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How to Tell If Sausages Are Cooked (Simple Guide)

Sausages are a favorite of many households. But as far as food safety is concerned, ensuring that the sausages are fully cooked can be a challenge.

Undercooked sausage can pose health risks, particularly if you or someone else in your household is in the at-risk groups of food poisoning, which means they are more likely to get sick or have a serious illness.

Thankfully, there are several ways to tell if your sausage is completely cooked, regardless of the cooking method and whether you can use a meat thermometer or not. With the tips and tricks presented in this article, you can avoid the risks associated with undercooked sausages and ensure that your home-cooked meals are both delicious and safe.

How to Tell If Sausage Is Fully Cooked

There are two primary methods to ensure that a sausage is cooked properly.

The most accurate method to check the doneness of a sausage is by checking its internal temperature with a meat thermometer.

If you don’t happen to have a meat thermometer at hand, then visual and textural cues can also help you determine if it’s fully cooked. However, these methods can never be as reliable as using a meat thermometer—and they should be used with caution.

With a Meat Thermometer

As far as safety is concerned, using an instant-read meat thermometer is the only accurate way to tell if a sausage is fully cooked.

To do so, simply insert the probe into one side of the sausage where it used to form a link, and hold it in place for a few seconds to get an accurate reading.

For sausages made from red meats like beef, pork, lamb, bison, or venison, the minimum internal temperature should reach 160°F (71°C). For poultry sausages, the temperature should be 165°F (74°C).1USDA (2020, May 11). Safe Minimum Internal Temperature Chart. Food Safety and Inspection Service. Retrieved May 1, 2023, from https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/food-safety-basics/safe-temperature-chart2The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Keep food safe with time and temperature control. University of Minnesota Extension. Retrieved May 1, 2023, from https://extension.umn.edu/food-service-industry/keep-food-safe-time-and-temperature-control3U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (2022, December 16). Cook to a Safe Minimum Internal Temperature. FoodSafety.gov. Retrieved May 1, 2023, from https://www.foodsafety.gov/food-safety-charts/safe-minimum-internal-temperatures

If the thermometer reads at or above these temperatures, then you have a perfectly cooked sausage that’s ready to eat. If the temperature is below this range, then the sausage needs further cooking until it gets to the desired temperature.

With the Slice Test

To check if a sausage is cooked without a meat thermometer, cut it open, then check the color of the meat and juices that run out.

If the sausage is cooked, the meat on the inside will be white, gray, or pale pink. If the sausage needs more cooking, it will be dark pink or even blood red on the inside.

Next, take a close look at the juices that run out. If the juices run clear, then the sausage is probably cooked. If the juices appear pink or red, the sausage may need more thorough cooking.

Keep in mind that the slice test can never be as accurate as a meat thermometer. This is because the color of the meat can vary based on the type of sausage and the cooking method. For example, the juices of a sausage containing paprika will always run red, even if the sausage is perfectly cooked.

With the Pressure Test

Another way to tell if a sausage is cooked is to use the pressure test.

When the sausage is fully cooked, it should be firm to the touch and offer some resistance when you press on it. If the sausage is not yet cooked enough, it will be soft and feel pasty when pressed, like ground meat.

What Internal Temperature Should Sausage Be Cooked To?

Sausage VarietyInternal Temperature
Sausages made from beef, bison, lamb, pork, venison, and game meats160°F (71°C)
Sausages made from fish and seafood160°F (71°C)
Sausages made from poultry and game birds165°F (74°C)

Ground meat used in making sausages can harbor a higher number of bacteria than regular meat, which makes it more susceptible to contamination.4(2022, July 12). Restaurant Ground Beef Handling and Cooking. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Retrieved May 1, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/ehs/ehsnet/plain_language/restaurants-ground-beef-handling-cooking.htm If a sausage is undercooked, it can contain a sufficient quantity of disease-causing bacteria to make you sick.

Food safety experts recommend cooking beef, bison, lamb, pork, and venison sausages to an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C). For poultry sausages, the recommended internal temperature is slightly higher at 165°F (74°C).

Always cook sausages to the recommended minimum internal temperature. The heat exposure during cooking is what effectively kills enough bacteria to make the meat edible.

Can You Get Sick From Undercooked Sausage?

For food safety reasons, sausage needs to be fully cooked. Eating undercooked sausage can make you sick.

Raw or undercooked meat can contain harmful bacteria, such as E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, and Yersinia, among others, which can cause food poisoning.5(2022, February 22). Foods That Can Cause Food Poisoning. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Retrieved May 1, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/foods-linked-illness.html

Some individuals are at higher risk of getting sick from food poisoning than others. These groups include children under 5 years old, adults over 65 years old, pregnant women and their unborn babies, and those who are currently ill or recovering from an illness.6(2022, August 10). People With a Higher Risk of Food Poisoning. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Retrieved May 1, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/people-at-risk-food-poisoning.html

In other words, while eating slightly undercooked sausage may not lead to consequences for some individuals, it can cause severe to potentially life-threatening food poisoning in others. It’s very important for individuals in the at-risk groups to avoid eating undercooked foods, especially sausages.

What About Pre-Cooked Sausages?

As their name suggests, pre-cooked sausages have already been cooked and typically do not require thorough cooking. Examples of pre-cooked sausages include bologna, frankfurters, hot dogs, mortadella, and many varieties of German sausages.

However, it’s still recommended to heat pre-cooked sausages and ready-to-eat meats until they are steaming hot. This is because these types of meats may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, a type of bacteria that can cause foodborne illness.7USDA (2013, August 6). Hot Dogs & Food Safety. Food Safety and Inspection Service. Retrieved May 1, 2023, from https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/meat/hot-dogs-food-safety

By reheating these meats, you can help reduce the risk of infection.

Bottom Line

Beef, pork, and sausages made from red meats should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C), while chicken and other poultry sausages should be cooked to 165°F (74°C) for safe consumption.

Pre-cooked sausages are already cooked and do not require thorough cooking. However, pre-cooked sausages should be browned or reheated until they are steaming hot on the grill or in boiling water to kill off any disease-causing bacteria.

If you don’t have a meat thermometer handy, you can use the slice and pressure tests as an alternative method to check the doneness of your sausages. However, don’t forget that these methods are not as reliable as using a meat thermometer when it comes to the safety of cooked meat.

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.