Have You Been Grilling Your Brats Wrong? Not Anymore!

If you're tossing your brats straight on the grill, you're probably cooking them wrong. We have a secret method that makes them juicy on the inside and snappy on the outside.

Nothing makes me cringe more than seeing someone toss bratwurst (or other sausages) on the grill only to see flames shoot high in the air. Chances are good they’ll burn to a crisp before they’re cooked through on the inside. Or, worse yet, the high heat could cause the meat to explode right through the casing! Let us show you how to grill brats the right way so they’re juicy on the inside and snappy on the outside. Don’t worry—they’ll still have plenty of smoky grill flavor!

Give Your Sausage a Bath

Treat your brats to a luxurious bath before hitting the grill. This step is called parboiling, and it primes the sausage so they’re grill-ready. You see, sausage is basically a pressure-stuffed casing filled with a high-fat-content mixture of ground meat and seasonings. When the mixture heats, all that fat renders and releases its juices inside the casing. If the juices expand too quickly, that pressurize container will likely pop! And, when the casing cracks, all the flavor comes bursting right out with it. Even if you cook the sausage slowly enough to prevent a blowout, the grill is too hot and you’ll burn the outsides before you can cook the middle all the way through.

The solution: Cook your sausages lower and slower by simmering them in liquid.

This allows the sausages to cook evenly all the way through. Any liquid will work for your sausage bath—beer, broth or water—and you won’t need to completely submerge them, either. Simply place the sausages in the pan and add cold liquid until it reaches 3/4 of the way up the sausage. Slowly bring the whole mixture to a simmer and voila! You’ll have perfectly cooked brats.

Test Kitchen tip: The best and easiest way to simmer your sausages is to use the grill. Place a cast iron pan directly on the grill grates and close the lid. (You could also use aluminum foil pans or make foil packets instead.) You’ll want to keep the pan on the indirect-heat side of the grill to keep the mixture from boiling, but the grill’s circulating air will infuse the sausages with a ton of smoky flavor.

Sear the Sausages to Finish Them

It should take about 20 minutes for your sausages to reach 150°F on an instant-read meat thermometer (yep, it’s a wise investment). The sausages are fully cooked and ready for some color, so it’s time to hit the grill! Remove them from them pan and transfer them to the hot side of the grill. Give them a light sear on all four sides, about 5 minutes in total. You don’t want to fully char the casing, but you do want to give them a golden appearance and a nice, snappy finish.

The other great thing about this method—you can simmer your sausages ahead of time and hold them warm until your guests are ready to eat. Then, just pop ’em on the grill and they’ll make perfect made-to-order sandwiches. It doesn’t get any better than that!

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Lindsay D. Mattison
After years of working in professional kitchens, Lindsay traded her knives in for the pen. While she spends most of her time writing these days, she still exercises her culinary muscles on the regular, taking any opportunity to turn local, seasonal ingredients into beautiful meals for her family.