How to Cook Air Dried Country Sausage to Perfection

Air dried country sausage is a delicious and unique type of sausage that has been enjoyed for generations in the American South With its deep smoky flavor and chewy texture, properly cooked air dried sausage makes a hearty, satisfying meal. But preparing this specialty sausage requires some special considerations

In this article, I’ll explain exactly what air dried country sausage is, why it has a unique flavor and texture, tips for cooking it perfectly, how to store it properly, and even share my favorite recipes using air dried sausage. After reading, you’ll be an expert on making the most of this tasty regional treat!

What Is Air Dried Country Sausage?

Air dried country sausage originated in parts of the southeastern United States as a means of preserving sausage without refrigeration. It’s made using coarsely ground pork mixed with salt, spices, and curing ingredients. The sausage mixture is stuffed into hog casings, fermented, and then hung to air dry for anywhere from 2 weeks up to several months

Unlike smoked sausages which get flavor from the smoking process, air dried sausage develops complex flavors from the slow fermentation and drying. The end result is sausage that is deeply flavored, dense and chewy in texture, with a subtle smokiness from the drying process. It does not require refrigeration due to the lower moisture content.

Special Considerations for Cooking Air Dried Sausage

While regular fresh sausage can be fried, grilled, or baked easily, air dried country sausage requires a little extra care when cooking to turn out properly:

  • Soak before cooking – The dense, dry texture of air dried sausage means it should be soaked in cool water for at least 30 minutes to rehydrate slightly before cooking. This helps it cook more evenly.

  • Simmer or boil – The sausage should be gently simmered or boiled to warm through completely without overcooking the exterior. Pan frying can make the casing tough.

  • Cook thoroughly – Being a cured product, air dried sausage still requires thorough cooking to an internal temperature of 160°F for food safety.

  • Add moisture – Adding a bit of water to the pan while cooking helps keep the sausage moist and evenly heated. The dryness can lead to burning.

  • Rest before serving – Letting the sausage rest for 5-10 minutes after cooking allows the moisture to distribute evenly, ensuring a juicy interior.

Tips for Storing Air Dried Country Sausage

One of the signature traits of air dried sausage is that it can be stored at room temperature without refrigeration once cured. Here are some storage tips:

  • Store in a cool, dark place around 60-70°F. Avoid temperature extremes.

  • Wrapping in butcher paper or cloth is ideal, rather than using plastic wrap or bags.

  • Monitor for any signs of mold growth and discard if found.

  • For best quality, use within 2-3 months. The sausage can last up to 6 months properly stored.

  • Once cut, leftover sausage should be tightly wrapped and refrigerated for use within 1 week.

Follow these guidelines to keep air dried country sausage fresh for months to come.

Serving Suggestions for Air Dried Sausage

From breakfast to dinner, air dried country sausage makes a delicious addition to all types of Southern comfort food recipes. Here are some of my favorite ways to use it:

  • Chopped in scrambled eggs or an omelet

  • Added to greens, beans, soups, or stews for flavor

  • Served with red eye gravy over biscuits for breakfast

  • Diced small in jambalaya, gumbo, or rice dishes

  • Added to casseroles like breakfast strata or mac and cheese

  • Served with cheese, crackers and mustard as an appetizer

  • Used in place of pepperoni on pizza for a unique twist

However you choose to use it, be sure to remember the special cooking methods required to fully enjoy the complex flavors and meaty texture of air dried country sausage.

Step-by-Step Guide to Cook Air Dried Sausage

Follow this simple step-by-step guide for perfect air dried sausage every time:


  • 1 pound air dried country sausage
  • Water for soaking and cooking


  1. Soak sausage in cool water for 30 minutes to rehydrate.
  2. Remove sausage from water and pat dry thoroughly with paper towels.
  3. Place sausage in skillet and add water just to cover bottom of pan.
  4. Bring water to a gentle simmer over medium heat.
  5. Cook for 15-20 minutes, turning sausage occasionally until heated through.
  6. Check internal temperature using instant read thermometer to ensure sausage reaches 160°F.
  7. Remove from heat, drain excess water, and let sausage rest 5 minutes before serving.

Be sure to handle air dried sausage gently when cooking and use low consistent heat to warm through without overcooking. Now you can enjoy the amazing flavors of this Southern specialty!

Frequently Asked Questions About Air Dried Sausage

Can you eat air dried sausage without cooking it?

It is not recommended to eat air dried sausage without thoroughly cooking it first to an internal temperature of 160°F. It undergoes a curing process, but could still potentially harbor harmful bacteria if undercooked. Always heat air dried sausage fully before consuming.

How long does air dried sausage last?

Properly stored in a cool, dry place, air dried sausage can last 2-3 months. Over time it may develop mold spots at which point it should be discarded. Once cut, leftover cooked sausage should be eaten within a week.

What is the white powder on air dried sausage?

The white powder that can appear on the casing of air dried sausage is usually just a residue of the spices and salt used to cure the meat. It is harmless, but you can gently rinse it off before cooking if desired.

Can you freeze air dried sausage?

Freezing is not recommended for air dried sausage, as the freezing process can negatively affect the texture. It’s best to store it properly in a cool place and use within a 2-3 month period for freshness and quality.

Is air dried sausage already cooked?

No, air dried sausage is not fully cooked when purchased raw despite undergoing the curing/drying process. It still requires thorough cooking to an internal temperature of 160°F before it is safe to consume. Do not eat it directly out of the package.

Now that you’re an expert on air dried country sausage, it’s time to pick up a few links and make some delicious Southern cuisine! This unique and flavorful sausage is well worth taking the time to prepare properly. The payoff is a hearty, protein-packed addition with old-fashioned country flavor.

Air Dried Sausage, Morcon Gaditano. 1001 Greatest Sausage Recipes.

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