You want the perfect Juicy Italian sausage with that perfect caramel color? Well you hit the jackpot since this is the best way to cook an Italian sausage and how my family has been doing it for years. What NO GRILL?? NOPE!! You lose too much flavor on the grill and when you try this method you will save that grilling thing for brats and hamburgers 🙂 Oh !! I also included a Vegan alternative suggestion and how to. Be sure once you are done making the perfect Italian sausage to check out my Italian Sausage and Peppers.
Italian sausage comes in so many flavors from hot to sweet and the real Italian delis will tell you every time that theirs is the best. Well they are correct — to a point – not that I would ever disagree with my blood line but…. Hahahaha This method of making them can even fool my elders and it has on many occasions, they have even asked me where I got my sausage from since it was the best they ever had. You have to understand that is a HUGE compliment from the elders in my family. AND I MEAN HUGE! 🙂
So if it is a true Italian deli version or good ole Johnsonville, this method of baking them will make all of them the best you have ever eaten.
I prefer Johnsonville since their seasoning is the best and closest to what I use when I make my own. The Mild and Sweet are truly perfect. This slow low temperature method of cooking them really helps make their seasonings pop while keeping them moist.
Let’s talk a bit about Deli Made Italian Sausage. If you do decide to go with this type of sausage, one thing to keep in mind is that it is fresh and I mean fresh which also means it can easily dry out in the cooking process. If not properly cooked all your savory juices will be lost very quickly with this type. When using the method below you want to be certain you add that moisture and keep an evil eye on them since they have a higher tendency to dry out faster than store bought. Nothing is worse than biting into a wonderfully cooked sausage on the outside to later find grainy dryness with every bite. YUK! So be careful when cooking fresh compared to store bought.
Vegan Alternative: Field Roast’s Italian Sausage can be found at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. Field Roast is “nicely spiced” with lots of “pepper and sage. If cooked according to package instructions, the texture is a bit crumbly and coarse but using this slow baking method, I found, adds that needed element to add moisture and oils. The brand I suggested is a great substitute – “almost like the real thing”.
What You Will Need:
½ Sheet Pan (not a cookie sheet-you need a pan that has low sides)
¼ Cup Measuring Cup
Oven Hot Pad or Mitt
A Safe Hot Surface like Trivet or another hot pad on your counter
Storage Container or Dish to serve
- 1 Package Italian Sausage (I use Johnsonville mild or sweet – I also did 24 links in demonstration)
- 1-2 Packages of Field Roast Italian Sausage – Vegan alternative ( I prefer this brand it is very close to a traditional Italian sausage)
- 1-2 Cups Water (you may need more?? or you may need less)
I will have below how to freeze, store and reheat so be sure to look for this. These can be paired up with my Frying Perfect Peppers and you will make the most amazing Italian Sausage and Peppers ever 🙂
Very LOW oven temp needed
Preheat Oven to 200°F (94°C) Convention Oven 175°F (80°C)
If you have them still frozen that is fine but you will have to run them under cold water and separate them without breaking the skin. Do NOT break that skin!! Run them under cold water and slowly and gently pull them apart. You can also just let them thaw for about 15-30 minutes before running the water over them. Frozen is actually best since there is water reserved within the sausage and will add extra moisture to them.
If thawed already proceed below.
If using Vegan alternative start with frozen it will add more juice and allows for a better slow even cooking.
Place each sausage on the ½ sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
Pour ¼ cup water evenly over the sausage, you may need more if doing 24 links. You want a bit of water on or around the sausage until they start to get golden.
Place the pan on the middle rack of your oven and start to bake. This method takes longer because of the low temp also a tad more labor intensive since you will be turning them throughout the entire baking process. Trust me, it will be worth it.
First cycle is only 10-15 minutes. For Vegan sausage only 10 minutes before following steps.
After the first 10-15 minutes you should notice the outside skin will get this white like color to it and the water may be gone. If not white skinned wait another 5 minutes before doing the next step. Vegan version, just go to next step you will not get that whitened effect.
Once they have gotten white skinned ( See below ) it is time to turn them, even if not all the water is gone.
Place the pan on the heat safe surface and using your tongs turn them to the other side.
Replace water if it appears gone. If the water is not gone just place them back in the oven.
Check them again in 15 minutes. Vegan version drizzle a little olive oil over each sausage and also add the water, check them in 10 minutes.
Repeat the above steps and replacing the water if it appears gone every 15-20 minutes. Vegan version every 10 minutes.
When you start to see them getting that golden color -it is time to stop adding water and let them get that caramel color – Keep turning them every 10-15 minutes until all sides have caramelized. Vegan style will take less time to cook also you will want to bake them just until lightly golden – they will dry out otherwise.
They are done when all sides are golden and you see the juices on the parchment paper getting a nice oily caramel color as well. DO NOT GET RID OF THOSE JUICES you will need it when they are done. Vegetarian sausages do not release a lot of juices so be sure you are adding the water and the oil periodically and what ever juices you have left over be sure to reserve.
Total time should take about 1 to 2 hours depending on the amounts you have chosen to make and if started from frozen. My time is always different, so again the idea of this blog is to teach you what to look, smell and see not work on a clock. When they are done, your house will smell amazing and the flavors will really come through, the juices will be a color of light yellow and clear and the appearance will be caramelized on all sides with areas of dark golden.
Vegan Italian Sausage will only take 30-45 minutes so keep a good eye on them.
When they are done place them on a separate dish to rest with tongs not a fork!!! Using both hands with oven hot pads tip the pan. The good juices will naturally pool to one side of the pan. Pour the juices over the sausages according to the storing directions below.
If eating right away, in a heated crock pot on low or warm, place ¼ cup water, place sausage on top of the water then pour the pan drippings over them. Lid the top and you are good to go.
To Refrigerate – let the sausage cool a bit on a dish. While the sausage is cooling get your pan drippings and place in a heat resistant cup. If you wait to do this the juices will thicken and you will not be able to get them. Once cool enough to touch, place in an airtight container and pour the juices over the top, Cover and keep refrigerated for up to 4 days. The juices will thicken even in the cup and that is ok. Just pour what you can and spoon the rest.
Do NOT throw those juices out even though you may think less fat right?? NO do not think this way those juices will plump up your sausages in the reheat so no matter what do not throw it out. In the refrigeration the sausages will shrivel slightly but in reheat they will look as if you just made them with those added juices. Why not use water you say?? Because all that flavor in the juices will be added back into the sausage that’s why. 🙂
To Freeze – Cool as if to refrigerate and place them in freezer safe container that is air tight pour juices over them. Plus ¼ cup of water. Can be kept frozen this way up to 3 months.
To Freeze Longer Term with Seal Machine – Place them on/in a plate or bowl and let them cool. Pour the juices into a cup to cool slightly. Using a seal machine, place the cooled juices in the bag first then add the sausages. Make the seal bag long enough to allow for two seals. The first seal is to allow you time to freeze them solid. Seal the very tip of the bag leaving the air in and place in freezer UPRIGHT overnight. The next day, remove the bag cut off the seal and re-seal using the vacuum and seal feature to remove all air. Place back in freezer. This method they can be stored 1½ Years
To Freeze Longer Term with Freezer Bag – Follow all the steps as stated using a seal machine except, on the first freeze, seal the bag with the zip lock or whatever closure it has. Place UPRIGHT in the freezer overnight. Next day, open the bag and press out all the air by hand and reseal the bag. Place back in freezer. Freezer bags are nice but they have a shorter life span in the freezer. This method can only be stored for 5-6 months without losing quality in the food.
If from frozen, place in Nesco or crock pot and place on low, be sure to get all the juices you stored plus add 1 cup of water, cover and let them go for about 1 ½ hours be sure to move them around half way through the heating up cycle. Depending on the amount, it could take less time.
If from refrigerated, place them on oven safe dish with cover add ¼ cup water and heat in a 325°F oven for 30 minutes or until Hot
Microwave would be the same as the oven method only you would heat them at 3 minute intervals and move them around between each 3 minute heat cycle continue until hot