Recipes that call for crumbled sausage can be time consuming. Whether you've bought Italian sausage in its casing or bulk chorizo that hasn't been formed into links, you still have to break up the large slabs of ground meat and spices into bits. Standing over a stove as it cooks and breaking it up with a spatula, wooden spoon or fork takes loads of time and heat tolerance. Easier ways to crumble sausage exist.
Your first step always is to remove the any casings from the sausage. From there, the method you use depends on the results you want.
Press the meat into flat patties to freeze. Once it's frozen, chop the sausage with a knife and then saute -- no need to thaw before cooking. This method yields chunks, rather than crumbles, ideal for a pasta sauce, like this penne with lemon-cream.
Crumble the sausage with your hands before adding it to the pan. Continue to break it up with a wooden spoon as you cook it over medium heat. This technique can take time, but you have control on exactly the size of your crumbles. Famed authentic Italian chef and television host Lidia Bastianich suggests adding white wine during this process to keep the sausage moist and make the process easier -- especially if you plan to use it to make a pasta sauce.
Place the sausage meat in a skillet over moderate heat and use a potato masher to break it into smaller pieces as it cooks. This method works well for dishes in which you don't mind having uneven chunks.
Cook the sausage whole -- don't worry about breaking it down when whole. Transfer the cooked sausage to a food processor and pulse a few times to achieve almost uniform crumbles. The minced sausage makes for a quality stuffed mushroom or savory mini-pie filling.