Selection of meat grilling over the coals on a portable barbecue

Italian sausages, nearly always made from pork, are easily found in most supermarkets and butchers, and they’re a terrific addition to all kinds of casseroles and meals. Pork is one of those foods that gets a bad rap because of old misinformation – in this case, that pork needs to be “well cooked” to be safe.

If it’s been bought at a great butcher, medium is ideal on a nice pork roast, but that’s not true about pork sausages. Because of handling and preparation and the kind of pork involved, the sausage internal temp needs to be 160 degrees Fahrenheit to be safely consumed.

Pork Sausage Temperature

Italian sausages are sometimes made with turkey or chicken, in which case their cook temperature should be 165 degrees versus the 160 degrees to look for with pork, beef and lamb.

The trouble with an internal temperature is that, for starters, you need a meat thermometer, and second, you need to puncture the sausage to find out if it’s cooked. With sausages, if you puncture the skin and it’s not cooked yet, all the glorious fat and juice spills out, and the rest of the cooking will turn the sausage tough and gritty. No one wants that.

The sausage cook temp is one way to see if it’s done, but typically, if you’ve cooked the sausage long enough that you’re pretty sure it’s done, slicing the largest sausage in half is the way to guarantee it’s ready. If there’s any pink, or if the juices that run out are bloody or pink and not clear, it’s not ready. If the juices are clear, it’s good to go.

Sure-Fire Cooking Methods

When grilling sausage, it can be a hit-or-miss scenario because the grill can cook the outside faster than the inside. It’s always wise to let the sausages get to room temperature before grilling so they cook evenly and thoroughly. Within 30 to 60 minutes of sitting on an indoor counter, thawed sausages should reach room temp. Regardless of whether you're grilling or baking them in the oven, expect to cook sausages for 20 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

There’s also the simmer-and-cook method. Put your sausages in a sauce pot with some water to cover them and then put them on a medium-high stove and cook until the water reaches a gentle simmer – about six to eight minutes – and then take them off. Now, they’re ready to be fried or grilled until the skin gets caramelized and crispy.

Whatever the method for cooking plump, normal-sized (about 6 inches) Italian sausages or any other pork sausages, expect them to need about 20 minutes of cooking time. If you lower the cooking temp, such as baking the sausages at 350 instead of 400, it will take longer to cook – 25 minutes, not 20 minutes.

Other Uses for Italian Sausage

If you’re making a quick pasta sauce, squeeze little meatballs out of Italian sausages. It’s a great quickie method of making a tasty meatball, and you can size the balls anywhere from 1/2 inch for using as a pizza topping to 1 1/2-inch meatballs for spaghetti. Brown them in a little olive oil and finish cooking by topping them on a pizza before baking it, or brown them and drop them into tomato sauce to simmer for 15 or 20 minutes.

Make yourself a hearty soup. With 20 minutes left in the cooking time, add Italian sausage meatballs and cook until a test meatball is no longer pink and has clear juices.