How to Boil Brats Before Grilling Them

Bratwurst, commonly known as brats, is a type of sausage that's a popular substitute for hot dogs.
Image Credit: Nadezhda_Nesterova/iStock/GettyImages

By boiling brats before tossing them on the grill, you can infuse the flavor, shorten the cooking time and make sure they're fully cooked through to destroy any potential pathogens.

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Tip

If you have fresh brats, boil them in a cast-iron skillet for 10 to 15 minutes. Pre-cooked brats don't need to be boiled before grilling.

Bratwurst sausage originated in Germany and has become a favorite picnic and tailgating food. Although traditionally made with pork or a pork and veal mixture, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (NHDSC), brats can contain any type of meat. They come in a variety of sizes and textures, as well as seasonings, such as pepper, sage and nutmeg.

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Brats are usually made into links and can be purchased fresh, fully cooked or cured. A May 2012 study in the Journal of Food Science looked at the effects of various cooking methods on food nitrate content and found that boiling was one of the best methods of cooking cured meat (along with microwaving).

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How to Boil Fresh Brats Before Grilling

Things You'll Need

  • Fresh brats

  • Heavy skillet or cast-iron skillet

  • Water or another liquid

You have to parboil (or precook) brats before grilling them to make sure they are thoroughly cooked. Cooking brats in a cast-iron skillet is a good way to do this. Here's how:

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  1. Place the brats on your skillet and add enough water or another liquid to cover the brats.
  2. Boil the brats for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the sausage is grey throughout, per the NHDSC.
  3. Transfer the brats to the grill to nicely brown and crisp them. Use a food thermometer to make sure their internal temperature reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit if they contain ground beef, pork, lamb or veal. For brats made from ground turkey or chicken, the temperature should be at least 165 degrees, per the USDA.

Tip

Substituting beer for water when parboiling brats adds flavor. The best beer for brats depends on what would pair best with the type of bratwurst you're using.

For example, beers that are heavy on malt will produce a sweet flavor and complement a strong sausage, per the NHDSC. Lagers tend to be bitter and complement a sweeter brat. You can also add onions to the beer for even more flavor.

Heating Pre-Cooked Brats

If you buy pre-cooked brats, you only need to heat them. Here's how to do so:

  1. Bring a pan of water to a boil
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and add the brats.
  3. Cover the pan and let it stand for 10 to 15 minutes, per the NHDSC.

Using this method will lessen the chance of bratwurst splitting. Then, if you want to brown the brats, you can put them on the grill.

Nutrition in Bratwurst Sausage

According to the USDA, a link of cooked pork brats (about 3 ounces) contains:

  • Calories:​ 283 calories
  • Total fat:​ 24.8 g
    • Saturated fat:​ 8.5 g
  • Cholesterol:​ 62.9 mg
  • Sodium:​ 719.1 mg
  • Total carbs:​ 2.4 g
  • Protein:​ 11.7 g

There is only a minimal amount of carbs in pork brats, but the cholesterol count is 62.9 milligrams per link. If you're trying to lower your cholesterol, you should limit your intake to 200 milligrams a day, advises the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Brats are also high in saturated fat, which is linked to contributing to high cholesterol levels. Note that one link of brats contains 719 milligrams of sodium, or 31 percent of the DV. A high-sodium diet can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Brats are a good source of protein, with 11.7 grams or 23 percent of the Daily Value (DV) per link. They also provide 25 percent of the DV for zinc plus B vitamins, phosphorus and selenium.

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