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How To Make Smoked Brats

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No matter how you dress them, sausages are always a good option, and when you’re grilling for a crowd, you can't go wrong with smoked brats.

For your next big BBQ, learn how to smoke and grill brats with steps from choosing your brat, to how to serve them.

Bratwurst Perfection

What Are Smoked Brats?

Smoked brats, short for bratwursts, are typically made from pork, beef, or veal and are both smoked and pre-cooked. Unlike the quick and hot sear of a grill, they are gently infused with wood-fired flavor in a pellet grill, which also prevents them from bursting during cooking.

How To Choose Your Bratwurst

When selecting your brat, it’s important to purchase an uncooked, raw brat that has a well-balanced lean-to-fat ratio. When you buy cooked brats, that typically means they’ve been pre-boiled. It drastically reduces your cooking time but also means a whole lot of the natural flavor will be diluted long before it ever hits the grill.

At the end of the day, an epic brat is a perfect combination of delicious meats, juices, and seasonings, all tied together inside an incredible casing. The quality of those proteins and the taste of your final product is going to depend on the fat and salt incorporated into your brat’s construction.

Fat is the main component of any good brat, and it’s also what makes your brats nice and juicy. Just like a steak, sausages are filled with just the right amount of that inner fat called “marbling.” The ideal brat is 70/30 - or 70% lean and 30% fat. When in its raw form, the lean portion of the meat will have a light pink color and the fat will be white.


Bratwurst Ingredients

When it comes to smokin' brats, you'll need the following ingredients:

  • Bratwursts: Either pork, beef, veal, or a combo. If there are fans of hotdogs at your barbecue, you can throw those in there as well.
  • Seasonings: Garlic, onion, salt, and pepper are staple seasonings. However, you can also use more out-of-the-box seasonings like paprika, mustard seeds, brown sugar, thyme, and more. Keep scrolling for our favorite Traeger rubs.
  • Best Wood Pellets for Smoked Brats: Apple, hickory, pecan, cherry, and mesquite are our personal favorites for epic smoked brats.
  • Buns
  • Toppings: Mustard, ketchup, onions, relish, etc.

How To Season Bratwurst

When seasoning your brat, lightly roll the sausages in our signature Traeger Rub (or any of your favorite rubs) prior to putting them on the grill.

Our Traeger Rub is ideal for brats because it will give you a slight hint of chili pepper and garlic while also adding an herby oregano and basil profile to your brats. The seasoning you go for is going to depend on your personal preferences or the recipe you’re following.

Remember that you’ll only want to roll your brats in your seasoning of choice if you’re planning to toss them on the grill.

If you’re braising, simply add your rub of choice to the beer/broth mixture instead.

Some recipes will call for vegetable oil, but this step isn’t necessary when you’re using a Traeger. Other grill or cooking methods use oil simply because they operate at a very high heat, and the oil is necessary to keep the brats from sticking to the grate.


How To Smoke Brats

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If you want juicy, epic brats, you'll want to do the following: Start by preheating your smoker to no more than 275°F. Anything more and your brats will burst and burn. However, for the best results, set it to around 225°F. Once your pellets are smoking, smoke your brats for about 1.5 to 2 hours, ensuring they absorb that epic wood-fired flavor (without drying out). Once your brats reach an internal temperature of 160°F you're good to serve them up.

Pro Tip: If you want a crispier exterior, you can increase the grill temperature to 400°F and cook the brats for an additional 5-10 minutes. Just make sure to let them rest for a few minutes to allow the juices to redistribute.

How To Make Braised Brats

If you’re braising your brats, place them in a beer braise at 275 degrees Fahrenheit for about 45 minutes to one hour. After an hour, pull them out, turn up the grill to 375 degrees and finish them off directly on the grate. Take a look at Pitmaster Chad Ward's braising advice:

For braising, my go-to is a good beer. It truly enhances the flavor of the brat. In the summer, I’ll grab a Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy and in the winter, darker and stronger beers such as an IPA to infuse awesome seasonal flavor. If you’re using sauerkraut, throw it in the pan with the beer and brats. You won’t regret it.

How To Grill Brats

Ok, so your brats are smoked/braised and ready to go. Next up, it’s time to grill, giving your brats that caramelized Maillard reaction. Remove the brats from the grill, and set the temperature to 375°F. Once the grill heats up, all you have to do is place your brats back on the grill for the finishing touch.

The Maillard reaction is that wonderful series of chemical reactions that happen when your meat reaches between 285 and 325 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, all the sugars and amino acids in your sausages will be unleashed to create bold natural flavors on the inside and produce mouth-watering colors on the outside.

Chemical reactions aside, everybody loves those sexy grill marks, right?

Internal Temperature for Brats

Brats are done when their internal temperature reaches 160 °F. We recommend removing them from the grill once they’ve hit 160 °F. This will take about 12 to 15 minutes at 375 °F.

Since brats are a smaller cut of meat, they only need to rest for about 5 to 10 minutes after removing them from the grill. But if you want to know a bit more about timing and temperature before hopping in the deep end, don’t stress. We’ve got you covered.

Set the temperature on your grill to High and preheat with the lid closed for 10 to 15 minutes. Then, all you have to do is place your brats back on the grill, turning frequently until they’re cook to 145 degrees F. As mentioned above, this will take about 12-15 minutes. So, if you include the time it takes to preheat the grill, you’re normally looking at around 20 to 25 minutes from start to finish.


How To Serve Brats

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Now that you have some epically smoked brats, it's time to learn how to serve them.

Consider adding these components to your brats so that every bite is full of flavor:

  • Buns: You can't go wrong with a classic brat bun, pretzel bun, or brioche option. if you want a healthier option, you can also serve them up on a whole wheat bun.
  • Sides: Fries, coleslaw, German potato salad, and pretzels are classic crowd-favorite sides.

Another delicious way to serve your brats is by having them simmer in a pot along with beer, onions, garlic, and other seasonings. This not only adds flavor but also helps keep the brats moist and juicy.


Tips For Smoking Brats

Make sure to follow these tips to ensure your smoked brats turn out perfect every time.

  • Checking your brat's internal heat is the best way to make sure they are cooked all the way through. Instead of putting your internal meat thermometer in the middle of the sausage though, go through the center of the sausage on the open end of the casing so that your brats stay juicy.
  • Once you're done smoking your brats, grill them over direct heat or give them a quick sear so that you get some crunch and caramelization.
  • Keep the lid closed -- while smoking brats, try to avoid opening the grill lid too often. This helps maintain a consistent temperature inside the grill and ensures even smoking.

Best Bratwurst Recipes

Now that you know how to smoke brats, check out some of our favorite Traeger recipes for an epic BBQ with your friends and family:

Brats In Beer

by Traeger Kitchen

Prep Time

10 Min

Cook Time

1 Hr
20 Min

Serves

4

Pellets

Hickory

These brats are bathed in beer and bursting with amazing flavor. Make them for an Oktoberfest feast or your next summertime BBQ.

Ingredients
main
4 (12 oz) cans of beer
2 yellow onions, peeled and sliced into rings
2 Tablespoonunsalted butter, plus more for buns
10 uncooked bratwurst
10 hot dog buns
mustard, for serving
    Steps
  • 1

    When ready to cook, set the Traeger temperature to 350°F and preheat with the lid closed for 15 minutes.

  • 2

    Pour the beer into a large saucepan. Add the onions and butter. Bring to a simmer on the stovetop over medium-high heat.

  • 3

    Place a deep disposable aluminum foil pan on one side of the grill grates. Carefully pour the beer and onions from the saucepan into the pan on the grill.

  • 4

    Arrange the brats on the other side of the grill grates. Close the lid and grill the brats, turning frequently with tongs, until cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes.

  • 5

    Transfer the brats to the beer mixture and cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Let the brats simmer until the onions are tender, 45-60 minutes.

  • 6

    Butter the cut sides of the buns, then place on the grill grates and toast until golden brown.

  • 7

    To serve, lift a brat out of the beer mixture and place in a bun. Top with the stewed onions and mustard. Enjoy!

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