Tuesday, December 15, 2009


It was a coolish night, 40 degrees. But that is a perfect night to fire up the grill and cook up some sausages...

These are those beauties I bought from my new neighborhood candy ... err i mean butcher shop, A CUT ABOVE "NATURAL MEATS. A few days back, I posted about This terrific store that sells fresh ground, all natural sausages. I had selected a CHEERY/CHIPOTLE sausage to serve to my guests during our Neighborhood COOKIE & BEER EXCHANGE PARTY - Sausages/Beer Cheese Soup and Cookies!
These sausages were just a little bit spicy, and at the same time, the cherries added a surprise sweetness to the meat. I was excited to not only eat them, but also to find the best way to grill up the PERFECT SAUSAGE.

First, briefly, what is a sausage??? A sausage is a food from ground meat, flavored with herbs and spices. Typically the sausage is formed in a casing. They can be bought and served raw, like a salami; or sold pre-cooked, like a classic hot dog (yeap, the dog is a sausage); or sold raw, and need to be cooked... Like your generic Johnsonville brat, or in this case, the fresh ground sausages you should look for in your neighborhood meat market.

On the surface, could not possibly be easier to grill a raw sausage... get a fire, when they turn black, they are done. But, in fact there are three issues to be dealt with when grilling sausages.
  1. The dripping fat from the cooking sausages make flare ups on a grill almost a guarantee. Be sure not to have your grill so full that you do not have a safe area to move the sausages. If you are using a charcoal grill, it is also a good idea to have a spray bottle of water handy to douse the potential inferno. Grilling sausages is not something you can multi-task. Stay at the grill, tongs handy and turn often. Surest way to ruin a great batch of sausages is to run into the house for "just a second" while your sausages are grilling.
  2. Steam will build up inside the sausage. If you don't provide a place for it to release, your casing will split and explode. You do not want to serve a sausage with a split in the side. ALL of the juices will escape, and your sausage will be dry, and lose a great deal of the flavor.
  3. The casing will burn or char faster than the meat inside the casing. It is a test of griller skill to cook a raw sausage through, without serving a charred and blackened casing. You want the pretty grill marks, but you do not want a burnt crunchy exterior. Harder than it sounds.
OK, armed with these "issues", here's what I did...

In your large heavy frying pan, cut up an onion, slice it, break up the rings and layer the bottom of the pan. Place your sausages on top of the onions. Fill the pan with your beer of choice, covering at least half of the sausage. Me, I am a Killian's Irish Red man!!!

Take a needle and prick the casing in a half dozen places prior to braising the sausages. These small holes will allow the steam to escape, without making such a large hole that the casing splits during cooking.

Poaching the sausages will partially cook them. Poach them in gently simmering beer for 3 minutes, turn, trying to put them back on top of the onion so that the sausages are not in direct contact with the HOT pan. You want them poached, not scorched. Having a bed of onion protects the casing from burning. Continue poaching for another 2 minutes.

OK, at this point you have a few choices...
  • Plan to serve poached sausages. No need to grill, just continue cooking in the simmering beer for about 15 minutes total. In this case, you are cooking to temperature more than color. Internal temperature at the center of the sausage must be 160-165 degrees for it to be safely cooked.
  • Break out your George Foreman grill, your grill pan or an electric skillet, and grill inside for 7 minutes on the high setting. Keep those tongs handy, and continue turning till they look done... Again, 160-165 internal temperature. You could bake them, or even broil them.
  • But really, where is the fun in that??? Sausages are meant to be cooked as god intended em to be... on the grill! Put on a coat, wear your bunny slippers to keep your feet warm and head outside... The grill will get plenty hot enough, even in sub-freezing temperatures.
Don't grill till they are black... These slightly charred looking sausages are done. In the case of grilled sausages, slightly charred, not black, is beautiful! About 4-5 minutes per side.

And, there you go... These were perfect in every way. Plenty juicy, cooked through, without being charred on the outside. I was very pleased with the sausage I selected (the candy store had a dozen different choices). The chipotle certainly added a tang to the meat, and that spice was obvious. Less obvious was the hint of cherry in the flavor. The sweetness of the cherries made this a memorable... dare I say, A CUT ABOVE the flavor of a prepackaged mass market produced sausage. I served these for a neighborhood party. Certainly a time like that is a reason to hunt down quality product. Finding a well stocked meat department, or specialty butcher shop and spending the extra time to get the cooking process right will make for a memorable meal. Well worth the effort! You can use this same technique to cook a Johnsonville brat, or hunt down a shop that offers a choice of several differently spiced sausage wrapped in a casing.

Now, when I say perfect, of course, it is only slightly an exaggeration. Some people prefer a braised sausage without the slight crunch of a grilled sausage. And, of course low and slow smoke cookers will swear that the extra smoke flavor and the low and slow technique will produce perfect product. But, whether you are cooking brats for the Super Bowl party, or hot dogs for the kids, these simple techniques will make you a better griller.

It's been a while since I got back to my cook through book project. Long time readers know that i have a goal of cooking every recipe in the STEVEN RAICHLEN book, HOW TO GRILL. This recipe/grilling technique can be found on page 148 of Steven Raichlen's amazing grill guide, HOW TO GRILL. The book includes three pages of detailed instructions, including lots of photographs and a simple easy to follow recipe. Click HERE to go to Amazon.com and read other people's reviews or to order. I just found out they have discounted the price, new copies are available for less than $14 and

used copies for less than $4!

Steven's book provided these useful tips on getting the best results from your efforts...

It's not to late to get this guide delivered in time for Christmas ...New year's party, Super bowl party, Arbor day party, spring grilling season, summer grilling season, fall grilling season... It is truely the gift that will keep on giving! Amazon has a great track record for on time delivery... but HURRY!!!


  1. I have Steve's books..good stuff in there! Used book stores are where most of my 260 cook books came from!

  2. I bought Steve's book last summer and I love it. I got some brats out for dinner, so this was a very timely post. I will give your suggestions a try. I hate those flare ups. Thanks.

  3. 'Char' is like a magical word for me since I worked on grill stations in the biz, now I insist I have my steaks, sausage, any meat (accept Hubby, he might not fair so well) on the hot spot, and a good char...oh btw I am still LMAO at that photo of the doll with the bottles, you are so bad...

  4. I've never actually simmered my sausages in beer because I wasn't sure if that would merely complement the sausage flavor, or overwhelm it with beer flavor. (Not that there's anything wrong with beer flavor. But I like sausage flavor, too.) And I really like the tip about pricking the sausage with the pin ... nobody likes a split sausage.

    On an unrelated note, thanks for the tip about the calzone-like chicken! I like anything stuffed with pepperoni and cheese. This year for Christmas, I'm asking Santa to fix my grill.

  5. Very good idea, I often forget about that and char the hell out of them!

  6. I always simmer my sausages in beer, but I never poke holes in them or use onions. I'm going to do both next time.

  7. Man, I miss grilling in the cold! I used to have a pair of 20 eye doc martens that I would lace up and then grill out in the snow. Back when I could grill. Grumble.

    The sausages look good though.

  8. Great post and delicious looking sausages

  9. Nice detail on the technique. I never thought about a sausage pre-simmer. I'll definitely try this next time I visit my parents. They are year-round grillers.

  10. I must admit, I have never seen such appetizing sausages.

  11. Looks great! When I'm cooking for a large crowd, I'll usually grill first and then pop them in a beer/onion bath that I keep on the back of the grill. That way, whenever anybody wants one, I just pull it out of the brat hottub.

  12. Hey Bob!

    Just like bacon makes everything better, things cooked in beer do as well. Great stuff.

  13. Yum! Love sausage. Especially grilled sausage. I learned some new good food tips. It would have never occurred to me to prick tiny holes with a pin in the sausage and then simmer in a good quality beer. I will remember that one.
    I know you are very excited about your new butcher. What I would give to have a local buthcer.

    P.S. I would love to be your neighbor too.

  14. Oh man.... I read this on Google reader at work but couldn't see the photos until now. Love sausage...especially grilled!

  15. I've never simmered sausages in beer, but now I want to try. Although I do love charred sausages.

  16. OMG...these are wonderful, give me shout and I will run right over for some next time....

  17. Ok Dave! You gave me the confidence to try this! I use a guinness in my Irish Stew but do you think a heavy stout is too much for the Chicken/apple sausages I picked up at Costco (I don't have a fancy candy store, I mean meat market like you have there in Kansas!


    ~Really Rainey~

  18. Candy? Sausage? CANDIED SAUSAGE? Sorry I've seen candied bacon recently on a blog and now I'm fantasizing about candying all sorts of meat.

    I love sausage. Especially the interestingly filled ones. Also - beer+sausage=heaven. Great recipe!

  19. Love this post because I must admit, I don't do a very good job of cooking sausages. Can't wait for the snow drift to melt around my Weber. Thanks Dave. By the way, thanks for the bunny slipper visual. :-)

  20. Killian's is good stuff. Sausages cooked in Killian's must be incredible. Hold on to your seat. I've been thinking about firing up the grill. By myself. I'm still thinking about it. I don't jump into anything new too quickly. I need to let the idea simmer a bit. Probably the way those sausages did.

  21. I truly believe sausage makes the world go around...I am envious too of your local butcher!

  22. I'm not touching the "pricking your sausage" technique with a joke, too easy, like shooting first in a barrel. :)

    There's nothing as good as a quality fresh ground sausage, is there?