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Brats or Bratwurst is a type of sausage popularly prepared for the Oktoberfests, but you don’t need a special occasion to enjoy them. As a common substitute for hot dogs, there are several ways to cook brats – in the oven, on the grill, on stove-top, and so on.
Many people ask me the secret behind my juicy, soft, and tasty brats, and the simple answer is – boiling before grilling. So, how long do you boil brats? You may boil the raw brats for at least 10 to 15 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 150ºF. Be careful that it does not go beyond 180ºF.
Maintaining the right temperature for boiling brats helps in cooking evenly and prevents fats from getting liberated from the meat too quickly. The pre-cooked brats are already cooked, so boiling does nothing much than heat them thoroughly to quicken-up the grilling process.
Some of the biggest advantages of boiling brats are that it helps in preserving the moisture content so they come out juicy after grilling. It also helps in infusing the flavor and cutting short the cooking time so that you can focus on grilling instead of cooking them thoroughly.
When the brats are sufficiently heated, this may also help in destroying the pathogen bacteria. Although most people will tell you that boiling brats is important, let’s not forget that different people have different methods, preferences, and choices.
Moreover, boiling bratwurst is quite forgiving so you don’t need to stress too much about the exact timing or texture. We will discuss the various alternatives later in the article. For now, let’s take a look at the steps for boiling the sausages.
Easy Steps For Boiling Brats
We strongly suggest that you avoid the pre-cooked brats as they lack in flavor and texture. So, instead of opting for the fancy packaged stuff, get the best brats from your local butcher. While traditionally, brats are made with pork, and it may also include a veal mixture.
There are some packaged varieties that may contain other meat and various seasonings to enhance the taste. You can use fresh brats in various ways in your recipes, but it is always better to boil them before grilling and here are the steps you need to follow:
· Use a cast-iron skillet to start boiling the raw brats
· Add enough water or any other liquid like beer to the pan
· Make sure the brats are completely submerged in the liquid (water or beer)
· Let the brats boil for 10 to 15 minutes until they turn grey on medium heat
· Check to ensure that the internal temperature is 150ºF – 160 ºF.
· If the brats are made from ground chicken or turkey, the minimum internal temperature should be 165 degrees
· Beers that contain a higher percentage of malt generate a sweeter flavor to complement the sausage
· You may add onions when boiling the brats to enhance the overall flavor. After they are done, pat the brats with a paper towel.
Alternatives To Boiling Brats
Although boiling is a common method of cooking the brats before grilling them, several perfectionists say it’s a shame to boil to save a few minutes on the grill. According to them, boiling brats leeches all the delicious juices and makes the meat tasteless. Here are a few alternatives suggested by the brat experts.
#1. Simmer instead of boiling
You may think that they both mean the same thing, but it’s essential to note the subtle difference between boiling and simmering. For this, you will need to add brats to a large skillet and add water or half water and half beer until the brats are covered.
Bring to the liquid to a boil and then immediately lower the heat to simmer instead of boiling. Let the brats simmer for 15 to 20 minutes before you grill them to get a perfectly charred finish.
#2. Treating with hot water
In this method, you take enough water to cover all the brats and bring it to boil (without the brats). Now, add some salt to the water to your preferred taste. Drop the brats into the boiling water and measure the temperature to prevent it from going above 180 degrees.
Reduce or increase the water temperature as needed, until the internal temperature of brats read 140 to 145 ºF, before pulling them out. This method is useful if you don’t want the fats to get liberated from the meat too quickly.
#3. Grill first and then boil
In this method, the cook recommends that you grill the brats before simmering or poaching them. While the cooking time remains almost the same, the order is reserved. You spend 5-10 minutes grilling the brats and then simmer in boiling water for about 20 minutes.
This method is often preferred when cooking bulk quantity of brats for special occasions, celebrations, or festivals. The brats are first grilled and then simmered in trays or pans with garlic, onions, and other seasonings to enhance the taste.
#4.Using only beer to boil the brats
When you use only beer to boil brats, add enough beer to ensure that the brats are completely submerged. Bring the liquid to boil in a skillet and then let it simmer for 20 minutes. You may poke the brats once or twice using meat pork to infuse the flavor. This will also prevent the splitting of the meat.
You may either grill them immediately to get a perfectly brown exterior on both sides. Alternatively, let them cool and keep inside the refrigerator overnight to let the meat marinade and get infused in flavors. When you are ready, grill them and serve.
#5. Grill on indirect or low heat
Some people are against boiling because they feel that fat adds flavor to the meat, and boiling separates them from the brats, rendering them bland and tasteless. When the casing is pierced intentionally or it splits accidentally while grilling, the fat leaks out, leaving the brats dry.
So, instead of boiling some people suggest that you use slow or indirect radiant heat on a charcoal grill. This causes the collagen and fat to render and baste the meat from the inside to give you an extremely juicy sausage. However, please bear in mind that this process will take a lot of time.
If the brats split or explode then you are probably using too much hear. Adjust accordingly to ensure slow grilling using indirect heat to get the perfect flavor and taste.
5 Rules You Must Follow To Cook Brats Perfectly
We can conclude from above that boiling, not boiling, boiling after grilling, or slow grilling on indirect heat depend on personal choices. No matter what you choose, here are a few basic rules you must follow to cook brats.
# Rule 1. Avoid mass buying brats
Whether you are stocking up brats for a party or a special celebration, avoid getting the ones that are sold in packaged containers or wrapped in plastic. We strongly suggest that you get the fresh brats locally from a butcher near you.
You may also get the artisan brats that come flavored. You may find them in various flavors such as beer, cheese, apples or jalapenos. There are mixed reviews about the flavored brats, while some say they taste great others feel that they spoil the original flavor.
# Rule 2. Don’t make holes
When boiling or grilling brats, we suggest that you don’t poke them to make holes, unless a recipe tells you to do so. Poking brats result in fat leaking out and the meat becomes bland. It also increases the chances of your sausages getting dried out.
# Rule 3. Don’t grill on high heat
Some people treat brats like hot dogs and cook them in a similar manner by tossing on a hot grill, resulting in splits. If the brat splits, the flavors leaks out on the grill grates. So, set the grill to low-medium temperature to allow it to cook slowly instead of rupturing.
You may get some leakages even when you cook on a low flame, but at least it will be a small leak instead of a blowout. After you are done grilling, let the sausages rest and allow juices to distribute evenly.
# Rule 4. Don’t overheat the brats
Remember that boiling brats is only meant to shorten the cooking process and kill the pathogens. So, boil no more than 10-15 minutes on medium or high heat and 20 minutes maximum if you are simmering on low heat.
Some people swear against boil brats in water, beer or any other liquid as it extracts the fatty juices, making the meat bland. Steaming with onion slices and simmering beer is often preferred over boiling.
# Rule 5. Don’t skimp on water or beer
Whether you use water, beer, or a half-half quantity of both while boiling brats, make sure you don’t skimp on the quantity of liquid used. The brats should be completely submerged in the liquid or else they will not be cooked evenly.
Tips To Help You Cook Brats Better
- If you are boiling raw brats, you may consider using an alternative to plain tap water. You may use beer or a broth. You may also enhance the flavor with seasonings like garlic, sage, onions, oregano and rosemary.
- After boiling, dry the sausages with paper towel before placing them on the grill grate for browning. This extra step will prevent the brats from splitting. Alternatively, you may dust a little flour over the sausages to help them absorb the moisture.
- If you want to impress your guests with perfectly browned brats, consider boiling them with beer. You may also brush them slightly with beer before putting on the grill grate or hot skillet. Those who don’t like the taste of beer may dust the brats with a little sugar to get the same effect.
- After the bratwursts are perfectly cooked, you may serve them in various ways. Use them as sausages in buns, covered with mustard sauce or sauerkraut. You may also use a side of steamed beans or German potato salad.
- If you want to skip boiling and do a slow grilling, we suggest that you do it on medium-low heat, preferably between 300 and 350°F. It might take about 20-25 minutes to achieve the desired internal temperature in brats. Keep turning each side to get them evenly browned.
- When you prefer boiling the brats in water or beer, make sure you dry them with a paper towel before putting on a preheated grill. Keep them on the grill for 5-10minutes, turning once in between to get them perfectly browned and ready to consume.
5 Interesting Facts About Bratwrust
- Bratwurst, a delicious sausage originated in Germany, which is also the cradle for similar types of foods such as knockwurst and frankfurter. It has become a favorite picnic and camping food.
- Brats are mostly made from pork, beef, veal, or chicken. They may sometimes contain different types of meat and a variety of other seasonings like peppers, cheese, bacon, lemon, and nutmeg.
- As per the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, the bratwurst may contain any type of meat. They also come in different sizes and textures.
- You can get brats fresh from the butcher’s shop. They may be made into links, cured, or fully cooked (pre-cooked). Researchers have found that boiling is one of the best ways of curing brats.
- Even if you bring home pre-cooked brats, they must be heated before consuming. You need to boil water in a pan and let the brats stand in hot water for 10-15 minutes. This reduces the chance of brats splitting when you put them on the grill.
Is it okay if the brats are pink inside
Meat is considered safe to eat when the pathogen bacteria is killed. Any kind of sausage that contains minced meat may stay pink inside even after it is thoroughly cooked. Sometimes, it may brown prematurely, which does not indicate that it’s done. So, we suggest that you follow the thermometer and clock instead of going by the color indicator.
How to tell whether or not the brats are done without a thermometer
If you do not have a thermometer, take the knife test. To do this, you will need to stick a knife at the center of the meat and count till 8. Take the knife out and touch the tip to your tongue for a few seconds. If it feels really hot then the meat is cooked well.
Is it possible to grill brats without boiling them
Many people around the world prefer boiling brats before grilling for various reasons such as – killing pathogens, reducing the grilling time, and so on. Some cooks feel that boiling leeches all the juices and renders the meat bland and tasteless. Hence, they prefer slow grilling directly although it’s time taking.
If you boil brats, the grilling time will be around 4-6 minutes and if you throw them directly on the preheated grill, it will take 20-25 minutes to be cooked thoroughly.