How to Grill Up the Perfect (Raw) Sausage

by Uncle John

Sausage is a great year-round delicacy (yes, we may be biased), but grilling seems to have an extra appeal during summer and fall. Backyard cookouts, beach parties, tailgating… grill masters are out enjoying the weather and festivities with their grill in tow. There are dozens of pro-tips and personal techniques out there, but we’ve got our favorites. And we’d love to share them with you!

For those of you who want to keep it easy, try one our Uncle John’s Pride ready-to-eat sausages. Grilling a ready-to-eat sausage just heats it up and adds some flavor and texture (that snap!). Grilling a raw sausage though takes a little more care and prep to ensure the sausage is delicious, juicy and most importantly – fully cooked!

How should I prepare the sausage before grilling?
Bring your sausage to room temperature before cooking. Cooking a frozen sausage can be messy, or downright explosive! Many experts suggest boiling, poaching or simmering the sausage first to make sure it’s partially or fully cooked – which is never a bad idea. If you choose to do so, put your sausages into a pot or saucepan with just enough water to cover them. Boil on medium-high heat for 6-8 minutes, then take them out and place them on a paper towel to dry. They should be close to fully cooked now (despite their gray appearance – grilling them will take care of that). We don’t recommend eating them just yet; get them on the grill to finish the job to get that perfect crisp, char, and smoky flavor.

Should I thaw frozen sausages in warm water overnight?
You shouldn’t thaw frozen sausage overnight in warm water. This can open the door to unwanted bacteria. It’s better to thaw the sausage out in your fridge first, then bring to room temperature before firing up the grill.

Should I score, prick or split the sausage for grilling?
For the juiciest outcome, we don’t suggest splitting, pricking, or scoring an uncooked sausage when grilling. Some folks choose to prick it a bit as a preventative measure from splitting or exploding, but remember, every hole in the casing allows for juices to escape into the grill below. If your uncooked sausage splits (or worse) when grilling, that means you probably have the heat a bit too high. If you’ve decided to take the extra step to poach, boil or simmer them to cook them first, there’s even less reason to puncture the casing.

What level of heat should the sausage be grilled?
It’s not a bad idea to boil raw sausages first to make sure the meat at the center is fully cooked before tossing them on the grill to get that perfect caramelized color and smoky flavor.

Our motto: don’t scorch it! High heat on an uncooked sausage can be volatile – nobody wants that. On high heat, the sausage can become completely split, scorched on the outside and still be cold and uncooked on the inside. For those who choose to boil or simmer the sausage first, high heat threatens to burn and dry out the sausage.

Low-medium heat is where you need to be. That especially applies if you boiled or simmered it before. When grilling with charcoal, keep the sausage over areas of your grill that are on the low-medium end as far as heat goes. It’s also important not to keep an uncooked sausage on very low heat for too long either. The result is often a colorless sausage with a shriveled casing. This happens when the inside cooks and expands before the outside gets to that caramelized brown color. Even though the sausage may appear plump and juicy, when the meat inside cools and contracts, the stretched casing will shrivel up and hang off the sausage.

How long should I grill an uncooked sausage?
Ideally, sausage should be on the grill for about 15 minutes on low-medium heat. Gas grilling is a bit more accurate so grilling with charcoal may require a bit more of a learning curve. Keep an eye on your meat as leaving the sausage on too long can cause them to become burned or split. It’s a good idea to remove the sausage from your grill just about five degrees below your desired internal temperature (we recommend 160 °F) so that the heat remaining inside will continue to cook the sausage to the perfect temperature for eating.

Finishing touches?
We recommend letting your sausage rest in a warm spot before taking that first bite. Usually the rule of thumb is 5-10 minutes. The resting process allows all the juices to settle into the meat, resulting in an even more enjoyable sausage. How you dress up your sausage is up to you! Bun or no bun? Ketchup, mustard or both? Peppers and onions? The possibilities are endless. Enjoy!

It’s our hope that with these tips, you can grill the perfect sausage for you and your family.

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