A Fuss-Free Guide: How to Grill Brats

May 13, 2022

I have been grilling and barbecuing from a very young age, giving me the time and opportunity to test out a lot of different techniques, including brats.

In this post, I will show you how to grill brats, along with the recipe, and some excellent tips and tricks too!

Grilled Brats Recipe

Here is your guide on how to grill brats:

Ingredients

  • 6 bratwursts
  • 6 bratwurst buns
  • Vegetable oil
  • Condiments and toppings
prepping brats for bbq

Method

Step 1

Prepare the grill by turning the heat up to medium heat - between 300 and 350 degrees F.

You will need to create two grilling zones - one with direct heat and other with indirect heat.

Step 2

Use a pastry brush to apply a thin layer of oil to the cooking grates. Make sure that none of the oil falls onto the coals or the heating elements below.

Place brats on the indirect heat side of the grill.

Grill brats on each side until browned. Take off the heat when the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F. This should take about 15 to 20 minutes.

Let the grilled brats rest.

Serve with favorite toppings and condiments such as mustard, sauerkraut, etc.

How to Set Up a Beer Brat Bath?

If you want grilled beer brats, then you don't have to cook bratwurst in beer beforehand. Instead, create a beer bath - not only does this add flavor but it is great for keeping brats warm.

This ensures that your guests are served the perfect brats when they arrive.

If you do want to use this bath, then you should only grill brats to 145 degrees F instead of 160 degrees F. This way, there is less risk of overcooked meat.

Here is what you will need:

  • 2 cans of beer
  • 2 tbs. of butter
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper, sliced

Method

Step 1

Pour the beer into an aluminum pan. Add the butter, onion, and peppers.

Step 2

Place the pan onto the grill. Let cook until the temperature of the liquid hits 160 degrees F. The beer should simmer but not come to a boil.

Step 3

Take the bath off the grill and place the grilled bratwurst in. Keep for up to 30 minutes before serving.

Should You Boil Brats Before Grilling Brats?

This is actually a pretty big debate when it comes to grilled brats and it divides people rather fiercely. Some people believe that you should cook brats in boiling water for a short period of time before placing them on the grill.

Others believe that you should skip cooking brats and head straight to the grilling process.

Well, here's some good news - there is a scientific answer to this this question!

cooking brats with other meat

See, brats turn out best when cooked over slow heat. This is because as the brats are cooked, the proteins in the casing and meat unfold and combine with the rest of the components to maximize on flavor and texture.

When boiled, this unfolding happens too quickly and can result in rubbery casings and mushy meat. When grilled, though, the proteins have time to unfold more slowly, creating a superior taste and mouthfeel.

Due to this, you should simply place the brats on the grill right away.

If you need any more convincing, there is also a higher risk that the casing bursts when the brats are parboiled.

I know that you may be a bit worried about cooking these brats to perfection, but there's no need for concern. I will walk you through the entire process to ensure that you get it just right.

Choosing the Right Bratwurst for Grilling

It should go without saying that your grilled brats will only be as good as the bratwursts that you choose.

This is why I would suggest splurging on a good brand or butcher. The fresher the sausages are, the better. Make sure to avoid pre cooked brats at all costs. These are often filled with artificial flavorings and don't taste as good as the fresh version.

If buying from a local butcher shop, pay attention to the spices used in the sausages and choose one that suits your preference.

Don't Poke the Brats

I have seen a lot of recipes where people are asked to poke holes in the brats casing. This is supposed to help the sausage absorb various flavors better.

Whatever you do, don't follow this advice!

The casing keeps juices trapped inside. This is what makes your bratwursts juicy and tasty. When the casing is interrupted in any way, then the juices leak out. This can result in a dry and unappetizing dish.

Brats require no prep work beforehand. Simply take them out of their packaging and place the brats on the grill - that's you all you need to do for a juicy bratwurst!

The Grilling Temperature

Brats are best grilled at medium heat or medium low heat if you are worried about them drying out.

Now, if you have a pellet grill, gas grill, propane grill, or electric grill, then simply adjust the temperature to between 300 and 350 degrees F.

The next move will depend on how many burners you have. In case you have three burners, turn the one of the far end on and the other two burners off.

With four burners, you can turn the two on the far ends off and keep the ones in the middle on.

If at any time you will that the sausage is browning too quickly or the casing is at risk of bursting, then turn down the temperature.

Using a charcoal grill? Then, set up two zones of cooking - one with direct heat and the other with indirect heat. Do this by piling the charcoal on only one side of the grill. The brats will be placed on the other end.

Once again, if your sausages look like they are cooking too fast, then move them further away from the lit coals.

Grilling on Low and Searing

There is a lot of pressure to get the perfect brats, but at the same time not overcooking your sausages can be pretty tricky as well.

If this is something that you're concerned about, then you may want to grill your brats on a lower temperature. Not too low - but low enough so that they aren't at risk of burning.

Keep in mind that if you do this that the brats are going to take longer to cook. Thus, it will require a bit more patience on your part.

If you do choose this method, though, you will need to sear the bratwursts at the end, though. This is how you get that lovely brown color on each side.

For this, turn up the grill to high heat when the brats register at around 145 degrees F. Or, move them onto the direct heat side until they are fully cooked.

kebabs with brats

As with the regular method, you will need to check on the internal temp during the searing stage as well. Take them off the heat when they hit 160 degrees.

Monitoring the Brats

If you want your brats perfectly cooked, then you have to monitor them closely. Unlike other meats, brats don't work well with a set it and leave it mentality. Don't worry, you don't have to slave over a hot grill for too long, the sausages are done in less than half an hour.

The reasons for watching over the brats is to ensure that they don't get too burned on either side and that the casing doesn't burst.

When flipping the brats, you have two options. You can keep them on each side for a longer duration. Or, you can flip them over so often. It all depends on how much of an effort you want to make.

If you notice that the brats appear to be browning too quickly, then it is a good idea to turn the temperature down.

Knowing When the Brats are Done

Most people don't feel the need to use a thermometer when grilling brats. After all, shouldn't you be able to tell when the sausages are done simply by looking at them?

Contrary to popular belief, color and appearance don't tell the whole story. See, just because the outside looks done doesn't mean that the filling has finished cooking.

There are many different factors that can impact the rate of cooking, making it difficult to know precisely when the sausages are done. This is why you absolutely have to use a thermometer every time that you cook brats.

Trust me, it will make all the difference to the final product.

Checking the Internal Temperature

I know that one of the trickiest elements of learning how to grill brats is figuring out how to keep track of the internal temperature.

The reason that this is so difficult is due to the casing. As mentioned earlier, it is important to not puncture the casing or, at the very least, poke it as few times as possible.

The best way to do this is to keep track of the grilling temperature at all times and ensured that it is maintained at a proper level. This will make it easier for you to figure out the rate at which the brats are cooking.

In turn, you can estimate that the brats will be done in about 15 to 20 minutes. Having a rough idea of when they will finish cooking let's you know the best time to check the internal temperature.

When you check the temperature closer to the end of the cook, you aren't going to need to poke the brats with an instant read thermometer as many times.

The other trick that I would suggest using is to insert the probe through the puckered end of the brats. Make sure that it hits the center off the bratwurst and wait for a few seconds to get a reading.

When you do this, there is less of a chance for the casing to get punctured and for the juices to spill out.

How to Serve Brats?

The most common way to serve grilled brats is like hot dogs, encased in a bun. Of course, in this case, you are more likely to top them off with different toppings such as sauerkraut.

If you do want the brats to be the main dish at your cookout, though, you can certainly make it work. There are so many options for side dishes. These include potato salad, baked beans, grilled mushrooms, and sweet potato fries.

The key here is to choose options that will complement or work well with the taste of grilled brats. If you want, you can opt for a German-type BBQ to fit in with the theme of the brats.

How to Store Grilled Brats?

It is a good idea to refrigerate or freeze the brats the moment that they have cooled down. Ideally, the brats shouldn't sit out for longer than two hours after they have been taken off the grill.

If you are planning on eating the brats within the next couple of days, then you can refrigerate them. If you aren't sure when you will reheat them next, it is better to freeze them as the sausages will then stay good for longer.

grilling sausages

For refrigerating the brats, it is just a matter of placing them in an airtight container. I always like to mark the date on the container so that I know when to use them up before.

Now, when freezing the brats, you need to make sure that they don't stick together. There are two ways to ensure this.

First you can place the sausages on a baking tray, making certain to leave plenty of space between them. Place the tray in the freezer and wait until each sausage is frozen through. Then, place in a freezer bag, squeeze the air out and freeze again.

Your other option is to individually wrap each sausage in a thin layer of plastic or freezer paper. Then place them in a Ziploc bag, squeeze the air out and freeze.

Once again, I like to write the date on the bag. These sausages should be good for several weeks but it is always better to reheat them and eat them sooner rather than later.

How to Reheat Grilled Brats?

It is best to reheat these brats in the oven. Cooking them in a skillet increases the risk of burning them.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the sausages on the baking tray, arranged with some distance in between them. Then, place in the oven and heat for 10 to 15 minutes or until the internal temperature has reached 160 degrees F.

Take out of the oven and serve.

Wrapping It Up

Now you know how to grill brats! While it is a relatively simple process, there are some techniques and tricks that you need to learn to get your grilled brats just right.

I have included these in this post so that you can learn the right way of grilling brats. All that is left for you to do is to put these practices to the test. So, go ahead and become a pro at brats today!

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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