How to Grill Brats Perfectly Every Time

Fire up the BBQ and learn how to grill a perfect batch of juicy bratwurst sausages at your next cookout.

Grilled Bockwurst and Bratwurst meat sausages on a cleaver.
Photo: Vladimir/Adobe Stock

For minimal-effort grilling with high rewards, brats should be your go-to. We take the guessing game out of how to grill brats based on the type of grill you're using—as in a gas, pellet, or charcoal grill, or even a grilling pan—with tips for getting a perfect char on your brat. We even answer that enigmatic question, "How do I know when brats are done?"

But first, what are brats, exactly, and what makes them so great for grilling?

What Makes Brats so Great

Bratwurst is a German sausage traditionally made with pork and veal, although your grocer may carry all-beef ones or a beef combo. A variety of spices—usually ginger, nutmeg, lovage, marjoram, coriander, and caraway give brats their distinctive flavor. Generally sold fresh, brats are also available pre-cooked, cured or uncured, and smoked or unsmoked.

There are many ways to cook brats, but grilling creates those charred bits that add complexity and the char-grilled flavor we love about a cookout. Brats are convenient, require next-to-no prep, and are guaranteed to be seasoned perfectly throughout without having to fuss with a marinade like for many other grilling options. Plus, fresh brats, like other sausages, come off the grill juicy and tender and are basically impossible to mess up as long as you cook them over moderate heat.

Another major perk: There are infinite ways to serve and enjoy brats. In Germany, this popular street food is often served in little paper food boats with a side of fries and ketchup, and sometimes mayonnaise or mustard. Street vendors serve them in a bread roll, not to be confused with a hot dog bun. For backyard cookouts, it's common to find brats (in the company of other sausages) served alongside a variety of salads (including potato salad) and an assortment of sauces.

What You Need:

  • Grill
  • Oil (for the grill grates)
  • Brats
  • Grill tongs
  • Meat thermometer
  • Serving platter

How to Grill Brats on a Gas Grill

The benefit of cooking on a gas grill is that the heat is consistent. This makes sticking to moderate heat, the ideal for brats, easily achievable. Frequent turning of the brats is a must, but there's less of a concern that the grill will be too hot and split the casings.

Step 1: Preheat

Preheat grill with oiled grates over medium-low (300 to 350 degrees).

Step 2: Grill

Grill brats, turning often with tongs, until charred in spots and an instant-read thermometer registers at least 160 degrees, about 20 minutes.

How to Grill Brats on a Pellet Grill

Similar to gas grills, you can effortlessly control a pellet grill's cooking temperature, but the pellets add a subtle smokiness. Since pellet grills produce indirect heat, brats are less likely to overcook or split.

Step 1: Preheat

Preheat grill with oiled grates to 350 degrees.

Step 2: Grill

Grill brats with the lid closed, turning often with tongs, until charred in spots and an instant-read thermometer registers at least 160 degrees, about 20 minutes.

How to Grill Brats on a Charcoal Grill

Charcoal grills yield that smoky irresistible grill flavor, but they can get very, very hot. They're great for getting a nice sear on a steak but not so great for brats, which can split if the heat is too intense.

To cook brats on a charcoal grill, start them over indirect heat until mostly cooked, and then transfer them to the side of the grill with direct heat so they pick up a nice char in spots. Alternatively, cook your brats in an aluminum pan filled with beer (or a mixture of beer and water) directly on the grill.

Step 1: Preheat

Prepare a grill in a two-zone configuration for medium heat (350 to 450 degrees). Spread out coals on one side of the grill, leaving the other side coal-free. Lightly oil the grates.

Step 2: Grill Over Indirect Heat

Grill brats over indirect heat, turning frequently with tongs, for about 15 minutes.

Step 3: Grill Over Direct Heat

Transfer brats to the hot side with the coals and grill over direct heat, until charred in spots and an instant-read thermometer registers at least 160 degrees, about 5 minutes.

How to Grill Brats in a Grill Pan

Grill pans come in handy when firing up the grill feels like too much work but you're still craving the crusty, charred bits that grill marks can offer. Grill pans are also reliable since they heat up evenly and retain heat, which is perfect when cooking brats, inside or out.

Step 1: Preheat

Preheat the grill pan over medium. Lightly coat with oil.

Step 2: Grill

Grill brats, turning occasionally, until grill marks appear and an instant-read thermometer registers at least 160 degrees, about 15 minutes. If you want a deeper char, increase heat to medium-high in the last few minutes of cooking.

How to Tell When Brats Are Done

There is one simple way to truly know that brats are cooked through, and you might have guessed the answer already. A digital meat thermometer is the only way to guarantee your brats reach a safe internal temperature of 160 degrees. (The temperature continues to rise by a few degrees after cooking, so it's fine to pull the brats from the heat at 155 degrees). This rule applies to both fresh and pre-cooked brats.

It's easy to assume that if they're charred on the outside and have been on the grill long enough, they must be ready. But if the grill is too hot, brats might char on the outside before they're fully cooked on the inside. Pinkness is also not a reliable visual cue, as sausages can retain a pink color due to their processing, even if they're fully cooked. So get yourself a digital meat thermometer once and for all and never play the guessing game again.

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