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Beer Brats: soak first then grill, or other way around?

We plan on having brats and German potato salad tomorrow, among other things, and I can't find a consensus on the best way to make Wisconsin-style beer brats on the web. Most recipes call for a very similar beer soaking mixture, with mustard, beer, and onions--the contention arises over whether the brats should be gently simmered first and then grilled, or grilled first and then gently simmered. The latter seems a bit weird to me, but many claim that this method is best. What are your opinions? Perhaps the best thing to do would be to try both methods and then see which I prefer, but I'd rather not potentially waste some porky goodness.

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  1. I simmer them in pilsner beer with sliced onion, and then grill them as needed.

    1. simmer the brats in a bath of guinness and thinly sliced onions for 20 minutes or so then grill the brats on all sides. (grill marks are mandatory). don't waste the onions. throw 'em in a pan and simmer them down. a good mustard is, well, good.

      1. I braise my porky goodness in a fine German dark beer, dijon mustard, thinly sliced sweet onion and a bay leaf until the beer is a syrupy mess! Like steveh, I feel that grill marks are mandatory & I also toss the onions minus the bay leaf into a pan on the grill and serve over the brats in a good roll, which is another key componet, please don't use hot dog rolls! That's a crime. Cheers!

        1. Card carrying Badger here and I never heard of grilling first and soaking later. That's just weird and wrong. Everyone had the right idea, simmer in beer (to be authentic you need to use a fine Miller product) with lots of onions and I add lots of chopped garlic as well. Simmer for 20 min or so then grill til stripy and crispy. Steve H is exactly right when he says don't waste those beautiful onions! Boil them down and serve on top of da brats in a hard roll slathered with brown mustard, not that wimpy yellow stuff. Dat's da best, aina hey!

          2 Replies
          1. re: ajcraig

            Thanks to all who've responded so far. You've confirmed what I thought. If anyone is interested in the grill-first-then-soak thing, there is some discussion here (click on the reviews):


            And here Steven Raichlen advocates what he calls the "bratwurst hot tub":


            It seems as though this method is intended to keep the brats warm if guests will be eating them at different times--maybe at a tailgating party or something?

            1. re: diva360

              Keeps'em from drying out if they're gonna sit for a while. I've noticed this is done mostly at neighborhood festivals where all the brats get done at once but the service is slow. The after-bath should not be boiling, just good and hot. I did it myself one time when it was very cold, out on my front porch in Nashville, and I needed to keep those babies hot while I toasted the rolls, so I just moved the beer bath over to the cooler end.

          2. a million ways to grill a brat and most of them work.

            just a thought: if feeding a bunch of people, consider keeping the brats in the beer/onion bath at a very low temperature until needed and then grill 'em. the purpose of grilling, in my opinion, is to dry the skin and crisp it up a bit. throwing a grilled brat back into the beer/onion pan would wreck that crispy goodness.

            just my $0.02.

            1. Definitely simmer in beer and onions (and a bay leaf or two), then grill. I don't know the physics, but it seems to tighten up the brat and maybe cook out some of the fat, so they don't flame up and burn before they're done in the middle. If they're simmered first, you can just brown off the outside and crisp that skin up a little. Then a hard roll or hoagie roll, brown mustard, some drained kraut if you've got it. Or wrap up some sliced onions and peppers (drizzled with oil) in foil, and throw those on the grill with the brats.
              NOW I'm hungry...

              1. simmer then grill. start them at room temp (out of fridge) and in room temp liquid.

                1. See, my Wisconsinite family did it the other way: grill then simmer with onions. But I think what everyone is saying is right -- that doing that undermines the crispiness.

                  It does seem to me that it was done in reverse to hold the brats for eating over a period of time. And the beer-y juice that sank into the (hard roll) bun was good.

                  1. Report on beer brats: simmered them in half stout and half pale ale mixed with spicy mustard and a pile o' sliced onions. Cranked up the heat on the beer to reduce it, then grilled the brats for a few minutes per side. Served on hard rolls with stone-ground mustard and some of the drunk onions. We'd always just grilled brats before on indirect heat, but I'm always going to do the beer bath first in the future.

                    We also had German potato salad, which I'd never made before, and it turned out pretty well. But I think tomorrow I'm going to fry up some more bacon and make more vinaigrette--it could use a little more. We also had baby spinach salad and grilled peaches--it was all delicious. Thanks for your tips!