You have bought your sausages, prepared your side dishes, and set the table for the evening. Everyone is coming! But, at the last moment, you wonder how to cook Italian sausage? It’s supposed to be easy, isn’t it? Find all the tips and tricks for cooking Italian sausage here.
My love— and my family’s love— for a good, hearty meal as well as my interest in European cooking mean that we taste flavors from other cultures as often as we can. Sure, we love Vietnamese, Indonesian, Peruvian, German— but we adore a good plate of solid Italian fare.
This is why I am something of an expert on Italian sausages! I have bought them, I have cooked them, I have made them. It’s been a wild ride! As fun the learning journey is, I thought I would simplify the process for you. Here is the complete summary of all my secrets and experiences buying, making, storing, and cooking Italian sausage. After reading this, you will be an expert yourself!
What is the Italian sausage?
My family loves a good Italian sausage with sauces, bread, and potatoes on a cold evening. What is it, you ask? Well, there are many different types of sausages in Italy, but what is commonly referred to as “Italian sausage” in the US is a distinct, particular variety.
The Italian sausage is a pork-based one that is combined, in the making, with a couple of spices: fennel and anise. There are two main varieties included in the typical US Italian sausage: hot, mild, and sweet. The mild version of the US contains only the regular spices— that is, anise and fennel—, while the hot version adds one little naughty ingredient: hot red pepper pieces! The sweet Italian sausage, instead, has another ingredient added to the fennel and anise to give it its characteristic taste: sweet basil.
When you are planning your purchases and meals, think of what your general preferences are in what regards spices. Do you and your family really love a hot, spicy dish? If you do get the hot variant, what are you going to serve as a side dish? It should be something mild and soothing to counteract the strength of the red pepper.
To accompany sweet Italian sausage, you should make something with a little bite, spice, or acidity to it— think hummus, baba ganoush, or some other Middle Eastern antipasto.
How to buy Italian sausage
Throwing some Italian sausage into the mix is a sure way to make your dish stand out. It’s such an amazing taste! But how do you make sure that, if you buy your sausage, you are getting the best of the lot when you go to purchase it?
Other than making the sausage yourself, the best option to get a great Italian is to buy it from a specialized vendor. That is, someone who is dedicated to producing quality Italian foods. This way, you know you are truly getting the real thing!
If you plan to buy it at a general meat sell point, ask around. Your friends and neighbours will certainly know who has the best quality to offer. When you get to the vendor’s, you have the right to ask when and how the sausage was made and exactly what ingredients it has. Also check the surroundings for cleanliness: you always need to make sure that your meat is sanitary.
If you are purchasing the Italian sausage at a grocery store, make sure to check the sell-by date. Make this the last thing you grab before you head home: you never want to let your sausage be at room temperature for too long.
What is the best way to cook Italian sausage?
Now that you have your tasty Italian sausage and it’s safe and sound, it is time to decide how to cook it. Before you use either method, you need to thaw your sausages (if you were keeping them in the freezer). Never let them thaw on the counter, as this makes nasty germs multiply. To the contrary: get them out of the freezer and into the fridge the night before using them in your cooking. They will be thawed and safe!
There are many different methods that are used to cook Italian sausage. Here are the ones that have proven to be the most efficient in my personal experience: cooking the Italian sausages on the stove top and cooking them in the oven.
Read on to find out what steps you have to follow for each of these methods. Afterwards, you will be able to make a responsible and informed choice.
How to cook Italian sausage on stove top
The stove top is a great, simple method for beginners who want to try cooking Italian sausage. You will only need:
- The stove top
- As many sausages as you plan on eating
- A medium to large non-stick skillet that is at least 2 inches deep. Preferably, you will use one that has a fitting lid to cover it.
- One or two spoonfuls of olive oil
- A meat thermometer
- Beer (optional)
- After thawing the sausages, you can let them simmer in beer in the fridge for one hour. This will give them a very special taste! Just make sure that the beer covers the Italian sausages completely.
- Choose a skillet or pan that is medium to large: you need to consider how many sausages you are preparing. You do not want them to stick to each other while they are getting cooked.
- Pour water (about a quarter of an inch) into the pan or skillet and add one tablespoon or two of olive oil.
- Place the skillet on the stove top and heat it up for two minutes over medium heat.
- Put the sausage or sausages in the skillet, making sure that they have enough space to slide around.
- Place the lid on the skillet and let the water come to a boil.
- Bring the heat down a little.
- How long to boil Italian sausage? Let it sit in the boiling water for about fifteen minutes. You need to turn the sausage at regular intervals in order to avoid burning it.
- Then, remove the lid (you will see a lot of water has evaporated) and keep cooking the sausages for two more minutes or until their surface looks golden brown.
- Take the Italian sausages off the heat and use the meat thermometer to check their inner temperature. To be safe, they should measure at least 156 degrees F.
Not so difficult, was it? The benefits of using the stove top to cook your Italian sausages is that you can clearly see what you are doing and it is really hard to get it wrong. If you like the crunchiness of the sausages’ surface, you can also try cooking them in the oven.
Road to cooking Italian sausage in the oven
The oven is, most likely, the best method ever to cook any sort of meat. It is consistent, tasty, and healthier than other ways of cooking. And Italian sausages are no exception! You can bake these sausages to enjoy a delicious dish that is both crunchy and healthful.
To cook your Italian sausages in the oven, you will need these things:
- Whatever type of oven you own.
- As many sausages as you plan on eating today.
- A baking sheet or baking tray
- A piece of aluminium foil
- A fork
- Fresh herbs or seasonings of your choice. These can be paprika, sweet chilli, mustard, butter— whatever you wish, really.
- A meat thermometer
- Get the oven ready: Preheat it 15 minutes before putting in the sausages. It should reach 400 degrees F.
- Grab your baking tray or baking sheet and line it with aluminium foil. This distributes the heat more evenly.
- Place the sausages on the baking surface and spread them out evenly You want them to get heat on all their sides, so they can’t be touching.
- If you are adding seasonings or spices, do it now!
- Put the tray or sheet in the middle part of the preheated oven and bake, turning the sausages around every few minutes.
- While you are baking, pierce the sausages with a fork a couple of times.
- How long to cook Italian sausage? It depends on the thickness. Regular sausages will take about 22 minutes. The thicker the sausage, the longer it will take.
- Use your trusty meat thermometer to check the inner temperature of the meat for safety.
Enjoy a delicious, hearty sausage dish
Now that you have explored the methods of buying, and cooking good Italian sausage (in its various versions), you are completely capable of setting out on this cooking adventure on your own! If you have any doubts during the process, you can always bookmark and return to this page. This way, you will have the information ready and on hand.
After it is good and done, you have worked hard enough and earned your badges. Get your side dishes ready, bring out the tastiest bread and sauces, and dig in! You truly deserve it.