The Art of Grilling Sausage

Grill them through, but hold in the flavor

Sausages on a barbeque
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Light the grill and throw on a couple of sausages and keep them from burning to cinders. What could be simpler? Well, there's a little more to it than that, and a lot of people have different ways of doing it. The problem is getting a good sausage grilled through without drying out the casing or having the casings burst open. Now I'm not talking about breakfast links here, I'm talking about kielbasas, bratwursts, and similar large sausages.

Try these methods for grilling sausages:

Split and Grill 

One method is to cut the sausage lengthwise about 80% of the way through, so you can fold it out and lay it flat. This is a great way to get the insides cooked quickly because you can lay it skin side up; at least the skin won't dry out. Of course, you are opening up the sausage to let the juices drip out. While this might be a leaner way of cooking, it tends to dry out the sausages and leave them a bit lacking in flavor. If you are cooking a recipe that calls for sausage, like a jambalaya then I say, go for it, otherwise, don't bother.

Boil and Grill

Another way to grill sausages is to parboil them first. In fact, there is a great recipe that calls for boiling sausages in half water, half beer before you put them on the grill. If you add something to the water to enhance the flavor then this can be a great way to get sausages partially cooked before they hit the grill, but if you use plain water you will be pulling flavor out of the sausages.

To parboil first, drop sausages into boiling liquid long enough to tighten the skin. When you pull the sausages out the fat inside should be just starting to liquefy. Next, place the sausages on a hot grill over a medium low fire and finish cooking. This method gives you juicy sausages and is a popular way of grilling them and is one sure way to keep the casings from hardening.

Straight Grilling

Of course, you can place sausages right on the grill and cook them the old fashioned way. The biggest problem is that people use a high heat and burn the surface before the middle gets cooked. The other problem is that when a sausage cooks it leaks juices that can cause flare-ups and add to the burning problem. To eliminate the burning and the flare-ups you need to keep the fire low. This increases the cooking time but lets the sausage cook gently and hold in its flavor. Some people will tell you to puncture the skin, but this will just let the juices out to start more fires. Keep the sausage casing intact and the heat low.

How you serve and eat sausages is important to the method of cooking. If you are going to be chopping the sausages up for another recipe then any method that holds in the flavor will do. If you want to serve the sausages straight up, then take care to cook them gently to preserve the appearance as much as the flavor and to ensure that the casing on the sausage doesn't turn into an impenetrable barrier.