Determining Brat Doneness: A Comprehensive Guide

How to determine when brats are cooked: A Comprehensive Guide

Bratwurst sausages, when cooked to perfection, can be the star of any meal. However, achieving the ideal level of doneness with brats can be a little tricky. Overcooking can result in dry sausages, while undercooking can put you at risk for food poisoning. In this article, we will explore different methods for determining when brats are done and offer tips for cooking them to perfection.

Understanding brats

Brats, also known as bratwurst, are German sausages typically made from ground or finely chopped meat. While pork is the most common type of meat used, beef and veal can also be used. Bratwurst is a fresh link sausage that comes in a natural casing and often contains a mixture of herbs and spices. They can be cooked in a variety of ways, including baking, frying, grilling, or boiling.

Recommended cooking times

Cooking time for brats depends on the size of the sausage and the method of cooking. Boiling brats in water usually takes about 12 minutes, while oven baking or grilling usually takes about 20 minutes. If frying, cook the brats for about 4-5 minutes on each side. Regardless of the cooking method, it is important to ensure that the brats reach a safe internal temperature.

Determining Brat Doneness: 5 Methods

Cooking brats to perfection can be challenging. To ensure they are safe to eat, brats should be fully cooked but not overcooked, which can result in dry sausages. Here are five reliable ways to determine when brats are done:

1. Use a thermometer

The most accurate way to determine the doneness of a brat is to use a meat thermometer. The internal temperature of brats should reach 160°F (71°C) for safe consumption. Insert the tip of the thermometer at an angle into the end of the brat, hold it there for a few seconds, and then check the temperature. If the thermometer reads 160°F or higher, the sausages are well done and can be removed from the heat. If the temperature is lower, continue to cook the brats until they reach the desired doneness.

2. Check for color

Properly cooked brats that have been pan-fried, grilled, or baked in the oven have an appealing golden brown color. Boiled brats may change color and appear light pink or gray, depending on the meat used. However, appearance alone can be deceiving. High heat from frying or grilling can quickly brown brats while leaving the center undercooked. Therefore, relying on color alone is not conclusive evidence of doneness.

3. Feel the texture

A tactile test can be used to determine the doneness of brats. By touching the brat with your fingertip, you can judge its texture. A fully cooked brat should feel firm, similar to touching the tip of your little finger with your thumb. If the sausage feels softer, it is probably undercooked and needs additional cooking. With practice, you can develop a sense of what each level of doneness feels like by touch testing.

4. Pierce to check for juices

Piercing the sausage to check for doneness is not the preferred method because it can cause the sausage to lose its juices, resulting in a potentially dry texture. However, if you don’t have a thermometer or other means of testing doneness, you can pierce the sausage with a knife or fork. Clear liquid running out of the sausage indicates it is cooked, while pink or reddish juices indicate it is still raw. This method is best for personal use rather than serving to guests.

5. Cutting into the sausage

Cutting through a brat is not the most ideal method, but it can provide an accurate assessment of doneness. If none of the above methods work for you, or if you are still unsure of the doneness of the bratwurst, cutting into it can provide visual confirmation. However, this method should be used as a last resort due to the potential loss of juices.

Determining doneness for grilled brats

If you don’t have a meat thermometer, preheating your grill to 300°F (150°C) can help ensure proper doneness. Grilling the brats over medium heat for about 20 minutes, turning them on all sides, should be enough to cook them thoroughly. To check for doneness, you can perform a feel test or pierce the sausages with a knife to check for juices. If you see clear liquid coming out, the brats are done.

Cooking tips for perfect brats

Here are some additional tips to help you achieve perfectly cooked brats:

  1. Prick brats before cooking: Pricking the brats with a fork or toothpick before cooking can help release excess fat and prevent them from bursting.
  2. Use indirect heat: When grilling brats, using indirect heat can help cook them more evenly and prevent charring or burning.
  3. Precook brats before grilling: Precooking brats in water, beer, or a combination for about 10 minutes can ensure they are thoroughly cooked and reduce the risk of undercooking.
  4. Avoid overcooking: Overcooking brats can result in dry and tough sausages. Monitor cooking time and use an instant-read thermometer to ensure they reach the desired internal temperature without overcooking.
  5. Rest brats: After cooking, let the brats rest for a few minutes. This helps distribute the juices evenly throughout the sausages, resulting in a more flavorful and moist bite.

What happens if you eat undercooked brats?

Eating undercooked brats can pose a health risk due to the potential presence of harmful bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, or Trichinella. These bacteria can cause foodborne illness and result in symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever. It is important to ensure that brats are thoroughly cooked to minimize the risk of foodborne illness.

Bottom line

Determining the doneness of brats is essential to ensure they are safe to eat while maintaining optimal flavor and texture. Using a meat thermometer, checking color, performing a touch test, or evaluating juices can help you determine when brats are cooked to perfection. Following recommended cooking times and using cooking tips can further enhance your brat cooking skills. Remember, it is critical to prioritize food safety by ensuring that brats are fully cooked before consumption. Enjoy your brats with confidence, knowing they are cooked to perfection!


What is the best way to tell when brats are done?

The most reliable method is to use a meat thermometer and make sure the internal temperature of the brats reaches 160°F (71°C).

Can I rely on the color of the brats to tell if they are done?

While color can be an indicator, it is not foolproof. High heat from cooking methods such as frying or grilling can quickly brown the outside while leaving the center undercooked.

How can I check the texture of brats to see if they are done?

Perform a feel test by gently pressing the brat with your fingertip. It should feel firm, similar to touching the tip of your little finger with your thumb.

Is it necessary to pierce the brats to check for doneness?

Piercing the brats can cause them to lose their juices, resulting in a potentially dry texture. It is best to rely on other methods, such as using a meat thermometer or performing a touch test.

Can I cut into the brats to check if they are done?

While cutting into the brats can provide visual confirmation of doneness, it is not recommended as a primary method due to the potential loss of juices. It should be used as a last resort.

What temperature should brats reach to be considered safe to eat?

Brats should reach an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C) for safe consumption, as this temperature effectively kills any harmful bacteria that may be present.