This post is sponsored by Omaha Steaks. Rest assured all opinions are my own.
It is therapeutic for me to light up the grill to when the weather is beautiful outside. Eating brats cooked in beer when it is nice outside is just an added bonus. Granted, I do cook outside year round, but you can easily cook brats in beer on the stove, in your oven, or whichever method suits you best. I’ll walk you through ways to cook them both indoors and outdoors.
What Is Bratwurst? What Is Bratwurst Made Of?
Bratwurst or “Brats” for short is a classic German sausage made typically of pork and or veal. A great brat is loaded with lots of flavor and has nice snappy casing that makes for a great bite. Most bratwurst is white in appearance because it is not smoked. However, that is not to say you can’t smoke fresh bratwurst as you certainly can.
A lot of commercially purchased brats are pre-cooked and you are basically heating them up by the method you choose. If your brats are fresh however, you just need to adjust your cook time and method a bit.
Grilled Brats In Beer
For this recipe I will be cooking with Jalapeño Cheddar Bacon Bratwurst from Omaha Steaks. You better believe if I have a choice between plain bratwurst and something with jalapeños, cheese and bacon in it, I’m picking the latter. These brats are made from high quality whole muscle cuts of pork and a blend of spices. Jalapeños, bacon and cheddar are also added along with a snappy natural casing.
This bratwurst is smoked in small batches with hickory wood and are delivered to you fully cooked. If you buy fresh bratwurst, you will need to make sure it is fully cooked (160°F) all the way through prior to eating it.
There are a number of ways to prepare bratwurst but braising it in beer with caramelized onions will forever be my favorite. This method can be easily done on the stove top instead of on the grill.
How To Grill Bratwurst
The most important thing to do when cooking bratwurst is to cook it gently initially. If you cook bratwurst or any sausage for that matter over too high of a heat too fast, it will split open. Think of brats as little packages of flavor bombs. If that package rips open, out will come some of the moisture and whatever is in your bratwurst. I don’t know about you, but I want to keep all of my cheese in my brats.
Grilling Bratwurst Directly On Grill Grates
Always make sure your grill grates are nice and clean and wipe them down with a bit of oil prior to grilling. For this recipe specifically, you can either start your brats on the grill grates or cook them in a skillet on the grill. Either method will work just fine. The important thing is to get a bit of color on the brats without burning the outside. Adding a very thin coating of oil to the outside of your brats is a good idea as well, especially if grilling fresh brats.
For this reason, if possible, set up a direct and indirect heat setup for your grill. In other words, have a safe zone where the brats will not be over direct flames if you need to slow down the cook. When grilling bratwurst direct I keep a close eye on it. Once I have a bit of color on the exterior of the casing, I move it to the indirect side to warm all the way through or add it to my skillet.
Grilling Bratwurst in Cast Iron Or A Skillet
Depending on the grill I am using, sometimes I switch up my method. I love using a nice big cast iron skillet on any grill. Cast iron skillets have even distribution of heat and you can fit a lot in them. Better yet, they keep your food nice and warm long after removing it from the grill. Any skillet that can hold up to the high heat on a grill will do. Cast iron is just my preference. Sometimes I start the brats on the grill then move them into the skillet. Sometimes I do the whole cook in the skillet.
Always preheat your skillet to medium heat prior to adding the bratwurst. Place some oil in the bottom of the skillet to form a light coating. The idea is to get some nice caramelization on the meat prior to braising it in the beer. That caramelization gives the brats an extra pop of flavor. If the bratwurst is fresh and not precooked, don’t worry, the meat will finish cooking in the beer.
How To Caramelize Onions
When raw onions are too strong a flavor, caramelized onions are a perfect sweet addition to many dishes. Making caramelized onions is easy but does require some patience. Start by slicing up a few large white, yellow or red onions. Vidalia onions or other varieties of sweet onions are excellent as well.
Add the onions to a preheated skillet with some oil or butter. Slowly cook the onions stirring occasionally until they turn golden and a brown hue. The longer you cook them, the more rich the flavor will be. Although it might take upwards of 40 minutes to get a nice deep brown color, test them when they start to darken. Slow and steady wins the race here. Cook onions too fast and they will burn and be bitter.
Feel free to make the caramelized onions ahead of time if you choose. If you have an hour to hang out around the grill, I recommend making the onions and cooking the brats right in the same skillet.
Adding the leaves from a sprig or two of fresh thyme gives the caramelized onions a great touch of flavor. You may omit them if you choose to.
The recipe itself is easy I promise you. Grab a nice beer you enjoy and pop one open while you’re cooking if you desire. You’ll only need one bottle of beer for the recipe. I personally don’t recommend an IPA beer for this recipe as they can be on the bitter side. Grab some great rolls or eat the brats right out of the skillet. Either way, I assure you they will be delicious!
Brats Cooked in Beer: The Method
- Slice up onions and caramelize with butter or oil in skillet.
- Cook bratwurst on grill or in skillet until color develops on casing.
- Add bratwurst to skillet with onions and add 1 bottle of beer, and 1 tablespoon of butter.
- Simmer (do not boil) the bratwurst until liquid has reduced.
- Optional: Remove brats from braising liquid and place back on grill over medium-high heat to crisp exterior for a minute.
- Serve brats on toasted roll with caramelized onions and toppings of your choice such as mustard.
Brats Cooked In Beer
- Grill or stove
- 8 bratwurst (brats)
- 2 tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil
- 4 white, yellow or red onions, sliced
- 1 tbsp butter, unsalted
- 1/4 tsp thyme leaves (or leaves from 2 sprigs of thyme)
- 1 bottle beer (preferably a lager or light beer)
- 8 rolls
- Heat grill to medium heat. If possible create an indirect and a direct heat zone. Lightly oil grill grates. Heat 1-2 tbsp oil in large skillet or dutch oven.
- Add sliced onions to preheated skillet or dutch oven and slowly cook for 30-40 minutes to caramelize them. Stir occasionally. If the onions are cooking or darkening too fast, move the skillet to a lower heat. The onions should be sweet and have a nice brown color to them. Add thyme to skillet.
- If using raw bratwurst, lightly oil the exterior of the meat to prevent sticking to the grill grate or skillet. Cook until firmed up and then move to the hotter side of the grill to brown them up. Do not worry about cooking them thoroughly at this point as they will further cook when braising in the beer.
- If using pre-cooked bratwurst, you are just warming them thoroughly. Grill them to get some nice color on them, then add into the skillet with the onions.
- Add bratwurst and onions into the same skillet along with beer. Note: Do not poke holes in your bratwurst during the cooking process. Add 1 tbsp of butter to the skillet. Simmer the bratwurst in the skillet until the liquid has reduced approximately 15 minutes. Do not boil.
- Lightly butter (optional) surface of rolls and toast on grill surface or on a skillet for approximately 1 minute or until golden brown in color.
- Serve bratwurst on a toasted roll with the caramelized onions and other toppings of your choice such as mustard.
Looking for more pork recipes? Check out my recipe for Smoked Sweet and Spicy Pork Chops.
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