Have you ever wondered how to cook bratwurst correctly? Do you want to know how to tell bratwurst from all other delicious German sausages and how to prepare and serve them for the best meal ever?
Last year, my family and I were spending some days in Germany and I had the most delicious bratwurst— my guilty pleasure!— but the cook just would not tell me the recipe. When I got back home, I tried to replicate the results, but it was just not the same. It felt…off. That is when I buckled down and decided to really learn how to cook brats.
I have searched far and wide, tried many different recipes and techniques, and I bring you the results so you can prepare the best bratwurst in the comfort of your own home!
What, exactly, is bratwurst?
Bratwurst is a traditionally German type of sausage. Its name means, in translation, “Finely chopped meat sausage”. Quite promising, is it not? Bratwurst has existed since— at least— the middle ages (and, perhaps, as early as 228 A.D.!).
Almost every region of Germany is proud to call a different type of bratwurst their own, and each of them is deliciously unique. In all, there are about 40 different sorts! However, they all do have common traits that set them apart from other sausages.
In the first place, it is made of top-notch pork, veal, or even beef. For it to be real bratwurst, all the meat ingredients must be of high quality and chopped in a very fine way. It must also contain a blend of spices that usually includes coriander, caraway, and ginger (sometimes other herbs get thrown into the mix).
Essentially, it is a piece of heaven wrapped up in natural casing. Smoky, intense, and somewhat spicy— the bratwurst brings back the best memories of summers spent with family outside.
How to buy and store bratwurst to keep it good
Know your bratwurst types! Of course, you can get whatever the grocery store decides to label as a bratwurst. However, you have an advantage when you can actually tell the type and quality of the bratwurst you are taking home with you.
Some of the most popular types are the Rote Wurst, the Fränkische Bratwurst, and the spicier Würzburger Bratwurst.
If you are buying at a grocery store— not the best option!— remember to check the expiration or sell-by date on the packaging of your bratwurst. Do not go for the cheapest versions if you can at all avoid it. When we are speaking of sausages, price does translate into quality.
The best place to buy raw bratwurst for an amazing meal is your local butcher’s or market. This way, you can ask them how the sausage gets made and even ask for special varieties! Just make sure that the place is clean and that they wrap your bratwurst in brown paper for the way home. It is great when you can trust a provider!
You can keep your raw bratwurst in the fridge for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months in the freezer. Always check that they are stored in an airtight container away from any other food in order to avoid spreading the germs in the raw meat.
Tips for before cooking bratwurst
Always ensure that your bratwurst—and any other meat— is the last thing you buy or grab before heading home. This will help to keep it at a low temperature and stop harmful bacteria from spreading.
If the bratwurst was stored in the freezer, do not thaw it on the counter: that means lots of bad bugs! Instead, thaw it the night before in the refrigerator and take it out 5 minutes before you plan to start cooking.
To be able to do this, always check that you have everything you need for cooking before you take the meat out of storage.
Never lay the sausages on the counter or on any other surface that will later touch food. If you accidentally do this, make sure to wipe the area down and disinfect thoroughly. In the same way, always clean all the knives and plates that touch the raw bratwurst.
Different methods to cook bratwurst
I can almost hear you wondering: “But what about the cooking part itself, Janet?”. We are coming right to it! It is important, however, that you remember how to pick and store bratwurst correctly, as well as what to do before you start cooking in order to keep it safe to eat.
There are several methods you can use to cook bratwurst. The three most popular ones are:
- Cooking bratwurst in the oven
- Cooking bratwurst by boiling it
- My very favorite: poaching your bratwurst in a pan with a beer and onion blend (yes, it is delicious).
How to cook brats in oven
The oven is arguably the best way to cook any meal. Healthy, crispy, and well-cooked final products make it a winner or close runner-up— and it is certainly one of the best ways to cook brats!
- Before you take the bratwurst out of the freezer or refrigerator, make sure to preheat the oven. The temperature should reach 350 degrees F. or 180 degrees C. On average, the oven will reach this temperature in about ten to fifteen minutes.
- After you have taken the brats out and let them rest for at most 5 minutes at room temperature, place them on a cast iron skillet or, if you do not have one, on a broiling pan. Take care to keep a good amount of space between one brat and the other!
- Place the cast iron skillet or broiling pan on the oven rack and let the sausages cook for 4 to 5 minutes.
- Every 4 to 5 minutes, open the oven’s door to check on the sausages and turn them over. Doing this means that they will not get burned on any side.
- How long to cook brats in the oven? 15 to 20 minutes, tops.
- If you are unsure about whether your bratwurst is cooked or not, use a meat thermometer! To be safe, the internal temperature of the sausages should be around 160 degrees F.
If you do not want to use a cast iron skillet or broiling pan, you can wrap each individual sausage in aluminum foil. Place them on a baking tray or directly on an oven rack. Again, keep rotating the brats every five minutes to avoid burning! All the other oven cooking instructions still apply.
How to boil bratwurst
This is one of the most traditional methods for cooking brats! You are in good company.
- To start, grab a deep pot and fill it with water.
- Put the brats in the water, making sure that they are covered well and are not packed too close together.
- Use medium heat on your stovetop to bring the water and brats to a boil. When it reaches boiling point, turn down the heat— this way, the dish will taste better!
- How long to boil brats? Just about 20 minutes!
- Take them out of the water with a pair of tongs and place them on a preheated grill for about 7 minutes. Turn them around every minute or two!
Using this method, you will get brats that are tender and subtle on the inside and have a pleasant crispy texture on the outside.
How to cook bratwurst in a pan— with beer and onion!
This way of cooking brats is perfectly traditional and captures everything me and my family think of when remembering Germany. The combined taste of the beer and the onion might seem a bit unexpected, but it gives the finished dish a really nice touch.
You will need:
- 4 cans of beer of a normal size.
- 1 large onion (sliced thin or, preferably, diced)
- A pinch of spices (pepper, a couple of garlic cloves, cumin— it really comes down to your personal preference)
- Some oil (olive or sunflower)
- One large pan
- All the bratwurst you want to eat!
- Combine the spices with the beer and diced onion. Mix well!
- Put the mixture in the deep pan with a dash of the oil you chose.
- Put the brats in and bring the pot to a simmer.
- Cook for about 10 minutes. Then, let them sit.
- You can finish crisping the bratwurst up on the grill!
Trust me— this will be the best bratwurst meal you and your family have ever had!
Tips for serving bratwurst
You can go the traditional way and serve the brats with typical German fare: chucrut, sauerkraut, or any sort of buttery potato side dish! Don’t forget the bread and beer!
With this complete guide on how to cook bratwurst, you will never be in doubt again. You can choose any method you want but, in the end, what matters the most is that you and your loved ones have a good meal and a fun time. Enjoy!