Kielbasa is a Polish smoked sausage, which is why you'll sometimes see it called "Polska kielbasa," as "Polska" is the Polish word for "Poland." This type of sausage is almost always sold fully cooked in the United States, so you only need to heat it up and not actually cook it. It's easy to do using all sorts of cooking methods, but making simmered or fried kielbasa in a pan is a good option for getting it done quickly without resorting to the microwave, which can make sausage a bit dry and rubbery.
Preparing Polska Kielbasa in a Pan
There are plenty of quick and easy kielbasa recipes for any meal. You can add it to so many things, like eggs, rice, quinoa, beans, pasta and potatoes, to name just a few possibilities. In most cases, this works best if you cut the sausage into equal-size coins or cubes. Since it's precooked, you can do this without sacrificing the juices inside.
Simmered kielbasa is a good option for turning out moist pieces going into drier dishes. Fill a pan with a high rim or a saucepan with enough water, broth, stock or beer to cover the sausage. Bring it to a boil over high heat and then add the cut-up kielbasa to the pan. Turn the heat down to low and simmer the sausage for about three minutes.
Sauteed or fried kielbasa gets you nicely browned sausage with a little more crispness. Preheat a pan coated with cooking oil or butter over medium-high heat and then toss in the pieces of kielbasa. Heat them for about two minutes, stirring and flipping occasionally. If you want, add some garlic, onion, bell pepper or other ingredients into the pan (some may need to start a little sooner than the kielbasa).
Thawing Frozen Kielbasa
When you have frozen kielbasa, it's preferable to defrost it before cooking it. This is especially true if you intend to saute or fry it. With other methods, like simmering it in a liquid or heating it in the oven, you can cook it straight from frozen if you want – just tack on about 50 percent more cooking time.
If you planned ahead, move the frozen sausage into the refrigerator 24 hours ahead of time to thaw. You can also get it done within a couple of hours by submerging it in cold water in leak-proof packaging and changing the water for new, colder water every half hour. If you're really in a rush and need to thaw within a few minutes, use your microwave's defrost function.
Cooking Raw Kielbasa in a Pan
If you happen to have kielbasa that didn't come precooked, you'll have to pay attention to safely cooking it. When dealing with raw sausage, it's better to cook it whole so you don't lose a lot of the fat and juices inside, as they provide moisture and flavor. You need to cook them gently to avoid bursting the casing, which also lets that good stuff ooze out.
Submerge raw kielbasa in cold water, broth, stock or beer in a pan or saucepan and place it on a burner over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to low. Continue simmering until the sausage reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit at the center, which you should check with a meat thermometer. Kielbasa is traditionally made with pork and/or beef, but if yours contains any poultry, cook it to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. This should take around 8 to 10 minutes in total.
Alternatively, saute or fry raw kielbasa in a coated pan over medium-low heat. Turn it frequently, cooking for about 8 to 10 minutes until it reaches the safe temperature. You can also combine simmering and frying for easy, even cooking with added color and crispness. Simmer as described to cook the kielbasa fully and then pat it dry, cut it into coins or cubes and saute or fry it until nicely browned.
- The Cook's Thesaurus: Sausages
- Cooking Light: How to Cook Kielbasa Sausage
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service: Sausages and Food Safety
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service: The Big Thaw - Safe Defrosting Methods for Consumers
- Bon Appetit: How to Cook Sausages So They're Not Weirdly Raw Inside (or Burnt)
Eric Mohrman is a food and drink, lifestyle, and travel writer living in Orlando, Florida. He spent 10 years working front- and back-of-house in restaurants, adding professional experience to his love of eating and cooking. His stories on food and beverage topics have appeared in numerous print and web publications, including Visit Florida, Orlando Style Magazine, CrushBrew Magazine, Agent Magazine, Dollar Stretcher Magazine, The 863 Magazine and others.