January 23rd, 2014
04:00 PM ET
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America's Test Kitchen is a real 2,500 square foot test kitchen located just outside of Boston that is home to more than three dozen full-time cooks and product testers. Our mission is simple: to develop the absolute best recipes for all of your favorite foods. To do this, we test each recipe 30, 40, sometimes as many as 70 times, until we arrive at the combination of ingredients, technique, temperature, cooking time, and equipment that yields the best, most-foolproof recipe. America’s Test Kitchen's online cooking school is based on nearly 20 years of test kitchen work in our own facility, on the recipes created for Cook's Illustrated magazine, and on our two public television cooking shows.

All the world loves a sausage, so whether you grew up in Brooklyn or Bologna, you probably have a favorite. Here are some of ours:

Frankfurter: Top Dog

The genuine article, the Frankfurter, hails from Germany. But America adopted it and made it the most famous sausage in the world. Hot dogs are made from beef (sometimes combined with pork), which is cured, smoked, cooked, and seasoned with coriander, garlic, ground mustard, nutmeg, salt, sugar, and white pepper. Although hot dogs are fully cooked, warm them by steaming, boiling, sautéing, or grilling (we prefer the last two, which make for crisp skins). All-beef dogs with little or no sugar taste meaty and real. The test kitchen favorite is Nathan’s Famous Beef Franks.

Knackwurst: Plump Dog

Knackwurst (often incorrectly spelled knockwurst) is named for the characteristic pop you hear when you take a bite; “knack” is German for crack. Like the hot dog, knackwurst is precooked and can be made entirely from beef or a combination of beef and pork. The “smooth,” “mild” knackwurst is plumper and more sophisticated than a hot dog, though some tasters said it tasted like hot dog crossed with bologna. Eat it with traditional sausage toppings such as mustard and sauerkraut.

Bratwurst: Green Bay Grill

At Midwestern backyard barbecues and tailgates, these “sweet,” “herbal” sausages are more common than hot dogs. They are made from ground pork and veal gently seasoned with caraway, coriander, ginger, and nutmeg. We prefer the “coarse, pebbly texture” of fresh, uncooked bratwurst to the mealiness of partially cooked versions. In Wisconsin, boiling a brat in water is a big no-no—the casing will burst. Instead, simmer them on the grill in a pan of water or, preferably, beer, then finish them by crisping the skin over a medium-hot fire.

Genoa Salami: Sandwich Star

Popular in the deli case and key for Italian sandwiches and antipasto platters, Genoa salami is cured pork sausage with visibly chunky pockets of fat. Its “slightly sour,” “fermented” flavor may stem from a measure of wine added before it’s salted and air-dried (no smoking here), while the whole black peppercorns contribute spiciness. If you’re buying a whole one, take off the casing to remove the (harmless) mold; peel it only from the portion of sausage you plan to eat, though, or the sausage will dry out.

Banger: Buttery Brit

“Banger” is British slang for sausage, but in the United States it has come to describe a specific style that is plump, soft, white, and “creamy.” It is made from pork butt combined with crumbled rusks (dry, wheaty biscuits), so it’s not surprising tasters described it as “bready.” Popular in England and Ireland, bangers are served alongside potatoes or with a plate of eggs. We like to simmer them in water, then sear them in a skillet to bring out their naturally “buttery,” “porky” flavor.

Kielbasa: Polish Import

Tasters compared this Polish sausage to a “coarse, garlicky hot dog.” Traditionally made from all pork, most commercial kielbasa today includes beef and sometimes turkey and is seasoned with garlic, marjoram, and smoke. Kielbasa is sold fully cooked, but we like to grill it or sear it to add flavor. Some brands are much saltier than others, so always taste for seasoning when you’re cooking with kielbasa (we like it in soups and stews). Smithfield Naturally Hickory Smoked Polska Kielbasa is our top-rated brand. The test kitchen favorite is Wellshire Farms Smoked Polska Kielbasa.

Italian Sausage: Crowd Pleaser

Griddled or grilled, Italian sausages are popularly served either with pasta or smothered in grilled onions and frying peppers on sub rolls. They come either hot or sweet and always raw. Both sweet and hot versions are made with coarsely ground fresh (not cured or smoked) pork flavored with garlic and fennel seed. The hot variety is also seasoned with red pepper flakes. Grill or sauté whole sausages or remove the casing and crumble the meat into sauces, soups, or stews.

Pepperoni: Pizza Friend

This “spicy, chewy” Italian-American sausage is best known for its starring role on pizza. Pork (or occasionally beef) is ground and dried; combined with black and cayenne pepper, sugar, salt, and paprika; and cured for several weeks. To prevent pepperoni slices from leaching grease over pizza, we microwave them between sheets of paper towels first, a step that degreases yet doesn’t toughen the meat. Turkey-based pepperoni lacks a pleasant greasiness but ain’t bad for a low-fat substitute. The test kitchen favorite is Margherita Italian Style Pepperoni.

Spanish Chorizo: Smoky Snack

Spanish chorizo, which comes in links, is generally sold cured and fully cooked. It’s made from chopped pork and pork fat and seasoned with smoked paprika, garlic, and herbs. Its “jerkylike” texture reminded some tasters of pepperoni; its “pungent smoke” and “vinegary aftertaste” are all its own. Eat sliced chorizo as an appetizer or add to paella or Spanish tortillas. Don’t substitute it for Mexican chorizo or vice versa; they are not interchangeable. (Kielbasa or linguiça makes a better substitute for Spanish chorizo.)

Mexican Chorizo: Flavor Fiesta

Unlike Spanish chorizo, the Mexican chorizo available in American markets is almost always sold raw, in links or bulk packs. Mexican chorizo includes paprika and garlic, but it’s chili powder that provides its characteristic “spicy, coffee-like” flavor. The texture is “crumbly,” similar to ground beef. Remove chorizo from its casing, then crumble and fry it. Drain off the grease before adding cooked chorizo to soups, stews, tacos, or even scrambled eggs or omelets.

Andouille: Bayou Born

Made in German style, given a French name (pronounced an-DOO-ee), and seasoned with Cajun spices, this southern Louisiana native is a proverbial melting pot. It just wouldn’t be gumbo, jambalaya, and red beans and rice without it. “Chewy,” spicy andouille is made from ground pork, salt, garlic, and plenty of black pepper. It’s traditionally smoked over pecan wood and sugarcane, where it turns reddish and “hot and smoky.” Cooking isn’t required, but it does improve its flavor. The test kitchen favorite is Jacob's World Famous Andouille.

Linguiça: Soup Spicer

This “peppery” smoked sausage from Portugal is distinctive for its “tangy,” “heavily spiced” flavor, which comes from a blend of paprika, garlic, pepper, cumin, and sometimes allspice or cinnamon. The spices are combined with pork butt and brined in vinegar and salt before smoking. Linguiça is sold primarily in areas with large Portuguese or Brazilian populations and should be cooked before serving. Try it as a pizza topping or in soups, such as kale or bean.

More from America's Test Kitchen:
Best Breakfast Ever: Crunchy French Toast
You've Never Had Potatoes Like This
Using a poorly designed baking pan - what's the worst that could happen?

Previously:
'These chorizos are huge!' – how Paul Ryan's sausage gets made
Case study: the art of charcuterie



soundoff (54 Responses)
  1. Jen F

    Looking at their description and their picture of 'kielbasa' I can only shake my head. As a Pole, growing up we never bought anything from the grocery store that was labeled kiebasa, only from a butcher... and it was never smoked. Raw kielbasa is the way to go because otherwise their right... You might as well call it a hot dog.

    January 28, 2014 at 2:55 pm | Reply
  2. Boudreaux

    Being a Chicago native raised in a Polish family, I've had a fair deal of every sort of sausage. It's a shame though that boudin was left off. I've been in Louisiana awhile now and andouille is amazing, but I think the unique texture and flavors in boudin is incredible and unmatched. Hope everyone who reads my comment will get to try it one day.

    January 25, 2014 at 1:50 am | Reply
  3. Arturo Féliz-Camilo

    Reblogged this on Dominican Heat.

    January 24, 2014 at 4:02 pm | Reply
  4. Patrick

    Pepperoni is always the go to meat in any quality kitchen.

    January 24, 2014 at 3:54 pm | Reply
  5. Isabel

    I don't know where they bought the sausages for the photos but they are not very authentic looking.

    For instance, that is NOT chorizo from Spain. Spanish version is hard cured and would never have shiny skin or look like it's been sitting in a pan of congealed grease.

    WHICH bratwurst is that supposed to represent? Wisconsin? There are several traditional versions based on region of Europe or US.

    January 24, 2014 at 10:04 am | Reply
  6. Clevon Little

    Stand back while I whip it out.

    January 24, 2014 at 9:50 am | Reply
  7. steve woloszyn

    Kielbasa bought at a super market tastes like a salted giant hot dog. It's crap. Go to a Polish Deli for the real stuff which is fantastic

    January 24, 2014 at 8:51 am | Reply
  8. AleeD®

    So many sausages ... and so many varieties! It's hard to know where to start. My lips are moist from viewing the pics.

    January 24, 2014 at 7:34 am | Reply
    • Bobpitt

      And please remember you have not seen my sausage yet.. those lips will jump out of your face..

      January 24, 2014 at 9:59 am | Reply
      • Peace

        I heard it was 2 inches

        January 25, 2014 at 5:14 am | Reply
  9. mplaya

    Chez Pascal in Providence RI = GO!! They have unbelievable food and The off shoot Wurst Kitchen there has great home made sausages, brats, etc. Check out the menu on line. He's farm friendly, and all of his pork products are made in house....the man is a genius!

    January 24, 2014 at 7:14 am | Reply
  10. Jeff

    Volpi! Best Italian meats in the country, made on "The Hill" in St. Louis.
    Jeff

    January 23, 2014 at 11:34 pm | Reply
  11. Dane

    No mention of Rød pølse?

    January 23, 2014 at 11:19 pm | Reply
  12. Seafarersd

    Nowhere is any mentioning of the all the great Austrian and German sausage tyou can get in this country. As an aside please mention Sabrett Wieners as they are served in NYC with onion sauce and mustard. They are winners hands up for American hot dogs!!!

    January 23, 2014 at 10:37 pm | Reply
  13. Topdogman

    I met a good weiner yesterday, he was a nice guy for being a weiner.

    January 23, 2014 at 9:06 pm | Reply
  14. MRHD

    Weiner weiner weiner weiner... one weiner next to another weiner... weiner weiner weiner weiner... two weiners alongside yet another wiener...

    January 23, 2014 at 8:47 pm | Reply
    • Jim

      Two winners together are gay no matter how you cook them.

      January 23, 2014 at 9:34 pm | Reply
    • Bobpitt

      Weiner???? is that the guy that run for mayor of New York?

      January 24, 2014 at 10:01 am | Reply
  15. lewtwo

    American Hotdog:
    All pork sausage served in a bun. first served at Coney Island.
    No longer available since Oscar Mayer stopped production over a decade ago.

    January 23, 2014 at 8:13 pm | Reply
  16. roberto

    The article forgot to list the ingredients in Mexican Chorizo: lymph nodes, salivary glands, and spices. That's right, no actual meat. It does crumble down into little pieces when you cook it–as small as a pin head if you keep cooking it–and that is because it is not actually meat! Nodes and glands, mmm mmm good!

    January 23, 2014 at 8:01 pm | Reply
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

      Menudo is great, too.

      Cow stomach soup!

      January 24, 2014 at 1:33 pm | Reply
  17. AGar27

    How many of you read the headline 'How Well Do You Know Your Weiners?' and skipped directly to the comments?

    January 23, 2014 at 6:48 pm | Reply
    • AleeD®

      One

      January 24, 2014 at 7:10 am | Reply
    • Bobpitt

      I only care about my Weiner

      January 24, 2014 at 10:02 am | Reply
  18. Jerry

    Some good stuff here... BUT – – Where's the Boudin????

    January 23, 2014 at 6:36 pm | Reply
    • Duke LaCrosse

      Dude,
      Boudin is a totally different concept. Yes, there's intestinal casing, but there's nothing inside of the casing that has anything to do with sausages, weiners, wursts, etc. Do you even know what boudin is?

      January 24, 2014 at 12:30 am | Reply
      • Paul

        Uh, what? Boudin can refer to a lot of different types of sausage, sure, but most of them, and surely the most common of them, are sausages very similar to the ones listed above.

        January 24, 2014 at 10:03 am | Reply
  19. Bucko

    The beast damn sausage in the whole country is sold at the "Salt Lick Sausage Company" in Cordele, GA. It's so good, it scares me.

    January 23, 2014 at 6:17 pm | Reply
  20. Mark

    Giggity

    January 23, 2014 at 6:11 pm | Reply
  21. Harman

    pretty well, thanks for asking

    January 23, 2014 at 6:02 pm | Reply
  22. Guessed

    Really, CNN? I guess I'm just glad you haven't closed the comments for this article yet. People need to get off that darned Bieber link and get over here.

    January 23, 2014 at 5:49 pm | Reply
    • RRegan

      from one weiner to another, eh! LOL....

      January 24, 2014 at 9:43 am | Reply
  23. Metalhead Falconer

    Came here for the comments; leaving satisfied.

    January 23, 2014 at 5:29 pm | Reply
  24. tooeasy

    LOL We were all thinking the same thing when we clicked on this article

    January 23, 2014 at 5:15 pm | Reply
    • Guessed

      Guilty.

      January 23, 2014 at 5:50 pm | Reply
  25. Kathleen

    I miss my husband.

    January 23, 2014 at 5:04 pm | Reply
    • Bob

      K: Your husband never treated you the way you deserve – forget about him. Come with me for a sausage.

      January 23, 2014 at 11:53 pm | Reply
      • Little Timmie

        Is your last name Upanddown?

        January 24, 2014 at 7:31 am | Reply
  26. RC@ AleeD®

    This oughta be right up your Alee ;)

    January 23, 2014 at 4:52 pm | Reply
    • Turth™@RC, AleeD

      I was going to go there as well...;)

      January 23, 2014 at 4:53 pm | Reply
    • AleeD® @ RC & Turth™

      Oh ....... my.
      ~_~

      January 24, 2014 at 7:25 am | Reply
      • RC@ AleeD®

        Yup! Thaaaaaats Right ;)-

        January 24, 2014 at 10:31 am | Reply

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