Bratwurst and beer. Quite possibly the ultimate tailgate combination. Bratwurst cooked in beer? That just sounds like the best of both worlds. And, amazingly enough, this is something that can be done all on a grill. You just want to make sure that your grill can handle different temperatures in different areas, if gas, or is large enough to fit a disposable foil pan on half the grate, if charcoal.
The ingredients couldn’t be simpler. All that you need for this classic recipe is brats, beer, onion, and some butter. Everything is simmered together. That’s the basic beer brat recipe. If you’re so inclined, you can make additions based on personal taste to elevate your brats to another level. Brats and mustard are a classic combination, so adding some brown mustard to the simmer makes sure that the flavor is cooked in. If spice is your thing, some diced jalapeno in the cooking liquid can give your brats an extra kick.
Before cooking your brats, pierce the skin with either a knife or fork. This ensures the flavor of the beer and onions can enter the meat. (If you have a brat with a natural casing, this step is not necessary. Natural casings allow some liquid to pass through. If you’re not sure what kind of casing your brat has, pierce the skin.)
Beer is half of the beer brats formula, so make sure you choose something with a flavor that you enjoy. Different styles of beer add different flavors, but the most popular beers with brats tend to be ales and lagers, though the dish can be made with stouts and porters. A good rule of thumb is if you like drinking it with your food, you’ll probably enjoy it in your food.
If you cook with a gas grill, turn the burner on one side to medium-medium low heat. Place a disposable foil pan with high sided over this burner, and fill with the beer, butter, onions, brats, and anything else you want to add. Make sure the beer is completely covering the brats and simmer the mixture for about 20 minutes. If the beer starts to boil, turn the heat down. You want to try and maintain a simmer, which is just below a boil. On the other side of the grill, turn the burner to medium high heat. Remove the brats from the liquid and place directly on the grill over the higher heat. The brats will already be cooked from the simmer, so you just want to brown the skin. Once browned, the brats can be served immediately, or placed back in the simmer to hold.
On a charcoal grill, the procedure is very similar, it just takes a bit more heat management. Once the charcoal is ready, it should be moved all the way to one side, leaving room for a disposable aluminum pan to fit without being over direct heat. The indirect heat it receives should be enough to hold the simmer. When the brats are cooked in the liquid, they can be removed and placed directly over the charcoal, until golden brown. Then serve or replace in the simmer.
Toppings for beer brats are fairly simple: brown mustard (Some areas have specific brat mustard available. This usually has horseradish included for an extra kick. Yellow mustard is generally frowned upon.) and onions, which can be from the simmer or grilled separately in a grill basket. Some folks like adding sauerkraut to their brats, but this can be an acquired taste. As for the buns, specifically made brat buns are usually available in some areas, which resemble scaled up hot dog buns. Hot dog buns are too small to hold a brat. If brat buns cannot be found, a hoagie roll is a good substitute.
With some basic steps, a classic dish like beer brats is easy to recreate and make your own.