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Whenever I go to a BBQ and sausages are cooking, the chef will always prick the sausages while they are cooking. I have no idea what this does, I assume it's to get the fat out, however I recently read that you should never prick sausages as it results in them being dry inside?

So my question is, should I prick sausages with a fork or knife during cooking?

1
  • Some of these answers consider fresh sausage and some consider emulsified sausage. You really do get different ideas depending on what type of sausage you are working with.
    – Neil Meyer
    Aug 9 at 11:42
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I'd say no never prick the sausages if you can help it. the fat inside helps to keep them succulent and moist, and if you have a problem with the splitting and are pricking them to release the pressure as was stated by @foodrules, then I'd say you are cooking them over too high a heat. Lower the heat, or if you are BBQing move them further from the source, then you will get to have unsplit, moist sausages. When pan frying I prefer a very low heat for a long time. This allows a delicious sticky crust to develop on the outside of the sausages. mmm...

If they were meant to be pricked why would they not come pre pricked?

1
  • Exactly right - I fry sausages in very little oil, on the lowest flame I can get, for an hour or so. I'd aim for an equivalent on a BBQ.
    – slim
    Jan 14 '11 at 11:47
15

Here in Argentina is very common to bbq LOTS of sausages for big parties. Just for reference:

alt text

To ease the work of turning them, we usually hold them together with metal skewers, that also serve the purpose of draining the fat:

alt text

But if you don't prick them (besides of the aforementioned holes), they usually EXPLODE.
Note: here the skins are usually made from cow guts

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  • @GUI Junkie Humbly, one here :) ... You really learn how to BBQ after facing a party of 100 starving guests. You learn for example that you should prick the "chorizos" as late as possible allowing the fat to melt well and fry the meat "from inside". The second photo shows clearly a stack: the upper sausages are kept hot but will not be put on high fire to finish them until pricked. Nov 2 '10 at 0:59
  • All I've had all day is pretzels, and I have to come across this photo? Mmmmm...
    – ceejayoz
    Nov 4 '10 at 21:45
  • BTW nobody asked what the guys are drinking in the photograph :) Nov 16 '10 at 16:02
  • @belisarius: What are the guys drinking in the photograph? :)
    – user6132
    Jun 3 '11 at 21:40
  • 2
    @yoda Mate. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yerba_mat%C3%A9 Jun 3 '11 at 21:41
14

A very simple answer why you prick sausages. When the sausages get heated up, the fat content and also air pressure inside start to grow. Pricking sausgaes allow the air and fat to be 'released', otherwise, the skin of the sausages will start to crack which eventually will result in losing more juice and 'fat'.

Yes, Pricking may lead to dry sausages, so you don't have to overdo it and also use the small toothpick to do it which will reduce the damages.

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  • Just a week ago I've eaten one that had the toothpick still sticking in the sausage. Maybe that helps keeping it from cracking while not letting it dry out. Nov 1 '10 at 11:38
  • I never prick sausages and they never split either. If you cook them at the correct temperature and monitor them, they should not split.
    – connersz
    Jun 23 '15 at 15:26
  • A lot of sausages today don't have traditional skins, so build-up of steam and air isn't the same issue.
    – Stuart F
    Aug 3 at 11:31
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    It's no coincidence that one British name for sausages is "bangers" - if you have a sausage with a traditional, animal-based skin and you get it to a high temperature without first pricking the skin, it can actually explode. Pricking's a non-issue with most sausages now as the "skin" isn't made from animal guts any more, but beware the artisan butcher with his traditional methods.
    – Spratty
    Aug 3 at 15:57
  • @Spratty the reason that artificial casings have to be used is that an animal does not produce enough intestines to make all the sausage from it own meat. It is also quite skill intensive and arduous job cleaning guts. Cooking guts gives a smell that leads most rational people converting to veganism. It is often not worth it for the butcher.
    – Neil Meyer
    Aug 9 at 11:49
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I always do when pan-frying - it's astonishing how much fat comes out. I prefer the resulting texture. Barbequed sausages really can't be pricked much because of flareups, and I usually try to eat something else if I have a choice, because I find them too greasy. Perhaps my "just right" is someone else's "too dry" - it's certainly true that pricking them makes a very noticeable difference.

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  • 1
    The flares are avoided with a well designed barbecue Jun 3 '11 at 21:48
  • I have often cooked boerewors on a high grill, you just need to turn them often and constantly watch them. It does make the cooking process harder than it needs to be but sometimes the hungry guest don't want to wait for the coals to calm down.
    – Neil Meyer
    Aug 9 at 11:52
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I think the whole point of putting the fat into the sausages is having the meat cook in it. I would prick them as little as possible.

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If you prick your sausages, you are in the wrong.

It defeats the purpose of fat in there in the first place.

If you prick them, they dry out. If the casings burst, you're cooking on too high a heat.

Cook on a lower heat for an extended time, and the casings caramelise... oh mama!

Do not season with salt or pepper before you cook them, the salt will draw the moisture towards the surface, and evaporate during cooking. Season AFTER they have been cooked.

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There is an important distinction to be made between emulsified sausage and fresh sausage. Boerewors the national sausage of my homeland is a fresh sausage. You don't break the casing unless you want to chew on a metaphorical car tire.

For the many different types of emulsified sausage from the German tradition this less of a concern because the fat is already emulsified in the meat. You just poke a few whole so that the whole casing does not break, but then again you get many hot dog shops that break Frank's in halves on your bun. Depends on the style.

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Never prick a sausage. All that effort of keeping the meat cold to avoid fat not melting during seasoning and casing process will be all for nothing.

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