If you’re not keen on serving up salmonella as a side dish, you should check out how long you’ll need to boil and grill your links for. What’s that?
You have to boil bratwurst before you grill them? Actually, it depends, but you don’t have to worry if you’re clueless before the big cookout.
We’re got the definitive guide on how long to boil brats before grilling them— plus, some extra tips and tricks to make your brats the best of the wurst!
Do I Have to Boil My Brats Before Grilling Them?
The short answer is yes— and you’ll want to, too! There are a few reasons behind this. One is that boiling your meat before grilling ensures that all raw and uncooked materials reach a safe temp for consumption.
Another reason why is that it ensures a final result that is juicier, more flavorful, and not prone to falling apart or bursting (any grillmaster’s wurst nightmare).
Finally, boiling your brats will make it much easier to cook them evenly through.
One common mistake that people run into is a brat that’s golden brown with well defined grill marks, but the inside is still cold! Not only is this unenjoyable, but it can be dangerous, too.
When Do I Need to Boil— and Don’t?
In some cases, you may not have to boil your bratwursts. This is the case with links that are pre-cooked and refrigerated or defrosted. These links don’t contain raw meat, so they’re safe to head straight to the fire.
They’ll also have enough structural integrity usually to hold upon the grill without bursting.
The keyword there, however, is usually. You can never be sure with the high temperatures, and it’s always a wise idea to test a link out on the grill before you go to cook the whole pack.
If your brats do burst all at once, the drippings make the optimum conditions for a grease fire.
What Do You Mean By Boil?
Boiling may sound like a pretty straight forward concept, but it may not be what you’re thinking. When boiling bratwurst, the goal is not to cook them for especially long.
If you do, the end result will be a dry, crumbly texture. Instead, you’ll want to parboil them, or blanche them in water for a short period of time. This will help them set and be less fragile.
If you know anything about casings, then you know that they’re prone to break. Putting the wurst in a gentle boil will give them the extra strength needed to hold up on the grill.
Plus, boiling at a low temperature will release the flavors and natural juices of the stuffing, making for a more tender and flavorful dish. Boiling doesn’t necessarily always mean water. Many people cook with:
- chicken stock
- beef stock
- wine reductions
- tomato sauce
- and more!
You can add some unique flavor profiles by changing up the cooking process. Don’t forget that you can opt to fry them, too. Try adding onions, potatoes, and carrots to the pot to have as an extra side for your dinner.
Preventing Food-Borne Illness
Since you’ll be cooking in multiple mediums, it’s important to review food safety measures. Most meats should be cooked to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 degrees Celsius).
Poultry should be cooked slightly higher at 165 degrees Fahrenheit (74 degrees Celsius). This refers to internal temperature, which you can measure using any standard food safe thermometer.
If you were to go ahead and throw the wurst on without boiling them, your thermometer may indicate that it’s reached the correct degree.
However, the uneven shape of the brat and high temperature of the grill means that most wursts will cook unevenly, leading some parts to be undercooked or even raw.
To be sure that your wurst are absolutely food safe, you can blanche them in hot water to ensure that they are thoroughly cooked before getting a nice char over flame.
Never Do This
Because there’s a few extra steps involved in grilling a good brat, that means there’s some added time to the cooking process. When it comes to how long to boil your brats, the more important question is how long can you go without boiling them.
Once you’ve boiled the brats to the appropriate temperature, you can expect to let them rest for a few minutes before grilling. However, you should seek to minimize this time as much as possible.
Rapid cooling and heating of food, especially meat, can lead to dangerous bacteria. If you don’t plan on grilling them for a while, keep them refrigerated until you’re ready.
Don’t let the bratwurst sit out for extended periods of time, especially in the heat.
Timing the Boil
Deciding how long parboil your wurst depends on a number of factors, including:
- Type of meat
- Protein to fat ratio
- Meat to binding/seasoning ratio
- Thickness of casing
- Type of casing
Times also vary based on what appliance you’re cooking on and how deep the water is, among other things.
Therefore, the easiest and most guaranteed way to time your boil is by keeping track of the internal temperature. Wireless thermometers are especially handy for this, and are a staple among every grillmaster’s tool box.
Other ways to keep an eye on how long to boil include looking at the color of the sausage. As the sausage begins to cook, the casing will go from semi transparent to opaque.
This is a sign that you’ve nearly reached the minimum temperature.
Look Out For This
Whether you’re grilling an ordinary ballpark hot dog or an artisanal summer wurst, all sausages do the same thing when they’re cooked improperly: they burst! A busted sausage can be an indicator of several things.
Usually, it means that the link has been cooked too long, as the juices have built up so much that it ruptures the casing. Boiling for too long can also cause these juices to seep out and make the meat dry, which causes it to crumble and thereby break the casing.
However, a bursted wurst could also be an indicator that the sausage wasn’t cooked enough before transferring. The meat hasn’t had a chance to bind together yet, making the sausage fragile.
If you haven’t cooked the meat yet, but it’s already burst— run the other way! Sausage that is expired or left in unsafe temperatures will either burst or have a ballooned appearance.
The bacteria overgrowth causes gas to form, making it all but likely that you’ll have a bad case of food poisoning on hand.
Why Grill the Boil Brats At All?
The answer to this might as well be “why wouldn’t you?” You could go with simply boiling your brats (as many do with hot dogs), but throwing them on the rack adds a charred, smokey flavor.
Casings can be slightly tough or chewy, and flashing them on the grill can help make them just a bit more tender.
Here’s a great tip for your next summer barbecue: when boiling your brats, chuck in a couple of onion quarters or other vegetables. When you go to get that char , you can put them on, too.
Add a few cuts of sausage, and you’ve got a ready made kebab!
Don’t Hold Up the Grill Line!
One unexpected benefit to parboiling is that it reduces your overall cooking time. If you were to cook the sausages only on the grill, you’d have to do so at a very low temperature for a long amount of time.
The end result is a smokier, albeit drier brat.
Of course, cooking with too high of a temp will rupture the casing or burn the wiener. You don’t want to hold up your guests of course, so boiling in advance will reduce your cook time.
If that feels inauthentic, consider that most home chefs do the same with their steaks in ovens! Even restaurant chefs are known to pop a steak in the oven to ensure it’s cooked evenly, especially if it’s medium rare.
Then, they’ll sear the steak on high heat over open flame, giving it that delicious char and caramelization.
When you do go to grill your wieners, you’ll want to use a higher heat as well. This will give it a great sear and grill marks. They don’t need to sit for long, however.
The outside of the sausage can get stuck and be difficult to turn over.
A Hot Dog Summer
How long should you boil your brats? The answer depends, but you can expect to keep them boiling anywhere from 15-20 minutes. Always follow any directions provided on the packaging, and be sure to have a thermometer handy.
The worst thing you could do is to undercook your sausage, so avoid that at all costs. If your links do burst, however, not all is lost. Sausage crumbles can be used to make gravy, chorizo, and a number of other dishes.
What’s your pro tip for brats? Let us know in the comments below!