Test Your Sausage IQ: The 10 Best Wurst for Grilling
Is sausage the new bacon? Artisanal sausage restaurants are popping up like proverbial mushrooms after a rainstorm. My stepson runs one—Jake’s Handcrafted in Brooklyn. Check it out and tell Jake that Steven sent you. According to Nielsen data, sausage sales more than doubled in the last 10 years, topping 4 billion dollars.
Germany remains the world’s undisputed sausage capital with over 1,200 distinct varieties. But sausages are enjoyed all over Planet Barbecue, from Thailand’s sai krok Isan (sweet fermented pork sausage) to Spanish morcilla (blood sausage spiked with cumin). If you’ve never ventured beyond Italian sausage or brats, read on. This post is for you.
Namely, 10 new sausages you need to know about now before the college football bowl games start airing on December 20. I don’t mean Wisconsin bratwurst—I’m going to assume you’ve mastered that. Here’s the best of the wurst—there isn’t a better food for tailgating on the planet.
- Knackwurst/Knockwurst: This plump, garlicky beef and pork sausage comes lightly smoked and precooked, so all you need to do is heat it on the grill. In case you’re wondering, knack (sometimes spelled knock) means “crack” in German—a reference to the tendency of the taut natural casing to pop or crack when you bite into it.
- Merguez: Native to North Africa and increasingly popular in the U.S., this fresh lamb sausage takes its firepower from harissa (North African hot sauce), paprika, cayenne, and other spices. Slender and short (rarely longer than 3 inches), this is North African street food at its best. I like to grill it with scallions and serve it on pita with hot sauce.
- Bockwurst: Think of this one as albino sausage. The pale cream color of this mild pork and veal wurst (similar to weisswurst—“white sausage”) demands the chiaroscuro of dark grill marks. Serve it with—what else?—bock beer, sauerkraut, and a dollop of fiery German mustard.
- Cotechino: Isolated by enemy troops and desperate for meat, citizens of the Italian village of Mirandola (near Modena) pooled their pork scraps, added coriander and other spices, and came up with cotechino. This large (about 1 pound each) salami-like sausage traditionally comes served sliced with lentils, cannellini beans, and polenta. New Year’s revelers take note: cotechino is thought to bring good luck when served on New Year’s Eve. (The lentils are round like coins, symbolizing prosperity.) The Raichlen twist? Sizzle the slices over a hot fire before shingling them over stewed lentils.
- Coburger Bratwurst: The Bavarian city of Coburg came up with this one: coarsely ground beef or veal seasoned with lemon zest, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. You grill the long (9- to 10-inch) sausages over a pinecone fire, then clamp them in a disproportionately small bread rolls and serve with plenty of mustard. The resulting sandwich looks the snout of a small dog (the bread) with a large stick (the brat) in its mouth.
- Loukaniko: This pork sausage from Greece explodes with the Aegean flavors of orange zest, wine, fennel, oregano, and other herbs. Some versions contain lamb as well. Grill it fresh or cure and cold smoke it before serving. Often served in pita bread with tzatziki (yogurt cucumber dip) or as part of a meze (Greek tapas spread).
- Nürnberger Rostbratwurst: Scented with fresh marjoram, these pintsize pork sausages (3 to 4 inches long) are typically served by the half dozen, with sauerkraut or potato salad and mustard or horseradish on the side. By European Union law, they must be produced in the city of Nuremberg. “Rost” refers to the cooking method—grilling—often over a pinecone fire.
- Boerewors: This South African “farmer sausage” features coarsely ground beef (sometimes enhanced with ground pork or lamb) invigorated with vinegar, coriander, black pepper, and sweet spices, such as cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Sold in coils, it is often served as a boerie roll—on a bun with a tomato, chile, and onion relish. The traditional accompaniment to boerewors at a braai (South African barbecue) is a corn porridge called pap.
- Chorizo: The pork sausage of choice from Mexico to Chile—and just about everywhere in between. The reddish color and kick come from paprika, chili peppers, and vinegar. New World chorizo is sold raw—you need to grill it—while Iberian chorizo often comes dry-cured and does not require cooking before eating. In Latin America, grilled chorizo is often served on a roll with salsa, such as Bolivian llajua or Chilean pebre (both recipes are in Planet Barbecue!).
- Andouille: This traditional Cajun sausage (not to be confused with French andouille, which is made almost entirely from offal) features diced pork butt, garlic, paprika, and black pepper—lots of pepper. Once the casings are stuffed, the sausages are heavily smoked. It’s pretty tasty eaten sliced by itself, and gumbo just wouldn’t taste right without it. Case in point: my Smoked Chicken and Sausage Gumbo—excellent for feeding a crowd.