The summer grilling companion of a hamburger is the bratwurst. While the hamburger can handle some leeway in terms of time and temperature on the grill, the bratwurst isn’t as lucky. Its delicate casing can rupture over high heat, leading its stuffing to lose moisture and dry out quickly. Worse, the rapidly escaping sausage fat is ripe for a grill flare-up.
Thankfully, there’s a way to avoid all this bad news and ensure perfectly cooked brats. Ready when you are!
Sear First, Then Beer
I love a great bratwurst and the key is that it cooks to temperature. In this case, 145º F. A bratwurst cooked on a hot grill can reach this temperature quickly. And often, not surprisingly, when we aren’t looking. I might have to blame the beer in my hand for this.
To ensure photo-worthy sear marks and moist stuffed pork, first sear the brat on a hot grill and then cook it slowly in a beer bath right on the grill until cooked through. The first bite of the casing will give a little tug of resistance before the meaty pork has you yearning for a second bite.
It is possible cook the brats in the beer first and then sear it, but the beer-soaked brats won’t get a proper sear. A pre-sear wins in both color and texture.
The initial sear takes only 2 minutes on two sides of the brat. Now, why only two sides? Fresh brats straight from the butcher are usually cylindrical. However, if you are like me and constantly in a hurry, you probably buy brats in a package. These brats are not round. Some brands are even curved. While they still taste great, the less round shape makes searing on all four sides a bit of grilling gymnastics. To account for every type of brat, these are a two-side sear.
How to Prepare the Grill
Whether grilling over charcoal or gas, beer brats require two zones of heat for direct and indirect cooking. On a gas grill, this means keeping one or two burners turned off, and on a charcoal grill, an area without any lit coals.
No matter your type of grill, be sure to preheat it for at least 15 minutes with the lid on. When you open the lid to put the brats down, you want the grill very hot and ready to go.
For the Beer, Keep it Simple
For the beer bath, I suggest using a lager, or specifically, a pilsner. Lagers cover a wide variety of styles, and some might transfer unwanted or unexpected flavors. The beer here is primarily for moisture, so keeping its flavor profile simple is key.
Brats in Beer Bath
With the brats seared, move them into a foil pan filled with beer and continue to cook them over indirect heat. That means on the grill away from the lit burners or coals. The brats are done when they reach an internal temperature of 145º F as read by an instant-read thermometer. They can either be served immediately or left on the grill with the lid down over very low heat to stay warm until needed.
Ideas for Toppings
I like my brats simply topped with sauerkraut and stone-ground mustard. Thankfully, the brat can handle about any topping you can think of, like onions, relish, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, pickles, peppers—the list does not stop. What’s the best beer brat topping? The one in your hand!
Let’s get grilling!
More Grilled Goodness
- Easy Grilled Gochujang Chicken Thighs
- Cedar Plank Salmon
- Grilled Carrot Dogs
- Grilled Cilantro Lime Chicken
- Grilled Pork Chops with Adobo Paste
I recommend using an aluminum foil tray to cook the brats in the beer. I do not recommend using a Pyrex, oven-safe dish, or stove top pan on the grill.
5 fresh bratwursts
2 (12-ounce) lager beers, like a pilsner
5 sausage buns
- Large aluminum foil tray
Prepare the grill:
Prepare a grill for two-zone medium heat, 350º to 450º F.
- On a gas grill, this means one side with burners on high and the other side off.
- On a charcoal grill, place the lit charcoals on one side and keep the other side without any. Preheat the grill for at least 15 minutes with the lid on.
Sear the brats:
Grill the brats over direct heat—right over the lit coals and burners—for 2 minutes total, flipping once. Keep the grill lid on.
Cook the brats in beer:
Place the aluminum foil pan on the grill over indirect heat—away from the lit coals and burners. Place the brats in the pan and fill the pan with the beer. Lower the lid and cook until the internal temperature of the brats reads 145º F with an instant-read thermometer, 20 to 25 minutes, flipping once halfway through.
Grill the buns:
Grill the buns, cut side down over direct heat until marked, about 1 minute.
Load the buns with the brats and your favorite toppings.
Leftovers keep for 3 to 5 days in the fridge. I like to reheat them by sealing the brats in a freezer bag and placing them in a saucepan of boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes or until warmed through.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 2 to 3|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 86g||110%|
|Saturated Fat 33g||164%|
|Total Carbohydrate 104g||38%|
|Dietary Fiber 3g||10%|
|Total Sugars 15g|
|Vitamin C 1mg||3%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|