Perfect Sausages – How to cook them

How do you cook perfect sausages? A question often discussed around the barbecue so don’t start trolling me for my comments! A cooked sausage is very much the personal preference. I know many people enjoy them cremated and that’s fine. However if you do, don’t read on. This article is about cooking a sausage to the perfect temperature and how you go about doing it. The reason for this is that sausages, are at their best, for flavour and juiciness when not over cooked. Lots of the flavour is in the juice so the longer they are cooked the more you loose. To test different methods my wife, sister-in-law and I spent an evening with a few bottles of wine eating sausages, cooked in the different ways… all in the name of writing this article of course!

Preparation is the key…

Never prick a real sausage

When cooking a ‘real’ sausage you should never prick it. It was common to prick sausages due to the bad state of the industry after the Second World War. As a result of rations sausages were full of bread and water to the point, where they would expand and explode when cooked, hence the name ‘bangers.’ Unfortunately after the war butchers saw it as a way to maximise profits, and kept the low meat content. It wasn’t until my father, the late Bill O’Hagan, started the business in the late 80’s that the standards started to improve again. Now you get lots of sausages that are of a high standard and don’t need to be pricked. Simply, if you prick a sausage, they loose the majority of flavour that’s beautifully cooking away inside them.

How to calibrate and use your probe

In my previous article I pushed the importance of using a probe to know when sausages are cooked. A probe is also fantastic tool because it can stop sausages from being overcooked. To make sure your probe is reading the right temperature, you should calibrate it for accurate readings. It is good practice to do this on a regular basis so you know the probe is reading correctly. To calibrate the probe simply put it’s into ice water and readings should be between -1oc and 1oc. You can also put the probe into boiling water and it should read between 99oc and 101oc.

Once you know the probe is reading correctly you are ready to go. Only probe the sausage towards the end of cooking, as explained above, pricking sausages when not necessary will make it lose it’s flavour. When the sausages look ready, probe them with the tip at both ends and in the centre. When the reading shows 75oc throughout the sausages they are cooked. Sausages should be at this temperature for 30 seconds but you can take them off the heat straight away as they will still hold the heat once out. The timings below are for pork sausages and may vary depending on your kitchen. If you are cooking beef or lamb sausages probe them earlier and I advise only cook those to 65oc. Beef and lamb sausages are fantastic, however they can dry out very quickly when overcooked. Remember to always probe towards the end of cooking time – the exact cooking time for different methods is explained below.

Methods of cooking perfect sausages

Boiling first

This method is one of my favourites as it helps seal all the moisture and flavour in. As well as water you could boil in beer (this was a particular favourite of ours when testing the methods.) as the ale really does add an extra depth to the flavour. Put your beer or water on and bring to the boil. Then reduce to a simmer and put the sausages in, making sure they are covered. Check with the probe after about 10-11 minutes. Once at 75oc remove and fry or grill on a high heat very quickly until brown.

Pork and Ale - perfect combination for perfect sausages
Real Ale and Pork Sausages make a perfect combination!

Oven cooking

I never used to like sausages cooked in the oven until I started putting water with them. Place a small amount of water in an oven dish and then put sausages on a resting rack. Place the rack with sausages in the oven dish. The water should not be touching the sausages. It is just there to help steam while cooking. Cook on about 160oc (fan assisted oven) for 15-20 minutes and then check to see if at 75oc. If not brown you can always increase the temperature for a couple of minutes.

Frying

This will give a more greasy sausage but one with great flavour. With frying it’s all about being gentle. Put a very small amount of oil in the pan or with a good non stick pan you can cook without. A little fat should come out of the sausages to cook them in, but not too much. If the pan ends up full of fat and water they are not great sausages. Remember, life’s to short to eat cheap sausages! I cook mine on a medium heat turning occasionally for 22 minutes. When probed they were perfect!

Grilling

Grilling is a good way if you like the skins crisp. Again don’t cook on a high heat and only turn occasionally, probing after 15 minutes. Look out in the summer I will be writing a separate article about the BBQ, my very favourite way to cook perfect sausages.

George Forman Grill

I’ve included this because it’s the way we cook our sausages at farmers markets. We often get comments about how well they are cooked. Also it is a healthy way to cook sausages. The fat is drained out. It does mean they will be a little dryer but if not OVER COOKED they will still have enough moisture. Probe after about 8 minutes.

So which method is the best?

These timings are a rough guide. Always probe the sausages to make sure they are at 75oc. The closest you can get to not being way over this temperature, the more moisture and flavour they will have. When I did this with the girls we disagreed on our favourite top 2 methods. However we did all agree the boiled in beer was lovely. If you are going to give one method above a go, try this one. If nothing else it’s a good excuse to open some beer. Standard kitchen rules, some for the food some for the chef!

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