Fun fact: If you walk into a market in Poland and request "fresh kielbasa," you will not be given one specific type of sausage. Kielbasa is actually the Polish word for sausage, so that would technically be like asking for "cheese." More often than not, however, what the rest of us will find in stores is a pork sausage prepared with salt, pepper, sugar, garlic, and marjoram. Often it is smoked and not fresh. But fresh kielbasa is wonderful. While there are many options for serving, there a few basic techniques that should be followed to maximize flavor.
Things You'll Need
Fresh, uncooked kielbasa
Large Dutch oven or sauce pot
A Note About Cooking Fresh Polish Sausage
As noted in the intro, you only need to cook fresh Polish sausage. Smoked polish sausage is sold ready to eat, though it's still wonderful when grilled or crisped up in a pan. As with other sausages, you want to cook fresh kielbasa until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Wet cooking methods are the most common way to cook kielbasa. However, if you combine wet and dry cooking methods, you will have absolutely incredible results.
Let's Get Cookin'!
Step 1: Simmer Kielbasa in Water
Place the kielbasa links in a large Dutch oven or sauce pot and add just enough water to cover the sausage. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat and cook for approximately 45 minutes, or until the sausage reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. (Note: check the water level periodically and add a bit more if necessary to keep the sausage covered.) Use tongs to remove the sausage and pat dry. Discard the liquid. If you are adding the sausage to something like a soup or stew, you can stop here.
Cooking liquid has little effect on the flavor of the sausage because there isn't an inlet for the liquid to enter the casing. Thus, there's no reason to use anything other than water for simmering in this scenario.
Step 2: Finish Kielbasa in the Oven
Fresh out of the simmering liquid, the kielbasa will be quite damp, even if you dry it with paper towels. That's fine for slicing and adding to soups and stews, but for other purposes, dry and crisp sausage is preferable. The best way to achieve this is to finish cooking the sausage in a 375 degree Fahrenheit oven for about 5 to 10 minutes per side. This will allow any excess water to evaporate and it will slightly brown the exterior.
Step 3: Caramelize in a Sauté Pan
Want to take things one step further? There's nothing quite like crispy, browned sausage. Heat a large sauté pan with olive oil. Slice the kielbasa and add it to then pan, allowing each side to caramelize for several minutes. From here you can enjoy the slices directly, serve them with a toothpick, add them to pasta dishes, and more.
Step 4: Optional: Sauté Chopped Onions
Sausage and onions are a match made in heaven. After you've finished browning the sausage, consider caramelizing some onions in the same pan so that they grab up all of those wonderful spices.
Step 5: Serve
Serve with some crusty artisan bread, perhaps?