Smoked sausage, great on the grill or in a bowl of bean soup, is a hearty combination of meat and spices usually stuffed into a casing. Since it’s almost always fully cooked, it can be added to recipes at the end and only needs a few minutes to warm up.
Smoked Sausage Basics
Smoked sausage is almost always fully cooked, and it can be eaten straight out of the package. Check the labeling – major brands in the United States such as Hillshire Farm state clearly on the label that the sausage is fully cooked.
Cooking smoked sausage adds flavor both to the sausage and the ingredients it’s cooked with. Sauerkraut, for instance, takes on the meaty, spiced flavor of the sausage.
Uncooked smoked sausage made from beef, veal, lamb or pork should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Sausage containing chicken or turkey should be cooked to 165 F. The ingredients must be listed on the label.
Unopened smoked sausage keeps for two weeks in the refrigerator and up to two months in the freezer. Once the sausage is opened, it should be used within a week.
Smoked Sausage Cooking Methods
Cook sausage using any of these methods:
- Stovetop: Fry fully cooked smoked sausage in a skillet with a little oil. Slice the sausage; cut it in half lengthwise or leave it whole.
- Braised: Saute the sausage at high heat; then cover with beer, wine or stock. Cover and cook on low heat.
- Oven: Smoked sausage in the oven takes about 10 minutes to start to brown at 425 F. Cook it whole or slice it lengthwise to expose more of the surface to the heat.
- Slow Cooker: Fully cooked smoked sausage should be added for the last 30 minutes of cooking time.
- Grill: Grill over medium-high heat, turning frequently, for 12 to 14 minutes.
Sausage Recipe Ideas
Use one of the following recipes to cook your sausage.
- In a skillet, fry sliced onions and peppers in a little bit of oil until they’re tender. Add smoked sausage and heat through. Pile the meat and vegetables into a sliced hoagie bun. Top with melted shredded cheese or mustard.
- Rinse and drain a can or jar of sauerkraut. Brown smoked sausage in a skillet and add the sauerkraut. Pour in 6 ounces of beer; cover and simmer until heated through.
- Cut small potatoes in half or, if they're larger, in quarters. Trim fresh green beans and place the potatoes and beans on a lightly greased sheet pan. Season with salt and pepper. Bake at 425 F until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Add sliced smoked sausage, return to the oven and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes, or until the sausage is heated through.
- In a slow cooker, combine quartered red potatoes, sliced carrots, chopped onion, sliced celery, two cans of navy beans and chicken broth to cover. Cover and cook on high four hours. Stir in sliced smoked sausage and cook for an additional 30 minutes.
Varieties of Smoked Sausage
Many different kinds of sausage are available, many all across the United States, although some are more popular in certain regions.
- Kielbasa: Beef and pork Polish smoked sausage seasoned with garlic and spices.
- All Beef sausage: Smoked sausage made from beef and added flavorings.
- Andouille: Made with pork, garlic, onion and wine. Used in Cajun cooking.
- Bratwurst: Pork, or pork and veal, seasoned with pepper, nutmeg and sage. German in origin.
- Frankfurters and knackwurst: All beef, or beef and pork, seasoned with salt and pepper, mustard and garlic. Knackwurst is similar, but more highly seasoned. Both are German in origin.
Native New Yorker Meg Jernigan stayed in Washington, D.C. after attending the George Washington University, and worked in the tourism industry with the National Park Service for many years. She’s a dedicated foodie with an extensive cookbook collection and years of experience in the kitchen. Jernigan’s recipes have been published online and in magazines like Southern Living.