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How to Grill Perfect BBQ Sausages Using Indirect Heat

Updated on March 17, 2016

Indirect heat, the secret to perfect BBQ sausages.

Smoky browned BBQ sausages are a summertime treat, and the smoky heat of the grill is one the best possible ways to flavor a fresh sausage. Sausages are a great weekday BBQ meal too, as they require so little preparation and a flavorful dinner can be on the table in literally minutes. Too often though, grilled sausages turn out dry and flavorless, due to incorrect or un careful cooking, and, people tend to cook sausages for far too long. Because a sausage is a ground meat product, it does need to be cooked thoroughly to an interior temperature of 160 degrees, but no more than that.

If you cook a sausage over direct heat, the heat of the flames will quickly bring the juices of the interior of the sausage past the boiling point, and this will cause the sausage to split, and all of those flavorful juices to run out of sausage, and onto the flames, creating troublesome flare ups.

A much better way to BBQ a sausage is through indirect heat, sort of a smoky roasting of the sausages.

Give the sausages a minute or two over high heat, with the heat cranked up, to color and start to brown the meat. After a minute or so on both sides, turn the heat down to medium on one side, and off on the other side. Arrange your sausages on the grill, as far from the heat source as possible, and close the lid, and allow to BBQ roast.

The sausages will cook in 10 to 15 minutes, depending on their thickness. It's very handy to have an instant read thermometer here, so you can get these off the grill once an interior temperature of 160 degrees is reached.

The difference between a carefully cooked, juicy and tender sausage, and a high heat grilled, split open, dry and over cooked sausage is incredible, and the indirect method is also the easier way to cook these backyard treats.

Serve with good rolls, lots of chopped onion, sauerkraut, a few varieties of mustard, and I even like a little mayo (because sausages just don't have quite enough fat!) on my monstrous sausage roll creation!

If you are looking for an even easier way to cook your sausages, that will also turn out a great perfectly cooked product, you can first poach the sausages until the internal temperature has almost reached 160, and then transfer to the grill for a last couple of minutes of high heat browning.

When poaching water, heat a large pot of water to a very gentle heat, below even a simmer, and never a boil. If you heat the water as hot as a boil, it will also cause the sausages to rupture, spill their juices, and create a dry and bland sausage. About 170 degrees is perfect. Let poach for about 8 minutes, and transfer to the grill for browning. This method is pretty good, and will allow for perfectly cooked sausages, but will not give quite as much flavor as the indirect roasting of the BBQ.

Never again a blackened, split open and dry sausage, with this easy grilling technique.

A loaded bbq sausage, my kind of meal

A video on indirect grilling


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    • profile image

      Chris Dee 8 years ago

      Great suggestions on grilling the links. Really. Came out perfect.

    • John D Lee profile image

      John D Lee 8 years ago

      Thanks Chris, glad the sausages were to your liking!

    • danbr7777 profile image

      danbr7777 8 years ago

      Good information. I could not agree with you more about cooking them with indirect heat. I like to smoke them with a little applewood. What wood do you use?

    • John D Lee profile image

      John D Lee 8 years ago

      Hi Danbr7777,

      Apple wood is tasty - although not readily available in my neck of the woods. I am currently using Longon wood (a fruit tree) which is a very nice mild smoke - for sausages normally though, just plane Jane charcoal is just fine!

    • Bob.Currer@gmail. profile image

      Bob.Currer@gmail. 7 years ago from El Mirage, AZ

      I like to boil bratwurst in beer with a small onion (quartered), Red pepper flakes, and a pat of butter. Then I toss them on a grill to crisp them up. Smoking them a bit is great, apple wood is hard to come by in these parts, but my daughter has a mesquite tree that is a willing donor to the wood pile.

    • John D Lee profile image

      John D Lee 7 years ago

      Poaching in beer sounds tasty. Can't wait to try that!

    • datahound profile image

      datahound 6 years ago from USA

      Excellent information. I've always cooked on a low flame with the lid down to oven roast but they do crack. Why waste that flavor. I am anxious to give your method a shot next time.


    • profile image

      choooch 6 years ago

      Great recipe. I've used it 5x already. Thanks!

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 6 years ago

      Thanks so much for this great hub. I am sitting here with sausages and a grill and now I know what to do!

    • saif113sb profile image

      saif113sb 5 years ago

      Very nice and informative hub. Thanks

    • profile image

      SterlingBBQ 5 years ago

      Great Article, got the grill firing up right now, with apple chips and plum hardwood charcoal providing the smoke and heat.

    • InTuneWithCooking profile image

      InTuneWithCooking 5 years ago from Australia

      Fantastic! That's it, sausages on the grill for dinner tonight.

    • The Midwest Man profile image

      The Midwest Man 5 years ago

      Nice. I've been doing this for a while now; they turn out so much better. Add some hickory or oak wood to the fire and get some extra smoked flavor in their as well.

    • profile image

      Maria 5 years ago

      My question is,the smoky-style sausage should be pre-cooked or not?

    • profile image 5 years ago

      Great Recipe! it really is and must be appreciated by all! :)

    • profile image

      Anne 5 years ago

      Would it be ok to part cook sausages in the oven before putting them on the barbecue to brown and get some extra flavour?

    • profile image

      casst thomson 5 years ago

      great recipe . i have 6 times already

    • basspro profile image

      basspro 4 years ago

      great job. here is a great brisket recipe

    • oven cleaning NSW profile image

      mahdi jafarian 16 months ago from newcastle

      kebabs specially lamb which is marinated in grated onion taste always unbeleavably delicious. All kebabs taste better on natural charcoal.

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