Whether as hotdogs for tailgating or just in marinara sauce for pasta, Italian sausage is a favorite. But are you always left with dry, charred sausages? Well, maybe, you are just cooking it wrong the way! There are different ways to cook Italian sausage and sticking to these methods is the key to cooking the ultimate succulent sausage.
‘Italian sausages’ are not actually from Italy. They are, in fact, what people in the US refer to the sausages which are made of ground pork with a distinctive taste of fennel or anise. This sausage is usually available in the market in two different flavors, hot or spicy and sweet. The difference between the two lies in the amount of red chili flakes used in them. They are different from the regular breakfast sausages as they are more spicy.
‘Italian sausages’ are versatile and you can prepare them in numerous ways and it will still manage to taste amazing. They are mostly used as pizza topping or with pasta sauce. They are available in bulk and with casings or as link sausages. Also, you have an option between fresh ones and parboiled. It is recommended to use the fresh ones, rather than the parboiled, as they are more flavorsome and you can cook them to perfection. However, always remember that since the meat is raw, it is very important to cook it properly.
This is probably the most common way of cooking Italian sausage. It is quick and easy, and makes a great breakfast, with eggs and hash browns on the side. Since frying can make the sausages dry, wine or water is used in the frying process to retain their juices. It is also advisable to use a nonstick pan, as it prevents the sausage from sticking to the pan.
- Put a nonstick pan on medium high heat and spray some oil on it.
- Now, add the sausages to the hot pan and brown them on all sides.
- Once the sausages are evenly browned, add some wine (till the sausages are half submerged) to the pan. You can use red or white wine, depending upon your preference.
- Cover the pan and reduce the heat to low. Simmer the sausages for 10 to 15 minutes, turning them occasionally.
- Finally, using a meat thermometer, check if the sausages are cooked through. The sausages are done when the internal temperature is 165° F.
These pan-fried sausages can be enjoyed on their own or you can just slice and add them to frittatas or have them with bell peppers. Here are some recipes you can try.
Pan-fried Ketchup Sausages
Cooking time: 10-15 minutes
- Italian sausage, 1 lb (smoked)
- Brown sugar, ½ cup
- Bourbon, ½ cup
- Ketchup, ⅜ cup
- Combine the sausages, brown sugar, ketchup, and bourbon in a large pan.
- Simmer in medium-high heat for 5 to 10 minutes or until the sausages are cooked through. Check the temperature with a meat thermometer.
Grilling is another way to cook Italian sausage. Although it sounds quite easy, there are certain things that can go wrong and leave you with a dried-out piece of meat. The key to a good grilled sausage is to maintain the temperature. Very high temperature can dry the sausage altogether. When properly grilled, the sausage has a crispy outside and is juicy inside. You can grill it in a gas grill or barbecue. You can also parboil the sausages or grill them directly. Whatever be the method, it is bound to taste yummy.
- Heat the grill to medium-high and spray the rack with a nonstick spray or oil.
- To keep the edible casings from splitting or bursting, poke some holes with a fork. This will, however, let some juices flow out.
- Place the sausages on the greased rack.
- Cook for 10 minutes on both sides. For a perfectly cooked sausage, the internal temperature should be 165° F.
Another way of grilling these sausages is by parboiling or poaching them before the actual grilling process. This method leaves you with juicy flavorsome sausages. Although, you can just use water for poaching, beer gives an added juiciness. In case you are wondering if your kids can have this too, don’t fret, as all the alcohol evaporates during the heating process.
- In a large pan, combine beer, water, onion, garlic, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
- Poke the sausages with a fork to keep it from splitting or bursting.
- Add the sausages to the pan and put it in medium-high heat.
- Once the liquid starts boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and remove the sausages from the pan.
- Preheat the grill to medium-high and place the sausages on the grilling rack.
- Grill for 5 minutes till they are brown.
- Remove from the grill and let the sausages rest for a few minutes before serving them.
Although, pricking the edible casing keeps it from bursting, it is not recommended. Cooking the sausages in low heat will keep the casing and the juices intact; however, it can be quite time-consuming.
Grilled Beer Sausages
Cooking time: 25-30 minutes
- Hot Italian sausage, 3 lb (uncooked)
- Beer, 3 cups
- Water, 1 cup
- Onions, 1 (thinly sliced)
- Vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon
- Dijon mustard, for serving
- Poke the sausages with a fork on all the sides.
- In a large pan, put the onion slices on the bottom of the pan. Make sure the pan is large enough to accommodate all the sausages.
- Place the sausages on top of the onions and add beer and water.
- Put the pan over medium heat and let the liquid simmer. Remember, you don’t have to boil it.
- After 5 minutes, the sausages should be half-cooked.
- Remove the sausages from the pan and let it rest for 2 minutes.
- Preheat the grill to medium-high and brush the rack with some oil.
- Lightly brush the sausages with some oil and place them on the hot rack.
- Grill till the sausages turn brown and its surface is crispy. This should take around 6 minutes on all sides.
- Once the sausages are cooked through, remove from the grill and let them rest for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Serve with mustard.
Baking is probably the easiest way to cook sausages as it is practically effortless. When baking, you do not have to constantly turn the sausages or worry about them getting burned. However, it is very important to make sure the sausages are cooked, and not pink in the center. Baking is also a great option to make the classic Italian dish of sausages with bell peppers.
- Poke the sausages with a fork to prevent them from bursting.
- Grease the bottom of the baking dish with some oil and lay the sausages in the dish without overlapping.
- Cover the dish with a foil and place it in a preheated oven of 375° F.
- Bake for 45 minutes and then remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes until the sausages are browned evenly.
Baked Italian Sausage with Peppers
Cooking time: 60 minutes
- Italian sausage, 3 lb (cut into 1 inch pieces)
- Red or white potatoes, 3 (quartered)
- Onions, 2 (quartered)
- Green bell pepper, 1 (quartered)
- Red bell pepper, 1 (quartered)
- Yellow bell pepper, 1 (quartered)
- Basil, 1 teaspoon (chopped)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a roasting dish, combine the sausages, bell peppers, potatoes, onions, basil, salt, and pepper.
- Preheat the oven at 375° F.
- Place the dish in the oven and bake for 60 minutes or until the sausages and potatoes are cooked.
- Stir occasionally. Remove from oven and have it with pasta or spaghetti.
Things to Keep in Mind
- The sausage should not be left outside and must be stored in the refrigerator as soon as it is brought from the store, or after preparing it at home.
- Use fresh sausages within 2 days of preparing or purchasing it.
- In case you are not going to cook it immediately, keep it frozen in a freezer, in a vacuum seal bag.
- Sausage should never be defrosted on the counter. It can either be defrosted slowly in the refrigerator or in the microwave using the defrost setting. However, make sure you cook sausages as soon as you have defrosted it.
- Always use a meat thermometer to check whether the meat is done or not. Meat-borne bacteria can be harmful.
Cooking Italian sausage is not difficult. With the proper knowledge about the cooking methods, anyone can prepare a sumptuous meal. So, the next time you have a craving for this ‘not-so-Italian’ delight, try out all these simple processes for the ultimate sausage treat.