Brats, or Bratwursts, are a type of sausage popularly prepared for Oktoberfest celebrations, 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 the stovetop, and more.
Many people ask me the secret behind my juicy, soft, and tasty brats, and the simple answer is boiling them before grilling. So, how long do you boil brats? You should boil raw brats for at least 10 to 15 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 150ºF. Be careful that the temperature does not go beyond 180ºF.
Maintaining the right temperature when boiling brats helps cook them evenly and prevents the fat from getting cooked out of the meat too quickly. The pre-cooked brats available are already cooked, so boiling does nothing besides just heating them thoroughly to quicken up the grilling process.
One of the biggest advantages of boiling brats is that it helps in preserving the moisture content, so they come out juicy after grilling them. It also helps in infusing the flavors and cutting short the cooking time so that you can focus on grilling them instead of worrying as much about cooking them thoroughly. When the brats are sufficiently heated, this also helps destroy any pathogenic bacteria that may have been living in or on the meat.
Although most people will tell you that boiling brats is important, let’s not forget that different people have different methods and preferences when it comes to preparing their food, not all bratwurst fans will choose to use any boiling methods, and this is perfectly okay.
Moreover, boiling bratwursts is quite forgiving, so you won’t need to stress too much about the exact timing or the texture when boiling the meat. We will discuss the various alternatives later in the article, though. For now, let’s take a look at the steps for boiling these sausages.
Easy Steps For Boiling Brats
We strongly suggest that you avoid using pre-cooked brats as they are lacking in both flavor and texture. So, instead of opting for the fancy packaged stuff, go get the best brats from your local butcher. While brats are traditionally made with pork, they may also sometimes include a veal mixture.
There are some packaged varieties that may contain other meats and various seasonings to enhance the taste as well. You can use fresh brats in various ways in your recipes, but it is always better to boil them before grilling. To do this, here are the steps you need to follow:
- Use a cast-iron skillet to start boiling the raw brats.
- Add sufficient water or any other liquid (e.g., beer) to the pan.
- Make sure the brats are completely submerged in the liquid of your choice.
- Let the brats boil for 10 to 15 minutes on medium heat until they turn gray.
- Check to ensure that the internal temperature of the meat is between 150ºF and 160 ºF.
- If the brats are made from ground chicken or turkey, the minimum internal temperature should be 165°F.
- When choosing a liquid, beers that contain a higher percentage of malt generate a sweeter flavor to complement the sausage.
- You may also 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 brats before grilling them, several perfectionists say it’s a shame to boil them to save a few minutes on the grill. According to them, boiling brats leeches all of the delicious juices out and makes the meat tasteless. Here are a few alternatives suggested by the brat experts.
#1. Simmer instead of boiling
You may think that both of these terms mean the same thing, but it’s essential to note that there is a subtle difference between boiling and simmering. To simmer them, you will need to add your brats to a large skillet and add water (or a mixture of half water and half beer) until the brats are covered.
Bring the liquid to a boil and then immediately lower the heat to a simmer instead of continuing to cook them with a full rolling boil. 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 will use just enough water to cover all the brats and bring that water to a boil (without the brats placed into the water just yet). Once the water is boiling, add some salt to the water to accommodate your preferred taste. Drop the brats into the boiling water, and check the temperature regularly to prevent the water from going above 180°F.
Reduce or increase the water temperature as needed until the internal temperature of the brats reads 140°F to 145ºF before pulling them out of the water. This method is useful if you don’t want the fats to cook out from the meat too quickly.
#3. Grill first and then boil
In this method, the experts recommend that you grill the brats before simmering or poaching them. While the cooking time remains almost the same, the order is reserved. You’ll spend 5 to 10 minutes grilling the brats and then simmer them in boiling water for about 20 minutes.
This method is often preferred when cooking bulk quantities 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 a boil in a skillet, then let the brats simmer for 20 minutes. You may also poke the brats once or twice using with a fork to help infuse the flavors. This will also prevent the splitting of the meat, too.
You may then either grill the brats immediately to get a perfectly brown exterior on both sides, or alternatively, let them cool and keep them inside of the refrigerator overnight to let the meat marinade and further get infused with the flavors of the beer and any seasonings. If you choose this latter option, once you are ready, you may then grill them and serve them afterward.
#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 the fat from the meat of the brats, rendering them bland and tasteless. When the casing is pierced intentionally or it splits accidentally while cooking, 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, you are most likely using too much heat. Adjust the temperatures as needed 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 the information above that choosing to go with boiling, not boiling, boiling after grilling, or slow grilling on indirect heat will all depend on personal preferences. However, no matter which method you choose for cooking your meat, here are a few basic rules you must follow to cook brats.
Rule #1: Avoid mass-produced, pre-packaged brats
Whether you are stocking up on 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 fresh brats locally from a butcher near you.
You may also want to get artisan brats that come flavored, too. You can find these in a variety of flavors, such as beer, cheese, apple, or jalapeno. There are mixed reviews about flavored brats, though, and some people say that they taste great while 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 any holes in them unless a recipe specifically tells you to do so. Poking holes in brats result in the fat leaking out, and this will make the meat become bland. Doing so 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 them on a hot grill, and this will result in splits. If a brat splits, the fat and flavors leak out on the grill grates. So, set the grill to a low to medium temperature to allow the meat to cook slowly instead of rupturing from exposure to high heat.
You may still see some leakages even when you cook on a low flame, but at least it will be small leaks instead of full blowouts. After you are done grilling, let the sausages rest to allow the 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 them for no more than 10 to 15 minutes on medium or high heat, or you may boil them for 20 minutes maximum if you are simmering the brats on low heat.
Some people swear against boiling brats in water, beer, or any other liquid as it extracts the fatty juices, making the meat bland. Steaming them with onion slices and simmering them in beer is often preferred over boiling in general.
Rule #5: Don’t skimp on the water or beer
Whether you use water, beer, or a half-and-half mixture 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 want to consider using an alternative to plain tap water. You can use beer or a broth, instead. You can also enhance the flavor of the meat by adding seasonings like garlic, sage, onions, oregano, and rosemary to your liquid of choice.
- After boiling, dry the sausages with a paper towel before placing them on the grill grate for browning. This extra step will prevent the brats from splitting. Alternatively, you may also dust a little bit of flour over the sausages to help them absorb any moisture.
- If you want to impress your guests with perfectly browned brats, consider boiling them with beer. You may also brush them lightly with beer before putting them on the grill grates or hot skillet. Those who don’t like the taste of beer may instead choose to dust the brats with a little bit of sugar to get a similar effect.
- After the bratwursts are perfectly cooked, you can serve them in a variety of different ways. You can place them in hot dog buns and cover them with mustard or sauerkraut, or they may also be served with a side of steamed beans or German potato salad.
- If you want to skip boiling and do the slow grilling method, we suggest that you do this on medium-low heat, preferably between 300°F and 350°F. It might take about 20 to 25 minutes to achieve the desired internal temperature in brats. Be sure to keep turning them to get them evenly browned on each side.
- When you choose to boil the brats in water or beer, make sure you dry them with a paper towel before putting them on a preheated grill. Keep them on the grill for 5 to 10 minutes, turning them once in the middle of cooking to get them perfectly browned and ready to consume.
5 Interesting Facts About Bratwurst
- Bratwurst is a delicious sausage that originated in Germany, which is also the origin country of similar types of foods, such as knockwurst and frankfurters. 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 meats and a variety of other seasonings like peppers, cheese, bacon, lemon, or nutmeg.
- As per the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, bratwursts may contain any type of meat. They also come in different sizes and textures.
- You can get brats fresh from a 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 still be heated before consuming. You will need to boil water in a pan and let the brats stand in the hot water for 10 to 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 pathogenic bacteria is killed. Any kind of sausage that contains minced meat may stay pink inside even after it has been thoroughly cooked. Sometimes, it may brown prematurely, but this does not indicate that it’s done. To avoid any risks, we suggest that you follow the reading on your thermometer and pay attention to cooking times instead of going by the color of the meat.
How do you tell whether or not the brats are done without a thermometer?
If you do not have a thermometer, you may also perform “the knife test.” To do this, you will need to stick a knife into the center of the meat and count to 8. Take the knife out, and touch the tip to your tongue for a few seconds. If it feels really hot, the meat is likely cooked well and safe to consume.
Is it possible to grill brats without boiling them?
Many people around the world prefer boiling brats before grilling them for a variety of reasons, such as killing pathogens, reducing the grilling time, and more. Some cooks feel that boiling leeches all the juices from the brats and renders the meat bland and tasteless. Hence, they prefer slow grilling only, although it’s time-consuming.
If you boil brats, the grilling time will be around 4 to 6 minutes. If you throw them directly on a preheated grill without any boiling beforehand, it will take 20 to 25 minutes for them to be cooked thoroughly.