Earlier this week, I shot a video on grilling for a new digital magazine being created by Sideways.  I did a spatchcocked chicken, grilled asparagus and also sausage, because, after the infrenal boneless skinless chicken breast, it’s the most overcooked meat in America, and yet it’s rightly beloved here.

In my experience people err because they’re afraid of not cooking it enough.  So they either cook it over really high heat, overcooking the outside, busting open the sausage, or they kill it with too much moderate heat.

As we move into grilling season, and there’s no better way to cook a sausage than over the smoky heat of live coals, I encourage you to grill sausages often.  All carnivores around you will be happier.

There are two stages to grilling a sausage to perfection.  Start it over moderate direct heat to give it flavor and color.  Finish it in a covered grill over indirect heat till it’s reached the appropriate internal temperature.  Pork sausages should be grilled to 150 degrees F./65 degrees C.  Poultry sausage should be cooked to 160 degrees F./70 degrees C.  The above sausage is my favorite all-time sausage, chicken with basil tomato and garlic, from Charcuterie, bien sur. As you can see I went a little over on this one! (A few degrees are ok if the sausage is any good.)

So, stop overcooking your sausages! The casing should crack! when you bite down and juices should explode in the mouth.

[About thermometers: I used this Maverick thermometer, available at Open Sky (the company sent it to me to test when Open Sky couldn't source the comparable Thermopen; it's very good, can be used for candy and deep-frying; it tested well for both speed and accuracy; when I told Mike at Open Sky I was posting on sausages, he created a coupon so that we could sell this for less than Amazon does—use the code "Maverick15" at checkout for a 15% discount).  You can also use this inexpensive Taylor instant read, works perfectly fine for sausages. Want to grill them tonight?  Most hardware stores carry decent instant read thermometers.  The point is, own a thermometer, and use it to know exactly when your sausage is done.]

Chicken Sausage with Basil Tomato and Garlic, photo by Donna

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52 Wonderful responses to “How To Grill a Sausage”

  • Coco @ Opera Girl Cooks

    Thanks for the tutorial! To be honest, I (and maybe others as well) don’t think much about overcooking sausages — they’re so full of salt that they seem to be incredibly forgiving in terms of retaining moisture. But I will be more careful next time and see if my results make your methods worth the bit of extra effort.

  • Natalie Sztern

    Donna
    once again – a food shot like no other…one can be taught a lot for technicalities in photography – but the most important can’t be taught and that is the talent in the eye of the photographer…gorgeous

  • Andrew

    I’ve had plenty of overcooked brats at summer cookouts. More specifically, these sausages are placed over extremely high heat, so the outside burns while the inside is raw. It’s amazing how something so simple can be destroyed in mere seconds.

  • Snow

    Well done MR!
    I’m a health inspector by trade, and give friends thermometers as gifts. Not only do you get perfectly done sausage, chicken, turkey, ground beef, etc with a thermometer, but it is also safe.
    Want to ensure safe summertime grilling? Here are a few other tips:
    1. Disinfect your thermometer with an alcohol prep pad if you check your food and it isn’t at a safe temperature.
    2. What are those safe temperatures? http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/mintemp.html
    3. Use separate trays/platters/tongs/cutting boards for raw and cooked foods.
    4. Wash you hands with soap and water after handling raw meats. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are also great for BBQ, camping, beach, etc.
    Happy grilling.

    • Ellendra

      Alcohol prep pads leave a bad taste that some people can detect even after the alcohol has evaporated. Use whiskey instead.

  • Marcus

    Is the end of the sausage tied with a string?

    It looks like there is string on the bottom sausage in the picture but not the middle one. What’s going on there if I might ask?

    I have purchased casings and plan to make this chicken sausage from the book (as soon as I finish moving into a new house…). I didn’t plan on needing string but wondered how the ends of the casing would stay closed.

  • Jim Colwell

    Sausages are what I miss most about Cleveland, O. especially those brats in a hard roll at the west side market.
    Even good for breakfast

    • Pat

      Frank’s Bratwurst at the West Side Market are the best! Still a great deal at about $3 a sandwich.

  • Beau

    Just throwing this out there, but if the idea is to keep the casing from bursting, doesn’t piercing with the thermometer cause the sausage to spurt like a whale if any significant amount of additional cooking time is needed?

  • Tom

    I think that it is also important to note safe handling of these sausages. You mentioned that chicken sausages need to be cooked to a higher temperature than pork ones. It is important that you not cross contaminate between the two. Many grocery stores and markets (even good ones) will have chicken sausages in direct contact with pork ones. Just be careful and enjoy your dinner!

  • Natalie Sztern

    Andrew thank you so much for that link…i wish it could appear as an app on my phone..i am always googling meat temps…

  • Al W

    I usually slow poach the sausage until done and then just use the grill to reheat and caramelize the outside. I tend to overcook them if I do the whole thing on the grill.

  • *susan*

    The chicken sausage is one of my favorites too. I haven’t even felt the need to change the ratios from Charcuterie even a little bit. Really love the merenguez sausage as well. Hold on, I think I just love sausage and love making my own even more.

    Every sausage and hot dog sold at Fenway Park is now thermometer checked. Still mediocre versions of this magnificent food group, but at least they aren’t wildly overcooked anymore.

  • EatWisconsin

    I never thought of using a thermometer on sausages, just used good old Wisconsin instinct when cooking them. I am gonna have to try this.

    Also, I never par boil bratwurst but i will soak them in simmering beer after they are done cooking to keep em warm.

  • CopyKat Recipes

    I never thought of cooking the sausages with first the grill open, then with the indirect heat with the grill closed. I really like this take on grilling up sausages. I am looking forward to having sausages that aren’t so wrinkled and overcooked with the fear they may not be done.

  • dan

    use a thermometer…. if you don’t have a finger. I can imagine the guys grilling sausages to perfection on every corner street in places like Vienna or Berlin, laughing their asses off when they see this.

  • Justin

    It seems like whenever I put sausages over direct heat on my Webber they burst and flare up within seconds. This leads me to indirect cook them a lot, but I love that crusty goodness.

    What am I doing wrong?

  • Rhonda

    Michael, beautiful post.

    On the heels of the last discussion, for everyone reeling from the last post — there is more than one way to grill a sausage…

  • luis

    Sausages are forty or fifty percent fat by ratio. I like to poke them good put them in the microwave at 50% for a few minutes until they render and finish them off in a steel skillet at very low temperature until they brown on all sides. They are still moist and tasty but I don’t get that mouthfeel Michael mentions. I get it if I skip the microwave step and don’t poke them. But I think is fat and so I am happy to see it render.

  • Randy

    Great posting! Michael is so right…how many of us have had overcooked and split brats….like eating spicy rubber! This is actually an art in itself.

    Mike, it is also infernal, not infrenal.

    I am getting a new grill soon and cannot wait to make some brats on it.

    Recommendations on a good mustard to use? Getting tired of the store brands…

  • mlaiuppa

    My parents have their own method.

    My Mom boils the sausage until it’s cooked, then my Dad grills it until the skin is nice and crispy. Always seems to come out juicy, crisp and thoroughly cooked but not overcooked.

  • Alexa

    This really is the scientific and the correct way to grill a sausage! Congrats. I think the food is muuch healthier cooked this way than we usually do.

  • Grace

    I love sausages especially on the grill, but you are so correct I always seem to overcook them for fear of undercooking them. Feel a little silly never thought to use a thermometer, I use it for everything else. Michael do you make your own sausage? I would love to give it a try but not sure on the how to.

  • QuarryLaneFarms

    Agree. Home cooks often are afraid. But sausage is SO easy.
    Perfect summer snack and definitely a weeknight doings.

    We keep ours simple:
    1. Indirect heat – Medium.
    2. Turn every 10 minutes.
    3. Total 30 minutes.
    4. Dip occ. in beer for flavor.

    Ruhlman-doesn’t poking the sausage cause it to lose the juice?

    QLF

    • luis

      Quarry… notice Michael Rhulman is really inferring chicken sausages…. He should tell us what the fat to chicken ratio he is talking about.
      If you are thinking pork like I am and most are… it’s not liquid, It’s FAT!. let the fat render… I promise the Pork sausage will be juicy and tasty like your 20% fat chuck hamburger… delicious in any..any case. Someone said decadent… they got it right.
      At the Publix they make fresh sausages sometimes… mild and hot italian. To die for my bro’s…

  • HankShaw

    A thermometer poking your sausage! (Let the jokes ensue) Seriously, it does sounds like a good way for beginners to get started, but like the Wisconsin commenter above, sausage cooks need to develop a Jedi’s sense of the Force when grilling links – never break them, even with a thermometer, if you can help it. Grill a few dozen links and you can do it by feel. Remember your links will add another 3-5 degrees off the grill from carryover heat, too!

    I am assuming you inserted the thermometer in the end after poking your sausages in several other places first, right? (Let a second round of jokes ensue) Like I said, I’m guessing you do the least amount of damage with an end poke (Let a third round of even nastier jokes commence).

    And finally, just to cap the obligatory sausage humor, remind me to tell you the German expression for a zaftig girl’s posterior – it relies on the same knacken your talking about when the casing cracks…

  • luis

    I use a thermopen religiously and If I didn’t have one already I’d look at this new style thermo thang Michael is test driving. That is the only way to fly.

    I can not tell you how many times the surface of the protein gets good and done and the insides are raw and unsafe. Why chance it. I wouldn’t take the chance for me or mine and therefore I shouldn’t take it with my guests or anyone else.

    The way I see it and I am just a bad home cook at that… if you are not measuring temp and you are happy you are overcooking the proteins or taking chances for darn sure.

    • Rhonda

      Luis,

      You are a bad home cook because you do not listen.

      Ever….

      Hank Shaw has posted here. As have many great Chefs.

      Listen, read and learn.

      …And, at risk of being put into the same court as Marc Forgione, whom I greatly respect:

      Luis… More study, less fucking Yapp Yapp

  • luis

    I have technology that will cook a sausage or any protein from frozen without skipping a beat.. It works and that makes it the MORE important I measure temperature accuratelly to insure that core is done.
    It’s called Nu wave and its fun…My power bill is down below 50 bucks. I only fire up my regular oven on pizza night and my burner on wok night… or paella night or that special night when you cook for fifteen or more…Hey Michael my yearly fishing vacation is fast approaching…I am thinking fish need us to add fat to them…in a sauce ..etc… I mean chicken or other carry their own fat with .. like sausages… but you never blog much about making the right fish…. and it even requires a temperature control much more rigourous than sausage….. If you think about it…. tell us about fish and cooking fish sauces …. how you like fish… (not raw please….pretty please…)

  • sarah

    It’s not often that I get a hankering for a sausage, but that second picture is pretty drool-worthy.

  • tanja

    Oh for christ sake, going around taking thermometer with you?

    What is wrong with all of you people, can’t you just enjoy picnic and cook a sausage without measuring tools? ‘How did we ever live without those?’

    So what if few of them are overcooked, next few will be right. Cook all of them differently and if one of them is undercooked, put it back on the grill for few min. Like you need cook books and bunch of tools with you to do something that all of us do by instinct. Before professional cooks were invented.

    • luis

      Tanja, it/s okay! don’t stress.. do what you do and be happy.
      You have to understand one thing though. Michael is the fairest kindest guy you will ever meet… I never met the guy..just his books…. Still there are those that think technique matters… recipes and methods matter and measuring temperatures matter….Hey the caveman’s survived without a thermopen thinga magic…You will survive too. It’s in our nature to try to overcome odds and push on….Welcome to the seat of tha pants cooking society.
      a society that survives by OVERCOOKING THA BEJESSUS outa every thang….

  • Mark

    Michael,

    My brother and I just returned from our semi-annual Cajun Country Gastronomic Tour. We ran across a small “specialty meat” store, as they call butcher shops in Cajun Country. They had homemade crawfish tail boudin. I purchased 10 pounds to bring back home with me and they are stunningly delicious cooked over indirect heat on my gas grill. Thanks for the info on cooking sausages and keep up the good work!

  • BusyBee

    Thanks for this article.
    For those of you worrying about letting the juice escape once you poke the sausage… don’t worry. You only poke one of the sausages one or two times if necessary. The others will be done when the poked one is done.

  • Dan Solberg

    Praise the lord!!! Thanks Mr ruhlman. I am from Wisconsin the land of beer and sausage and cry every time I see a sausage cooked to a dry oblivion. Lets spread the word!!!

  • Andra @ FrenchPressMemos

    I’d love a tip on how to cook a sausage in a skillet. I can’t seem to get it right. Perhaps following some of the same directions wouldn’t hurt but it seems a little more complicated to cover and cook at a moderate heat until cooked. I get the color right and skin cooked right- the inside cooking is more problematic.

  • Bukkake Night In Canada

    Mike, would it be possible for you to show us how to panfry sausages? I’m a broke ass student with a pretty expansive array of kitchen tools but no balcony or anywhere to legally put a grill. After a ticket for open containers and illegal grillage I’m wary of The Man coming down on me again.

  • Meditative Music

    Honestly the best way to cook a sausage is just don’t burn it.. Make sure the juices are still flowing, so don’t leave it on the grill extra long or else it will dry out. You really don’t need that temperature gauge, that’s for amateurs and takes way to much time to check each one..

  • Sconnie Boy

    The true and best(ie Wisconsin/”up north”) way to grill a brat/sausage is to first boil them in beer (preferably a good WI beer), onions, various spices in a stock pot, then grill them. SAVE THE BOILED BEER in the stock pot and keep warm(not quite boiling). After grilling, add a couple of fresh beers to the stock(if some was boiled off during the initial boiling), then place the grilled brats/sausages back in the warm boiled beer mixture. They will stay juicy and warm all day and will not by dry and hard. This works especially well for larger cookouts (use a nesco) since you can prepare the brats earlier in the day and they will still be perfect hours later and leave you free to have a beer and hang out with friends at your cookout instead of spending the entire time behind the grill (not that that’s a bad thing!)

  • luis

    Folks In RATIO, MR suggests 30% fat for chicken and pork force meats….ie; sausages…and the like.
    Honestly I shop upscale food markets such as whole foods, Milan and Gardners here in Miami…and I look at the stuff and I can not visually resolve it to a 3:1 ratio of fat to protein… if anything It is more like a 5:1 or even a 6:1 ratio fat to protein.
    This makes the do it yourself sausage a worthy cause in my opinion. Either that or get what you get over the counter….
    Of course if you are watching for that kind of thang…then you just pass by, avoid and watch make millions off a sick obese naive US. population.

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