Because you can find sausage in so many forms, from raw to cured or smoked, it brings a lot of people to ask – can you eat sausage raw?
When you bring home a package of sausages, it can be confusing when trying to tell if you need to cook them first.
Generally, sausage made from raw meat should be cooked first, while sausage that’s been preserved by curing or smoking isn’t considered raw and is safe to eat right out of the package.
This article will explain the difference between sausages that need to be cooked and sausages that don’t. Let’s dive into the details.
Are All Sausages Pre-cooked?
Not all sausages are pre-cooked, although most of them are. There are four basic types of sausage:
Fresh sausages like breakfast links, Italian sausage, sausage patties, Mexican chorizo, and some forms of bratwurst are made of chopped or ground raw meat.
Pre-cooked sausages like hot dogs, frankfurters, mortadella, bologna, and most styles of wurst, are made of meat pureed until it is very smooth, then stuffed into a casing and cooked.
These types of sausage are safe to eat fresh from the package.
Smoked sausages like kielbasa are made of chopped or minced meat, stuffed into a casing, and then hung in a smokehouse where they are exposed to low, smoky fire.
The fire flavors and preserves the sausage while cooking it. These types of sausage can be eaten directly from the package.
Cured sausages like salami, Spanish chorizo, and pepperoni are made of finely chopped meat and seasonings mixed with curing salt and then exposed to dry air for a long time.
As the meat salts and dries, it becomes preserved. Therefore, cured sausages do not require cooking before eating.
As you can see, only “fresh” sausages are sold as raw meat that requires cooking at home. It’s worth noting that even with cured and smoked sausages, some people prefer to heat or cook them to enhance their flavors or to fit certain recipes.
However, because there are so many different types of sausage, especially wursts, it’s always a good idea to read the package or check with your butcher before eating a sausage raw.
Can You Eat Sausage Without Cooking It?
Most types of sausage can be safely eaten without cooking.
Sausage that has been cured or smoked does not need to be cooked again before you eat it, and pre-cooked sausages like hot dogs or bologna can also be eaten without cooking.
Some sausages are simply raw meat blended with seasonings and should not be eaten raw.
These sausages will look and feel like raw ground meat, the casing will be thin and transparent, and the packaging will instruct you to cook it before eating.
That said, even though some sausages can be consumed without cooking, it’s essential to store them properly. Refrigeration or proper storage conditions are crucial to prevent bacterial growth and maintain the sausage’s quality.
Is It OK If Sausage Is a Little Pink?
Because sausage comes in such a wide range of colors, due to the different ingredients and preservation methods, color is an exceptionally poor way to judge whether sausage is cooked and safe to eat.
For example, some sausages will be naturally pink inside whether raw or cooked, some sausage will not change color from pink to brown during cooking, and some sausages are brown or grey whether cooked or raw.
Sausage is also often made of different types of meat blended together, some of which can safely be eaten undercooked and others should not.
To make sure that sausage is safe to eat:
- Check the ingredients
- Use a food thermometer
- Make sure that your sausage attains these temperatures based on ingredients: 145°F for pork, 165°F for chicken or turkey, or 145°F for beef
For other types of meat, check the FDA temperature recommendations.
Additionally, keep in mind that some spices or ingredients may alter the color of the meat. Always prioritize safety over appearance.
The pinkness or brownness of sausage is simply not a good indicator of how cooked it is or whether it is safe to eat. So be safe and use a food thermometer instead.
What Happens If You Eat Raw Sausage?
Eating raw or undercooked sausage usually depends on the meat the sausage is made from.
Cooking foods to the recommended temperature kills bacteria, pathogens, and parasites that may be in the food. Some of the risks from raw sausage include:
- E. coli. Raw or undercooked beef is a common source of E. coli infections
- Salmonella. Raw or undercooked poultry is a common cause of salmonella, clostridium, and campylobacter bacteria
- Listeria. This bacteria can be found in refrigerated, ready-to-eat meats unless the product has been thoroughly heated.
- Trichinella. Raw or undercooked pork is often a source of food-borne parasites like the Trichinella round work or tapeworms
Of course, not all raw meat will have these pathogens, and not everyone will get sick from ingesting them.
However, always cooking foods to the correct temperature keeps you and your family safer.
Tips for Making Sure Sausage Is Properly Cooked
To ensure your sausage is properly cooked, always use a meat or food thermometer and cook it to the recommended temperature for the type of meat in the sausage.
- The texture of the sausage will change. Cooked sausage will become firm and springy to the touch instead of soft and squishy.
- The appearance of the casing will change. If your sausage is in a casing, the raw casing will be thin and transparent, allowing you to easily see the ingredients inside. As the casing cooks, it will become more opaque, golden brown, and no longer transparent.
- Juices will run clear. Sausage is famous for the delicious juices that run out when the casing is pricked. However, these juices will be clear and not pink or red when fully cooked.
Always make sure to rest your sausages after cooking. This not only allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, ensuring it remains moist and flavorful but also lets the sausage continue to cook for a little while longer from the residual heat.
Most sausages are safe to eat fresh from the package when you get them home. However, some “fresh” sausages are raw and must be cooked before being eaten.
Knowing what type of sausage you have, and cooking it to the right temperature, helps you safely enjoy these delicious meats in a wide range of dishes.