I am a huge fan of sausages and I would personally be more inclined to put a sausage on the grill than a chicken breast… it may be a chicken sausage, but a sausage nonetheless. I love the way they snap when you bite into them and the bigger bonus of knowing that it’s cooked properly when it squirts out a bunch of juice with that first bite. I think most people are scared of under cooking sausages, so they go the other way and and end up with shriveled and dry, chewy encased ground meat. The other big mistake is trying to cook them too fast or throw them on a high-heat grill next to the burgers which results in burst casings and, again, dried out meat.
How-To Grill Sausages
I like to employ both indirect and direct moderate heat to cook sausages. It may take a little longer, but the results are measurably better. So set up your grill for indirect cooking over medium to medium-high heat. I like to put a drip pan beneath the grate where the sausages will sit, for a couple reasons; the obvious being that it will catch any drippings from the sausage (after all they are made with up to 20% fat in the mince). The other reason is that I often like to put some grilled onions and/or peppers along with some beer or broth. The moisture helps in keeping the casings from drying out and bursting. Starting with indirect heat ensures that the sausage will be cooked through and remain juicy. (see Grill Skill: Onions)
[TIP: using an instant read thermometer indicates that you care about what your cooking and want to serve great food! I’ve been cooking for way too many years and I can’t squeeze a sausage and know when the inside has hit 145°F for a pork sausage (165°F for chicken or turkey). Bull makes one of my favorite instant-read thermometers (and not just because I write this blog). It has a nice big display and the best part for me is that it shuts itself off even when you forget to close it. :-) So man-up and use an instant-read thermometer.]
Cook the sausages over indirect heat for anywhere from 20 minutes to 40 minutes depending on how big the sausages are and how hot your grill is. Flip them halfway through. Once the internal temperature is with 5 to 10 degrees of the finished temperature (145°F for a pork sausage; 165°F for chicken or turkey), move them to the direct side of the grill. NOTE: to test the temperature of a sausage, stick the probe into one of the ends of the sausage, do not puncture the side of the casing or you’ll risk having a sausage on the grill spitting out a thin stream of juice. Continue grilling 3 to 4 minutes per side over direct heat to color and give the sausages a little char… both the color and the char are FLAVOR!
Once you have moved the sausages to the direct side of the grill and if you have added onions and beer to your drip pan, carefully move it topside. This will give the sausages a nice warm place to stay moist and plump and keep from drying out… plus more flavor.
Remember that even though sausages are stuffed with ground meat, they do not cook like a hamburger. For plump, juicy sausages that snap when you bite into them, don’t rush them over high heat. Keep the heat moderate and start them off nice and slow.
Cheers and Happy Grilling!