With warmer temperatures outside and clear skies overhead, it might be time to embrace summer grilling — if you haven't done so already. If you're in the mood for grilled sausage this summer, it's useful to keep a couple of tips in mind as you prepare to cook up something delicious. We talked with a number of experts to learn about their preferred grilling techniques, and to get some useful tips for a host of sausages.
Michael Psilakis, chef and owner of a host of acclaimed restaurants (including MP Taverna, Kefi, and Fishtag) suggests a bit of strategy before setting uncooked sausages on the grill. "When people are preparing sausages at home," he said, "I find that they almost always make the mistake of overcooking them. The goal with preparing sausages is always to cook them through, without rendering the fat and drying out the links."
Psilakis pointed out that an array of grilling techniques can work well. "For thicker sausages, you have the option of either cooking them whole or slicing the sausage in half," he said. "If slicing in half, start grilling with the skin side down on high heat; if cooking whole, I'd recommend occasionally turning the sausage (3–4 times total) over medium-low heat. I personally enjoy cooking the sausages fully intact. When cooking sausage whole on the grill, I always grill them until they're cooked on the outside and almost finishing, placing them on the grill shelf for the final 2–3 minutes. This way the sausage keeps from shrinking while still cooking."
Ben Turley, co-owner of the acclaimed Brooklyn butcher shop The Meat Hook, also recommends patience when grilling sausages. "My ideal way to grill a sausage is low and slow," he said. "I keep the coals off to one side so I have levels of heat to choose from. Keeping sausages directly over the hottest part of the grill is why they burst, so be patient and you get more flavor, plus a more juicy sausage."
Brad Spence, chef and partner of Philadelphia's Lo Spiedo, embraces a very particular way of grilling. "I love using a Weber grill for a great char," he said. "Light up the grill so that one side [has] super high heat and the other is cooler. Put the sausages on the hot side to caramelize and char them for around 2–3 minutes per side. You want the hot side hot enough to char but not so hot that the sausages burst. Then place them on the cool side for around 6 minutes just so they cook through. Many people poke holes in their sausages, but that's not necessary if they are made correctly with high quality meat."
The Meat Hook's Turley also has some advice for home cooks without access to a grill. For those with a grill pan at home, he suggests "keeping it at medium to low heat and turning the sausage every 3–4 minutes should make it easy on you. After about 20 minutes you'll be ready!" He also pointed out that certain varieties of sausage may be better-suited to indoor cooking of certain varieties. "I also recommend using an oven if you have a higher fat content (like a sausage with cheese), as it will give you a consistent all-round heat," he said. "I generally use 350 degrees for 18 minutes and you're ready to go. You'll end up with a less snappy casing though, so weigh the good and the bad when using the oven."
Whether you're grilling in your backyard, on a grill in a park, or with a cast-iron pan above your kitchen's range, these five varieties of sausages offer a wide array of dining experiences — spicy or savory, light or filling.