Cooking Tips · Ingredients

Sausages – so many varieties!

In last week’s Cooking Tip, I discussed why and how you would go about making your own sausages. I realize that probably very few of you will pursue this and would prefer to buy them. Because of that, I want to explain the different types of sausages so you will be informed when you go to the store.

There are different ways that people categorize sausages. Let’s start with the most basic categorization.

  1. Fresh sausages – these are raw sausages and must be cooked before eating. After purchase, they can be refrigerated for a few days or frozen for a few months. Breakfast sausage, Italian sausage and Mexican chorizo are three common varieties of fresh sausage.

  2. Cooked sausages – these have been fully cooked by some method. Even though they can be eaten without any heating, it is often recommended that they be cooked or thoroughly heated before consuming. They also should be refrigerated or frozen. The label should tell you whether they have been cooked or not.

  3. Cured sausages – also known as preserved sausages, they have been treated with salt and other chemicals to not only extend storage life but also to add flavor. They need no further cooking and also do not require refrigeration until they are sliced. Examples are pepperoni and Spanish chorizo.

Another categorization would be by type of meat such as pork, beef, poultry, game, seafood or vegetarian.

Sausages can also be categorized by country of origin. Wikipedia lists about 60 countries and each of them have one or more sausages listed for that country. Let me mention just a few of the most common.

United States

  • Breakfast sausages – usually made from pork and typical seasonings include sage, maple syrup and bacon.
  • Hot dogs – also known as a frankfurter after its German origins, this has been the quintessential baseball park sausage in the US since the 1900s.
  • Andouille – originally from France, it is now mostly associated with Cajun cuisine. It is usually pork-based and flavored with Cajun flavors of garlic, pepper, onions and wine.


  • Bratwurst – there are said to be over 40 varieties of bratwurst. They are most likely to be mild and often incorporate baking spices in the sausage.
  • Knockwurst – a garlic-flavored sausage made from beef and/or pork.
  • Liverwurst – made from liver and other organs, usually pork but can be beef.


  • Italian – sweet & hot. The latter contains hot pepper flakes whereas the former contains sweet basil. The word “sweet” does not mean it will taste like a dessert, only that it is not hot. The other seasonings will vary by recipe but often contain fennel.
  • Spanish Chorizo – this is a cured pork sausage that includes paprika for red coloring.


  • Mexican Chorizo – this is a raw pork sausage and seasoned with typical Mexican spices. It can vary in its level of spiciness. Some stores may carry beef or poultry versions.

Eastern European

  • Polish Kielbasa – in Polish, “kielbasa” means sausage. In our stores, this will be a longer pork sausage, typically shaped like a “U”.


  • Bangers – one of the things that make these different than American sausages is the presence of a filler. In Britain, it is a wheat-based filler known as rusk.
  • Cumberland – a traditional British sausage that is typically long in shape and spiced with pepper.
  • Black pudding – known as blood sausage in other countries, it contains cooked, congealed blood that is mixed with fat and grains. It is known as Boudin in France.


  • Lap Cheong – this is the Cantonese word for sausage and is a smoked, sweet and salty pork sausage seasoned with soy sauce and rice wine.

This is just a brief listing of some common sausages that we all probably recognize. However, there are so many different varieties and flavors out there. In my freezer right now, I have British bangers, Bratwurst, Italian (sweet and hot), smoked jalapeno cheddar, chicken with pineapple and bacon and wild boar & pork with apricot and cranberry. That final one is my favorite. What’s yours?