Sausage is a staple dish in many countries around the world.
It’s made from ground meat like beef, pork, or poultry, in combination with salt, spices, and other flavorings. It may also contain fillers, such as breadcrumbs or grains.
These ingredients are packed into a casing, or skin, that’s made from intestine or other materials like collagen and cellulose.
Interestingly, the way that you cook sausages changes their nutritional composition, which means that some cooking techniques are better for your health than others. Other methods may even increase your exposure to toxic compounds.
Thus, you may wonder about the best ways to prepare this scrumptious dish.
This article explores the healthiest ways to cook sausages.
Sausages are a versatile food that can be cooked in many ways. Here’s an overview of some of the most popular methods.
Boiling is one of the easiest ways to make sausage links at home.
To boil sausages, simply place them one by one into a pot of boiling water and let them simmer. Pre-cooked sausages take around 10 minutes, whereas raw ones may take up to 30 minutes.
Keep in mind that boiled sausages won’t be brown and crispy on the outside. However, you can brown them afterward in a frying pan with a little bit of oil.
Remember that only sausage links — not patties — can be boiled. Patties are better prepared using some of the other methods below.
Grilling and broiling
Grilling and broiling are both high-temperature cooking methods that use dry heat. Their key difference is that the heat source is below the food for grilling but above for broiling.
To grill sausages, simply place them onto a grill and cook them for 8–12 minutes, turning them every few minutes until they’re evenly colored.
For broiling, place them on a broiler pan in the oven and set its function to broil. Cook them for 5 minutes before turning and cooking them for another 5 minutes.
It’s worth noting that the high temperatures involved in both grilling and broiling can cause the formation of potentially harmful compounds, such as heterocyclic amines (HAs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and advanced glycation end products (AGEs) (
Pan-frying and stir-frying
Pan- and stir-frying involve high-temperature cooking in a skillet, wok, or pot. While stir-frying entails continuously flipping or stirring sausages as they cook, pan-frying typically doesn’t.
To pan- or stir-fry sausages, simply cook them on the stovetop with a little oil until they’re brown on both sides. Depending on their size, this takes 10–15 minutes.
Healthy oil options include coconut, olive, and avocado oils, as well as butter, as they hold up well at moderate to high temperatures and are rich in micronutrients.
You can check whether your sausages are done by cutting into one at the center. If the meat is firm, it’s ready, but if it’s pink and runny, it needs more time. Slicing or butterflying the sausages can reduce cooking time.
Like grilling and broiling, pan- or stir-frying sausages for too long can increase the risk of HA, PAH, and AGE formation.
Deep frying involves completely immersing a food in fat during cooking. In most cases, sausages are breaded beforehand.
To deep-fry sausages, dip them in an egg wash — a combination of beaten eggs and either water, cream, or milk — then coat them in a breadcrumb mixture or batter.
Pour a healthy oil like coconut, olive, or avocado oil into a deep fryer and heat to 375°F (190°C). Fry the sausages for 5 minutes or until cooked through.
The above oils are ideal for deep frying because they tend to have a moderate to high smoke point and are less processed than other options.
Although deep-fried sausages are scrumptious, this method significantly increases their total amount of fat and calories. Moreover, deep frying may increase the risk of HAs, PAHs, and AGEs.
As such, if you’re watching your weight, calorie intake, or general health, you may want to avoid deep-fried sausages.
Baking is a great way to make crispy sausages, especially in larger quantities.
First, preheat the oven to 355°F (180°C) and place the sausages on a pan. Bake them for 15–20 minutes for smaller sausages or 30–40 minutes for larger ones, turning them halfway through to help them brown evenly and cook thoroughly.
If you find that your sausages dry out too easily in the oven, try boiling them beforehand. This can help them stay juicy on the inside after cooking.
There are many ways to cook sausages. Some of the most popular methods are boiling, pan-frying, stir-frying, grilling, broiling, deep frying, and baking.
Cooking methods affect your health in various ways.
The healthiest cooking methods are boiling and baking, as these require little to no oils and are less likely to generate harmful compounds. On the other hand, deep frying is the least healthy technique due to its excess fats and calories.
Pan- and stir-frying are good options if you use a good quality oil, such as olive or coconut oil, and don’t overcook.
Meanwhile, grilling, broiling, and deep frying have been linked to the formation of dangerous compounds like HAs, PAHs, and AGEs, which may cause various chronic diseases, including cancer.
All the same, research suggests that you can reduce the amount of harmful compounds by scraping away drippings (the fat that emerges during cooking), avoiding charring or blackening, and using healthy fats like coconut, olive, and avocado oils (
If you’re worried about overcooking sausages, try boiling them beforehand to help them stay moist. That way, you won’t need to cook them as long when you switch to another method.
How to tell when sausages are done
Undercooking sausage is a common problem.
Even though the sausage may be crispy on the outside, the inside may still be raw.
To determine whether it’s done, you can measure the internal temperature with a meat thermometer. Sausages should reach 155–165°F (68–74°C).
Alternatively, boiling them before cooking in a pan or on a grill can ensure that they’re thoroughly cooked and remain moist.
Boiling and baking are the healthiest ways to cook sausage, whereas deep frying is the least healthy due to the added fats and calories it involves.
Though sausages are tasty, they aren’t the healthiest meat option.
They’re a type of processed meat, which means that they’re preserved through curing, smoking, salting, drying, or other methods.
For example, a review of 20 studies in over 1.2 million people associated processed — but not unprocessed — meat consumption with a 42% higher risk of heart disease (
However, these studies don’t show that processed meat causes these conditions. They only show an association between them.
Furthermore, research demonstrates that people who eat processed meats regularly tend to have less healthy lifestyles (
That said, you can still enjoy sausages from time to time. Just be sure to avoid overcooking them to reduce the risk of HA, PAH, and AGE formation.
For a healthier twist, try eating sausages with vegetables to add fiber and micronutrients to your meal.
If possible, choose products that have a meat percentage of 85% or more on the label, as these contain less fat and fewer fillers (15).
As processed meat products, sausages may increase your risk of several diseases. However, you can minimize this risk by cooking them properly and choosing healthier types.
Sausages can be cooked in numerous ways.
In general, boiling and baking are the healthiest methods, as they don’t require much oil. However, pan- and stir-frying are good options as long as you choose a healthy oil.
Conversely, deep frying is the least healthy way because of the fat and calories it adds.
Whichever cooking method you choose, try not to char or burn your sausages — as this can create harmful compounds.
Keep in mind that sausages and other processed meats have been linked to an increased risk of several diseases, including cancer. As such, you may want to limit your intake.