Grills and sausage were made for each other. The smoky flavor and the crisp bite, followed by a tender juicy center…that’s grilling at it’s finest. To grill great sausage, you need good technique. From the way you use heat to your methods of adding extra flavor, it takes some knowledge and skill to grill like a pro. Just as important is your choice of meat. If you want to wow people at your tailgate or backyard cookout, you need high-quality sausage. Top producers such as Big Fork infuse sausage with unique flavors and avoid unwanted additives.
Whether you’re new to cooking sausage or you want to up your game, check you these helpful tips on grilling delicious sausage.
Choosing Your Sausage
There are many sausage suppliers, but you should find one that takes flavors to the next level. A good example is Big Fork, which infuses sausage with savory bacon. To make its Bacon Sausage, Big Fork uses 100% Berkshire Hogs that are raised outdoors without the use of antibiotics. The company blends the sausage with nitrate-free hardwood smoked bacon. Then, they add a little brown sugar and sea salt and wrap the mixture in a natural encasement. Finally, they smoke it using a combination of hickory and applewood hardwoods to create a delicious sausage just waiting to be grilled.
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Grilling masters frequently debate the best way to cook sausage. Some prefer to use indirect heat, where you brown the sausage quickly over fire and then finish cooking it on a portion of the grill free of flames. Other people like the traditional cooking method, where you use high heat until the sausage is burned and crispy and often undercooked in the center. Then there’s the method perfected by Craig Jones, a former Grill Mayor for the Food Network. He adds a twist to indirect cooking by searing the sausage at the end of the grilling process.
A certified Kansas City Barbecue Society judge, Jones cooks outdoors more than 300 days a year. He loves to grill and smoke traditional favorites like brisket and sausage. He initially started cooking brats when he received a nice grill as a wedding gift. “I burned the heck out of them, just like I’d seem them cooked by others,” he says. “There was smoke everywhere. I wanted to figure out a better way to grill sausage.” One day as he was grilling steak, he discovered his reverse-sear method.
According to Jones, if you’re using charcoal or fire to grill sausage, you should start with a two-zone fire. To do this, place coals or fire on just one side of the grill to create a hot zone and cooler zone. You can sear the meat on the hot side and cook it slowly in the cooler zone. The combination of direct and indirect heat will keep the sausage moist and maximize its flavor.
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Once you’ve set up a two-zone fire, top the charcoal with chunks of wood to increase flavor even more. Jones says apple or cherry work well with pork. Place the sausages on the side without fire with the grill vent located over the food. As smoke and heat move toward the vent, they will pass through the sausage and smoke the meat.
Jones says he’ll cook sausages on indirect heat for about 20 minutes until the internal temperature of the meat is about 160 degrees. Then, he very quickly finishes them on the direct side for 30 seconds to a minute. With the lid open, he turns the sausages to brown them a bit. “And that’s it. You get a brat or sausage cooked perfectly, browned, smoked, and delicious,” he says.
If you’re using a gas grill instead of charcoal, the same concept works, says Jones. Turn on all of the burners for 10 minutes at high heat. Then, turn off the burners on one side of the grill and leave the direct side on medium until the temperature reaches 300-350 degrees. From that point, you’ll cook the sausages the same as with charcoal.
Keeping Food Warm
Anyone who has grilled for a large group knows it’s tricky to keep food warm long enough for everyone to be served—and to come back for seconds. But, Jones has a good trick for keeping sausage warm. First, put beer in a disposable aluminum pan and then place it directly over the charcoal to let it heat. Once the pan is hot, and the meat is cooked and needs to rest, move the aluminum pan to the indirect side of the grill. Then, put the sausage in the beer bath to hold them. They’ll stay warm and won’t dry out.
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As you’re developing your grilling techniques, don’t be afraid to experiment with different types of sausage that offer a variety of flavor profiles. Whether you’re hosting a backyard barbecue, tailgating, or cooking for your family at home, you can suit a wide range of tastes. For example, Big Fork offers eight smoky flavors: Hickory & Applewood, Aged Cheddar, Maple & Brown Sugar, Cracked Black Pepper, Chicken & Bacon, Spicy 3-Pepper, Portabella, and Bacon & Ale. Whichever you choose, using the indirect reverse-sear method will result in delicious sausage that you can proudly serve to friends and family.
Written by Jill Dutton for Matcha in partnership with Big Fork Brands.