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The hardest part about cooking bratwurst is cooking them to the proper temperature without burning the outside to a crisp. Bratwurst is a ground pork sausage with high-fat content. Because of this, they are tricky to cook. When cooked the right way, a bratwurst sausage will be juicy on the inside with a nicely browned exterior.
But to achieve these results you need to learn the proper way to cook bratwurst. In this article, you will learn that the internal temperature for bratwurst when done is 160 degrees Fahrenheit on an accurate digital meat thermometer. You will also learn the best way to cook bratwurst. Whether on the grill or on the stove top, we got you covered.
Don’t have a good digital meat thermometer?
Here’s our review of the best digital meat thermometers.
What is a bratwurst made of?
To understand why a bratwurst sausage can be difficult to cook you need to understand what ingredients make up a bratwurst. Bratwurst sausage originated in what is now known as Germany as early as the 15th century. There are many derivations of the sausage, some using a mixture of beef pork and veal. However, the version that is sold in supermarkets today is mainly made from ground pork.
According to Johnsonville, the largest producer of bratwurst in the United States, a typical bratwurst will contain all ground pork with a 32% fat content. No wonder they taste so good! It is because of this high-fat content, coupled with the fact it is in a casing that shrinks when heated, that bratwurst are difficult to cook. That is unless you know how to cook them properly. The solution is really easy. We’re going to show you.
The path to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, the Internal Temperature for Bratwurst When Done
According to the USDA, sausages made with ground pork like bratwurst are safe to eat after they reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit on a meat thermometer. There are many ways to get to that temperature, but only a few will result in a truly delicious sausage.
How many times have you been at a summer party and the self-professed grill-master hands you a shriveled up sausage that resembles a dried pepperoni stick? Not fun.
Generally, where most amateur pit-masters go wrong when cooking sausages is that they cook them over high direct heat. This leads to the sausage casing bursting open, spilling all the delicious goodness. Let’s look at the best way to cook bratwurst.
Grilling bratwurst on a propane or charcoal grill
There is nothing more primitive than cooking a piece of meat over an open fire. This archaic form of cookery speaks to the inner animals in us all. That being said, you need to shelve this desire when cooking sausages on the grill.
When you place a sausage on a hot grill, the meat and the casing will start to contract. This will result in the sausage casing bursting open. You’ll then be left with a shriveled up sausage.
Grilling Bratwurst Tip – Poach them
If you are doing bratwurst on the grill, find an aluminum foil pan. If you don’t have one, make one MacGyver-style out of aluminum foil. Next, put your brats in the pan and cover them halfway with liquid. Beer works great, you could also use a mixture of water and chicken or vegetable broth, nothing too salty or assertive tasting. You can also include any toppings you want with your brats in the pan. Peppers and onions are classic pairings.
On a charcoal grill
If you are using a charcoal grill, build a two-zone fire, one side hot with 75% of the coals and the cooler side with the remainder. Cook your brats in the pan on the cooler side, lid covered, for about 15-20 minutes or until they read 150 degrees Fahrenheit on an instant-read meat thermometer. You can then grill the brats on the hot side for a minute or two to give them some nice grill marks and bring them to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
On a propane grill
Same theory as above, turn one side of your grill to medium-high with the other side on low. Place your foil pan with bratwursts, poaching liquid and whatever else on the cooler side of the grill and cover the lid. Start checking them around 15 minutes. When they reach 150 degrees Fahrenheit they’re ready for a quick browning for 1 to 2 minutes on the hotter side of the grill. They should reach the desired 160 degrees Fahrenheit after the last blast of heat.
Why poaching bratwurst works
Poaching the bratwurst in liquid allows for the meat inside the sausage to cook evenly rather than the outside getting the majority of the heat, causing major temperature imbalances in the sausage. You could try cooking the bratwurst over direct moderate heat. However, this is a delicate process and often you end up with a shriveled sausage when you pull it off the grill.
Another benefit to poaching bratwurst is that you can hold them in the pan on the cool side away from heat. This is great for parties with a lot of guests. You can simply grill up the bratwurst upon request on the hot side of the grill. This will allow you to enjoy the party as well, not having to tend to a constant fire with meat.
On the stove top
When cooking bratwurst in a skillet on the stove you will employ a hybrid method. This method is part poaching/steaming and then browning them, all in the same pan.
Start the brats in a cold pan with about ½ inch of water. Cover the pan with a lid. Turn the burner to medium-low if using an electric stove top. Also, if you are using a cast iron or metal pan, or cooking on a gas stove, you might want to turn the burner to low.
Around 12 minutes most of the water should be absorbed and the brats should register around 145 to 150 degree Fahrenheit.
Then, simply sear them in the pan until they have a nice brown exterior. They should reach 160 degrees Fahrenheit after cooking.
It’s Bratwurst time
Cooking bratwurst doesn’t have to be intimidating as long as you remember the basic steps in this article. Poach them first in a simmering liquid of your choosing, beer or a mild broth works best. Then when the internal temp of the bratwurst reaches 150 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s ready for a final searing over direct heat on all sides that will bring its final temperature to the desired 160 degrees Fahrenheit. And finally, we can’t stress enough how much easier cooking is when you have a trusty digital meat thermometer. Good luck and happy cooking!