Grilling Techniques

How to Grill and Smoke Sausages: Contain Flare-Ups

Brats on the grill

In our last blog post we told you about 10 sausages from around Planet Barbecue you need to know about now. In this post we’ll tell you how to cook any sausage—fresh (raw), cooked, cured, or smoked, using a revolutionary new method pioneered by yours truly. Read on.

The traditional way to grill sausages is directly over the fire. The traditional way to cook sausage often leads to colossal conflagrations and flare-ups.

If you choose to direct grill your sausages (as most people do on Planet Barbecue), work over a moderate fire and leave at least a third of your grill fire free and a third of your grate food free. This gives you a safety zone and room to maneuver should the dripping fat cause flare-ups. Note: when cooking lots of sausage on a grill or over a campfire, you may want to invest in my Best of Barbecue Sausage Basket, which enables you to grill and turn up to 10 sausages at one time.

Easier is a method I pioneered a few years ago that cooks sausage using indirect grilling. Set up your grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium-high (400 degrees). Lightly brush the sausage casings with oil. Indirect grill until sizzling and browned and the internal temperature reaches at least 160 degrees—see below. The beauty of this method: you can toss wood chips, like my Best of Barbecue Pork Smoking Chips, on the coals to add additional smoke flavor to the sausage. And indirect grilling locks the juices in the sausage, making for wurst so moist they actually squirt when you cut into them.

Here are a few more sausage grilling tips:

• Never prick a sausage prior to grilling. This drains the juices. (I know: I instructed you to do this in How to Grill. I was young and naïve.)

• You don’t need to parboil sausage before grilling. Just work over a moderate fire if direct grilling.

• To test a sausage for doneness, insert the probe of an instant read meat thermometer through one of the narrow ends—the internal temperature should be at least 160 degrees.

• Some raw sausages, like Argentinian longaniza and English Cumberland, are sold in thick coils. Run two slender bamboo skewers through the center at right angles to keep the coil spooled. Alternatively, and to avoid piercing the sausages, use butcher’s string to secure the coil, running it through the center and tying it off at the outermost loop of meat. Use a wide spatula for turning.

• Give precooked sausages, like bologna or hot dogs, a quick sizzle on the grill to caramelize the meat proteins and lay on a dark flavorful crosshatch of grill marks. Cut bologna crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices. Butterfly hot dogs (cut in half lengthwise) to maximize the surface area exposed to the fire.

• Beware of plastic or fiber casings and remove them before grilling sliced pepperoni or other cooked sausages.

• Because of their generous fat content, sausages go well with tangy acetic foods, like pickles, sauerkraut (and its Korean analogue, kimchi), relishes, pickled peppers, mustard, and horseradish. Grilled onions and peppers are awesome, too.

• Or think out of the box. In Asia, grilled sausage comes with sticky rice. In Germany (especially Berlin), wurst comes with curry flavored ketchup. Different strokes for different folks, as they say.

Do you have a favorite grilled sausage recipe? Share it with us on the Barbecue Board.

Try these sausage recipes:
Bratwurst with Curry Sauce (Currywurst)
Bratwurst “Hot Tub”
The “Dear” Dog