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How To Tell When Brats Are Done

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Perfectly cooked bratwurst sausages are the star of any meal, but it is a little tricky to achieve the perfect level of doneness with brats!

Cook them for too long and you will dry them out. Don’t cook them long enough and you will run the risk of getting food poisoning. 

So, how to tell when brats are done? There are a few different methods you can use to tell if brats are done. Checking the internal temperature of brats is the best way to determine their level of doneness. You can also do a touch test, inspect their color, or cut or pierce the sausages. 

Continue reading to learn the five ways to tell if brats are done, plus some tips for cooking brats to perfection and what happens if you eat undercooked brats!

What Are Brats?

Grilling bratwursts.

Brats, also known as bratwurst sausages, are German sausages made from ground or finely chopped meat.

Pork is the most common type of meat used for brats, though beef and veal can be used too.

Brats are fresh link sausages that come in a natural casing. Brats can also contain a mixture of different herbs and spices. 

You can cook brats in a few different ways — you can cook them in the oven, on the stove, on the grill, or in the air fryer. Boiling brats in water or beer is another common method to cook them. 

How Long Should You Cook Brats?

Cooking sausages in the dripping pan with oil

The cooking time for brats varies depending on the size of the sausages and the cooking method

Brats should cook for around 12 minutes in boiling water.

Cooking brats in the oven or on the grill takes around 20 minutes.

If you are pan-frying brats, cook them for 4-5 minutes per side. 

No matter what cooking method and recipe you use, cook brats until they reach a safe internal temperature

How To Tell If Brats Are Done – 5 Ways 

Cooking brats to perfection can be tricky. Made of fresh ground meat, brats should be fully cooked to be safe to eat. However, they shouldn’t be overcooked as cooking brats longer than needed makes them dry. 

Here are five ways to tell if brats are done. 

1. Use A Thermometer

No matter what cooking method you use, the internal temperature of brats that makes them safe for consumption is 160°F

It is best to use a meat thermometer to determine the internal temperature of the sausages. Insert the tip of the thermometer into the end of the bratwurst sausage at an angle. Hold it there for a couple of seconds and then read the temperature. 

If the thermometer reads 160°F or higher, then the sausages are well done and you can remove them from the heat. 

“Well-done” is the degree of doneness you should aim for with brats — anything lower than that needs more cooking. Continue cooking the bratwurst sausages if the thermometer shows a temperature lower than 160°F. 

2. Inspect The Color

Properly cooked pan-fried, grilled, and oven-baked brats have an appetizing all-over golden brown color.

Boiled brats change their color too. Depending on what meat the sausages are made of, they may turn light pink or gray

As boiled brats look quite unappealing, they are often briefly pan-fried to give them a nice char. This further cooks the sausages, too! If your brats were boiled for around 10 minutes and then pan-fried, they are most likely cooked through. 

With this said, the exterior color of brats can be deceptive.

If you pan fry or grill the sausages on high heat, they will quickly turn golden brown while the center remains raw. So, don’t take the color of the brats as the only sign that they are fully cooked. 

3. Feel The Texture

You can do a touch test to determine if brats are done. The key is remembering how each level of doneness feels. 

It’s simple — touch the bratwurst sausage with your fingertip.

If the sausage is firm and feels like you are touching the tip of your pinky with your thumb, then it is fully cooked. If it feels softer than that, the sausage is most likely not cooked all the way through and needs more cooking. 

You can learn the skill of touch testing through practice. Every time you check the internal temperature of the sausage, press on it with your finger to see how it feels. Eventually, you will learn how each level of doneness feels!

4. Pierce To Check The Juices

This is not the best method to check the doneness of brats as it causes the sausage to lose its juices and may result in a dry texture. 

That said, if you don’t have a thermometer and can’t determine the doneness of brats by inspecting their color and texture, pierce the sausage with a knife or a fork.

If the liquid running out of the sausage is clear, then it is cooked. If the juices have a pink or red tint, then the sausage is still raw. 

Using this method is only good for cases when you will be eating the brats yourself and won’t be serving them to your guests. 

5. Cut Into The Sausage 

If none of the above-mentioned methods work for you and you are still not sure if the brats are cooked through, your last option is to cut through them.

This is not the best method to check the doneness of brats, but it is one of the most accurate. 

How To Tell If Grilled Brats Are Done?

If you don’t have a meat thermometer, preheat your grill to 300°F to cook the brats. Grilling the brats on all sides on medium heat for around 20 minutes should be enough to fully cook them. 

You can do the touch test or pierce the sausages with a knife to check the juices. If you are still not sure that the grilled brats are done, cut one to check the interior. 

A good way to ensure that the grilled brats are fully cooked is to parboil them before cooking them on the grill. Parboiling bratwurst sausages before grilling them helps prevent them from bursting open too. 

How Do You Know If Boiled Brats Are Done?

When brats start to float, it is an indication that they are done — however, this is still not the most accurate way to tell if boiled brats are fully cooked. 

Use a meat thermometer to ensure that boiled brats are done. If you don’t have a thermometer, cook the brats in boiling water until they float, then check the texture to make sure that they are done. 

Check the doneness of boiled brats by pressing them with your finger. If you can’t do this because the sausages are too hot, pick them up with a pair of tongs.

If the bratwurst sausage is firm, then it is cooked. Let the sausage boil for a couple more minutes if it is still soft and wiggly. 

Is It Okay For Brats To Be A Little Pink Inside?

Ground beef or pork may have a pink tint even when they are fully cooked. Thus, the slight pink color inside the bratwurst sausage doesn’t indicate anything bad.

Brats are undercooked if they have a pronounced pink-red color. 

What Happens If You Eat Undercooked Brats?

All ground meats should be fully cooked before consumption.

As brats are made of ground raw pork, beef, or veal, you should always cook them to at least 160°F to avoid any potential health hazards. 

Eating undercooked meat may result in trichinosis. This is a foodborne illness caused by meat contaminated by Trichinella roundworms. 

While trichinosis is not very common nowadays, it is always better to err on the safe side and never eat undercooked bratwurst sausages

Some of the symptoms of eating undercooked sausages include nausea, upset stomach, headache, fatigue, and fever. The symptoms may appear a few days after you have eaten an undercooked bratwurst sausage. 

Tips For Cooking Brats Perfectly

Overcooking brats is easy, especially if you have the fear of undercooking them. Here are three tips to help you cook brats to perfection:

  1. Always use medium heat. No matter what cooking method you are using, always use medium heat to cook the brats.
    • If you cook the brats on the stove, start with low heat and increase it to medium gradually. 
    • If you are cooking bratwurst sausages on the grill, start by cooking them on indirect heat. Transfer them over direct heat for a couple of minutes to get a nice char on them. 
  2. Let the brats rest. Once you have removed your pan-fried or grilled brats from the heat, let them rest for a couple of minutes. The juices will settle in and the sausages will be juicy and flavorful. 
  3. Be gentle with the casing. Handle the brats carefully to not damage the delicate casing. If you damage the casing, all the juices will flow out of the sausages and leave them rather dry. 

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