How Long Do You Boil Bratwurst? #1 Best Tip

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Bratwurst is a fresh sausage that is typically cooked over high heat on a grill. However, most cooks agree that fresh bratwurst is best boiled first prior to grilling.

But how long do you do this to ensure proper cooking?

How long do you boil bratwurst?

How Long Do You Boil Bratwurst?

Fresh bratwurst can be boiled anywhere from 10-20 minutes prior to grilling. Boiling is done to cook them to a safe internal temperature, to infuse flavor, to keep moisture in and prevent them from splitting apart while grilling. It also shortens the cooking time and ensures even cooking.

How Long Do You Boil Bratwurst?
How Long Do You Boil Bratwurst?

How Long Should Bratwurst Be Boiled?

Fresh sausages like bratwursts are raw and should be cooked before you can eat them. While grilling is done over direct and high heat, it’s difficult to ensure full and even cooking on the grill without drying the sausage out.

This is where boiling comes into play. Boiling bratwurst prior to grilling them ensures that the integrity of the sausage is maintained (meaning, it won’t split apart and ooze juices out on the grill). It also ensures that moisture and flavor are retained inside the sausage.

The most important purpose of boiling I think, is to ensure that the sausages will be safely and evenly cooked before putting them on the grill so you do not risk ending up with sausage that is nicely charred on the outside, but raw on the inside. According to the USDA, all sausages should be cooked to a temperature of 160 °F for them to be safe to eat.

Bratwursts can be boiled anywhere from 10-20 minutes, depending on their size.  However, most cooks recommend boiling only from 10-12 minutes and finishing them up on the grill so they do not get too mushy. Bratwursts are safe to eat when a meat thermometer registers 160 °F.

It is important to note though, that boiling here means that you bring the liquid up to a boil, and lower the heat to get more of like a gentle simmer of the liquid. It does not really mean a vigorous boil. Vigorous boiling at too high a temperature can compromise the form and quality of your bratwurst.

The correct term to use is to parboil the bratwurst.

Prior to grilling, bratwurst can be boiled anywhere from 10-20 minutes.
Prior to grilling, bratwurst can be boiled anywhere from 10-20 minutes.

Why Should You Boil Bratwurst?

To get the maximum flavor and texture and to make sure your fresh bratwurst is safe to eat, it is best to boil them prior to throwing them on the grill.

Though it can be a point of contention with some cooks, it is generally agreed that fresh bratwurst should be boiled prior to grilling. Below are reasons why we boil bratwurst.

1. Flavor

Boiling bratwurst prior to grilling provides an opportunity to add flavor to your sausage.

Some cooks parboil their sausage in beer prior to grilling as they swear by the depth of flavor it adds to the bratwurst although some also disagree as beer can change in flavor when boiled.

Other possible choices as boiling liquid include water, wine or beer, stock or broth, and sauces like tomato sauce.

2. Keeps Your Bratwurst Moist

Boiling in liquid prior to grilling keeps your bratwurst moist and flavorful.  

According to Bon Appetit, boiling in liquid retains moisture inside the sausage as no fat is involved in this boiling process.

No fat is released or rendered onto the pan as compared to pan frying or grilling. We know that fat is what is responsible for flavor, and in sausages especially, keeping them inside the sausage means that we retain all the flavors inside. 

3. Maintains Form and Shape of Your Bratwurst

Soaking or boiling in liquid also makes the casings of the sausage more pliable and less likely to break (and thus leak all the juices out), which keeps all the flavors inside the meat as it grills.

4. Ensures Even Cooking

Boiling allows the bratwurst to fully cook inside. Grilling, while it is done over very high heat, is not a very good cooking method to depend on if you want to ensure that all parts of your sausage are evenly and fully cooked.

Because the heat is intense, it cooks and chars the outside of the bratwurst very quickly, which “seals in” the flavor of the meat and creates some sort of barrier that won’t allow your sausages to fully cook inside. You can end up with nicely charred sausages that are raw and pink on the inside. 

Boiling prior to grilling also ensures that all parts of your sausage are cooked to a safe internal temperature.

Bratwurst may be grilled directly but it may result in uneven cooking.
Bratwurst may be grilled directly but it may result in uneven cooking.

5. Shortens Cooking Time

Aside from evenly cooking your bratwurst, boiling prior to grilling also shortens the cooking time of your sausages because you are then only grilling to add flavor and texture to the sausage, and thus you do not have to do it for a very long time.

Boiling prior to grilling allows you to cook the bratwurst on the grill quickly and safely without drying it out.

What Is A Bratwurst?

Bratwurst is a kind of fresh sausage that was brought to the U.S. by German immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries.

It is usually made with pork, although sometimes beef, veal, and lamb versions, as well as a mixture of those meats, can be found. In the U.S., it is a favorite in barbecues and outdoor cookouts, and is a favorite food in sports-related events.

Bratwursts may seem quite unremarkable when you first see them but they really stand out and shine when they are grilled, which in most cooks’ opinions, is really the best way to prepare them.

The dominant spice and flavor in bratwurst is usually marjoram, but other spices such as sage, caraway, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, peppers, mace, and coriander are often used. Especially in Germany, specific spices depend on the region where it is made. 

American-style “brats”, as they are known in the U.S., are typically boiled or soaked in beer prior to or after grilling, to infuse them with flavor.

Bratwursts are spiced sausages usually made of pork, but can be made with beef and veal too.
Bratwursts are spiced sausages usually made of pork, but can be made with beef and veal too.

Do All Bratwursts Need To Be Boiled Before Grilling?

Most bratwursts are fresh sausage, meaning they are raw and need to be cooked thoroughly before you can eat them. Sometimes though, you can find bratwurst that is already pre-cooked. In this case, they are already safe to eat and do not need to be boiled prior to throwing them on the grill.

Should You Boil Brats in Beer Before Grilling?

Soaking or parboiling bratwurst in beer prior to grilling is done to infuse flavor, improve texture and allow the bratwurst to cook on the grill quickly and evenly.  

Some cooks believe that boiling bratwurst in beer can leave them with an unpleasant taste as beer changes in flavor when boiled for too long.

Some say that soaking instead is a better option, and soaking should be done after grilling. They believe soaking in beer prior to grilling does not offer much difference in juiciness, and flavor. Soaking them post grilling in a warm beer bath offers a much better alternative that leaves bratwursts moist and juicy.

If you are using beer to parboil your brats though, just make sure to not do it for too long, and to use the right kind of beer for your brats.  Remember, boiling does not mean vigorous boiling. It means more of a gentle simmer to slowly infuse flavor into your bratwurst.

Parboiling bratwurst in beer prior to grilling is a popular way to prepare bratwurst in the U.S.
Parboiling bratwurst in beer prior to grilling is a popular way to prepare bratwurst in the U.S.

Conclusion To How Long Do You Boil Bratwurst?

Bratwurst can be gently boiled in liquid for about 10-20 minutes before grilling. Parboiling bratwurst improves flavor and texture and makes the bratwurst less susceptible to splitting apart when put on a hot grill. Parboiling also shortens the cooking time and ensures even and thorough cooking.

Frequently Asked Questions to How Long Do You Boil Bratwurst?

 How to Cook Bratwurst?

Bratwurst are fresh, raw sausages that must be cooked thoroughly. In the U.S., bratwursts are typically parboiled in liquid before putting on the grill to get their charred, smoky flavor.

Should You Boil Brats Before Grilling?

Boiling brats beforehand shortens the cooking time on the grill, and allows them to be thoroughly and evenly cooked. Cooking brats directly on the grill without parboiling is possible, but if you do not control the heat properly, you run the risk of ending up with a sausage that’s burnt and charred on the outside but raw inside.

How to Boil Brats Without Beer?

Beer is commonly used to soak or boil brats but water, stock or broth, wine or other types of sauces and liquids may be used too.

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