The Ultimate Bratwurst

June 30, 2017
1 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Serves 8
Author Notes

Poaching fresh sausages like bratwurst in beer (a crisp lager, pilsner, or aromatic Belgian-style ale) before grilling infuses them with added flavor, helps keeps them moist and juicy, and shortens their finish over the fire (since you’ll be giving them a nice char, and not cooking them through), so you’ll have more time to enjoy the party. For the best flavor, seek out the best quality sausages you can find (ideally from a local artisan meat market) and pretzel buns you can find. A drizzle of grainy mustard and colorful pickled radishes add sharpness and crunch, without getting in the way of this stellar sausage and bun combo. —Paula Disbrowe

What You'll Need
  • For Sweet and Sour Pickled Radishes:
  • 1/2 pound radishes
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon pink peppercorns
  • For Bratwurst and Assembly:
  • 2 12-ounce bottles of Belgian-style saison or lager
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 1 large swath orange peel
  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • 8 bratwursts (or another fresh sausage)
  • 8 pretzel buns
  • Beer mustard, for serving
  • 1/2 cup Sweet and Sour Pickled Radishes, for serving
  1. For Sweet and Sour Pickled Radishes:
  2. Stem and thinly slice the radishes (preferably a mix of varieties including watermelon, daikon, and globe radishes).
  3. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar.
  4. Remove from heat, add radishes (pressing gently to submerge them in liquid) and cool. Refrigerate peppers in a glass jar (adding just enough brine to cover) and refrigerate until cold and crisp (they’ll last up to two months).
  1. For Bratwurst and Assembly:
  2. In a large, wide skillet, combine the beer, onion, orange peel, bay leaves and 2 cups of water (or enough to partially submerge all the brats in a single layer) and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the sausages, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until they’re springy firm and just cooked through, about 6 to 7 minutes. Allow sausages to cool in the cooking liquid until you’re ready to grill.
  3. Prepare a charcoal grill for two-zone cooking and build a medium fire (or heat a gas grill to medium-high). Remove the sausages from the poaching liquid and prick them on all sides with a sharp knife, to help them release excess fat. Grill the sausages over direct heat until they’re charred and bubbling hot, moving them to indirect heat as necessary for even cooking, and to prevent them from getting too dark (if you’re cooking on a gas grill, shut off one side of the grill). Remove from heat (or hold them in a cooler part of the grill or upper warming rack until serving). Split the pretzel buns and lightly toast them on the grill, cut-side down (about 1 minute). Place toasted buns on a platter, top with grilled sausages, a squiggle of beer mustard, and Sweet and Spicy Pickled Radishes.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Paula Disbrowe
    Paula Disbrowe
  • Chris
  • Paula
Paula Disbrowe writes frequently about Food and Travel. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her bread baker husband David Norman, two children, and menagerie of retired ranch animals.

4 Reviews

Chris June 30, 2018
having worked at a golf course restaurant for a few years and finding myself running the on-course concession stand once in a while, i perfected cooking brats to the point that i was selling hundreds of them a day.

first, "artisan meat market" brats aren't a necessity. granted, i live in chicago where there are dozens of meat markets and packing companies that make their own, but you won't ruin a cookout by simply using good old johnsonville (the regular or the staduim brat, which is a bit more garlicky). they have good flavor and not too much fat, which could cause a problem on a gas grill.

also, you want to sear/char first, then simmer in the beer. the flavor from the charring gets infused into the beer "broth" and makes everything that much tastier, especially as time goes on, the last brats always taste better than the first ones.

lastly, stick with a lighter beer like a lager, so the beer flavor doesn't overpower the flavor of the sausage. remember, as the beer reduces, its flavor intensifies, so starting out with a bold beer will get you a beer-tasting brat, which isn't really a good thing. my favorites for brat work are corona or modelo.

lastly, while i LOVE pretzel buns, i keep it simple and go with a plain bun, even a hot dog bun if that's what i have on hand. then a quick swab of yellow mustard and then top it with kraut or carmelized onions.

come this 4th, i'll be out with my cast iron skillet on the grill, filled with brats and beer (and i'll be filled with them too).
Paula D. June 30, 2018
good points all around, and Happy 4th!
Paula September 26, 2017
We seldom do brats on the grill any more. I brown them quickly over high heat and then add a brown ale to the pan and simmer them for about 20 minutes while moving them from time to time for even cooking. In the end, I cook the beer all the way down to a syrupy glaze and roll the brats in that as I take them up and put them in lightly toasted buns. That glaze is a slightly bitter counterpoint to the richness of the brat and works well with a good mustard.
Paula D. September 26, 2017
That sounds delicious, great idea!