I love sausages and grilling them has to be one of the best ways to cook them but so often I’ve been to a barbecue party and found and absolute culinary disaster verging on a health risk
Let’s get one thing straight before we go any further and that is just because you’re having a barbecue, it doesn’t mean you have to serve poor quality sausages. So many times I’ve heard friends say “I’ve bought cheap sausages because we’re only going to burn them anyway”. Don’t accept the inevitability of it, if you buy poor quality, they will be full of fat which will spit and cause flare ups ending up with a burnt offering. There is an alternative way.
Accept the challenge, it is possible to cook a good tasty sausage on a barbecue grill and to make it easy for yourself you must start with a good quality sausage. For sure one of the fundamentals of any sausage is fat and the cooking process is effectively boiling the contents in the fat so there’s always going to be some spitting of fat but your task is to manage this.
What makes a well cooked sausage? For me it’s:-
- A crispy texture to the skin
- Light caramelization to sweeten the meat flavor
- Succulent moist meat inside
One cooking method I have heard of is to pre-cook the sausage in water first to help disperse the fat so there’s less fat to spit (and so burn the sausage) when grilling but I don’t like this because it means less time on the grill to get the crispy caramelized skin that adds so much of the flavor. Maybe if you are a novice it’s worth having a pop but here’s my guide to how to cook the best sausage.
If using charcoal, be patient. You need grey / white coals that have well bedded down. If there’s any sign of black on the charcoal you’ll be susceptible to flare ups. If you’re cooking a number of things, put the sausages on last when everything is starting to die down. If you’ve got a gas grill then sausages should be cooked on low, in fact a low light under the searing plate is an excellent way.
Don’t prick the sausage. The whole idea is for the meat to cook in the fat and if you prick the sausage the fat simply runs out and the meat dries up – not to mention the fact that you’re inviting the fat onto the fire and encouraging further opportunity for flare ups and burnt offerings.
Cook the sausages as individual units, this makes them easier to handle and you can be sure that they cook on all sides. It may seem easier to use a basket so that you can turn more sausages at one time but I prefer not to because you only get to cook the sausage “top and bottom” and I think that you miss the opportunity to crisp up the skin all over and it’s also easier to serve a sausage that appears well done on the surface yet is undercooked inside.
To avoid an undercooked sausage you can of course use a temperature probe, generally you’re looking for an internal temperature of 165°F to consider the sausage cooked.
Don’t continually turn the sausages. Give them change to cook, take on color and caramelize on each side. Despite a sausage being round in cross section I typically look on a sausage as having four sides and cook accordingly. It is however sometimes difficult to cook on “all four” sides because your sausage is particularly bent. The best way to straighten a sausage is to use heat so place the sausage on the grill with the exterior curve directly over the heat first, the skin and meat on this side of the sausage will contract and it will straighten out.
I heard one gentleman talking about frying a sausage and recommending you place the sausage in the pan on a very low heat and cook slowly for two hours. Whilst I’m not recommending this length of time for the grill I hope it emphasizes the point that low and slow is the way to go.