How To Prepare Bratwurst

05.3.2012 | 8:08 am

I feel like I should start this post with so many disclaimers, caveats, and apologies. An apology to my vegeterian friends who will find nothing at all to like about this post. A warning to my vegan friends, who have no doubt begun suffering from the beginning of a migraine just by reading the title of this post. An acknowledgment to my midwestern friends that I am a Philistine and have learned how to prepare Bratwurst not so much as apprentice to master at the craft, but through observation and experimentation.

But here’s the thing: everyone — every single person — who has given my Bratwurst (“Brats” from here on out) agrees that I am really, really good at it.

So today: how to make Brats, Fatty-style.

No Secrets

Maybe there should be one more disclaimer here: the secret to my success with Brats is the exact same secret to my success with burgers. And with chili. And with banana cream pie.

Which is to say: there is no secret. It just takes time, and you can’t take shortcuts.

What You Need

So here’s what you need to prepare bratwurst so good people will think you are using dark majick and casting spells upon them.

  • Uncooked Brats: I’m a big fan of Colosimo’s, but don’t know if that’s available nationally. Johnsonville’s is also great. I generally plan on 2 Brats per person, and then round up a package.
  • Beer: Enough to completely submerge the brats when they’re in a big pot. For 60 Brats, a 30-can case is plenty. People often ask me what kind of beer to use, thinking that the better the beer, the better the Brats. Luckily for your pocketbook, that’s not the case. Cheap beer works just as well as expensive beer. So buy whatever’s on sale, which seems to almost always be PBR. Don’t, however, buy light beer.
  • Worcestershire Sauce: About 1/4 cup per dozen Brats.
  • Onion: 1 onion per bot of Brats boiled, regardless of the number of Brats therein.
  • A charcoal or wood fire, and grill: Not a gas grill. Now, I’m not a charcoal grill snob (OK, I am), but I can’t overstate the importance of this.
  • Spicy brown mustard: Not regular mustard. Not ketchup.
  • Sauerkraut: Personally, I don’t like it, but enough people see it as integral to the Brats experience that I figured I’d better include this in the list.
  • Buns / bread: If possible, use Kenny’s homemade bread. Probably, that’s not an option for you, in which case hot dog buns work OK.

Boil The Brats

Brats have to be cooked twice. First you boil them, then you grill them. The boiling step takes a lot of time, but is easy.

First, dump the Brats into a pot. Don’t fill the pot past about 5/8 full, and don’t pack them in too tight; use multiple pots if you’re making a lot of Brats.

Next, pour enough beer over the Brats to submerge them. Make sure you have enough beer left over to add more as some of it boils off — a couple extra cans’ worth per pot.

More next, chop an onion loosely into the pot. Big slices are fine.

Even more next, pour in the Worcestershire sauce. I know I specify 1/4 cup per dozen Brats, but in real life I just kind of pour a bunch in.

Nextiest of all, bring the Brats to a boil and then let them boil for a good long while.


“How long,” you might well ask? And that’s a fantastic question.

My answer is, “I don’t know if it’s possible to boil them too long,” though now that I think about it, it probably is. Still, I’ve boiled Brats for as little as an hour, and as long as for two hours, and get good results every time.

The main thing to keep in mind is that now is when you’re cooking the Brats for real. As in, you could totally eat the Brats right out of the pot — it’s just that the texture and color would be kind of gross, and they wouldn’t have that smokey flavor that nudges the Brats from the “Excellent” category into the “Indescribable” category.

So: boil them for at least an hour. And be sure to check on them every fifteen minutes or so to make sure they’re not boiling over. Every time you do this, give them a good stir, so that the Brats floating at the top won’t always be the same ones.

And when the beer level drops enough that Brats can’t all be submerged, add a can of beer.

As you boil the Brats, your whole house / apartment / church kitchen will be filled with the smell of Brats boiling in beer.

Cherish it.


Once you’re done boiling the Brats, you can start grilling them right away. Or — and this is what I consider the most genius-y thing I’ve ever done — if you plan to be grilling later that day or even a day or two later, you can store them.

Just put as many as will fit into whatever kind of sealable container you’ve got (I’ve used both tupperware and freezer bags with fine results), then pour some of the beer mixture — including the boiled onions — over the Brats before you seal them and put them in the fridge / ice chest. Note that the Brats smell is going to get out of that tupperware, though, so if you’re using the fridge, you may want to be prepared for milk that’s going to taste a little . . . different.


As I mentioned before, your Brats are really already cooked. The grilling step is to heat up the Brats (if they’ve been on ice for a while), crisp the outside, and — more than anything else — give them as smokey flavor that is just remarkable.

Obviously, you won’t get a smokey flavor if you use a gas grill. So even if you usually use a gas grill, go get yourself a cheap, small charcoal grill for your Brats. It’s worth it, and it’s really not a lot harder than using gas.

Wood is even better if you’ve got that option.

Now, since the Brats are already cooked, you won’t have to cook them for long. Just place them close on the grill, and let them get crisp — brown, or even a little blackened — before turning them over:

This photo taken without permission from Grizzly Adam’s site. But I figure he’ll be cool with it anyway. Right, Grizzly?

Get them crisp on the other side, and then, serve. And revel in the admiration you are suddenly receiving, not to mention no small number of questions along the lines of, “So what’s your secret?”

Your answer, of course, will be: “There is no secret. There’s just a right way to do it.”

PS: I don’t understand why anyone would want ketchup on their Brats, but I expect some people don’t understand why I don’t want sauerkraut on my Brats. Taste is personal, so I usually bring sauerkraut, spicy brown mustard, ketchup, and even mayo for people to put on their brats. Hey, you’re all standing around a fire / picnic table / whatever enjoying good food. No sense in being a snot about it.

PS: But I draw the line at plain yellow mustard.


  1. Comment by NYCCarlos | 05.3.2012 | 8:25 am

    omg. I’ve been waiting for this since the day I joined fattynation.

    Brats in Davis, anyone?

  2. Comment by Nate | 05.3.2012 | 8:30 am

    MMMMMMMM…. Now I know what’s for dinner tonight!

  3. Comment by jt | 05.3.2012 | 8:52 am


    I am definitely going to try this out, this weekend. If it goes as well as expected, I’ll give you a shout out on http://www.wineandaspoon.
    One thing you left out of the list of acceptable condiments, pickled jalapenos.


  4. Comment by davidh-marin, ca | 05.3.2012 | 8:55 am

    Thanks Fatty! I’ve been waiting for these instructions. NYCCarlos, you’re in luck! Brats Friday night at the Bicycling Hall of Fame. If we don’t finish them all the rest of Team Fatty can have them as leftovers on Sunday.

  5. Comment by davidh-marin, ca | 05.3.2012 | 8:56 am

    They keep don’t they???

    Sure. I wound up with too many for RAWROD, brought the rest (not grilled yet) and have put them in the freezer. I’ll thaw and grill them in a few weeks. – FC

  6. Comment by roan | 05.3.2012 | 9:16 am

    AH ! This weekend a test boil/roast. Adding a beer to the brats when the liquid level is low…one beer for the brats, one beer for the brat master, this is a tip of the helmet to Fatty but I’ll be drinking the beer for him.
    Just in case there is a patent on this method I’ll add some extra something to the brew boil mix, don’t know what that is at this moment but I can never follow a recipe without a change here and there. OH YES ! not PBR beer, I’ll go with Guinness with the reduced of brats I’ll be making. Fatty any bun suggestions ?

    Hmm. Only thing I would suggest is a bun that isn’t too big; you don’t want the bread to be the dominant flavor here. – FC

  7. Comment by Ginger-Schminger | 05.3.2012 | 9:31 am

    I concur on all points of brat cooking, up to and including sauerkraut…can’t stand the stuff!

    As for the PBR, I’m usually a beer snob and am a huge fan of quality craft beer, but nothing beats a PBR after a race on a hot day. Don’t ask why. It’s just one of those things that defies all sorts of conventional beer wisdom.

  8. Comment by Clydesteve | 05.3.2012 | 9:36 am

    Fatty, are those chicken breasts grilling in the background? Were there vegans present? (Chicken IS a vegetable, right?)

    Good call on the plain yellow mustard, BTW.

    Those are veggie burgers. Heather is a vegetarion. – FC

  9. Comment by Sarah @ The Cyclist's Wife | 05.3.2012 | 9:49 am

    My stomach is growling now….can you bring some of those over for my breakfast??

  10. Comment by SaddleAmericana | 05.3.2012 | 9:52 am

    CRUCIAL! And this coming from a 98% vegetarian (I, too, apologize if this is offensive to real, true, 100% vegetarians). I make carnivorous exceptions for 2 things: brats and North Carolina-style pulled pork.

    Oh, I LOVE NC-style pulled pork. – FC

  11. Comment by Jeff Bike | 05.3.2012 | 10:07 am

    I’m hungery now!

  12. Comment by cyclingjimbo | 05.3.2012 | 10:15 am

    And for great sauer kraut:

    - Sautee one medium finely sliced onion (halve, then slice) per can of sauer kraut to be used . I use olive oil, a few tablespoons – I am not sure you can use too much onion
    - When the onions become translucent, drain and add the sauer kraut
    - Continue heating and stirring occasionally until the whole is well mixed and cooks for a little while (15 minutes or so?) and then transfer to a slow cooker on low heat
    - At this point you can add a bottle of good beer to add flavor
    - Continue cooking on low for 8 to 12 hours (or more), until the moxture begins to carmelize nicely
    - Enjoy

    Addition of onions and the slow cooking take away all the acidic taste of the sauer kraut, and you are left with a wonderful adition to you bratwurst meal.

  13. Comment by Doug (Way upstate NY) | 05.3.2012 | 10:25 am

    So where did the Worcester Sauce come from? Not a traditional midwest addition (in my midwestern experience)….

    That’s my own addition. I started adding it because I love Worcestershire sauce in almost everything. – FC

  14. Comment by SeanB | 05.3.2012 | 10:28 am


    I was born and raised in South Milwaukee, WI. No, not the South Side of Milwaukee, SOUTH MILWAUKEE. Your recipe for grilling Brats is right on!!! Now, the secret is out! I was my brat and PBR to you, Fatty!

  15. Comment by centurion | 05.3.2012 | 11:19 am

    You like them grilled over coals? If you really want a tastegasm, get yourself a smoker, a little Brinkman will do, and smoke them for a few hours. You WILL moan, loudly, as you eat them.
    BTW yellow mustard before mayo. And the veggie burgers(no a true burger) wouldn’t go over my fire, ever.

  16. Comment by Big John | 05.3.2012 | 11:40 am

    By the power vested in me by the state of Wisconsin, I now declare you an honorary “Cheesehead”. If you ever find yourself visiting our fine state (maybe for a tour of Trek), the Wisconsin Chapter of the Fatcyclists will have a brat and beer party in your honor (like we need an excuse).

  17. Comment by Daniel.weise | 05.3.2012 | 11:41 am

    OK, now I’m hungry and have to try this out this weekend. My variation might be to use my gas grill, BUT I’ll put wet wood chips on the flavour tray to get the great smoky flavor. I’m thinking mesquite. Low heat for about 30 minutes should impart a wonderful smokiness.

    Thanks for the inspiration Fatty!

  18. Comment by Chris Engle | 05.3.2012 | 11:54 am

    Thank you, I’ll be making these for this weekends Bavington park five point group ride.

  19. Comment by tr | 05.3.2012 | 11:57 am

    PBR huh? I saw the cans of that and brings back memories of my days running with the hash house harriers.

  20. Comment by Rich | 05.3.2012 | 11:59 am

    now I’m starving….going to make these for this evening’s ride….

  21. Comment by Miles Archer | 05.3.2012 | 12:05 pm

    I like to add hot & sweet russian mustard.

    If someone will take care of the brats for Davis, I will make buns.

  22. Comment by fern | 05.3.2012 | 12:08 pm

    Thanks for the preparation instructions, I will definitely try these sometime!

    Also, yellow mustard is soooo delicious. Particularly with sauerkraut.

  23. Comment by Brian in VA | 05.3.2012 | 12:16 pm

    You’re correct, Fatty, there is a right way to do brats and you’ve hit it! I’ve been making them this way for years.

    I only disagree on the gas grill; one that is properly seasoned will absolutely impart the smoky flavor. My poker group did a blind taste test one evening and no one could tell the difference.

    Rather than hot dog buns, which I find pretty lame, I’m a big fan of grabbing a slim baguette out of the fresh bakery at Kroger. The better break yields a more balanced flavor. The only thing we put on them at my table is spicy brown or hot deli mustard. Or both.

    BTW any recipe that start with go buy a case of beer is worth trying!


  24. Comment by iRide | 05.3.2012 | 12:20 pm

    PERFECT TIMING!! I’m taking elk brats to the beach this weekend. It’s an open invite – if you can find me, you can join me! I’ll even give you a hint – the Oregon coast.

  25. Comment by fult23 | 05.3.2012 | 12:24 pm

    Your non-secret recipe is very nearly the same as my own with one exception. While carefully watching the brats on the grill to ensure proper doneness, I have beer at the ready to douse any flare ups; the addition is at least theatrical, but I am convinced it adds to the flavor.
    @roan-I recommend avoiding stouts and porters in the brat process (save those for the chili). The additional maltiness can give an “off-putting” taste to the meat. Stick with lagers or hoppier ales and you should be in the clear.

  26. Comment by JohnBoy | 05.3.2012 | 12:24 pm

    Pure genius at work here people. Can’t wait to try this recipe in August…when I come home from a country with no beer. Now it’s just one more thing I have to look forward to.

  27. Comment by Mart | 05.3.2012 | 12:51 pm

    Speaking from the very home of the Bratwurst; I must say that this sounds delicious.
    German Bratwurst-afficionados would nevertheless call for your head- on yellow mustard and bread rolls ;-)

  28. Comment by Keenedge | 05.3.2012 | 1:17 pm

    Love this! Have been making Brats or Italian sausage this way for years. I do throw in a clove of garlic also. If you save the onions and have a grill pan to throw them in they are tastey with indirect heat for about 8-10 min. I actually Love spicy ketchup. I add Sambal Oelek chili paste to regular ketchup, Outstanding!

  29. Comment by Kel | 05.3.2012 | 1:54 pm

    Where I come from, which is incidentally where brats come from, we used to try and look the other way when people did these sorts of things. Now, we have become globalised and realize that there are many ways to do a brat. One way that you may not know of is the regional favorite – The Oostburger. This involves and brat and burger on one hardroll. Sinful.

  30. Comment by Adam | 05.3.2012 | 2:27 pm

    Having grown up in Milwaukee, the best brats are Klements. They sponsor the “Great Sausage Race” at Miller Park, where the Milwaukee Brewers play, and they will ship you a ten pound box in dry ice from their website. Boil them in PBR or Old Style and you have found a little piece of heaven.

  31. Comment by Susie H | 05.3.2012 | 2:59 pm

    Oh my, brats on Friday night in Davis sounds amazing. I am available all afternoon (and weekend for that matter) in Davis to do whatever is necessary. Let me know how I can help!

  32. Comment by Susie H | 05.3.2012 | 3:02 pm

    PS Wore my Fatcyclist jersey on a ride for the first time the other night, and I have to tell you, I felt invincible! :)

  33. Comment by Jim | 05.3.2012 | 3:22 pm

    If you’re going to put ketchup on brats, at least have the class to put some curry powder and a dash of worcestershire sauce in the ketchup first.

  34. Comment by Geo | 05.3.2012 | 3:26 pm

    You left out one step in the grilling, about getting a cheap charcoal grill. The steps should be: Throw out your lousy gas grill and go out and get a good charcoal grill and never look back.

    Wait, was that charcoal snobbery? Don’t really care if it was.

  35. Comment by TK | 05.3.2012 | 3:43 pm

    My 100 Miles of Nowhere is taking place on Memorial Day, 5/28. My post-ride meal/Memorial Day BBQ will now include brats, cooked on my charcoal grill, of course. Homemade pickled red cabbage (i.e. rotkohl) will also be served. Fatty, you are welcome to join the ride and/or the feast.

  36. Comment by Susan | 05.3.2012 | 4:14 pm

    Fatty, that is almost exactly how we cook them, but no Worcestershire sauce, on the gas grill. We also use potato bread rolls ~ makes them even better than plain hot dog buns or other rolls. Try it, you just might like it.

  37. Comment by nh_joe | 05.3.2012 | 4:42 pm

    I crashed out of the Tour of the Gila today. Now I have three days to sit around and…THIS SOUNDS LIKE A GREAT IDEA.

    Also, I love ketchup. Not sure why, but I routinely pass over superior condiments like homemade pesto or salsa in favor of ketchup.

  38. Comment by Dan | 05.3.2012 | 5:30 pm

    Something to do with any extra beer liquid you ask? I make this every time I make beer brats. Take a bunch of onions and bell peppers and slice them up. Carmelize them in a pan with butter. After they are browned lightly add some of the beer that the brats were boiled in with an equal part chicken stock. Simmer until the liquid is almost gone. You know have incredibly sweet delicious onion topping to put on your brat!

  39. Comment by Kukui | 05.3.2012 | 5:45 pm

    Oh, Fatty… why do you tempt my newly discovered veganism with the-most-delicious-thing-in-the-whole-world..!

    Something tells me my veganism-by-choice-but-not-to-save-the-animals thing is going to flounder sometime around the 85th mile of 100 MoN. Bring on the post-ride Brat-fest!

  40. Comment by Paul Guyot | 05.3.2012 | 8:32 pm

    Have almost the same recipe, except I add a 1/2 cup of oil to the beer boil, and I wait for a full boil before adding the brats. The oil does a very nice (and amazing) thing to the beer boil and the flavor of the brats. Try it sometime.

    Boil them hard for 5-7 minutes, then reduce heat and half-boil for 30-40 minutes.

    Charcoal grill – yes.

    Sauerkraut – no. Never. Go to someone else’s brat fest.

    I love Fatty’s recipe posts.

  41. Comment by Anonymous | 05.3.2012 | 9:04 pm

    5/8?? Not 3/4 or even 1/2 full??

  42. Comment by bob | 05.3.2012 | 9:05 pm

    Oops forgot my own name!

  43. Comment by Bob | 05.3.2012 | 9:40 pm

    As a Cheesehead, I can attest to the appropriateness of these instructions (with the exception of the Worchester Sauce – never tried that – nice touch, Fatty!)

    I have also use bbq sauce as a condiment. People look at me strange, but it’s quite good.

    Duesseldorf mustard is also excellent.

  44. Comment by Ripkenfan | 05.3.2012 | 10:18 pm

    Also being a cheesehead, I agree with the recipe. What I would suggest for the bun though. Pretzel Roll. An incredible compliment to the brat. It doesn’t over-power the brat at all. It’s like taking a bite of brat and a bite of soft pretzel at the same time! As for yellow mustard, I love it on my brats, and I eat them at least twice a month.

  45. Comment by BrewCityChris | 05.4.2012 | 5:41 am

    Secret Stadium Sauce is a great condiment addition. They serve it at Miller Park and you can find it at grocery stores all over the Milwaukee area. If you are in the area it is worth picking up a bottle for the next Bratfest.
    Tangy flavor that compliments the brat’s natural awesomeness!

  46. Comment by Grueny | 05.4.2012 | 5:43 am

    Okay, I’ll put this to a test in a couple of weeks during National Police Week. If they’re terrible, a whole shift of cops will be lookin for ya. :-)

  47. Comment by Dave T | 05.4.2012 | 7:27 am

    I have made these before but not with the Worchester Sauce. I will have to try that. I would agree charcoal or wood is the way to go. I would also recommend a beer based mustard like
    Because nothing exceeds like excess.

  48. Comment by Lonster | 05.4.2012 | 7:53 am

    I will try the Fatty method of Brats this weekend. I have some duck/jalapeno brats from a friend. Should be yummy…..

  49. Comment by Clydesteve | 05.4.2012 | 10:02 am

    @iride – north, south or central Oregon coast?

  50. Comment by USAFANARC | 05.4.2012 | 1:14 pm

    Awesome! I can’t wait to give it a go. Now, about that chili…how about a similar article with your chili? I’ve always wanted to get into the chili making arts and sciences. Get me started!

  51. Comment by Chris S. | 05.4.2012 | 8:24 pm

    Another 2 cents from a Native South Milwaukeean – the no ketchup rule is definitely in effect, but you really need to learn how to like sauerkraut – it is really vital. Also, brewcitychris is right, secret stadium sauce is the nugget and PERFECT on bratwurst….

    Also, Adam is spot on, Klement’s on the South Side has the best sausage in the sausage capital of the country.

  52. Comment by Brian in VA | 05.5.2012 | 9:47 am

    @ JohnBoy – There’s a country without beer???? Good grief, man, that’s the most disturbing news I’ve heard in years.

  53. Comment by pbal | 05.5.2012 | 11:54 am

    Why the boiling? Just grill to a perfect brown, (they are done when they begin to spit juice), and drink the beer like God intended.

  54. Comment by Don | 05.7.2012 | 10:19 am

    Nice article. Serious question: I thought beer and alcohol promotions (i.e., the part about buying “whatever is on sale”) were illegal in Utah.

    I’m not a drinker and so don’t know much about Utah’s confusing liquor laws. I do know that PBR is almost always on sale, but it may be that it’s not an advertised sale. – FC

  55. Comment by Full Monte | 05.8.2012 | 3:06 pm

    “Nextiest of all…”

    Makes the English major in me laugh out loud. Now I’ve got a taste for the wild game bratwursts that are waiting in my freezer. Great post!

  56. Comment by Bruce E | 05.11.2012 | 8:00 am

    You sure you’re not from Wisconsin?

  57. Comment by Flan-mon | 06.21.2012 | 6:33 am

    Made the brats for our post ride. Paired with grilled mussels. Ride, beer, brat, beer, mussel, brat, beer, etc.

  58. Comment by James Sorenson | 06.23.2012 | 12:20 pm

    Of course, most Wisconsin grocery stores with bakeries sell brat buns – tough and chewy, but soft and moist inside! Doubt if you can get ‘em out of state though! Likewise, any butcher shop worth its salt will have its own brats too.

    I have found that adding fresh chopped onions in with the sauerkraut ups the game a little, but I like onions! Likewise, dijon works as good as spicy brown mustard – and if you can get real Coleman’s Original British mustard – watch out!


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