What’s the only thing worse than a curled sausage? Come on, now. I know you all can think of a thing or two. I say it’s a bent frankfurter.
My bad humor aside, let’s talk about a problem that’s plagued many BBQ enthusiasts, and even some restaurant owners I’ve talked to. How on earth do you keep your sausages from curling?
Now, I’ve got to give you a disclaimer here: I ain’t no scientist, and the only evidence I have that the tips I’m about to share work is anecdotal. But trust me when I say I’ve cooked my fair share of sausages in my time, and I’ve learned a thing or two about how to keep them straight.
Ready to dive in?
Why Sausages Curl Up When Cooked
Well, to make a long story short, sausages curl up when they’re cooked because of the proteins in the meat. You see, as the sausage cooks, the proteins in the meat unfold and shrivel, causing the sausage to tighten up in the casing.
Now, there are a thing or two that can contribute to this curling:
One is the type of sausage casing we use. Natural casings, made from the intestines of animals, are more prone to curling than artificial ones, made from synthetic materials. That’s because natural casings are more flexible and can stretch as the sausage expands during cooking, helping it curl up.
There’s also the difference between raw sausage and precooked sausage. Raw sausages are more prone to curdling, whereas precooked sausages, like hot dogs, hold their shape well when browned in a pan or on the grill.
Another factor is the cooking temperature. If we cook our sausages over too high a heat, they’re more likely to curl up. So it’s important to cook them low and slow, over medium-low to medium heat. This translates to 350°F (180°C) in the oven and indirect heat on the grill.
Ways to Keep Sausages From Curling
Fortunately, there are a few things that we can do to keep our sausages from curling up while they’re cooking.
First off, we must bring the sausages to room temperature before slapping them on the hot cooking surface. Remove them from the fridge and rest them on the countertop 15 minutes ahead.
We can also make shallow, 45-degree cuts crosswise on the sausages before we cook them up. This will help them cook evenly and prevent curling, though it will admittedly make them lose some juice.
Remember what we already discussed: It’s essential to cook the sausages low and slow, with moderate and indirect heat. High and direct heat is guaranteed to make them curdle, even if you cook them like the most careful person in the world.
We can also use a cast iron skillet or a burger weight to press down on the sausages while they’re cooking. I’ve seen some people holding them down with foil-wrapped bricks on the grill, and it’s working.
Finally, we want to turn the sausages now and then so they cook evenly and deform less.
Sausages curdle because the proteins in the meat shrink and shrivel when exposed to heat. You can’t stop this completely, but you can minimize it by bringing the sausages to room temperature, making shallow, 45-degree cuts crosswise, cooking them with gentle heat, and pressing them down with a heavy object as they hiss and sizzle.
By following these tips, you can cook sausages evenly and without having them curl up like a leather boot.