Whether grilled on a barbecue, part of a hearty soup or served with eggs and hash browns, sausages are the perfect addition to any meal. They’re one of the most dynamic and tasty foods that feature in cuisines all around the world. From bratwurst to breakfast, saveloy to salami, every country seems to have its own twist on the humble sausage. For our money though, few are more versatile or more delicious than Kielbasa. Join us as we take a closer look at Kielbasa and how best to cook this traditional Polish sausage.
What is Kielbasa?
Kielbasa simply means “sausage” in Polish, and is perhaps one of the most famous staples of Polish cuisine.
Kielbasa is packed with flavor, usually with a distinctive garlic taste and additional notes in the mix like a bit of smoke, cloves, and marjoram. It’s usually made with pork but can sometimes feature a combination of pork and beef.
One of the best things about Kielbasa is that it’s a truly versatile sausage – whatever your tastes, there’s sure to be a variety that suits you. Timeout lists 13 types of Kielbasa! In the United States, the sausage that most people know as ‘Kielbasa’ is a variety called Kiełbasa Starowiejska – meaning ‘Old Town Sausage’.
If you’d like to try something a bit different, here are some of our recommended varieties of Polish sausage to try:
Known as hunters’ sausage, myśliwska are dried sausages made from pork with a touch of juniper for seasoning. They take their name from the fact that they were ideal sustenance for hunters who were away from home on long expeditions. Still hugely popular today, they can be enjoyed hot or cold.
Originating from Krakow, these sausages are thick and lightly smoked. One of the most popular varieties of Kielbasa, they are ideal for slicing and eating in a sandwich.
Also referred to as ‘country style’ sausage. Heavily flavoured with garlic, these sausages are made from pork and formed into a ‘U’ shape.
Another type of dried sausage, kabanos are long and thin stick sausages made from pork and seasoned with salt and garlic. They have a tough consistency and can be eaten hot or cold.
Whichever variety you choose, there are 5 main ways to prepare Polish sausage:
- Slow Cooking
Read on as we take a look at how to cook Polish sausage in each of these ways.
Boiling Polish Sausage
This method is the most hands-off approach and perhaps the healthiest as you avoid using any extra oils to cook the Polish sausage. All you need for the bare basics of this method is a large soup pot full of water and the sausages themselves. However, if you want to add a bit more flavor you can improve the taste of the Polish sausages by adding some extra touches:
- A pinch of smashed garlic cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- A few peppercorns
- 1 quartered onion
- 1 teaspoon of marjoram
To boil Polish sausage, simply follow these steps:
- Fill the pot ⅔ full with water and add the additional seasonings to the pot.
- Place the pot over a stove on a high heat and bring to the boil.
- Once the water has started to boil, add the Kielbasa. Reduce the stove to a medium-low heat.
- Allow the pot to simmer until the sausage is cooked.
- Serve whilst still hot and enjoy!
Baking Polish Sausage
Baking is another pretty simple and hands-off method to cook Polish Sausage. All you need for this method is your choice of Polish sausages, foil and mustard for serving.
To bake your Kielbasa to perfection, simply do the following:
- Preheat your oven to 400°F.
- Line a baking tray with foil, top it with parchment and then use a fork to poke holes into the sausages. Transfer them to the tray and pull up the sides of the foil to make a well.
- Place the tray in the oven and leave for about 20 minutes, or when the skin of the Polish sausages is crackling and starting to brown. Then, flip them over and cook for another 20 minutes or until the rest of the sausage is a dark golden brown.
- Remove from the oven, slice and serve. We recommend pairing with a tasty mustard.
Frying Polish Sausage
This is probably the most common and convenient way to cook Polish sausages. The texture and flavor can change depending oh how exactly you fry them. You can cook them whole with a little bit of water in the pan, slice them down the middle like a butterfly, or you can cut them into smaller pieces. But, no matter which way you do it, the process is the same. The sausages, water, and a small amount of oil are all you need.
Follow these steps to enjoy fried Polish sausage:
- Put about ¼ inch of water in the pan and turn to medium heat.
- Place the sliced sausages into the pan. If you are cooking them whole, use a fork to poke holes into the sausage.
- Simmer until the water evaporates which usually 10-15 minutes, depending on how much water you use.
- Add some oil to the pan.
- Fry sausages until golden brown.
After frying them to browned, juicy perfection you can add them to soups, stews, or gumbo!
Slow Cooking Polish Sausage
As the name not-so-subtly implies, this isn’t the quickest method of preparation but you will be rewarded with some of the tastiest dang sausages you’ve ever had. The exact process will vary from recipe to recipe, but all will involve adding the Polish sausages to a crockpot, slow cooker, or even just a covered pot, mixing in the required ingredients and allowing to sit for hours.
Whatever recipe you choose, here’s the basics of how to prepare Kielbasa in a slow cooker:
- Chop the sausages into thick slices.
- Bring the slow cooker up to a medium heat.
- Mix together the ingredients of the sauce and add to the slow cooker. Season with any additional flavorings.
- Pop in the sliced sausage and leave to cook. The longer you can leave them the better the flavor – we recommend a minimum of 5 hours if possible.
If you’re keen to try out slow cooked Polish sausage there’s a wide range of great recipes over at Yummly to try out or to get inspired by!
Grilling Polish Sausage
There are only a handful of things better in this world than a good barbecued Polish sausage on a summer day. It is no surprise then, that grilling is the traditional method of preparing a Polish sausage. So, if you want to do as the Polish do, make sure to grill your Kielbasa!
Whilst you might think it is as simple as throwing the raw sausages on the grill, it isn’t quite that easy. While you certainly can do that, it will take much, much longer doing it that way. To reduce the cooking time from 45 minutes to 5-10 minutes, make sure the sausages are boiled beforehand. You can do this just before you throw them onto the grill or, if you’re feeling super organized you can prepare them earlier in the day or even the day before.
Here’s the best way to grill Polish sausage:
- Use a paper towel to apply some oil to the bars of the grill so they don’t stick.
- Turn the grill on a medium heat, and allow the to warm.
- Once ready, place the sausages on the grill, closing the cover to allow for proper circulation.
- Leave to cook for 4 minutes.
- Flip sausages and cook for 4 more minutes until browned.