Learning how to grill brats is one of those critical life skills that should be mandatory for every warm-blooded person with opposable thumbs to learn in school.
Bratwurst is a forgiving meat to work with and it’s hard to go wrong when you combine sausage, a grill, a hard roll, and stone ground mustard.
Don’t be intimidated when it comes to learning how to grill brats — it’s really very easy and learning can be the most delicious experiment you’ll ever tackle!
Perfect Grilled Brats Start with Great Bratwurst
Before we get into the thick of things, let’s start at the beginning: great grilled brats start with fresh local bratwurst.
There’s no shame in cooking up some brats from the meat aisle at the grocery store in a pinch but always try to find fresh local brats if you can.
Wisconsinmade.com is our favorite online source to buy brats online and have them shipped to you, as they sell authentic Wisconsin brats and quickly package and ship them out all over the country.
How to Grill Brats
Enough jibber jabber; let’s get to grilling bratwurst!
Check to see if you have pre-cooked brats or uncooked brats, as that will dramatically change how you cook them.
Pre-cooked brats need just a little time on the stove and on the grill (or vice versa) since they’re already cooked so you’re basically just browning them.
These instructions assume you’re working with uncooked brats, which we prefer as it gives you a little more room to add your own special touches and flavors.
One general tip before we jump in: never puncture the casing on brats when grilling.
Be careful when transferring and grilling them and use tongs when handling, as spearing them with a fork releases all the juicy goodness inside and results in dry, scorched bratwurst.
We’re now arrived at the fork in the road for bratwurst lovers and those searching for wisdom as to how to grill brats.
You’re about to be faced with a choice: boil/simmer your brats in beer first on the stove and then finish on the grill or grill first and then simmer on the stove.
How to Grill Brats: Stove First, then Grill
This is the method we learned and prefer but hey, to each their own.
Select a big enough pan or pot to hold your brats and dump them in. Slice up a few onions in big, thick pieces and add that.
Add equal parts water and beer until the brats are covered. Once it begins to boil, turn down the heat so that they simmer and cook at a very gentle boil — boil them too hot and the brats may burst.
As far as the beer you use, it’s up to you. Craft beer, Leine, Guinness — we’ve heard of people using all of them and turning out some great tasting bratwurst so feel free to experiment.
Add more liquid if you need to keep the brats moist and simmer for about 15-20 minutes. As you’re doing this, get your grill ready.
You’ll want a nice medium heat on the grill. Your goal is to brown and crisp your brats up so you don’t need a roaring fire that can be spotted from space.
Once your brats are done on the stove, transfer to the grill. Some people grill the onions as well and serve later on the brats, while others discard the onions.
Grill your brats for about 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how brown you like them. Voila, you’re done: tasty grilled brats!
Now you can proudly say that yes, yes you know how to grill brats.
How to Grill Brats: Grill First, then Stove
This method for how to grill brats basically just reverses the above steps, although people often simmer them longer using this method.
You start by grilling your brats on medium heat, taking care to not like them get to hot or dry out. They can burst easily and you’ll lose all that tasty, juicy goodness.
Brushing your brats lightly with olive oil before grilling is recommended, as it helps keep them moist and prevents splitting or bursting.
Grill for about the same amount of time as above — 5 to 10 minutes — and then transfer to a pot or pan to simmer in a mixture of beer, water, and onions for at least 20 minutes.
You’ll see this method used often at big events, brat frys, and parties where bratwurst is cranked out in mass quantities, as you can simmer in large pots or pans for hours and serve up brats as needed.
The beer and onion “hot tub” method of grilling first then simmering can also be used to add hamburgers and other grilled meats to at tailgates or other shindigs where you have people coming and going for hours and not served at one set time.