During warm weather, grilled brats are a popular option of food for a big crowd. It’s not a surprise that these German-style sausages are the first pick for an outdoor party as they need little time to cook and taste great with beer.
However, sometimes it seems like it takes a professional chef to tell when the brats are fully grilled and not overcooked. Yet, all you need is to follow a few simple steps and tips of bratwurst masters to discover the ideal method of preparing juicy grilled brats.
The best way to tell when brats are done on the grill is by cooking at a medium-low heat temperature of 300 °F (150 °C) and taking them off the grill when the internal temperature reaches 160 °F (71 °C). A brat should never be consumed when still pink on the inside.
For checking the temperature, a thermometer like this one will do the trick nicely.
Please read on to learn more about properly cooking brats and making sure they are done before consuming. I’ll give you some easy guidelines to follow and even discuss whether or not to boil them before grilling.
How to Tell When Brats Are Done on the Grill
While sticking a meat thermometer in to check the internal temperature is the best way to tell when a brat is done, chefs do not recommend poking or pricking the sausage casing as this will result in an overcooked and dry sausage. However, without checking the interior core of a brat, it’s hard to tell if it’s fully cooked.
So, go ahead and poke them to check the internal temperature once they appear fully cooked on the outside and then check again every 5 minutes.
I recommend getting a meat thermometer that has a very thin “needle” for checking the temperature, like this one. I actually bought it for my wife as a gift and then commandeered it for grilling. I am assuming I will get some women’s shoes for my next birthday.
How Long Does It Take to Cook Brats on the Grill?
The cooking time of brats on the grill depends on the thickness and size of your bratwurst sausage. It usually takes 15-20 minutes for the meat to become fully cooked from the inside. You can add a minute or two if your brat is very dense and thick.
“Pre-Heat” the Grill
Before you place your brats on the grill, make sure the grill’s heat has reached the required temperature of 300 – 350 °F. Only then does the cooking time start.
You can place your sausages vertically on the grill to get these appealing grill marks. Also, make sure there is enough space on the grate between each brat. It will help with getting a more evenly cooked meat. You should hear the sizzling sound once the brats are on the grill.
Should I Leave the Lid On?
You can close the lid or keep it open. It depends on your preference and taste, but either way, you have to turn your bratwurst sausages every 2 minutes for them to get evenly caramelized. It’s a crucial step in brats cooking as it allows your chopped meat to unleash the amino acids inside it and get that natural meat flavor.
Turning brats will give them a slightly dark brown color on the outside while trapping the taste and juiciness inside them. You can also spray or coat your brats with oil, water, or beer while they are on the grill. It will ensure your sausages won’t stick to the grate and won’t burn that much at the grill marks.
How Long It Usually Takes
Eventually, after about 20 minutes, your sausages will reach the meat temperature of 150-160 °F (65-71 °C). It’s the perfect time to take them off the grill and to let them rest for 5 minutes before eating them.
Your German-style sausages should look juicy, brown, and have dark grilled marks on the outside. If you are using pre-cooked or earlier poached brats, then 5-7 minutes on the grill will be enough. However, I recommend using fresh bratwurst sausages for that natural meaty flavor and juicy taste.
Pro Tip: The one big mistake that people make is treating bratwurst sausages like hot dogs. Placing your brats on the burning hot grill will cause splits in the tender casing of the brat. Keeping its skin unruptured should be your goal when preparing brats because that’s how most of the natural flavor leaks out of your German sausage.
How Do You Tell if Brats Are Done Without a Thermometer?
It’s best to have a meat thermometer to check that your brats reached the 160 °F temperature after 15-20 minutes of grilling.
However, there are other methods that you can use to discover the readiness stage of your brats.
- The “touch” method- The method is to touch the brat with the flesh at the tip of your finger. Press your thumb finger to your pinky one, and memorize how the flesh between them feels. It should be firm yet slightly bouncy. That is how your sausage should be to the touch when you’re striving for a well-done brat. The feeling between your thumb and index finger is how rare cooked meat should be. Your thumb and your middle finger resemble medium-rare meat to the touch, while your ring finger and thumb feel like medium-cooked meat’s firmness. That is how most professional chefs check their meat readiness.
- The “wiggle” method- This one might look a little odd to people who see you do it, so be forewarned. It involves picking up the brat with thongs and slightly wiggling it up and down. If they are firm and bouncy, then they are well-cooked.
- An alternative “thermometer”- I actually really like this hack. How it works is that you use a cake tester instead of a meat thermometer. It’s so small that you can poke it at an angle into your sausage and then touch your wrist with the tester. If it’s hot, then the brat is well-done, and if it’s warm, then it’s medium-rare.
Do You Boil Brats Before Grilling?
This is a common mistake that many amateurs make and is a persistent myth that drives chefs crazy.
Never boil brats in water or beer before or after grilling them. It takes away the natural meat flavor. Brats are just chopped meat in a thin casing, and this sausage skin will split from a high boiling temperature.
What you can do is steam your brats with vegetables or a simmering beer in an aluminum pan before or after the grilling process.
Here’s how you do it:
If you want to simmer your bratwurst sausages before grilling, you can leave them in a pan for 15 to 20 minutes. The grilling time will decrease to 5-10 minutes as your brats are pre-cooked now. If you want to simmer your brats after the grilling process, the time on the grill should be 15-20 minutes, while the steaming will take 5 minutes.
Never confuse the term boiling with simmering.
When you place your brats on the pan, add water or water and beer in equal parts and let the water warm up. Once it’s on the verge of boiling, bring the heat to its lowest temperature and keep it that way for 20 minutes. The low temperature of simmering will allow your brats’ casings to stay intact while adding juiciness and flavor to your sausages.
Nothing beats the flavor of perfectly cooked meat in any form. Whether it be ribs, wings, or the subject of this article, I am glad you stopped by to find out how to do it right. Now, there can be one more party or get-together with really happy and satisfied guests!
Thanks for reading!
For more, don’t miss Is It Safe to Cook on a Rusty Grill? (With 8 Fixes).
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