How to Cook Bratwurst So It’s Delicious Every Time

If you’re a fan of brats, you are in the right place! This beloved sausage finds itself on plates worldwide, and there are so many different varieties and ways to cook and eat them.

We will go over the other varieties of brats, how to cook Bratwurst beyond grilling, and some ideas on what to serve with them – whether you’re serving up a classic German meal or a Midwest summer staple.

What are Brats?  

Brats, or Bratwurst, are a traditional German sausage typically made from veal, beef, or pork – or a combination. In the United States, veal is rarely used in commercial brats; most versions are pork. They are certainly the most common variety sold in stores. There are also 100% beef brats, but they are more of a specialty item, and you may have to search for them.  

The word Bratwurst has an interesting translation. “Brat” is the Old High German word for “without waste,” and “wurst” is “sausage.” You may not think this is the most appetizing description, but it sheds some light on how this sausage came to be.

You’ll want to look for high-quality brats for the best flavor. Raw brats have the best flavor, but if you are short on time, you can also find pre-cooked brats that need to be heated through, similar to a chicken sausage or hot dogs.

There are also a lot of different varieties of brats. Johnsonville is a well-known brand found nationwide and at most grocery stores. But other brands can be found at certain stores and regional brands. Depending on where you live, it’s not uncommon for small, independent meat markets (even in Wisconsin!) to have a lot of varieties of brats; some stores have 10-20 different varieties of homemade brats! Some incorporate flavors like buffalo sauce or cheesesteak; others include fruit like blueberries. 

There is truly something for everyone. It can be fun to switch up the flavors, but I always return to the classic bratwurst flavors.

With the rise of vegetarian options, you can now find meatless brats so everyone can join the party

Ways to Cook Bratwurst

Although I grew up with brats as a typical summer meal and mostly grilled, there are so many different ways to cook bratwurst. We’ll go over the various methods and the pros and cons of each technique. 

With any method, you’ll want to boil them to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Use an instant-read meat thermometer to ensure you cook the brats to a safe internal temperature. This will ensure they reach a safe temperature and that you aren’t overcooking them.

Grill 

Grilling is the most well-known and popular way to cook brats. Many people will boil the brats before grilling (in Wisconsin, you boil the brats in beer before grilling), which helps ensure that the brats are cooked through and don’t burn on the outside while still raw on the inside. The grill imparts excellent smoky flavor, the brats get a nice char, and it’s minimal clean-up! 

Depending on where you live, this option may not be available year-round, but it’s great for spring and summer.

Slow Cooker 

Slow cooker brats are a great way to cook in the winter months, for a party or a crowd, or if you’re looking for a hands-off cooking method. I prefer to brown the brats in a skillet before transferring them to the slow cooker to do most of the cooking

This does add an extra step but results in a nice browned brat that is also tender and juicy. This beer brat recipe is excellent if you’re cooking for a crowd, as you can prep ahead and then keep them warm for serving. They simmer in a flavorful mustard beer mixture for maximum flavor. 

Air Fry

You can cook almost anything in an air fryer – brats included! This is a great method as it is quick, easy, and ready in less than 20 minutes. It’s a great option for winter months or if you need to get them cooked quickly. 

You will be limited in how many brats you can cook depending on the size of your air fryer basket, so there are better options for a crowd than this one, but it works well for a quick and easy dinner.

Pan-fry 

Another option is to cook the brats in a skillet. Because the Bratwurst are raw and take a bit to cook in a pan, I recommend browning the brats and then covering them to help them cook without burning. This is another great method for winter months and quick dinners. 

Boiling

While many recipes call for boiling brats before finishing on the grill or slow cooker, you can also cook them entirely in boiling water or beer. Add some sliced onion for extra flavor. This method won’t result in browned brats, but is an option.  

Oven 

This is the least common brat cooking method, but it’s relatively easy. It can be a convenient way to add vegetables and turn them into a sheet pan meal. You’ll roast in the oven for about 15-20 minutes. Add some sliced peppers and onions for a delicious brat topping

Storage Tips

Store any leftover brats in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Reheat the brats in a hot skillet or microwave until heated through. 

How to Serve Brats

There are a few different directions to serve up the brats. Here in the United States, brats are typically served in a bun, similar to how you would serve a hot dog. But in Germany, there are various other ways to enjoy Bratwurst.

Maike Corbett from Cheerful Cook, born and raised in Germany, shares how she enjoys Bratwurst in Germany: “Currywurst is classic German street fair. Although regional differences exist, a Currywurst is often a sliced-up Bratwurst topped with a warm curried sauce. I think of it as little pieces of heaven in my mouth. Wochenmärkte (weekly markets, similar to farmers markets) are places where you’ll typically find a “Wurststand” (a grill stand) where people will stop by to have a Bratwurst on the go, served in a bun, similar to how hot dogs are served in the US, but not on soft hot dog buns, but on a roll like a Kaiser roll.” 

Brats in the United States are typically served with buns, toppings, and condiments:

Buns – While buns aren’t necessary, they are a classic way of serving them, at least in the United States. You will want to look for a brat bun as they are a bit larger than a hot dog bun and will contain the brat and any toppings better. Hot dog buns will also work in a pinch, but brat buns are superior. 

Toppings – Serve the brats with a variety of toppings like sauerkraut, chopped white onions, sauteed white onions, sauteed peppers, or other pickled vegetables.

Condiments – Brats are delicious, but a spread of condiments will let everyone add their own touch. Put out a variety of mustard (yellow, dijon, whole grain, German, etc.), ketchup, relish, and mayonnaise to let everyone top their heart’s content.

What to Serve on the Side

Just like how to serve the brats themselves, there are a few different directions for brat sides. If you are serving the brats as part of a traditional German spread, serve with potatoes and warm sauerkraut or sauteed red cabbage for a classic biergarten meal. Remember some German mustard!

If you’re serving the brats as more of a classic Midwest meal, you’ll want a few easy summer sides: 

FAQ

How is Bratwurst traditionally cooked? 

The most common cooking methods in Germany are pan-fried or grilled brats. Some feel that baking is acceptable but not ideal as it can dry out the brats, and boiling is never acceptable as it will ruin the flavor. Find the methods you prefer.

Should you poke holes in brats before cooking? 

No, you don’t want to poke holes in the brats before cooking, as this will make their juices run out and result in a dry brat. You can cut or slice the brats after cooking, but only after!

How do Germans cook Bratwurst? 

Many of the German recipes for cooking brats include boiling the brats in water or beer and then browning the brats on the grill or in a frying pan. It depends on how they are being served because it’s a popular street food that can be cooked in many ways.

Why do people boil brats before cooking? 

Boiling brats help cook the meat while ensuring it stays nice and juicy! Cooking brats raw on the grill or pan-frying can be tricky as, depending on the grill’s heat, they can sometimes cook too fast on the outside but not be cooked through on the inside. Some feel that parboiling the brats can produce mushy meat, but I’m afraid I must disagree!

 

There is a lot to consider when sizzling up some brats. Whether you prefer the smoky char of the grill or the gentle simmer of a beer bath, the perfect Bratwurst awaits. So, gather your ingredients, choose your cooking adventure, and enjoy this delicious classic.

This article originally appeared on Pink When.

Emily Dingmann
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