Many home cooks have gotten home and hurried to start cooking their sausage for dinner, only to discover that their sausage is still frozen. You may wonder if you can just cook the sausage in its frozen state. There is no simple answer to this conundrum because it depends on how you are serving the sausage.
The quickest way to thaw a frozen sausage is by simmering it. Thick sausages, like polish sausage and bratwurst, will be not only thawed but also close to fully cooked after about 15 minutes of simmering. After simmering, they are ready for whatever recipe you have in mind. Handle carefully if you need to slice them at this stage, as they are hot. Keep in mind that smaller sausages cook faster, whether they are frozen or thawed, and are easier to portion for small children. Presimmering sausages, whether frozen or not, is a savvy first step before broiling or grilling them. The skin crisps up more evenly while becoming more tender to the bite, and the inside cooks us more juicy and tender as well.
Read the recipe carefully. If you are grilling, broiling, or sauteing the sausage, you must thaw it first, or the outside of the sausage will cook before the inside thaws completely. This can expose your family to food-borne illness. However, if you are planning to cut up the sausage and boil it or simmer it, you can add it frozen. But keep in mind that the water given off by the thawing sausage may thin the cooking liquid, which is a problem if you are simmering it in a sauce that you planned to serve with the sausage.
What to Do if You Are Still Unsure
When in doubt, thaw the sausage before you cook it. Leave the sausage in its original packing or on a plate covered in plastic wrap overnight, or microwave it on your defrost setting in your microwave. Never thaw sausage in warm water because leaving it sitting out can allow harmful bacteria to grow. Make sure that the sausage is fully thawed by gently pressing on it to make sure the center is soft and thawed before you cook it.
You may have a difficult time knowing when your sausage is fully cooked, especially if the sausage has a reddish hue, such as chorizo. To ensure that your sausage is fully cooked, insert a meat thermometer into the center of a sausage. When it is ready, the sausage should register 160 degrees Fahrenheit on an instant-read thermometer. After cooking, allow whole sausage links to rest for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on their size. The resting period will allow the meat to absorb the hot juices, making the sausage more moist and juicy. Consider alternative toppings to the usual mustard or ketchup, such as ranch dressing, or, for chorizo, a Southwest-seasoned dressing.
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Natalie Smith is a technical writing professor specializing in medical writing localization and food writing. Her work has been published in technical journals, on several prominent cooking and nutrition websites, as well as books and conference proceedings. Smith has won two international research awards for her scholarship in intercultural medical writing, and holds a PhD in technical communication and rhetoric.