Everyone loves grills, and no day of grilling is complete without brats. The problem with brats is – no one really knows what to do with them. They are delicious and packed full of flavor, but so many people abuse them on the grill.
Are you one of them? You might not even know that you are doing more harm than good to these flavorful sausages, but today is the day you learn.
No one wants to eat bratwurst that have somehow lost their kick (we’ll go through that below), or dry, cardboard-like meat.
If you want to learn how to grill brats the way they should be cooked, prepare to take some notes (or bookmark this page). Today we are going to go through the process from beginning to end.
This includes what you should look for when shopping for these sausages, and even which extras go well with them. By the end of this, you will be a pro and grilling brats, and will be able to show off your culinary skills at your next grill.
Before we jump from the frying pan into the fire, we need to know exactly what we are dealing with. So, what are bratwurst sausages? Simply put, bratwurst are a kind of German sausage. These sausages are usually made from pork, but can also be made from beef or veal.
The name ‘bratwurst’ comes from the Old High German ‘Brätwurst’. ‘Brät’ means finely chopped, while ‘wurst’ translates to sausage.However, this term is now more often associated with ‘baten’, the verb that means ‘to pan fry or roast’.
These sausages are typically pale, and very smooth. They have a delicious but sometimes mild flavor, though they can be seasoned with various ingredients, including marjoram, nutmeg, garlic, caraway, lemon peel, and salt and pepper.
The most popular was to cook bratwurst is to grill them, but they can also be pan fried as their name translation suggests.
The first important step to grilling the perfect bratwurst is finding the right ones. You should always choose high quality meats if you are able to, however this is not always possible.
Although you can easily find brats in your local supermarket, these are typically not the best quality. Instead, check out your local butcher’s shop. There is a good chance that they have a wider selection of brats, and they will be a higher quality.
If you want to go a step further, you can visit an authentic German meat market or butcher shop. These are not very common unless you live in a larger metropolitan area, but they can open a lot of doors in terms of bratwurst.
In these authentic butcher shops, there is likely to be an even larger selection. You may be able to find bratwurst of all different flavors and textures, and possibly even vegan ones.
No matter who you are and what your preferences are, there will definitely be a brat for everyone at your next grill.
Before you get ahead of yourself, have you forgotten something? Do you clean your grill regularly? Do not even think about picking up a brat to grill before taking a look at your grill and making sure it is clean.
Having a clean grill is an incredibly important part of the whole cooking process. If your grill is dirty from being used, there is a good chance that your food will get stuck to the grids. Not only that, but you will get some nasty flavors.
No matter what you cooked the last time, you need to clean your grill. Not sure how to clean your grill? Let’s go through the steps.
At last, you have reached the stage of prepping your brats for the grill. There are a few key things to note about cooking bratwurst. These guidelines apply to just about any kind of sausage, so keep them in mind next time you are cooking breakfast.
Some of these might be controversial, but take a risk at your own peril. There are tried and tested ways of cooking bratwurst that work, and others that just don’t. If you want to get the perfect brats, following these guidelines will ensure that.
A lot of people like to pre-cook their brats before throwing them on the grill. The logic behind doing this is that bratwurst are usually so thick that they are not able to cook through when placed on a hot grill.
Their outside will simply burn, and the inside will be raw and inedible. There is nothing inherently wrong with doing this, but it does not always get the best results.
Many people will typically boil their brats in a beer and onion bath, which sounds like a good idea, right? Wrong. Boiling your bratwurst in anything (especially water) will only reduce their flavor.
You will start with flavor packed sausages and end up with a sad version of its former self. It seems like a lot of flavor is lost in this process, so all you will get in the end is brat flavored water or beer.
It is near impossible to brine or boil a piece of flavor packed meat and have it come out better at the end. Brining only really works on meat that is, at its core, pretty bland (like turkey or ham).
The opposite effect will happen with anything with a strong flavor, so it isn’t even worth wasting your time trying. This is even the case if you use a bath of beer and onions – the brats will always be the ones to lose flavor.
For getting the perfect brats – coat them in a thin layer of oil. Coating your bratwurst in a little oil will prevent them from sticking to the grill.
You can use canola or olive oil, or any other oil you prefer, as long as you take this step. Doing this will also help prevent the brats from bursting or drying out while they are being cooked.
For grilling these sausages – you need to slowly raise the temperature. If you toss the bratwurst straight onto a searing hot grill, they will just split apart.
When enough pressure is put on the outside of the sausages, science will take over and something has to give. Although a burst brat is perfectly edible, they definitely do not look as good as one that is in contact.
For things you should NOT do – first off, you really shouldn’t poke holes in your brats. Doing this might also initially seem like a great idea, but all it will do is dry out the sausage.
Keep the juices on the inside and allow them to mingle and create some incredible flavors. No one wants to bite into a dry chunk of meat, and that is all you will get if you poke holes in your sausages.
To follow with bratwurst – this may be tempting, but do not buy pre-cooked sausages. Even though buying these pre-cooked items will save you some time at the grill (why would you want to so that, anyway?), you are compromising on flavor and quality.
Fresh bratwurst will always have more flavor. Plus, they will not have a load of unnecessary artificial ingredients and flavors. Half the point of grilling your food is to get the amazing flavors from the grill, so buying pre-cooked sausages is pointless.
With bratwursts – we already touched on this earlier, but it must be said again. Do not buy bad-quality brats.
Unless you are on a tight budget, it is completely worth the money to spend a few extra dollars and get some high-quality sausages.
The ones from your butcher’s shop or authentic German meat market are ideal, and you will really be able to taste the difference.
Not that your grill is clean, your brats are prepped, and the heat is on, all you have to do now is grill the brats. The time to put all this work to use has come, but what is the best way to do this?
There are two possible options to try out, but the right answer might not be clear right off the bat. Let’s take a look at the two ways you could grill your brats, and figure out which one is correct.
Our first option – place your prepper brats on the side of the grill that’s on full heat. Cook them on there until their outsides become delicious and crispy, then transfer them to the other side of the grill to continue cooking.
Sounds great, right? Wrong.
As we learned earlier, the heat will make the brats expand. When the sausages are put at the hottest end of the grill, they will quickly expand and burst. Sure, you can eat a burst bratwurst, but it isn’t ideal, is it?
For this reason, it is always a bad idea to place the brats directly onto the hottest side of the grill.
This method does work well for some types of meat, though. Things like thick cut steaks can be cooked perfectly using this method, so try that out some time, too!
Our second (and better) option is as follows: prepare the bratwurst, get your propane grill going, and place them on the side that is not a raging furnace.
Cook the brats until they are almost done, slowly raising the temperature as you go. When they reach the ‘almost done’ stage, transfer them over to the scorching side and sear them.
The final internal temperature should be 165 °F (74 °C). Because of this, you need to allow the brats to expand fully and reach an internal temperature of 150 °F (65 °C).
Only then should they be moved across to get crisp. The non-scorching side of your propane grill should be around 325 °F (163 °C), so cooking them until they are ready to be transferred should take around 20 minutes.
When the brats are on the hot side of the grill, they only need to be there for 1-2 minutes each side. When this time has passed, move then back to the other side and keep and watch them as they continue to cook.
You need to keep an eye out for any grease flareups or other problems while they are there, just in case. Continue to flip them regularly as it is needed. Be sure to keep an eye on their internal temperature while you do this, as they could still split open if it gets too high.
This final stage is just to finish crisping the skin and get some traditional grill marks on the brats.
When they look done, their final internal temperature should be 165 °F, and they should be a darker reddish-brown color. They should not be ready, so what comes next?
If you need to hold your bratwurst for a little while before they can be eaten, what are you supposed to do? There are plenty of people who like to take steps to keep their brats warm in the meantime, but what is the best way to do this?
Like anything, there will be some methods that some people love to do and swear by, while others despise it. If you find that you do not like the result of one method, feel free to try out some others.
However, based on the results of some methods, you are better off skipping them altogether.
What about a beer bath? Lots of people will swear by using a beer bath to keep their brats warm, but you will quickly find that this is not typically the best option.
Just like pre-cooking the brats, if you were to leave them to sit in a liquid, no matter what the liquid is, all you would be doing is making a brat-flavored drink.
No one wants that, so just skip the beer bath (or any other kind of bath for your brats).
There are much better methods of keeping your brats warm. Unless you truly want a brat-beer, it definitely is not recommended to soak them in a liquid.
If that’s the case, what are you supposed to do?
The method that actually works to keep your brats warm and allows them to keep all their flavor is so simple. All you need is an aluminum pan, and some aluminum foil.
Keeping your sausages in there and covered will allow them to keep warm for longer. However, if you require more than a couple of minutes, crank the oven onto a low temp (no more than 170 °F) and put the brats in.
Doing this will keep the bratwurst at a temperature that is food-safe, while not cooking them further. This should be able to hold your brats for a while before they are served.
You get to keep all the flavor and crispiness, so it is a win-win situation for everyone involved.
Bratwurst go well with loads of different things. You might be surprised by some combinations that can compliment this sausage, but you have to try them at least once.
If you don’t feel like having plain brats after a day at the grill, take some notes and get preparing some weird and wonderful toppings.
Just because you don’t get to pre-cook your brats in beer, or keep them warm in it, does not mean you cannot enjoy beer at all.
You can make use of the beer in a way that is much more complimentary to the brat, while keeping all the flavor. This recipe is from Madbackyard.
NOTE: If you need to reheat the caramelized onions, you can do this by using the sauté pan over a medium-low heat. Try to dish up and eat them before you have to do this, though.
This might be an acquired taste, but it is definitely worth a try. Pineapple can compliment bratwurst, but you will see that for yourself when you make the recipe. This recipe is from Mantitlement.
Looking to try another interesting recipe for your brat topping? Check this one out by Johnsonville.
Looking for a healthy topping to try out? Make a Banh Mi topper for your bratwurst. This recipe is from The Noshery. There are lots of Banh Mi recipe variations to try, but they typically include a baguette, meat, chili peppers, and pickled vegetables.
You can choose to pickle more vegetables to suit your own needs, but this recipe will cover the basic method.
Ingredients needed to create the picked portion:
A couple other interesting toppings to try on your bratwurst include:
Below is the step-by-step guide on grilling your brats perfectly. Your brats should come out perfectly if you stick to this tried and tested method.
That’s all there is to it. Grilling the perfect brats on your propane grill is easy and straightforward, but definitely gets amazing results. If you follow the method set out above, you will get incredible brats every time.
Why not try out all the toppings mentioned in this post, too? Even if they don’t seem like they will go, you never know until you try.
Now that you know all the secrets, and what you should and should not do to your brats, good luck grilling!
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