Learn how to grill brats on a propane grill the RIGHT way. Fully cook the inside and sear the outside without splitting open the casing.
Bratwurst is a traditional German sausage loved the world over and often served grilled at social events.
They are a pork, beef, or veal-based sausage often seasoned with any combination of spices from salt, white pepper, ginger, coriander, nutmeg, lemon zest, caraway, marjoram, and/or garlic.
Bratwurst have become a staple of the American cookout and are often served like a hot dog at in a bun with fried onions, sauerkraut, and mustard.
People that eat brats debate the perfect cooking method, while nothing beats a perfectly smoked bratwurst, most folks prefer to grill them on a gas grill to cook them more conveniently.
However, the trick is to fully cook the inside AND sear the outside of brat without causing the casing to split open, spilling out all the delicious juices contained inside.
Today we are going to look at cooking brats with a propane gas grill and how to accomplish just that.
Before we dive into the details, here’s a great introductory video about how to grill brats on a propane grill courtesy of Cait Straight Up.
Before you Start Grilling your Brats with Propane
Shopping for Bratwurst
It is important to always choose high-quality meats for grilling, as they are the star of the show!
While there’s nothing wrong with the local supermarket brands, have some fun and try to find some fresh homemade sausages at your local butcher’s shop. They may even have some varied and unique flavors to try.
Better yet, if you live in a larger metropolitan area, try to find an authentic german butcher or meat market for your bratwurst.
There are many different types of brat that vary in texture, flavor, and coarseness of the grind, so there is always something for everyone. There are even vegan brats now, made by the company Beyond Meat so that everyone can get involved with the grilling fun.
Prepping to Grill your Brats
Some recipes call for you to poke holes in the brat casing, however, this is not recommended as you lose a lot of flavor and juices this way.
Our goal is to slowly raise the temperature of the brats and then sear them at the end so that they don’t split open during the cook.
All your brats need is a tiny coating of oil, either olive or canola, rubbed on them prior to putting them on the grill.
This lubricates the casing and not only keeps the skin from sticking to the grill, but also drying out and bursting when the brats inevitably expand under the heat of your propane grill.
Clean your Propane Grill
Cleaning your grill is an important part of the cooking process, as this helps prevent sticking and also stops old nasty leftover flavors from contaminating your food. (Didn’t you smoke oysters on this grill last week?)
Open up your propane tank valve and ignite each of the burners one at a time. Crank the heat on all your burners as high as it will go and let it rip for about 15 minutes until all the grates turn an ashy white.
After this, keep one side of your grill screaming hot and turn the other side down to medium low.
How to Grill your Brats on a Propane Grill
To Pre-cook or not to Pre-cook
Much conventional wisdom says that brats are so thick that if you just throw them on the grill you run the risk of the outside burning while the inside is still raw. To counteract this, many people opt to partially pre-cook the sausages before grilling.
While there is nothing WRONG with partially pre-cooking your brats in a bath of beer and onions (and please don’t ever use just water), it really isn’t necessary, and could actually make your brats taste…well…less like brats.
Many, including myself, argue the flavor LOST from the spices and juices leaving the bratwurst outweighs the flavors GAINED from the beer and onions.
You are putting a HEAVILY SEASONED sausage into a relatively BLAND bath of beer and onions. As the brats and the beer get to know each other during the cook through osmosis, guess who loses more flavor?
But have fun drinking that warm brat flavored onion beer!
If you are really looking for some beer and onion flavor for your brats we have a much BETTER method described down below, so keep reading!
How to Grill your Brats
Ok, now it’s time for the main event.
At this point your grill should be clean and you should have one side ripping hot and one side medium to low. Your brats should be fully thawed, raw, and lightly oiled.
Our goal is to fully cook the insides of the brats while also getting a nice sear and crisping up the outside WITHOUT splitting open the casing and losing precious juices.
So, two options stand before us:
Put the raw brats on the searing hot side until the outside crisps up and then move them to the lower indirect side to finish cooking.
This method works great for some larger thick cut steaks.
The problem with this method for our situation is that your brats will EXPAND as they cook due to the simple laws of thermodynamics. If you have already crisped your skin, while the brats were a smaller size, they will now crack and split open as the inside heats up and the sausage expands.
Better Option B:
Put the brats on the indirect side to slowly cook them and raise the temperature until they are ALMOST done, then move them to hot side for the final sear.
If your indirect side has a temperature of about 325 deg, this will take roughly 20 minutes.
Our final internal temperature target is 165 deg, so your best bet is to move the sausages to the HOT side when they look fully expanded and are at about 150 deg internal temp.
Only leave them on the hot side for 1-2 minutes total per side, and then move them back to the indirect side. Do NOT walk away during this time and keep a close eye on them. Watch for grease flareups and move them around an flip frequently if needed.
We just want to crisp the skin and get some nice sear marks on the brat. If the internal temperature goes anywhere near a boiling point, the sausages will surely split open,
For perfectly cooked brats, the internal temperature should reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit and the outside of the sausage should be a dark reddish-brown color.
Holding to Serve
Some people use a ‘Brat Bath’ of warm beer to keep their brats warm once they have been cooked before serving.
Again, you are now flavoring your nasty warm beer with delicious bratwurst spices and flavors, not the other way around.
Skip the baths.
If you need to hold the brats put them in an aluminum pan covered with aluminum foil. You can even place them in an oven set to “Warm, no higher than 170 deg F.
This will hold the brats at a food-safe temperature without overcooking them until they are ready to be served.
Serving the Brats with Beer and Onions
Ok, here is where you can finally have some (more) fun with beer!
Following this method will give you all the beer and onion flavor you have been desperately hoping for WITHOUT losing your brat flavor in the process.
- Slice up 3-5 large onions, depending on the size crowd you are serving.
- Fill a a wide shallow saute pan with the onions and turn the heat to medium-high.
- Pour 1-2 cans of beer into the saute pan until the liquid it is about 1 inch high and mostly covering the onions.
- Simmer uncovered for about 20-30 minutes until the beer is soaked into the onions and the rest evaporates.
- Once the beer has evaporated, add about 1/2 a stick of butter to the skillet and continue to cook the onions down over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they are a deep rich brown color and are very soft. This may take another 30-60 minutes depending on the size of your pan and the amount of onions.
- Salt to taste.
You now have the most delicious beer-flavored fried onions you’ve ever tasted that you can put right on top of your perfectly cooked, intact, fully seasoned bratwurst.
Frequently Asked Questions about Grilling Brats on a Propane Gas Grill
Should I steam my brats?
No. We don’t steam meat ’round here partner.
Smoked Bratwurst are excellent.
What happens if the casing bursts?
If the casing bursts on your brat, it’s best to just turn the grill off, tell everyone to go home, and crawl back into bed.
No, not really.
It is really not the end of the world if this happens, you will just have lost some of the juices and flavor from the brat. It’s still going to be delicious. Give it to one of the kids or your least favorite relative.
Again, watch your temperatures, don’t have your “cooler” side cranked up too high, and don’t leave the brats on the “hot” side for too long.
How can I check the internal temperature without piercing the casing and losing all my juices?
If you haven’t cooked brats often before, and don’t have a feel for how long they take to cook on your grill, you may have to sacrifice one brat to the meat heavens.
Again, it’s not the end of the world to have a small hole poked in one brat.
Just don’t go checking every single one of them and poking multiple spots in each sausage.
You will surely find yourself with a bunch of greasy flare ups and drier meat if you do.
Is it okay if the brats are slightly pink?
There is some confusion because the USDA revised the safe cooking temperature for beef, veal, and pork in 2011 to just 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
However, this is for WHOLE cuts of meat like steaks and chops, and the guidance also includes HOLDING the meat at that temperature for a specified period of time to kill all the harmful bacteria.
Anything with GROUND pork, veal, and/or beef, such as bratwurst, should still be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 deg F.
If you cook to this temperature the meat will likely not be pink. Some brands and styles of german sausage may still APPEAR pinkish due to the seasonings used when making them, even when fully cooked.
That is why instant read thermometers are your friends and you should never rely solely on color to determine the doneness of ANY meat.
What Other Food Can I Make on the Grill?
Looking for some more smoky inspiration?
Check out some of our other great recipes of smoked and grilled food to try out at your next outdoor BBQ!
- Smoked Fresh Ham with Dark Rum Citrus Glaze
- Smoked Leg of Lamb with Guinness Marinade
- Smoked Bratwurst
- Smoked Gouda Cheese
- Smoked Oysters
- Pellet Grilled Steak
- Pellet Grill Turkey
Trash Can Turkey – OK, technically not made on a grill but one of the most fun ways there is to cook a Turkey…at over 700 degrees in only 2 hours! You’ve got to check it out!
Propane Grilled Brats with Beer Braised Onions
- Propane Grill
- Instant Read Thermometer
- BBQ Tongs
- BBQ Gloves
- Wide Shallow Saute Pan
- Cutting Board
- 6 Bratwursts uncooked
- Cooking Oil
Beer Braised Onions
- 5 Large Yellow Onions
- 1 Can Beer
- 4 Tbsp Salted Butter
Beer Braising the Onions
- Slice 5 Large Onions
- Place the onions in the Saute Pan
- Pour beer into saute pan until it is about an inch high in the pan and turn to medium high heat
- Stir the onions around until they are mostly covered by the beer. Simmer uncovered until all the ber has evaporated and absorbed into the onions, about 20-30 minutes.
- Add butter to onions and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook uncovered, stirring frequently 45-60 minutes until onions have caramelized and are a rich golden brown color.
- Remove from heat and serve over the bratwurst. Onions can be reheated gently before serving in the saute pan over medium-low heat if they cool too much while you are finishing the brats.
Grilling the Brats
- Preheat your grill with all burners on High to the highest temperature it will go for 20 minutes.
- Clean the grill grates with a good nylon grill brush
- Set up the grill for 2 zone heating: 1 side searing hot and the other side on a medium-low setting.
- Coat the Brats in a cooking oil of your choice to prevent them from sticking to the grates
- Place the brats on the cooler side and close the lid, turning frequently, until the internal temperature reaches 150° F, which should take about 20 minutes.
- Move the partially cooked brats over to the hot side and sear, uncovered, for abut 1-2 minutes per side until skin is crispy and a dark brown color. Do NOT let the skin burst from to much heat exposure.
- Move the brats back to the cooler side and continue to cook, if needed, until the internal temperature reaches 165° F.
- Remove the brats from the grill, let rest 5-10 minutes, and serve on a bun with the grilled onions and your choice of condiments.