Even though it might seem that cooking Italian sausage is easy, there are some tips that can be used to help keep the sausages moist while also preserving the maximum amount of flavor. Ensuring that the casings do not break and that enough moisture is able to reach the meat can both contribute to a plump and moist sausage. Combining different cooking methods also can help to prevent burning from direct heat when pan frying or grilling. Finally, when working with Italian sausage, keeping the heat low can make a large difference, because it will give the sausage time to develop flavor and the spices inside — especially with hot Italian sausages — the opportunity to develop and add taste to the meat.
One consideration when cooking Italian sausage is the integrity of the casings. If the sausages are going to be used in recipes such as Italian sausage soup, then it could be advantageous to pierce the casings and allow some of the juice and fat inside the links to drain out. In most cases, however, the fat and moisture in the sausages are needed to add flavor and texture. Cooking sausages over high heat can cause pressure inside the links that will eventually burst the casings. Using sharp forks or knives to turn and move the sausages also can cause the fat to drip out, removing some of the flavor.
When making Italian sausage in a skillet, one way to prevent them from sticking and to make sure they are moist and fully cooked is to place a shallow layer of water in the pan. The water will create steam to help cook the sausage, as well as keeping the fat from pooling on the surface of the pan and burning. Once the water has evaporated, the sausage can be fried to develop color on the surface. The same method can be used when broiling Italian sausages.
Cooking Italian sausage on a grill is best done with a two-step process. First, the sausages should be grilled over direct heat to develop some color on the outside. After a few minutes, they can be placed in a cooler area of the grill and allowed to slowly roast until they are done. This prevents excess heat from burning the outside while the inside remains uncooked.
No matter what method is used for cooking Italian sausage, one tip is to poach the sausages first. By placing the sausages in gently simmering water for just a few minutes, they can be cooked most of the way through while also raising the temperature of the meat so they brown easier in a pan or on the grill. Poaching also can be used as a complete cooking method, although the process can take upwards of an hour in some cases.