.
On the grill: The key to cooking sausages on the grill is to use indirect heat. This means you should cook your sausages over a zone without embers (on a charcoal grill) or over unlit burners (on a gas grill), so that the sausages to cook through without burning on the outside.
Beef, pork, and venison sausages are cooked when their internal temperature reaches 160°F (71.1°C). Chicken, duck, turkey, and game bird sausages are done at a temperature of 165°F (73.9°C).
Slicing a sausage and checking the color of the meat and juices or poking it to test its firmness may give you an idea of doneness, but that idea may very well be wrong, so you shouldn’t really rely on it.
- 1Sethi, M. (1995). Catering Management: An Integrated Approach. New Age International (P) Limited.
- 2McGee, H. (2007). On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Scribner.