Thursday, February 01, 2007

Pricking sausages

There is time only for a short entry today. It concerns a subject that is an obsession of mine. I adore sausages, and I want them to be perfect every time; but the perfect method of cooking them is elusive. They require just as much care as do much grander foodstuffs.

Slow frying is my favourite technique. But I like to vary things, so at the weekend I tried slow baking, at gas mark 1/140 C, giving them an hour. After 40 minutes, it became clear that they would not be brown enough, so I turned up the oven to gas mark 4/180 C. Of course, a couple of the sausages split; and the skins toughened up.

Pricking sausages, to avoid splitting, has come to be frowned upon. It was a common recommendation in the days when the name "bangers" was applied with good reason. But I have been reading, as a result of a commission, a book called The English Breakfast, which contains reprints of three Victorian recipe books, and I came across an instruction to prick sausages all over with a needle; it got me thinking about whether this procedure is really so damaging. Of course, it allows juices to escape. But a lot of juices escape anyway, as you will know from a comparison of the size of sausages before and after cooking. Pricking prevents splitting, which is much more likely to occur, I find, than recipe writers acknowledge.


pablopatito said...

Can you ever have "the perfect method" of cooking them as every sausage (or every batch of sausages) is different and therefore would need a different method? The percentage of meat content, the type of meat, the thickness of the sausage, the thickness of the skin, other ingredients, water content etc etc. Wouldn't all these factors mean a slightly different approach to cooking? Unless you make your own? And if you end up with a poor sausage, how do you know its the result of your cooking, or just a bad sausage to start with? Is it not akin to how to pour a perfect pint of beer - it all depends on what beer it is?

Nicholas Clee said...

Yes, I have asked myself all these questions. I suppose we'd get bored if they had easy answers.

Stephen Plume (aka Sausage King) said...

Hi there

I run and some people email me with cooking tips. I agree you can't find a "perfect" method and use a variety of different methods.

Some people say putting the sausages into a pan of boiling water for 30 seconds to a minute stops them splitting. That said others have suggested ice cold water for the same!

I like Musks sausages in the oven and although our oven is a bit dodgy they seldom split (we use neither of the boiling methods described above)!



Nicholas Clee said...

I imagine that the boiling, paradoxically, eliminates some of the liquid that causes the sausages to split. What temperature do you use for oven cooking? I find that a high temperature (6/200C and above) causes the sausages to dry out and the skins to toughen, and a low temperature does not brown them.