There are few ways to make a summer afternoon more enjoyable than a cookout hosted by someone who knows how to grill brats to perfection. These tips will help you host your next cookout like a pro!
Grilling brats can be deceptively difficult. Quite honestly, I think grilling as a whole is a mystery to many people, a mystery that most people attempt to subvert by cooking their protein till it is scientifically identical to lava rocks. As delicious as that all sounds, how about we talk about how to grill brats properly with this easy recipe?
There is a lot more to grilling perfect brats than simply firing up the grill and placing them over the heat. The best grilled bratwursts are the result of a dance between heat, charcoal placement, and brat temperature. But don't worry, it isn't that difficult to master with my cooking method.
Grill Brats On Charcoal
The most popular grilling method for bratwursts is the classic kettle charcoal grill. If you don't own one, I highly recommend a Weber Grill because it is simple to use and has durable construction. Though these instructions focus on how to grill brats on this style of grill, you can use the same methods on other styles of charcoal or even propane grills. You can also use this same cooking method for any German sausage or even hot dogs.
How to Light Charcoal
I have used many different methods to light charcoal over the years. I have used electric starters, lighter fluid, charcoal chimneys, and more. BY FAR the best way to light your charcoal is to invest in a cheap Chimney Starter.
The reason why these are the best is the simple vented design ensures all of the charcoals filling the chimney are roaring hot within minutes of lighting a few pieces of crumpled paper under the base. Evenly lit charcoals equal even cooking temperatures on the grill. The other benefit to using a charcoal chimney is they typically hold the perfect amount of charcoal for a standard-sized grill.
How to Grill Brats
Once your charcoals are fired up and ready to cook, the first step is to pour them onto one side of the grill. Yes, that is correct. You do not want to spread the charcoal evenly across the floor of the grill, instead, you should lay the charcoal evenly across one-half of the grill and have the other side charcoal free. This is called zone cooking. You can achieve the same result on a propane grill by only lighting the burners on one side.
This is the most important aspect of grilling perfect brats. Having zone heating gives you a high heat area and a low heat area. If your brats are cooking too fast or hot, you simply move them away from the coals to the side of your grill with a pair of tongs. If you lay the charcoal evenly across the entire floor of the grill they have no reprieve from the heat and they will likely burn.
The other danger of using too high of heat is the casing will burst, releasing all of the delicious juice inside the previously flavorful brats. A perfectly grilled brat will actually pulse as the juice inside the casing boils, without the casing breaking. If your casing bursts, that is a sign you need less heat. (If you look closely at my pictures my brat casings are nicely wrinkled without being cracked or torn)
With your zone heating set up, oil the grill grates (prevents sticking) with olive oil and then place the uncooked brats directly over the coals on the hot grill in a single layer. Once the raw brats are on the grill it is important to hang around and monitor their cooking. The first few minutes of grilling will let you know how quickly the brats will cook and how frequently they need to be rotated.
Once the brats are taking on color and develop a nice sear, you will want to give them a quarter turn. Keep turning until each side of the brat has a rich reddish-brown color. If the exterior gets done before the brats finish cooking simply move them to the opposite side of the grill away from the coals so they can finish cooking over the lower temperature of indirect heat without burning.
How to Serve Brats
Your juicy brats should be served on a bun slightly larger, and more hearty, than a traditional hot dog bun. Some purists will claim bratwursts should simply be topped with mustard, but even in Wisconsin, very few people adhere to that. In my opinion, no brat tastes better than when dressed with my personal Brat Sauce recipe. Top that with some beer-soaked onions from your beer bath, and homemade sauerkraut and you have yourself the perfect brat!
All of your favorite picnic side dishes are perfect to serve with delicious brats. So load up on the red potato salad, baked beans, and some grilled corn on the cob.
Grilling Brats FAQs
No, boiling brats before grilling is a crutch used by people afraid to serve undercooked brats. This allows them to precook the brats and then simply brown them on the grill. Others boil the brats in beer to add flavor. However, the problem with this is the intense temperature of the boiling opens the ends of the casings and renders out a lot of delicious juice from the brats, resulting in a drier, less flavorful, bratwurst.
There is a solution, however. Rather than boiling the brats, use a Beer Brat Bath with an aluminum pan instead, otherwise known as a Beer Hot Tub. This serves two functions. Most importantly, it keeps the brats warm after grilling so people can come to grab one whenever they are hungry, and secondly, it infuses the brat with delicious beer flavor, like boiling does, except it is done and a more manageable temperature. If your brat bath is kept around 160 degrees the brats will be piping hot, without drying out and over-cooking. You can even substitute apple cider rather than beer to make it alcohol-free while still adding extra flavor.
On average it will take 15-20 minutes to properly grill a brat. However, the exact cooking time will vary greatly depending on the thickness of the brats, how hot your coals are, and how careful you are at preventing the brat from burning when lingering in overly intense heat.
The easiest way to tell when brats are done is to use a meat thermometer. The internal temperature should reach 160 for a fully cooked bratwurst. You will also notice the brat firms up when it is fully cooked and no longer feels soft when gently pressed with your finger.
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How to Grill Brats to Perfection
- 5 fresh brats
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 5 brat buns
- chopped onions
- Favorite condiments
- Light charcoal and spread it evenly across the bottom of one-half of the grill. If using propane, light burners only on one side of the grill.
- Place grill grates over the charcoal and oil grates with paper towel soaked in vegetable oil to prevent sticking.
- Place brats on grates directly over charcoal and grill on each side until browned. If the casing bursts or burns move brats further from the coals to reduce cooking temperature.
- Turn the brats every couple of minutes to prevent burning, moving them further away from the hot coals if needed, and cook brats for 15-20 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Cooked brats are firm to the touch.
- Keep bratwursts warm in a Brat Bath until ready to serve.
- Serve on buns with onions, sauerkraut, and brat sauce.
This recipe was originally published on FoxValleyFoodie.com May 22, 2017.
try a piece of habanero cheese and some hot giardiniera. yum!
They came out perfect. Good looking out.
My husband is from Wisconsin. Tomorrow is his birthday. I'm going to try cooking brats for the first time.
I'm using your recipes and method. Will let you know how it goes. I'm counting on you for his birthday surprise!
My brats turned out better than ever. Thanks!
Thank GOODNESS brat season is finally here! Really appreciate the tips and tricks- I'll be sure to print this one out for my hubby this weekend! 😉
I live in Fla, "Brat Season" never left, Heck, even in NM and Bremerton, WA, I would grill, smoke and BBQ. Yes, you get weird looks, but no one turns down the food. 😎😋