Whether for a holiday barbecue or a Sunday breakfast, brats are popular for many American families, but not everyone has a brat expert who can guide their grilling. So how do you make sure your brats emerge from the grill crispy, juicy, and ready to serve? How long should you boil your brats before putting them onto the grill?
You should boil brats for 10 to 20 minutes on low to medium heat before grilling. Simmering will seal the juices in and cook the sausage through without ruining its texture. It’s also a perfect opportunity to infuse extra flavor by simmering in beer and garnishes.
Cooking is a craft, and preparing brats is no exception. Read on to find out how to boil and grill delicious brats without creating a mushy mess.
To see the best gear for grilling just click here.
Should I Even Boil Brats Before Grilling?
Although you don’t have to boil brats, boiling them does have its benefits. For instance, it ensures that the sausage is cooked all the way through. Too high heat for too long, though, can sabotage the texture of the sausage and make it unappealing.
Consider the following when determining whether or not to boil your own bratwursts.
Reasons To Boil Before Grilling Brats
Sometimes the additional step is worth it. Reasons to boil before grilling include:
- Cooking the brat all the way through prevents foodborne illnesses. Plus, many people oppose the texture of raw meat.
- Keeping in the juices. Sausages, including brats, derive their delectable flavor in part from their high-fat content. Boiling the brats before grilling them helps keep that fat in and maintains their flavor.
- Infusing new flavors. This is especially true when boiling the bratwurst in beer. The sausage absorbs some of the flavors from the liquid it’s cooking in.
- Preventing the brats from splitting open. This maintains both the integrity of the flavor and the integrity of the presentation. We all want to impress!
Reasons To Avoid Boiling Before Grilling
For all the good boiling can do, there are potential drawbacks if your technique doesn’t account for and try to prevent:
- Mushy texture: It’s easy to overcook the sausage and make it squishy. This can be avoided, but if you’re not confident in your boiling abilities, it may be better to skip straight to the grill.
- Leaching flavor: The process of cooking will make the sausage bleed a little. However, if the casing bursts suddenly, all the seasoning and fat—i.e., the good stuff—will escape. Boiling is more likely to result in a burst sausage than grilling.
Boiling can soften a brat’s texture or sap its flavor, but it doesn’t have to. It’s not that you boil so much as how you boil your brats.
How To Perfectly Boil Your Brats
Botching your favorite side dish is probably not your idea of a good time. So how do you make sure your brats aren’t just good but fabulous?
Sweet Spot: Low to Medium Heat
Cooking on high heat for a short time only cooks the outside while leaving the center raw. This defeats the food safety purpose of boiling in order to cook all the way through. Additionally, extra heat can rupture the casing.
Instead, bring the pot to a boil and reduce the heat to medium or low. The casing can withstand this lower heat, and the low heat will allow it to cook the center without spoiling the outside.
Only Boil for a Few Minutes
You don’t need to compensate for a lower cooking temperature by simmering your sausages for hours. Instead, bring your liquid to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for about 10 to 20 minutes. This way, the meat doesn’t get soggy or practically melt into the pot.
Don’t Submerge the Sausages
Submerging the sausages all the way isn’t the end of the world, but it’s preferable to leave a little peeling out of the top. Fill the pot about ¾ of the way without fully submerging the brat. It reduces the heat stress on the casing and decreases the chance of the sausage bursting open.
Keep It in the Casing
Boiling can indeed pull juices from the meat. However, that mainly happens when the casing has been torn, pierced, or burst. So long as the casing is intact, the flavor should stay in, too.
This means you should not poke, prod, stab, press, or slice your brat while it’s still cooking. Reject the urge to use a fork to pick them up. Instead, if you need to, gently pick up sausages using a pair of tongs.
Why Do You Boil Brats in Beer?
Bratwursts are delicious as they are, but sometimes you want an extra kick.
Boiling in beer adds flavor to the sausages that boiling in water doesn’t. Just any beer won’t do, however, as you need to ensure that the type you purchase will complement the flavor of the brats rather than overpower or compete with it.
The Best Beer For Boiling Brats
The consensus seems to be that a sweeter, crispier beer accompanies savory brats quite nicely. Depending on your preferred taste and budget, the following beers are some of the best for simmering brats in:
- Lager: This type of beer is generally cheaper, more broadly available, and less likely to boil over when cooking. It also has a pleasant flavor that accompanies brats quite well. It’s practically impossible to go wrong with a lager.
- IPA: These add a sweeter flavor to the brat that complements the salt and fat in the sausage.
- Marzen: Sweet and spicy, these beers are a fantastic choice for when leaves fall off the trees and the football season commences.
- Stout: Vaguely resembling the taste of sweetened coffee, stouts go well with the opposing salty flavor of brats.
- Porter: With an ingredients list that generally includes chocolate in some form, this beer’s slight bitterness reels in the richness of the sausage without eliminating it.
Ultimately, however, it’s up to you. Choose whichever beer you would like to drink alongside your brats and see how it tastes when simmered into the meat.
Alternatives to Beer
Not everyone is a drinker, yet water can seem a little boring. If you’re not big on alcohol, or maybe just beer, in particular, you have a couple of options:
- Chicken broth: This classic base has a low-key flavor that will add to that of the brat without overpowering it.
- Beef broth: If you prefer a beefy taste to that of chicken, replace the chicken broth with beef broth. Like with chicken broth, its slight saltiness will add to the sausage’s savor without overloading it.
- Apple juice: Its sweetness makes apple juice a perfect replacement for beers like IPAs.
- Apple cider vinegar: While you don’t want to use apple cider vinegar for your entire boiling liquid, you can add up to ⅓ of the boiling liquid with ACV. It adds the same acidity that beer does, but it doesn’t have alcohol content. I’ve done this when I don’t have any beer, and it tastes remarkably similar to those cooked in beer.
You also don’t have to simmer brats in anything at all. Given their high-fat content, you can easily pan-fry them with seasonings and garnishes like an onion. We’ll talk about additional methods of cooking brats below.
How Long Do You Grill Brats After Boiling?
Boiling is great and all, but it won’t get you that classic crunch casing that other cooking methods will. This is where a grill and a pair of tongs come in handy.
After boiling, grill your brats for five to 10 minutes, which is just long enough to achieve a crisp golden sheen without making your brats look more like a piece of charcoal than part of a meal. Make sure to sear both sides evenly for that picture-perfect caramel glaze.
To ensure you cook your brats all the way through, you can use a thermometer to check the internal temperature, which should be 150°F (65.55°C) when fully cooked. You can also try waving some of the sausages around.
Here is the thermometer that I recommend.
If they’re firm, they’re ready, but if they’re floppy, leave them on the grill a little longer.
After you’ve taken them off the grill, set the sausages aside for a minute or two. Make sure the plate they’re on can collect any juices that are still sweating out. Let the links soak in these juices for a minute or two, so they can reabsorb some of the flavors while cooling.
Once they’ve cooled, they should be ready to serve.
Alternatives to Boiling Before Grilling
Switching between your stove and your grill can be cumbersome and logistically challenging, especially for a family feast. Certain accessories may not be available to you, or you may not enjoy particular methods of cooking.
Everyone has their own style. Luckily, brats can be prepared in a variety of ways:
- Boiling only: You can boil brats and eat them. It won’t have that grilled flavor nor a golden-brown sheen, but it will make them safe to eat. You can always add other flavors by using additional spices and garnishes.
- Grilling only: This is a common method of cooking brats, and people rarely complain when they bite into caramelized bliss. Since you won’t be cooking the sausage beforehand, however, make sure to cook it all the way through. Reduce the heat on your grill so that you can sear the outside without charring it. However, this is not recommended.
- Grill before you boil: This is a typical method of preparing a lot of brats at once, such as for large events like festivals. Reverse the steps: grill the brats for five to 10 minutes and then simmer for 10 to 20 minutes. Of course, this might take away that crispy outer texture that makes brats so good.
- Steaming with garnishes: Let your creative side emerge with this method. Pick your flavors: onion, sauerkraut, or other vegetables.
- Baking brats: Grills aren’t always available or possible to use, and perhaps boiling just isn’t flavorful enough for you. If so, you can simmer your brats and then bake them in a broiler or a dutch oven.
- Air frying brats: You can even air fry! It’s a quick method of cooking perfect for those on the go. Additionally, though it may not produce the greasy goodness many of us are used to, air frying gives you an excellent protein source without a bunch of added fat or other calories. It’ll also still taste as if it came right off the grill.
Can Brats Be a Little Pink?
You can eat pork or beef sausage if you verify that the internal temperature has reached a minimum of 145°F (62.77°C). Pork sausages are usually okay to eat when they’re a tad pink, but beef sausages that are pink on the inside are not ready to eat.
In pork sausages, substances such as salt and fatty fillers can turn cooked meat pinkish. If in doubt, check the internal temperature and examine the texture of the sausage.
As mentioned in the section about grilling, cooked sausages are firm and sturdy.
Beef sausages, on the other hand, should never be consumed when they’re pink. Since beef sausages have a slightly different fat content and ingredients list, a pinkish hue indicates that the meat is undercooked rather than that it’s salty.
But Why Can You Eat Medium Rare Steak and Not Sausage?
It’s because of the way the meat is cut and put together.
Sausages are made from ground meat, and grinding distributes pathogens from the skin into the rest of the cut. However, on freshly prepared steaks, harmful organisms like bacteria don’t generally go deep into the meat. Therefore, cooking outside is usually enough.
Keep in mind the word fresh, however. Harmful organisms can penetrate deeper into the meat with time, so the fresher the beef cut, the safer it is to eat rare.
It’s difficult to go wrong with these cuts. The advice, no matter which cooking style and ingredients you choose, is:
- Don’t pierce the casing: If you want flavor, make sure to keep the casing intact, no matter if you’re boiling, grilling, or air frying.
- Use complementary flavors: Sweet items like IPA beers or sauteed onions are perfect additions to the brats’ savory delight.
- Cook all the way through: Keep the heat low to medium to ensure the inside is cooked enough to be safe to eat.
Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll have yourself a set of perfect brats.
Thanks for stoppin’ by!
For more, don’t miss How to Tell When Brats Are Done on Grill | The Best Way.
Hey, I’m Jim, and I’m the author of this website. I have been teaching people a wide variety of survivalism topics for over five years and have a lifetime of experience fishing, camping, general survivalism, and anything in nature. In fact, while growing up, I spent more time on the water than on land! I am also a best-selling author and have a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. I hope you find value in the articles on this website. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or input!