Grillaholics, in honor of National Bratwurst Day (August 16th) quickly approaching, we wanted to take some time to show some appreciation for one of grillings most underrated foods: the humble bratwurst.
As Grillaholics, we’re always trying to challenge ourselves at the grill, attempting to refine our craft as much as possible. And unfortunately, bratwursts aren’t always the most exciting grilling challenge to undertake. They don’t take hours of meticulous preparation like a brisket or pork shoulder. They don’t require masterful cooking precision like a ribeye steak.
Nonetheless, bratwursts are still one of my favorite meats to prepare for almost any occasion. They’re extremely simple and quick to prepare, they are perfect for large gatherings, they pair great with an ice cold beer, and most importantly, they just taste good!
While grilling bratwursts is not extremely difficult, as Grillaholics, we are still constantly trying to perfect our grilling repertoire. So in honor of one of grilling’s greatest underdogs (no pun intended), we’re going to walk you through the process of grilling the perfect bratwurst.
Choosing Your Bratwurst
When choosing a bratwurst for grilling, we at Grillaholics are firm believers in buying brats that are both fresh and local. Yes, this option is sometimes a bit pricier than buying large packages from name brand companies, but the difference in overall quality and taste is worth it. Plus, you’ll be supporting local butchers, which is always worth it.
Another advantage from buying fresh, local bratwurst is that you’ll likely have more interesting bratwurst options to choose from. For example, in addition to traditional bratwurst, my local butcher also offers bratwursts filled with cheese, infused with jalapeños, and even loaded with pineapple.
Boiling vs. Grilling
Once you’ve selected the brats that you’ll be preparing, it’s important to understand exactly how to grill them. And the truth of the matter is this: your brats won’t actually be spending much time on the grill at all. Rather, they’ll be simmered (in beer!) for most of the actual cooking, and then placed on the grill only at the end in order to infuse a bit of smoky flavor and to char the outside nicely.
There are some in the industry that will argue for skipping the boiling process altogether, and say that the bratwursts should be cooked only on the grill. We disagree. Bratwursts much reach an internal temperature of 160°F. If you try and cook your bratwursts at a high temperature to reach this internal goal, you’ll end up splitting the bratwursts and losing all of the juices in the process, meaning you have to cook them at a lower temperature. A lower temperature means a longer cooking time (over 20 minutes), and by the time your bratwursts reach the appropriate internal temperature, the outside of the bratwurst will likely look, feel, and taste like charcoal.
Boiling, on the other hand, allows you to safely reach an appropriate internal temperature while keeping the brat as juicy as possible (not to mention you’ll be infusing the taste of beer into your brat at the same time!). Then, you simply place your bratwursts on the grill for a few minutes in order to get the perfect amount of char.
Though the choice of whether or not to boil your brats beforehand comes down to personal preference, we at Grillaholics believe that the best way to enjoy the best parts of the bratwurst is to boil it beforehand.
Cooking The Bratwurst
Assuming that you’re following our recommendation to boil your bratwurst beforehand, you’re going to need to know what exactly to boil your bratwurst in. If you’re using a specialty bratwurst that is already going to have a lot of flavor already (like the pineapple bratwurst mentioned earlier), then water will work perfectly for preserving that natural flavor. If you’re cooking traditional bratwurst, however, we highly recommend boiling them in beer to add some awesome flavor. You can also use a half beer, half water mixture if you still want that added flavor but don’t want to part with too much of your precious beer. As far as what kind of beer to use, it’s really up to you. From experience, beers that are dark or malty work best, as they’ll bring out a more rich flavor from the bratwurst. Avoid IPAs altogether as the bitterness will become infused in your brats and taste off. If you’re on a budget and don’t want to use an expensive six pack of your good stuff, PBR is probably your best option.
Once you’ve selected your liquid of choice, pour enough of it to cover your bratwursts into a pot and bring it to a simmer. You want to make sure to low boil your bratwursts gently to make sure they don’t split open during boiling and lose their natural juiciness. Once your liquid is simmering, add your bratwursts. Some recommend puncturing your bratwursts before adding them to the mixture so that they can soak up more of the beer. DON’T! Once again, you’ll lose juiciness. Simmer your brats for about 15 minutes, and then bring them to the grill for the finishing touches.
Remember, we’re really only throwing the bratwurst on the grill to infuse a bit of smoky flavor and to char them slightly, so they won’t need long on the grill. Bring the grill to medium-high heat, and throw the brats on for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the outside of the brats chars to a golden brown. After they’re finished, serve them immediately for the best flavor possible. Make sure to serve them on a hard roll (NOT a soft hotdog bun), and garnish with a bit of stone ground mustard. That's Bratwursts 101.
As we said before, bratwurst may not be the most exciting weapon in a Grillaholics arsenal, but with these tips we know you’ll be able to prepare perfect bratwurst every time. With National Bratwurst Day just around the corner, we hope our advice will come in handy! If you do use it, make sure to connect with us on our Facebook page so that we can see your results, and as always, cheers to being a Grillaholic.