There’s not much point in buying a fine sausage and burning the hell out of it. It takes such a lot of work and thought to make an excellent one that we need to treat them with care when they reach our kitchen.
FIRST SOURCE A GOOD SAUSAGE
– Buy a good sausage that will hold its shape and is not loaded with bread instead of pork. You’ll recognise a cheap sausage because it will burst when the bread inside expands and the spicing and flavourings will over-power any taste of pork.
– A sausage with a lower proportion of pork can often have a better texture than a sausage made from 80-90% fat but it needs to be made with meat from a juicy well-reared naturally-fed pig, not processed pork.
– Artisan sausages tend to be firmer and made with a high percentage of pork and the pork used will come from prime cuts, rather than trimmings and leftovers from other parts of the pig. You can be sure of its provenance too. They are more expensive and more meat in the sausage can mean a tighter texture than a cheaper sausage.
– When you buy a pork chop in a butcher or supermarket and it has only a thin edge of fat and is trimmed of its rind, there is a good chance that the missing fat has been used to make sausages somewhere else in the food chain.
– When you buy sausages from a butcher, ask whether they actually made them in-house – some butchers buy in sausages (sometimes they are frozen to start with).
How to eat a sausage
We think the best way to eat an Irish sausage is between sliced bread smothered with salty butter so the butter melts and dribbles down your chin though it’s also hard to beat a sausage dipped in Dijon mustard.
How to cook a sausage gently in a frying pan
Sausages need about 20 minutes to 30 minutes cooking over the lowest heat possible to become caramelised and to cook through without becoming dry.
1. Place a spoon of good oil in a pan and turn the heat to medium.
2. When the oil is hot, place the sausages in the pan, and leave for a minute or two to colour, turning once or twice.
3. When they are coloured on both sides, turn the heat down to the lowest setting and leave them to cook, checking on them every so often. Turn them only once after 8-10 minutes when they are golden on one side.
Never puncture a sausage with a fork or knife unless you want to release the oil for health reasons – it makes the sausage dry.
How to cook a sausage in the oven:
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400/Gas 6. Place the sausages on an oiled baking tray or in a baking dish. Drizzle over a little olive oil. Turn once during cooking, halfway through. It takes about 20-25 minutes. Eat immediately as they tend to go wrinkly when you leave them for a while (this is why cafés and hotels deep-fry sausages in advance so they hold their shape and don’t wrinkle when they reheat them – it ruins a good sausage).
More tips on how to cook a sausage
– If you use a stainless steel pan to cook sausages they tend to cook quicker but the caramelisation ends up on the pan.
– A non-stick pan uses less oil and the sausages hold their carmelisation.
– Cast-iron or a copper pan are the best as they allow the sausage to caramelise and you don’t need as much oil to get the colour. Don’t nudge them when they are cooking or they will stick and the flavour in the skin will end up stuck to the pan.
How to make sausages at home
If you want to try your hand at meat curing and sausage-making at home, we particularly like Michael Ruhlman’s book Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing. You can buy sausage-making attachments for your food processor and source quality sausage casings from a kind butcher.