How to cook sausage in the oven that’s perfectly seared on the outside and juicy on the inside to maximize flavor.
What is Sausage?
The word sausage covers a fairly broad range of products. From tube-shaped seasoned ground meat in a casing to thin slices of pork to loose ground meat, there are sausages of all sizes and shapes. Some of the more common varieties of sausage you might encounter at a traditional grocery store include:
Sausage in a casing
This includes Italian sausages, German kielbasa, Chinese sausages, and French sausissons. This sausage is made by grinding meat with seasonings, animal fat, salt, and preservatives and stuffing it into a casing. The casing may be made with pig or cow intestine for a natural casing that minimizes waste. These sausages vary wildly in flavor from boldly spicy to herbal to gamy. They also vary in texture. For example, French sausissons and Chinese sausages tend to be aged, which hardens the sausage to a very firm texture. These sausages are shelf-stable and well-preserved.
On the other end of the spectrum are soft Italian sausages. These are soft and fresh and must be refrigerated. They often crumble out of the casing and can be broken up like ground meat. This sausage is sold both fresh (raw) or pre-cooked, in which case it just needs to be warmed up to eat.
For this article, we’re focusing on how to cook fresh sausage in a casing. Whether you like hot Italian or mild breakfast sausage is up to you.
Another fresh, raw kind of sausage is sold loose or shaped into rough patties. These are often meant for cooking like ground beef. They come in as many different flavors as the sausage in casing. The only difference is no casing. Often breakfast sausage is sold like this for making hash. Breakfast sausage is a type of sweetened sausage often flavored with maple syrup. It’s popular for breakfast in the UK and the US.
What’s the best way to cook sausage?
Depending on the variety of sausage you select, there are several different ways to cook sausage. For today’s purposes, we’re focusing on how to cook fresh Italian sausage in its casing in the oven.
Another way to cook sausage is to simply sear the meat in a hot skillet until the fat renders and the meat browns nicely. You can do this in or out of the casing, though you’ll ultimately discard the casing before serving. Another easy way to cook sausages is on the grill. This is best for large sausages that don’t risk slipping through the grill grates. It also adds a nice smokey flavor and those beautiful grill char marks.
However, by cooking your sausage in the oven, you can avoid much of the splatter and mess that occurs from the stovetop method. You also don’t have to have a grill or the nice weather to cook outdoors. Finally, it’s easy to control the cooking process when your sausage is in a stable environment like your oven. Ready to get cooking? Let’s get to the step-by-step instructions of how to cook sausage in the oven.
How to Cook Sausages in the Oven
There’s one very simple, expected ingredient to this very simple recipe: pork sausages. You can cook as many sausages as will fit on a baking sheet using the steps outlined below.
Prepping the sausage
For cooking sausage in the oven, there’s no need to prep the meat before you start cooking. If you were cooking on the stove, you may need to slice the meat into discs for searing. But we want to keep all of the delicious flavor and moisture inside the sausages we’re cooking, so leave the casing intact.
Cooking sausage in the oven
Step 1: Preheat the oven
The very first thing you have to do is turn the oven to 400°F (205°F). This high temperature quickly renders the fat in the meat for a crisp, firm texture that’s golden brown on the outside. While the oven preheats, assemble the other few pieces of equipment you’ll need.
Step 2: Get your baking sheet ready
Grab a baking sheet and line it with a piece of parchment paper. You can cook sausages without the parchment paper, but it makes for much easier clean up. Note that sausages will render fat as they cook, which will leave a greasy mess behind on your bare baking sheet.
Step 3: Place the sausage on the baking sheet
Place all the sausages you want to prepare on the baking sheet. Arrange the pieces in rows and columns, leaving a little bit of space between each sausage. If necessary, use a second baking sheet. You don’t want to overcrowd the pan, which will prevent your sausages from searing up with a nice crisp exterior. If you pile too much meat on your baking sheet, you’ll end up with limp steamed sausages.
Step 4: Put the sausages in the oven
Put the baking sheet with the sausages in the oven and cook for 30 minutes. At the 15-minute mark, flip them over with a metal spatula. This way, both sides of the sausages will develop a delicious brown crust we all know and love.
Step 5: Add time for frozen sausages
If you’re cooking frozen sausages, add a few more minutes to the cook time past 30 minutes. Add 10 to 20 minutes to the cooking time for frozen sausages.
If you are unsure whether your sausage is cooked or not, cut one in half and see if it is pink or clear-colored in the center. Pink means undercooked, clear means it’s time to eat!
Do you need to pierce the sausage’s skin before cooking?
No, in fact piercing the sausage casing before cooking lets so much of the delicious flavor and moisture inside the sausage leak right out onto your baking sheet. Preserve all of that flavor by leaving your sausage as-is.
How long does it take to cook sausage?
Thawed sausages take about 30 minutes to cook in a 400°F oven. Plan on adding an extra 10 to 20 minutes if you’re using frozen meat. There is not much prep time other than buying the sausages and putting them in the oven.
That’s the great thing about sausages! You don’t have to do much to have a great meal!
When is sausage fully cooked?
A good way to quickly check if your sausage is fully cooked is to cut into one and check the internal color. When fully cooked, your sausage is golden brown on the outside and pale on the inside. It has a firmer texture than raw. If you have a meat thermometer, insert it into the center of one sausage link. According to FoodSaftey.Gov, sausages are safe to eat when their internal temperature registers 160°F on an instant-read thermometer.
Can I Cook Frozen Sausage?
Yes! You can thoroughly cook frozen sausages in the oven. Follow the instructions above, adding an extra 10 to 20 minutes, depending on how many sausages you’re cooking. Because they’re so easy to cook from frozen, sausages are a handy protein to keep on hand in the freezer for busy weeknight dinners.
What to Serve with Sausage
Sausage makes a fast and easy dinner with a few simple sides. Since you already have the oven running, get out a second baking sheet and add some chopped cauliflower, broccoli or other favorite veggies and roast them along with the sausage. Another option is to use the stove to make a quick and easy pot of quinoa in less than 20 minutes, or farro if you have a bit of extra time. There you have it: a well-rounded healthy dinner with minimal effort and tons of flavor.
How to Cook Sausage in the Oven
- Baking sheet
- Parchment paper
- 4 Italian sausage links fresh or frozen
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the sausages on the baking sheet.
- Roast for 30 mintues for fresh and 40-50 mintues for frozen. Flip the meat halfway trhough the cook time. The sausages are done when they register 160°F on an instant-read thermometer.