How to Know When Brats are Done: A Simple Guide

September 12, 2022

When the brats have been cooked to 160 °F, they are done.

Of all my friends, I am the one who prepares bratwurst quite often – I just love them! So, when it comes time to learn how to know when brats are done, I am the one that people call up.

In this post, I will talk about the internal temperature of a well cooked bratwurst, various tests you can run, and how to prepare the best ever brats. Let’s begin!

How To Know When Brats Are Done

How to Know When Brats are Fully Cooked?

Despite being made of finely chopped meat, bratwurst is made of a coarser grind than some other types of sausages. Therefore, you are going to need some help in learning how to cook them to perfection.

grilled bratwurst platter

You will have probably heard lots of advice on how to know if brats are done, simply by looking at them. While some of these tips have merit, the only way to know that these German style sausages are fully cooked is to check the internal temperature.

When the brats have an internal temperature of 160 °F, it is considered done. While it is fine to take the sausage of the heat at this point, you can also let it heat up a little longer, up to 165 degrees.

As you can imagine, this does require the use of a meat thermometer. Taking the internal temperature of sausages can be tricky, however. This is due to the sausage casing – create too big of a hole in it and the juices will spill out.

This is why I would suggest using a thermometer with a thinner probe. Also, wait until you are quite certain that the German sausage is cooked all the way through before checking the temperature. Then you will not have to poke the sausage quite so much.

And, in case you were wondering:

How do you know when brats are done on the grill?

The same answer applies!

Fresh Bratwurst vs. Pre Cooked Brats

As the name suggests, pre cooked bratwursts have previously been cooked. Therefore, they don’t need to be cooked for as long as the fresh version. Instead, browning them should be enough.

It is important to always check which kind you are getting as it will let you know how much cooking is required. You can ask your butcher or read the label on your packaging.

You should be able to distinguish between the two simply by looking at them too. The pre cooked version is pale and firmer, while the fresh bratwurst is pink and a bit more limp.

What Happens If You Eat Undercooked Bratwurst?

Now, if the bratwurst has been previously cooked, then it is quite difficult to undercook them. However, this is more likely with the fresh sausages.

The main concern here, of course, is food poisoning. It is difficult to know how possible it is to get sick from undercooked bratwurst but it isn’t a chance that you want to take.

Can You Overcook Brats?

Yes leaving the sausages over heat for too long will lead to them being overcooked. This will cause them to dry out and be fairly appetizing. If the sausages are unattended for too long, then can burn and char, causing them to taste bitter.

How Long Do Brats Take to Cook?

As mentioned, you are going to need to roughly know how long it takes to cook brats until they are done. Well, this will depend on your cooking method as well as the temperature at which they are being prepared. However, I can offer up some estimates:

If you are grilling brats, then they will take a total of 20 minutes to cook. In case you are opting to cook them on a stovetop, then it will take a bit longer – about 25 to 30 minutes.

Tips for Checking Doneness Without a Thermometer

I am well aware that a lot of people don’t have a meat thermometer – although I would highly recommend getting one. It comes in handy when cooking, grilling, or roasting almost any kind of meat.

Still, here are the tests that you can run to determine if the brats are done:

The Wiggle Test

As the bratwursts cook, they firm up and are only a bit tender. Thus, once they are nearing the end of the cooking process, pick up a brat – with tongs, of course – and wiggle it up and down. If there is only a slight bounce to it then it is done.

The Touch Test

Here, you follow a method that is similar to that of checking the doneness of steak. Touch your thumb to your pinky and hold it there. Now, with the fingers of your other hand, feel the flesh beneath your thumb and take not of the level of firmness.

Next, press a finger against the bratwurst. If it feels similarly firm, then it is close to being done or is done.

Using a Cake Tester

If you are an avid baker, then you may have one of these. It is a long, thin rod that is used to test the doneness of cakes. The advantage here is that this tool is very thin and, as such, will not poke much of a hole in the casing.

Gently push the tester inside and then pull it out. Press the metal against your wrist – if it is hot to the touch, then your sausages are done.

How to Cook Bratwurst?

Technically, there are many different ways to prepare brats, but there are only two options if you are looking a delicious and natural meat flavor.

How to Grill Brats

Start off the grilling process by preheating the grill. Set the temperature to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and let it heat up. The key here is to cook the brats on medium low heat. The last thing that you want is to go too hot or too fast – these sausages need to be grilled slowly.

BBQ bratwurst

In the meantime, brush the brats evenly in water, oil, or beer. Beer is my personal favorite as it lends a lovely flavor and color to the sausage.

Then, place the brats on the grill – if you hear a sizzling sound, then it is the right temperature. Make sure to leave enough of space between each sausage. This way, they will cook more evenly.

Turn the brats over every two minutes or so. At the 20 minute mark they will be done – or close to it – check the temperature at this point. If you want, you can leave until the grill marks are seared on either side of the casing.

Lid Up or Down – What’s the Verdict?

Usually when I am grilling, I tend to leave the lid down. This is so that I don’t lose out on the grill’s heat. In this case, though, you have to flip over the sausages so often that it really isn’t worth the effort.

Therefore, you can leave it up. Of course, if you want the bratwursts to heat faster, then keep the lid closed – it is all up to you.

Cooking Brats on a Stovetop

For this recipe you will require the following:

  • 1 tbs. of vegetable oil
  • 10 small brats
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 cup of beer
  • sea salt and pepper to taste

Step 1

Add the oil to a heavy bottom frying pan and set to medium high heat. Once the oil has heated up, add the brats. Sear each side for 10 minutes.

Step 2

Lower the fire to medium heat and add the onions. Cook for about two minutes or until the onions have turned golden. Make sure to move them around so that they don’t burn.

Step 3

Flip the sausages over and pour in the beer. Cover and turn the heat down to low heat. Heat for ten minutes – after the halfway point, flip the brats over, cover and heat until the temperature reaches 160 degrees.

Step 4

Remove the sausages from the pan. To the sauce in the pan, add seasonings to taste and then reduce for around two minutes. Take the sauce off the heat and add the brats back in. Coat them in the sauce and serve.

Should You Boil Brats?

A lot of people want to know if they should boil the brats before grilling them. This is so that they don’t have to spend as much time on the grill.

As tempting as this sounds, I would say that you should skip this step. The high boiling temperature can cause the casing to pop, causing those delicious juices to flow out.

What you can do, however, is to simmer the sausages in cold liquid until it heats up. This way, the casings aren’t exposed to sudden high temperatures.

To do this, add a small amount of cold water or equal parts of water and beer (this is my favorite) into an aluminum pan. Add the brats in as well and heat over medium heat. Just when the liquid is about to come to a boil, lower and simmer for a chosen period of time – don’t go over 20 minutes, however.

Then, heat up the grill and throw the brats on the barbecue.

If you thought that cooking brats to perfection was easy, you can now see that there is a lot more behind the scenes than you initially thought. The good news is that you are all set and know exactly what to do now!

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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