How Long Do You Boil Brats Before Grilling Them?

Hearty, filling, and intensely flavorful, bratwursts are a brilliant sausage for barbecues, backyard cookouts, and tailgating. Usually made with pork, beef, or veal, they're available to buy in a variety of styles. You might find them smoked, cured, or even pre-cooked. For the best results, though, you'll want to buy them fresh and cook the Bavarian sausages yourself.

There are several ways to prepare and cook brats. They can be cooked directly in an oven or skillet, grilled, or simply boiled. But it's combining two methods — boiling, followed by a little time on the grill — that really takes them to the next level. The cooking liquid makes the brats plump, juicy, and succulent while the hot grill lends them a beautiful char and a rich smoky flavor.

Since the sausages start out raw, the timing matters when it comes to cooking. They should be simmered in liquid for around 10 to 15 minutes, so they're just cooked through. Then, toss them on the grill for a few minutes on each side until they reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. As for the best liquid to use, you can of course boil the brats in water, but for an extra-tasty result, it's worth using a more flavorful option such as beer.

Boil brats in beer for extra flavor and texture

Just as boiling hotdogs in beer versus water creates fantastic flavor, the alcoholic beverage also has a big impact on brats. Something light like a lager or pilsner will infuse the sausages with heaps of rich, savory notes as they slowly cook. Due to the way the alcohol interacts with fat in particular, your entire sausage will be subtly scented and infused with the taste of the beer.

If you want to add even more depth to the liquid, try using extra spices or aromatics, too. Adding thinly sliced onion to the beer as it heats through, and then cooking the brats in it, will enrich the taste and aroma. Once drained, the beer-caramelized alliums also make a delicious accompaniment to the sausages. If you want a little heat or to intensify the flavor further, you could also try red pepper flakes or garlic powder. Or replace the beer with a crisp cider, or with beef broth for an umami-rich, non-alcoholic version.

There is also an alternative method that sees these steps reversed, by grilling the brats first to sear them before they are then boiled to finish cooking. But whatever technique and liquid mix you prefer, just be sure to simmer gently rather than vigorously boiling to avoid bursting the delicate casing of the brats.

What to serve with beer brats

Brats are delicious served simply stuffed into split toasted hoagie or brat rolls, topped with beer-softened onions and wholegrain mustard, or piled high with your preferred choice of condiments and toppings. But there are many other ingredients and sides that can elevate the sausages to create a next-level, crowd-pleasing barbecue dish.

A cold, creamy potato salad makes the perfect partner for beer-boiled brats, complementing the robust meaty flavors. While a basic homemade potato salad will do the job nicely, it's well worth trying a German-style potato salad with horseradish recipe for a little extra kick. Add a bowl of rich mustard and a pretzel on the side to really feel like you're in the heart of Bavaria.

Sharp, tangy flavors and crunchy textures also work well with the meaty sausages, helping to counteract and cut through the richness. Try making your own sauerkraut with just cabbage and salt to serve on top of or alongside the brats. Sweet and sour braised red cabbage also works well, adding a glorious pop of vivid color as well as a complex blend of flavors. Or ramp up the sweetness rather than the sour notes by serving the smoky sausages with roasted apples for a delightful contrast.