How to Cook Kielbasa on the Grill

Kielbasa is a traditional Polish dish that refers to a surprisingly large variety of both smoked and fresh sausage. Different regions have their own versions of the dish covering an array of ingredients, flavors, and sizes, but the most recognizable outside of Poland is the large and distinct, u-shaped kielbasa.

Though a good kielbasa can easily stand on its own, cooking them alongside the right sides brings it to an entirely different level. The flavors mix spectacularly into a juicy, savory, and spicy event when properly grilled together, but the technique to get it just right can be a bit tricky.

Both raw and smoked kielbasa really only want one thing while on the grill: to get the time to braise alongside peppers, onions, beer, and sauerkraut. A quick sear at high-heat is important of course, but following that with a transfer into a grill-safe dish full of those aforementioned veggies will create something truly tasty.

How to choose the best kielbasa for grilling

There’s a huge variety of flavors to consider with kielbasa. Traditional herbs and spices vary, ranging from sweet and savory to actually quite spicy, and they all work great on the grill. Take the time to consider what flavor profile to shoot for, as there’s almost always a kielbasa out there that can cover it.

Besides flavor, choosing between either raw or pre-smoked kielbasa is the other major consideration. Raw kielbasas tend to come a bit longer and have a more crisp bite to them when they’re cooked. However, they take about 1-2 hours longer to cook, need to be monitored with a meat thermometer, and lose a bit of the smokey, woodchip flavor of a well-smoked kielbasa.

Tips and Tricks for grilling kielbasa

Sear first

Searing at high heat is important for both the texture it adds, but also the flavor it imparts to both the kielbasa and the vegetables it will be braising with. 

Braise second

Tuck those kielbasas into an uncovered grill-safe dish of sauerkraut, beer, onions, peppers, and salt after the initial sear and bring them up to temperature here while the liquid cooks down.

The braising liquid

Salt, beer, and sauerkraut juice make up the bulk of the braising liquid. A good pilsner is a preferred choice.

Aim for an internal temperature between 145F and 155F

Prod a meat thermometer once or twice into the kielbasa. 145F is plenty for most sausages.

Cut diagonally

A proper kielbasa cut is diagonal. It helps get color on the ends and adds a fair amount to the end product’s texture.

Tools that are helpful

Meat Thermometer

Though these are generally saved for steaks and the like, the cooking temperature is equally important when dealing with grilled kielbasas and sausages. Probably the easiest way to up the quality to any grilled meal.

Grill-safe dish

This can range from a few different implements, but a good large cast-iron pan is impossible to beat due to how evenly they heat while on the grill. Kielbasa braised in cast-iron on a grill is an absolute treat.

Related: Best grill tongs

What is Kielbasa?

The definition here is a bit nebulous and depending on where you are in the world. It is specifically any kind of sausage that comes from Poland, thus Kielbasa can refer to quite a few different types of sausages made up of a variety of meats ranging from pork, beef, lamb, veal as well as chicken and turkey.  

The Kielbasa Polska reigns supreme when it comes to outdoor grilling in the US and other parts of the western world. These sausages are made in a long u-shaped tube and are usually made of pork or a combination of pork and beef.

It’s generally lightly smoked and is capable of a huge range of flavors depending on any herbs or spices used in the sausage-making process. Garlic, caraway, peppers, and more are common to find in a well-made Kielbasa Polska.

Final thoughts

The amount of effort to reward following this technique is very much on the worth it end of the scale. It’s a bit more than just throwing stuff on the grill and letting it go, but the final product is guaranteed to astound.

It’s a great way to improve on the classic grilled bratwurst or sausage formula and bring some new flavors to the palette as well. Kielbasas are underrated for the amount and variety of flavors they bring to the table. Go ahead and give a nicely cooked one a try.

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