All varieties of smoked Polish kielbasa -- peppery krakowska, double-smoked weselna and garlic czosnkowa, to name a few exceptional varieties -- have one thing in common: they need a crisp, snappy skin that yields to a supple, juicy interior to taste their best.

Creating kielbasa zen -- a crispy skin that serves as yin to the meat's succulent yang -- requires a moist-heat/dry-heat grilling combination. To generate moisture in a grill, you need liquid and something to contain it -- stock or beer, and an aluminum roasting pan fill the need here. If you want to take it an extra step, add a kielbasa-friendly side, such as sauerkraut, to heat the kielbasa in. Using a side dish as a cooking medium for the kielbasa envelops them in moist heat -- a must for uniform cooking throughout. Although it's a classic pairing, you don't have to stick to sauerkraut. Check out Serious Eats' The Food Lab for a few exciting flavor variations.

After getting the kielbasas up to a safe internal temperature with moist heat, you need dry, high heat to crisp the skin -- precisely what a two-zone grill setup does. Before you start, scrape the grill grate clean and oil it liberally with vegetable oil.

Step 1: Set up the grill for two-zone heat.

  • Charcoal: Light the charcoal and let it heat until it turns ashen. Then, slide the pile over to one side of the grill using tongs or a grill scraper. If you're using a chimney starter, empty the lit coals on one side of the grill when they ash over. Close the grill cover.
  • Gas: Adjust all the gas burners to medium-high except for one of the end burners; it doesn't matter if it's on the left or right of the grill. Close the grill cover.

Step 2: Prep the kielbasas.

Mix the sauerkraut, herbs and spices. You need about 1 pound of sauerkraut and 2 cups of beer or stock for 4 large kielbasas. Add the sauerkraut mix to the roasting pan and nestle the kielbasas in it.

Step 3: Poach the kielbasas.

Set the roasting pan on the indirect-heat side of the grill. Add a few woodchips to the charcoal, if desired. Close the cover and poach the kielbasas for 20 minutes, or until they reach 150 F in the center.

Step 4: Grill the kielbasas.

Transfer the kielbasas to the direct-heat side of the grill (over the charcoal and open flame). Grill the kielbasas until charred and crisped all over, about 3 to 4 minutes total. Turn the kielbasas frequently for even cooking.


Try these traditional condiments to round out your kielbasa experience: