How to Tell If Sausage is Cooked

Knowing how to tell if sausage is cooked isn’t just about a tasty meal. It’s about ensuring both safety and pork perfection in every savory bite.

This can be a bit tricky, since sausage is one of those foods that can look done on the outside but isn’t done on the inside.

The most reliable method to determine if sausage is cooked is by using a meat thermometer, aiming for an internal temperature of 160-165°F.

My table below will tell you which exact temperature within this range you want your sausage to reach based on the type of meat it has.

Goal Internal TemperatureTime to Rest
Pork Sausage160°F/71.1°C3 minutes
Beef Sausage160°F/71.1°C3 minutes
Combined Pork + Beef Sausage160°F/71.1°C3 minutes
Lamb Sausage160°F/73.8°C3 minutes
Game Sausage165°F/73.8°C3 minutes
Chicken Sausage165°F/73.8°C3 minutes
Turkey Sausage165°F/73.8°C3 minutes

Other techniques like the slice or pressure test can be used as secondary checks, with the slice test examining color and juice consistency, and the pressure test assessing firmness.

The ideal color of a fully cooked sausage varies depending on its type and ingredients, with some remaining slightly pink due to curing processes, but the internal temperature is really the primary indicator of doneness.

So, how can you tell if your sausage is cooked correctly? Let’s get into the details.

how to tell if sausage is cooked

4 Ways to Tell if Sausage is Cooked

There are several methods you can use when figuring out how to tell if sausage is cooked correctly. Here are the best ways to approach it:

1. Use a Meat Thermometer

The best way you can tell if your sausage is cooked is to check its internal temperature using a meat thermometer.

If you’re cooking pork, beef, combined pork and beef, or lamb sausage, you should cook the sausage to an internal temperature of 160°F.

For wild game (such as venison, elk, or buffalo), chicken, or turkey sausage, you want to cook the sausage to an internal temperature of 165°F.

My recommendations are consistent with what the USDA says.

It’s easiest to insert the thermometer probe into the middle of the sausage to read the internal temperature. Give it a few seconds to allow it to settle on the temperature value before taking final note of the temperature.

Regardless of where you insert it, be sure to use the same hole when re-checking the temperature so as not to pierce too many holes in the casing and risk losing too much fat and juices.

Once the sausage reaches its goal internal temperature, you can take it off the heat, and let it rest for three minutes.

Read on to learn how you can tell if sausage is cooked without a meat thermometer.

inserting thermometer probe into center of sausage to read temperature

2. Touch the Sausage

You want the sausage to be firm and bouncy, and not floppy, as a sign that it’s cooked. A curved shape to the sausage is perfectly normal.

If the sausage feels squishy or mushy to the touch, maybe even leaving a slight indent when gently pressing it with your finger, it’s undercooked.

3. Look at the Inside of the Sausage

Cut the sausage in half, and look at the color of the meat on the inside. Cooked sausage will be brown or beige in color.

Signs of red or pink mean the sausage is still raw and undercooked.

It’s ok if there’s a small amount of pink in the middle of the sausage if you’re cooking beef sausage. Pork sausage may still appear slightly pink, as that’s the natural color of this type of meat.

However, with chicken sausage or turkey sausage, there shouldn’t be any pink in the center.

See the FAQ below for more details on using color as a way to tell if sausage is cooked.

sausage cut in half on cutting board

4. Check the Sausage Juices

If the sausage is cooked, the juices will be thick and clear, not loose and watery.

Also, if the juices have a pink or reddish color, the sausage is undercooked.

Pork Perfection: How to Know When Sausage is Done

The most common mistake people make when cooking sausage is cooking it at too high a temperature.

This causes the sausage to overcook on the outside and undercook on the inside.

It also causes the casings to burst, releasing the juice from the inside of the sausage and allowing it to dry out.

Cook sausage at medium heat, keeping an eye on the cooking time, to preserve the juices and allow the inside to cook thoroughly.

Sausage should also be rested after cooking, like other meats, to preserve the juices.

Resting sausage also allows some “carryover cooking,” where the internal temperature increases gradually and completes the cooking process off of the heat.

Once your sausage has reached its goal internal temperature, take it off the heat, and place it on a cutting board or plate to rest. The resting time I recommend for all types of sausages is three minutes.

sausage resting on cutting board with juices leaking from casing


What Color Should Sausage Be When Cooked?

The ideal color of a cooked sausage depends on the type of meat in the sausage and how the sausage was made. Of course, checking the temperature is the best way to tell if sausage is thoroughly cooked, but the color is also a good indicator.

Here’s what to look for in the color of cooked sausage:

Red, Raw Sausage
If the uncooked sausage is red on the inside, the sausage most likely contains beef, lamb, or game meats. These types of meat are naturally red when raw.

This sausage should be cooked until pale pink or brown on the inside.
It could also mean that the sausage is chorizo, if it’s red. In this case, I would prioritize the internal temperature and texture to tell if it’s cooked.

Pink, Raw Sausage
Pork sausage or sausage made from poultry (like chicken or turkey) will naturally be pink on the inside when raw. This sausage should be cooked until brown on the inside.

Pink, Cured Sausage
Some sausages are cured or treated with nitrites, which causes the meat to be pink in color, and the sausage will always remain lightly pink, even when completely cooked.

Cured sausage doesn’t have to be cooked but always confirm with the directions on the packaging. If cooking cured sausage, cook it until greyish or pale pink on the inside.

Is Sausage Supposed to Be a Little Pink When Cooked?

Some sausages will always be a little pink, even when thoroughly cooked.

However, in most cases, if the sausage does not look raw and the juices are clear, it’s safe to eat sausages that are a little bit pink. If you’re unsure, always check the internal temperature to make sure it’s 160-165°F.

How to Tell if Sausage is Cooked in the Oven

Oven cooking is a great way to cook sausage because it is ideal for low and slow heating and complete cooking. An oven-cooked sausage should be golden brown on the outside and pale brown or greyish pink on the inside.

Read my complete guide to cooking sausage in the oven for more information.

How to Tell if Sausage is Cooked on the Grill

Grilling sausage imparts a unique flavor and is a popular way to make sausage.

When grilling sausage, cook it on indirect heat for low and slow cooking. Avoid high heat and allow the sausage to burst and juices to release. Grilled sausage is completely cooked when firm to the touch and has an internal temperature of at least 160°F/71.1°C.

Allowing grilled sausage to rest for at least five minutes after cooking ensures that it will cook thoroughly and remain moist and juicy.

Read my complete guide on cooking sausage on the grill for more information.

In Summary

Because sausages are made from raw meat (ground pork, especially), it’s essential to cook sausage thoroughly for food safety and avoiding food poisoning.

This applies whether you’re boiling, grilling, or baking it in the oven.

The best way to know sausage is done is to use a meat thermometer, but with practice, you will learn more about how to cook sausage and know when it is thoroughly cooked.

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