Bratwurst sausages -- or just brats -- are delicate pork and veal sausages that are sold raw. Popular in the Midwest, the sausages originated in Germany and are distinctive for their white appearance when cooked. Like other raw sausages, brats need to be gently cooked to prevent splitting. To keep them moist, nestle the brats warm in a beer bath or in a pan after cooking.
Choosing and Storing
Keep raw brats in the refrigerator until they are ready to cook for safety. Uncooked brats, well-wrapped in plastic or in an airtight container, can keep in the refrigerator for one to two days. For bouncy cooked sausages, look for uncooked bratwursts made with natural sausage casings, as these cook up more firmly than commercial or synthetic casings. Look for pale-colored sausages and, because there can be a number of regional variations, for the amount of pork and veal used. The more veal, the more delicate the taste. Brats with a higher pork content will contain more fat, giving it a juicier and rich taste.
Pre-Cooking Benefits and Method
Pre-cooking brats before grilling ensures that the sausages are evenly cooked throughout and lessens the risk of burst sausages. Place the raw sausages in a pot, filling it with enough liquid to cover them by about an inch. Use water, stock or beer, adding in spices, such as pepper or crushed garlic, as you like. Bring the water and sausages gently to a boil on medium heat. Heat the sausages until they are fully cooked, roughly 15 minutes for 1 pound of sausages. The internal temperature should read 150 degrees Fahrenheit, although you may want to test only one sausage to avoid losing too much juice. Remove them from the heat and cover them until you're ready to grill.
On the Grill
Heat one side of a gas grill until hot on the high setting. It will take around 10 minutes for the grill to get hot enough. Remove the sausages from the par-cooking liquid with tongs or a slotted spoon, and place them on the hot side of the grill. Cook the sausages until they are evenly browned, turning them regularly. It will take roughly 10 minutes on high heat for the brats to reach a deep, golden, burnished brown.
Keep Them Warm
Keep cooked brats warm by moving them to the unheated -- or cooler -- side of the grill. When you close the lid, the sausages will stay warm without overcooking and be ready to serve whenever your guests arrive. An alternative -- and very traditional -- method of keeping brats warm is to store them in a beer bath. Place an aluminum pan filled with warmed beer on the cooler side of the grill, then put the cooked brats in the beef. Close the lid of the grill to trap heat, and serve the brats directly from the pan. You may also return the brats to the poaching liquid or store them in a water or beer bath in a warmed oven. Serve the cooked brats with sauerkraut, mustard and onions on a toasted bun.
David Grimes has worked professionally as a chef since 2002, in settings as wide-ranging as a corporate caterer and as a sous chef in a Michelin-starred French restaurant. He has been writing about food since 2009 and published in "Time Out New York" and "Food and Wine" magazine.