How to cook perfect sausages on the barbecue
Chef Adrian Richardson's guide to cooking the best BBQ sausages.
The backyard barbecue might be synonymous with Australian culture but, when it comes to cooking the perfect sausage, Aussies have hit a snag.
Should you or should you not prick the little bangers? Do you cook them on the grill or the hot plate? How often should you rotate them? And what is the correct way to assemble a sausage in bread?
To help you master the tongs, we grilled Adrian Richardson – chef, restaurateur and author of Meat: How to Choose, Cook and Eat it – for his top tips on how to barbecue the perfect sausage. He also weighs in on the Great Sausage Sandwich Debate, sharing his chef-approved guide to appropriate sausage etiquette.
Backyard barbecues and sausage sizzles are a rite of passage for many Australians.
How to cook the ultimate sausages on the barbecue
Which sausages are the best for barbecuing?
First things first. If you’re planning on having a backyard sausage sizzle, it’s important to decide which type of snag you’re going to chuck on the barbie. Beef sausages have long been traditional, but Adrian says the only prerequisite is that it must be a meat sausage. “You can make a sausage from anything with a pulse,” he says. “The key is to buy the best-quality bangers you can afford.”
Grill sins: “If it’s made from a plant-based product, it’s not a sausage,” Adrian says. “It’s a tube.”
Pro tip: If you’ve got to cater to vegan or vegetarian diets, instead of buying a plant-based tube alternative, Adrian says to get creative with vegies. Try grilling up whole zucchinis or Lebanese eggplants on the barbie instead. Drizzle them with extra-virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper before throwing them on the plate and barbecuing them whole.
Does size matter?
When it comes to the ultimate sausage sizzler, Adrian says it’s not the size that matters, but what you do with it. “Those big, thick, juicy sausages are a meal in themselves and are usually great for adults," he says. The thin sausages are great for kids.” Whether you’re going for thick or thin, Adrian says you get what you pay for. “Be prepared to pay a few extra dollars for a great sausage,” he says. “Better-quality sausages are not greasy and have a great mouthfeel. That way, everyone is happy.”
To prick or not to prick, that is the question
Whether you’re a staunch sausage pricker or anti hole puncher, Adrian says there’s nothing wrong with a little prick.
“Some people like to put a couple of small holes in their snags to stop them from exploding. This is because back in the day, butchers used to add water to their sausages, so they’d often pop if you didn’t prick them, which is why they’re called bangers,” he says. "It all depends on the fat content of the sausage."
Pro tip: When you have cheap sausages, Adrian says, there’s no need to prick them as they can become dry and shrivelled if they lose too much moisture. “But when you have good sausages you don’t need to worry about that.”
Should you prep your sausages?
Regardless of whether it’s steak or sausages you’re cooking, generally speaking with meat you should always let it come up to room temperature. “In Melbourne, this means taking them out of the fridge about 20 minutes earlier,” Adrian says. “This allows it to cook nice and evenly as the heat gets into the sausage quicker and allows it to cook a lot more consistently.”
How hot should the BBQ be?
“The best way to cook sausages is over a medium heat,” Adrian says. “But a lot of barbecues only have two temperature settings – high or very high. This means the sausages will often be burnt and crispy on the outside but end up undercooked on the inside.”
Grill sins: A burnt sausage is a badly cooked sausage.
Pro tip: If you can’t adjust your heat setting to medium, Adrian says the best way to make sure you don’t overdo it is to allow enough space on the plate to rotate the sausages around. “You want them to be crisp and golden outside and cooked all the way through the middle, but still moist and juicy.”
Cooking for vegans or vegos? Grilled zucchinis are a great plant-based sausage alternative.
Adrian says both bread rolls or plain white bread are acceptable sausage assembly etiquette.