Grilled brats served on crusty rolls are a cookout favorite. But what’s the best way to grill bratwurst? We like a two-step approach of simmering them in beer to begin, then finishing them on the grill. Here’s why—just in time for National Bratwurst Day on August 16.
(Credit where credit is due: We first delved into this topic when Chowhound knucklesandwich wondered why simmer a sausage that’s destined to be cooked again on the grill? And why use beer in the first place?)
Why You Should Simmer Brats Before Grilling (And Why Use Beer)
Since you almost always find bratwurst raw in the market or butcher shop, poaching before grilling guarantees it’ll end up fully cooked by the time the casing is crisp and charred. Since you know your brats are already cooked, you don’t have to stress about raw pork or pink centers.
Fresh Bratwurst Links, 3 for $10 from Porter Road
These beautiful brats are made from pasture-raised pork.
This trick is also endorsed by Schaller & Weber Vice President, Jesse Denes, who says, “The whole idea is you want to get it cooked through pretty evenly before you start to crisp up the outside. So you get that snap and that bite and a little bit of that char.” (See even more of his tips to help you grill any sausage like a pro.)
While some say it makes no difference whether you simmer in beer or water, ThanksVille thinks beer adds an important flavor element; we’re partial to it too.
In fact, ThanksVille goes on to share how they’ve “used everything from an IPA to a porter, Guinness to Sam Adams and found distinct flavor profiles with each beer used including the cherry flavors from a SA cherry wheat and the citrus flavors from a Wisconsin summer shanty brew. If my wife can taste them, and she is clueless to what happens in the kitchen and outside on the grill, then the flavors are really there despite not doing a double blind experiment.”
Furthermore, rather than do the simmering step in the oven, ThanksVille does it on a Big Green Egg “with a couple lumps of apple or cherry or pecan wood chunks over a moderate 350 degree fire to get the smoke flavor into the liquid and brats from the very outset. Maybe 30 minutes because it takes about 15 just to get the liquid simmering.”
What to Simmer Brats in Besides Beer
If you want to avoid alcohol, or don’t like the flavor of beer—or even want to try something besides poaching—steam the bratwurst over water containing lots of herb sprigs, suggests EWSflash.
There’s no reason you couldn’t also use wine, broth, or a mixture of the two. We’d definitely still include the thick slices of onion, since they make such a great topper for the cooked brats. If you caramelize the onions first, even better.
Another Option: Grill First, Then Simmer
Meanwhile, twodales reverses the whole process, first grilling the sausages and then simmering them in beer with onions, adding: “It seems less ‘fatty’ to me but that is just my perception. It just tastes better too.”
And then there’s LauraLG‘s three-step approach. She simmers brats in beer and onions until cooked through, then grills them, and then puts them in a slow cooker filled with more beer and onions with green peppers and garlic. She thinks it’s great for parties, since you can cook the sausage ahead of time and hold it in the beer bath until your guests are ready.
No matter how or when you simmer, don’t throw out the poaching liquid. The onions make a fine condiment for the bratwurst, and you can reduce the beer till it’s syrupy and drizzle it over the sausage; as todao says, “Now there’s some flavor for ya.”
Everything Else You Need to Know
Header image by Chowhound