Unveiling the Truth: Can Sausage Be Pink and Still Safe to Savor?

October 3, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton
Edited by John Smits 

Yes, sausages can stay pink even after cooking - salt treatments and seasonings in sausage can cause a pink tint. A little bit of pink doesn't necessarily mean the meat is undercooked. The best way to know a sausage is fully cooked is by checking the internal temperature, which should be 160°F if the sausage is pork or beef. Poultry sausages should be cooked to 165°F. 

Food safety was drilled into me in cooking school. I have had more than one person ask me if the pink color in hot dogs means that it is raw inside. I decided to create a post to clear things up once and for all!

In this post, I will answer the question, “Can sausage be pink?” and explain when the pink color is safe and when it hints at undercooked food. Let's get started!

Can sausage be pink

Can Sausage Be Pink After Cooking?

The answer to this is yes! Pink sausage is not necessarily a sign that your sausage is undercooked. And so, as long as you have made sure to cook it to the right internal temperature - 160°F for pork or beef, you can guarantee that the pink sausage is safe to eat.

We have all been there - you slice into a cooked sausage only to find that it is still pink in the middle. As long as the sausage is fully cooked, it’s safe to eat.

Keep in mind that there should only be a small portion of the sausage that is pink. A little pink color is fine; too much pink means that the sausage is undercooked.

Can You Eat Undercooked Sausage?

In case you are wondering if sausage that is undercooked and pink all over is safe to consume, the answer is no!

The thing to keep in mind is that ground meat, like the meat found in sausage, is more prone to bacteria contamination than whole cuts of meat.

See, if there are any bacteria on a small portion of the meat or on the machinery, this is eventually ground throughout the entire batch. The outside of the meat (which is the area prone to bacterial contamination) is ground up and becomes the inside of the meat. All ground beef and pork need to be cooked to 160°F to ensure it is safe to eat.

This is why you have to cook sausages to a higher temperature than whole cuts like chops or steaks. It is only by cooking the sausages to the right internal temperature that you will be able to kill all the bacteria.

Bunch of Tasty Sausages on the Grill

Can Sausage Be Pink Regardless of Type?

As you are aware, there are a lot of types of sausages - pork sausages, Italian sausages, beef sausages, chicken sausages, and more! If the sausage is safe to consume while pink will depend on the type of sausage.

Let's begin with pork sausages. This is the type most prone to pinkness. For the longest time, people were worried about eating pork that wasn't cooked thoroughly - undercooked pork sausage, in particular. This is due to a parasite known as trichinosis. In reality, though, it is rare for people to contract this parasite.

As long as you cook your pork sausages at 160°F, you will be just fine. In fact, a little bit of pink in the middle of your pork sausage is a good thing. It shows that your sausage will be nice and juicy rather than overcooked.

The same rule can be applied to Italian sausage as well. This is because most Italian sausage is made up of ground pork. Due to this, it is fine for the sausage to be a bit pink.

What about ground beef sausages? Well, it is unlikely that you will find much pink in a beef sausage as the meat tends to have a reddish hue. However, for both beef and pork sausages, as long as you cook them to 160°F, they are safe to eat.

When it comes to poultry, the story is a bit different. If you prepare chicken sausage or turkey sausage, you should be wary of pinkness. This is because turkey or chicken sausage should have a white color on the inside and brown on the exterior. They should not be pink.

Once again, though, the best way to prevent undercooked chicken sausage or turkey is to go by the internal temperature. This way, you take the guesswork out of the equation when it comes to fully-cooked turkey sausages or chicken sausages. Ground poultry should be cooked to 165°F.

Also, I do want to mention that pink sausage isn't the norm for all sausages. Breakfast sausage, cured or smoked sausage, and some Italian sausage will have a brownish interior. This is completely fine, as they are simply different types of sausage.

Why Are Sausages Pink?

Well, some of this has to do with the preservatives that are added to the sausage. There are some curing salts that turn the meat pink. This effect isn't impacted by heat, so the sausages will continue to be pink even after they’re fully cooked.

Also, sausages are more heavily seasoned than other meats. And some of these seasonings, like cayenne pepper or other colored seasonings, may turn the meat pink. 

The other thing is that for the longest time, people assumed that pink meant undercooked meat. The rules regarding food safety were a lot more extreme several years ago.

As such, people were advised to cook sausages and other meat at very high internal temperatures. This meant that the meat ended up being brown both inside and out. The problem was that this meat also ended up overcooked, dry, and rather tasteless to boot.

Since then, the various agencies have amended their recommendations, and people have been able to cook their food to lower temperatures and still avoid food poisoning.

Grilled Sausages with Other Ingredients

How to Check the Internal Temperature of Sausages?

To do this, you have to first check the internal temperature towards the end of the cooking process. An instant-read thermometer makes temping food a snap. Wait until you think the sausages are close to being done. Every time you temp the sausage, you’ll puncture a hole in the casing, causing juice to leak out. Try to take the temp through the first hole you make to minimize juice loss.

Check that the internal temp is 160°F if the sausage is pork or beef. (165°F for ground poultry). If the sausage is fully cooked, it can be taken off the heat. Otherwise, leave it for another 30 seconds and check the pork, chicken, beef, or turkey sausage's doneness.

When the sausages are perfectly cooked, take them off the heat and serve.

Wrapping It Up

If you have ever wondered, “Can sausage be pink and still safe to eat?” you now know the truth! As long as the sausage is fully cooked (again, 160°F for pork and beef, 165°F for poultry), you’re good to go! Curing salts and seasonings added to the meat can make it appear pink, even after it’s fully cooked.

Now, you can happily enjoy your pink sausage and have peace of mind knowing your family is safe. Thanks for reading, and happy grilling!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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