The Four Main Types of Sausages

Fresh, Cooked, Smoked, and Cured

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    Types of Sausage

    Types of sausages
    Many types of sausages. Maxmillian Ltd/Getty Images

    Sausages are made with ground meat mixed with fat, salt, and other seasonings (some also contain preservatives and/or fillers). This mixture is usually stuffed into a casing, although some fresh sausage is sold as "bulk" or formed into patties. For all that's in common, not all sausages are created equal, nor are they made the same. See what defines the four main types of sausage—fresh, pre-cooked, smoked, and cured—below.

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    Fresh Sausage

    Fresh Sausage. Molly Watson

    Fresh sausages—such as breakfast links, sausage patties, Italian sausage, bratwurst, and Mexican chorizo—are made from chopped, ground, or even pureed uncooked meat. They must be kept refrigerated or frozen until used.

    Prick the skins lightly before cooking to avoid exploding sausages. Cook fresh sausages thoroughly, until no hint of pink thinks about hanging around in the center of the sausage.

    Fresh sausages are best grilled, pan-fried, or broiled. Some types of fresh sausage—particularly "white sausages" made with veal—are traditionally poached or steamed. Fresh sausages can also be cut up or removed from their casing and crumbled in order to be sautéed and used in other dishes.

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    Pre-Cooked Sausage

    Hot dogs
    Pre-cooked sausage. Marilyn Conway/Getty Images

    Pre-cooked sausages—such as hot dogs, frankfurters, bologna, mortadella, and many German-style "wursts" (although not all, be sure to ask your butcher or sausage-maker whether a sausage is fresh or pre-cooked if you have any doubts)—are usually made with smooth, even pureed fillings. Sometimes the fillings are partially cooked before being stuffed into the casing, but in all cases, the sausage is cooked after filling.

    You still want to cook these sausages, or at least heat them up to room temperature to bring out their best flavor. They can be grilled, broiled, pan-seared, or cut up and added to other dishes. You don't need to worry about cooking them through or to temperature, though, since you're not dealing with raw meat.

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    Smoked Sausages

    Smoked sausages. Lewis Phillips/Getty Images

    Smoked sausages—such as andouille and kielbasa—are, as their name suggests, smoked to cook them. They are hung in a smoker or ​smokehouse where a cool fire is tended to burn slowly and to produce a copious amount of smoke that cooks, flavors, and preserves the sausages.

    Smoked sausage can be eaten as-is, heated, or cut up and used in other dishes. Smoked sausages, like their pre-cooked friends, are a staple of deli counters and sandwiches.

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    Cured Sausage

    Cured sausage. Image Source/Getty Images

    Cured sausages are what Italians call salumi and the French call charcuterie. They are sausages made fresh and then salted and air-dried for weeks or months depending on the type. The meat gets "cooked" by the salt and air (and, in a way, time). Spanish chorizo, coppa, and Genoa salami are just a few examples of cured sausages.

    Slice cured sausages as thinly as possible and serve at room temperature for a great appetizer, snack, or sandwich filling.