Sausages are so versatile, it’s no wonder that so many of us like to keep our freezer stocked full of them.
Whether you buy packs from the store and throw them straight in the freezer, or buy them by the pound from the butcher, and separate them into portions before freezing, it’s important to know how to properly thaw them for cooking.
As with any meat, it’s important to avoid thawing sausages at room temperature.
The ‘Danger Zone’ (40-140 degrees Fahrenheit, or 4-60 degrees Celsius) is the perfect breeding ground for nasty, unhealthy bacteria. Bacteria which can cause food poisoning.
In this article, I’ll explore the five best, safest, and most hygienic methods of defrosting sausages: their pros and cons, and instructions on how to use them.
Method One: Refrigeration
Approximate defrosting time: 12-24 hours
I like to start off every meat-defrosting article with this method. It’s the safest, easiest, and least risky means of defrosting any meat, poultry, fish, or seafood.
Here’s how to defrost sausages in the fridge:
Step One: Take your sausages out of the freezer and leave them in their packaging. Place the pack or bag of sausages in an airtight container for which you have a lid, or in a sealed bag.
Step Two: Place the container of frozen links on the bottom shelf of the fridge. Make sure to move any opened foodstuffs away from the defrosting meat, to avoid cross-contamination
Step Three: Leave the sausages to thaw in the fridge for at least 12 hours. Preferably, leave the sausages for longer. Leaving them for 24 hours pretty much guarantees that your sausages will be all the way defrosted.
Step Four: You can leave the thawed sausages in the fridge for up to 2-3 days after defrosting, and before cooking, or cook them right away. Cook your thawed sausages any way you like.
So, to answer the popular question, how long do sausages take to defrost? Sausages take around 12 hours to defrost in the fridge. They may take a little less time if there are fewer of them, or up to 24 hours if it’s a large pack of sausages. There are other quicker methods you can use, but refrigeration is the safest means of thawing sausages.
- Safest, most hygienic method of defrosting sausages.
- Easy, requiring little maintenance – simply pop the sausages in the fridge and walk away.
- Sausages defrosted this way will keep for a few days before starting to turn.
- The fridge thaws your sausages evenly, all the way through.
- Refrigeration takes the longest of all the thawing methods listed here.
- Fridge space can sometimes be at a premium, and using up a shelf for defrosting sausages isn’t always an option.
Method Two: Cold Water Bath
Approximate defrosting time: 1 hour per pack
My next favorite trick, which I use if I’ve forgotten to take sausages out of the freezer the night before cooking, is to soak them in a cold water bath!
Here’s how to defrost sausages in a cold water bath:
Step One: Remove your sausages from the freezer and take them out of their packaging. Transfer them to a ziplocked bag (or another sealed bag), removing as much air as possible before sealing it. (If you froze the sausages in a ziplocked bag, you can just keep them there.)
Step Two: Place the bag of frozen sausages in a bowl in the sink. Next, fill the bowl with cold water, ensuring that the bag of sausages is fully submerged.
Step Three: Change the water every 30 minutes, refreshing the bowl with new cold water. Leave the sausages to soak in the cold water for about 1 hour per pack.
Step Four: Check your sausages on the hour to see how defrosted they are. Return them to the cold water bath if they are not fully thawed.
Step Five: Remove your sausages from the bath and bag, pat them dry, and cook them immediately.
Now that you’ve thawed out your frozen sausages, you may well be wondering How do you cook defrosted sausages? You can cook thawed sausages however you like, just as you would with fresh sausages, bought that day from the butcher’s.
The only thing you need to make sure of is that you cook them immediately after thawing. The only exception to this is if you’ve thawed them in the fridge, in which case you can keep them for a few days before cooking.
- This is a hygienic, safe way to defrost your sausages, minimising the risk of bacteria.
- A cold water bath is fairly quick, defrosting sausages in a matter of hours (or even just one hour!)
- Your sausages will be thawed evenly throughout in a cold water bath.
- Sausages defrosted this way will not keep, and must be cooked immediately.
- This method requires your attention, in order to keep the water cold.
Method Three: Microwave
Approximate defrosting time: 2-5+ minutes
Let’s face it, when it comes to defrosting anything, including sausages, the question on everyone’s minds is:
How do you defrost sausages quickly? If it’s speed you’re looking for, then the fastest way to defrost sausages is undoubtedly in a microwave. It takes around 2-5 minutes.
Having said that, I would generally recommend you stay away from a microwave unless desperate. Better to try the cold water bath or cook-from-frozen methods instead.
Nevertheless, here’s how to safely thaw sausages in a microwave:
Step One: Remove your sausages from the freezer, and take them out of their packaging. Place the sausages in a microwaveable bowl or on a microwaveable plate.
Step Two: Place a thick piece of kitchen roll or kitchen towel (3-ply preferably) over the sausages. Then, put the plate or bowl in the microwave.
Step Three: Set the microwave to ‘defrost’, or failing that to 30-50% power. Thaw the sausages on this setting for 2 minutes.
Step Four: Check to see how thawed your sausages are; 2 minutes may have been enough to defrost them. If they are not yet fully thawed, then pop them back in the microwave for another 1 minute. Continue thawing in 1-minute increments until the sausages have thawed completely.
Step Five: Remove the thawed sausages from the microwave, pat them dry, and cook them immediately.
- A microwave is the fastest method for defrost sausages.
- Your microwave may begin partially cooking the sausages during the thawing process.
- Microwaving meat such as sausages may spoil the taste and/or texture.
- Microwaves do not deliver an even thaw to sausages.
- Sausages thawed in a microwave must be cooked immediately, they will not keep.
Method Four: Hot Running Water
Approximate defrosting time: 20-30 minutes
Whilst generally inadvisable to ever expose thawing meat to room temperature, there is one method that breaks this rule, but can still work.
This method is similar to the cold water bath but utilizes running heat in order to thaw the sausages a little faster.
Here’s how to thaw sausages under hot running water:
Step One: Remove sausages from the freezer and their packaging. Transfer the sausages to a ziplocked bag, removing all the air before sealing. (If you freeze your sausages in a ziplocked bag, then just keep them in the original one.)
Step Two: Put the bag of sausages in a colander in the sink. Next, turn on the hot tap and run hot water directly over the bag of sausages.
Step Three: Leave the sausages thawing under the hot running water for 20-30 minutes, but no longer than 30. Check every 10 minutes to see how far they’ve thawed.
Step Four: Once your sausages have fully defrosted, remove them from the bag and pat them dry. Finally, cook them immediately.
- Second fastest method for thawing sausages after the microwave.
- Thaws sausages evenly all the way through.
- Wasteful – uses a lot of water.
- Risky – creates an environment in which bacteria could possibly grow, and spoil the meat.
- Requires your constant attention so that you don’t leave the sausages under hot water for too long.
- Sausages must be cooked immediately; they will not keep.
Method Five: Cook From Frozen
Approximate defrosting time: up to 50% longer than normal cooking time
So, whilst I’ve presented you with four perfectly fine methods for defrosting sausages, some of you may very well still be wondering:
Is it OK to cook sausages from frozen? These days, most brands of sausages can be cooked directly from the freezer, and normally take only an extra 10 minutes in the oven, or on the grill.
You can typically cook these types of sausages however you like, following packet instructions. However, if you bought your sausages fresh and then froze them, it’s recommended you fully thaw them again before cooking.
Here’s how to cook sausages from frozen (if okay to do so, as stated above):
Step One: Take your sausages out of the freezer. Remove the links from their original packaging and/or freezer bag.
Step Two: Set the oven or grill to the temperature suggested on the pack. (Usually, this is around 400 Fahrenheit/200 Celsius if using a regular oven, or 350 Fahrenheit/180 Celsius if using a fan oven).
Step Three: Cook your sausages as you usually would, adding about 10 minutes to the cooking time. This additional time may be up to 50% of the ‘from fresh’ cooking time suggested on the back of the pack.
- Super convenient method of defrosting sausages, since it is incorporated into the cooking process.
- Perfectly safe and hygienic, with temperatures too high for bacteria to survive.
- Easy to do, just pop them on the grill or in the oven and set a timer!
- Doesn’t offer all of the versatility cooking with freshly thawed sausages does.
- Cooking time is lengthened by up to 50%.
- Frozen sausages may give off excess water during cooking.
As always, with any meat, the best way to defrost sausages is to leave them in an airtight container in the fridge overnight.
However, if you’ve forgotten to do that, then you can probably cook them straight from frozen – just be sure to check the pack.
If not, you can always use a cold water bath. And if you’re really pressed for time, you could always run them under hot water, or “nuke” them in the microwave!