As I was writing about grilling bratwurst, I couldn’t help but think about the best way to cook brats when you don’t have a grill or have the ability to smoke your sausage. How do you cook brats without a grill and still get exceptional results? For me the answer is quite simple: you pan fry them. Hence this new post on how to cook brats on the stove.
Don’t get me wrong, oven roasting works on bratwurst as well, but there is no way to get the same flavors, the same browning and caramelization in the oven. Baking takes a bit longer as well, tends to dry out the sausages more, and it takes time to pre-heat the oven.
How to cook bratwurst?
Just like a great tasting steak, bratwurst needs to be seared first over fairly high heat, then cooked to doneness. Searing adds an immense depth of flavor to any sausage, like the homemade bockwurst or Italian sausage. I even like my favorite jalapeno cheddar sausage cooked this way when I don’t have the time for smoking. This step must not be skipped. Once the sausage is well-browned and aromatic, cook it on a lower heat until done. It’s that simple!
Step 1 – melt some butter
Butter makes food flavorful. Brats are no exception. You can use olive oil, vegetable or corn oil, but none of them will come even close to the flavor that real butter provides. This is one of the secrets to the best-tasting bratwurst.
Preheat a cast iron pan over medium high heat. Add a couple of tablespoons of butter. Let it melt and start to turn light brown. If you are using an IR thermometer, the temperature should be about 325-350F.
Step 2 – pan sear your brats
Like any raw meat and sausage, bratwurst will greatly benefit from searing. It will get a nice color and mouth-watering flavor. Sear your brats about 3 minutes per side, until deep golden brown color. If you did not overheat your cast iron pan the brats will not burst and will be perfectly fine.
Step 3 – cover and continue cooking until done
When searing on the second side is done, flip the brats one more time, turn the heat down to medium-low. Cover the pan with a lid and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Flip the brats one more time, cover and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 160F.
Covering the brats after searing is very important. The hot steam inside the pan will keep the brats moist. That same hot steam will promote faster cooking. In an open pan the top of the sausage will lose heat, and the overall cooking time will be longer before the sausage reached 160F internal temperature. This is the same approach that I have been successfully using to fry chicken wings.
This is it folks, brats perfectly cooked on the stove in about 10-12 minutes.
You can let the brats rest for 5 minutes so the meat can reabsorb some of the lost liquid; otherwise all those juices will gush right out when you slice the sausage. I never wait. These brats are super juicy, no matter when you cut or bite into them.
A more sophisticated way to cook bratwurst
If you are craving that malty, onion-y flavor, add one sliced onion and one cup of your favorite dark, malty beer right after you are done searing your brats.
The beer will need to come to boiling temperature, so the cooking time will be a bit longer if you do it this way. You may or may not cover the pan when using beer and onions. I don’t as I like the beer to reduce and use it as a dipping sauce.
An here they are, fully cooked, in all their glory.
Brats dipped in this malty goodness, topped with caramelized onions, are friggin’ delicious!
I can’t easily tell which brats I enjoy more, the grilled ones or these ones cooked on the stove, especially the ones with Belgian ale and chopped onions. Both are exceptionally good, very juicy and very flavorful. Neither is better than the other. Just a little bit different.
Interested in making your own bratwurst? Check this out:
- 4 bratwurst sausages
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter (or use olive oil, vegetable or corn oil)
- 1 sweet onion (cut in halves or quarters and sliced)
- 1 cup Belgian ale (or any dark, malty beer of your choice)
- Preheat a cast iron pan over a medium-high heat. Add the butter and let it melt and start to turn light brown. The temperature should be about 325-350F at this point.
- Sear bratwurst for about 3 minutes per side, until it achieves deep golden brown color.
- Add the onions and the beer, turn the heat to high and bring to a boil.
- Once the liquid is boiling, reduce heat and continue cooking, flipping the sausages and stirring the onions, until the internal temperature of the sausages reaches 160F. Cook uncovered to let the liquid reduce and intensify its flavor.
- Remove bratwurst from heat and serve hot, on a bun, or with you favorite side dish.
Be careful what pan you use.
I didn’t have a cast iron skillet, but I do have a Le Creuset, which is enamel coated cast iron, so I thought that would work. I probably did heat it too much (didn’t think I did), but when I made the first turn of the brats in the butter they didn’t look like the picture! We called them crispy critters. So I turned down the heat and continued….and while they were quite dark (and they did split) they were still delicious.
We were using them in sandwiches so I didn’t do the beer thing, but they were very juicy and good, just shy of being burned. Was the Le Creuset a mistake? What would have happened with just a non-stick pan?
That’s why I specifically recommended a CAST IRON pan. Different cooking tools may require different approaches, temperatures, cooking time, so they may not be easily substitutable.
I follow this recipe roughly and often struggle to cook the sausages fully through. I use a medium sized pan, 2 sausages (cooking for myself), and one 12 oz can of beer which covers about half to 2/3s at first before cooking down. I just find that I need to cook a loooong time even keeping the beer bubbling. And weirdly my meat thermometer says the sausages are well over 180 at times and then I cut them open to find a good portion still raw. I also sear them as much as I can on the 2 sides but they eventually get dark and almost burnt if I try to push it. I even stand them up on the side for a minute to try and cook a 3rd side.
Johnny, are you covering the pan with a lid? If not, cover with a lid, it will help you.
Excellent! Best Brats! Absolutely loved it. The onions caramelized in the beer were great. Easy way to cook- like this recipe better than on a grill. Thanks!
You are welcome. Enjoy!
I use this method often when cooking my brats and it never disappoints. Exceptional flavor and easy to follow.
Delicious! I had Heffeweitzen so used this…TY!!! First time ever making this! 😋Happy 4th of July! We are free to make brats! 🇺🇸
Excellent recipe. I use regular beer and they are delicious. This is a family classic that my college age son is now teaching his friends to make.
Amazing. I sent my boyfriend out for malty beer and he came back with a lager. Didn’t have any broth so to spice it up added half a chicken bullion cube when boiling the beer. The end result? Best brat I’ve EVER had
This recipe is very easy, yet packed with flavour. I have made it several times and my husband and I love it.
This is a wonderful recipe for brats. I would not change a thing. Served with boiled baby potatoes, broccoli an corn. Oh, of course more butter. Thanks for a great, easy dinner.
You are very welcome.
I do not have a cast iron skillet, and we do not drink alcohol (thank you so much for the nonalcoholic suggestions!), so I used my favorite nonstick pan and chicken broth. This was my first time cooking brats, and since I had no instructions (brats came straight from the butcher as a gift from my in-laws), I stumbled across this recipe. IT IS AMAZING!! I have made this recipe multiple times since, and I don’t think I will ever cook brats any other way! Thank you!!
You are very welcome, enjoy!
We tried the brats in a lodge pan
They were amazing
Will definitely do that recipe AGAIN
I don’t have a grill and needed a recipe for brats, and I am so glad I found this one. Thank you for writing it! I’ve made it several times and always do the beer and onions version. I usually make it with brown ale or porter. Easy and delicious. It reheats well, too – I usually put a couple portions in the freezer, and reheat some other day for breakfast.
Glad to hear it. Enjoy!
For lunch today I made these brats …… OH MY GOSH they were amazing. How did I go this long not using the cast iron skillet ? Maybe next time I will try the beer and onion ones. My son bought me the skillet a couple of years ago. I have lots to learn! Thanks for the easy and delicious recipe. I look forward to checking out the rest of your blog.
You are very welcome. Enjoy! Also, check out my Taste of Artisan blog, you may find some interesting recipes there too.
Your recipe is SPOT ON! I added red and green bell peppers, and used 8 ounces of apple/cinnamon/honey mead, and served with Spanish rice and cucumber/onion ‘salad’ in sour cream and apple cider vinegar. Thanks for a keeper!
Happy to hear that, Kay, you are very welcome. Seeing that you like sour cream like we do, have you tried my Chili Mayo Cucumber Salad yet? It’s absolutely amazing. Try it if you haven’t. Oh, and while on this topic, I highly recommend my new Cherry Tomato Salad. It’s a little different from most other salads but we’ve made a good two dozen times over this past summer. You can use regular tomatoes with that salad too.
Life Changing recipe!!! Bravo!!! Awesome flavor thank you very much!!
You are very welcome!
These are the only way to fix brats! Love them!!
Glad to hear that you liked the recipe. Happy cooking!
This was an excellent recipe. I followed the instructions but cooked 10 brats at once in a large cast iron pan. They turned out perfectly done & delicious! Thank you!
These are the best ever! I will always make my brats like this. Searing in butter is the icing on the cake!
BEST GLIZZY IVE EVER HAD 💯💯💯
Tried and loved it. Thanks for the greta recipe
Quick, simple, and delicious! I made the onion and beer version. The beer brats turned out great and perfect combination with sweet onions. Ciabatta bread dipped in sauce topped with onion was tasty goodness!
This recipe is simple and perfect and can be incorporated into many dinners. I haven’t written a review yet, but I’ve added the brats to salads, charcuterie boards, on buns, and tonight we are adding red peppers to the onions, the rice when the beer gets low with garlic, basil and thyme. The flavor is perfect for so many dishes!
So easy & SO DELICIOUS!! Even all 3 of my semi-picky kids LOVED THEM! (We’re from WI, so it’s no surprise we opted for the beer version!) Thanks for posting! 🙂
Best Brat Recipe Ever!!! Have used multiple times with regular and plant based brats and have never disappointed my guests. On a sidenote I’ve been using Ace Ciders and they’ve turned out incredible, especially the pear and pineapple flavors. Thank you so much for giving me this amazing recipe and allowing me make it my own. You guys are awesome! ❤️
You are very welcome, Erica. Happy cooking!
The key to perfect brats is boiling them before you pan fry. Frying first busts the casing and they lose moisture, trust me on this as I’ve tried them many different ways! Additionally if you fry or grill them last you will retain that outer crisp that you lose when you boil them last
Other than that this recipe is excellent
I’m trying your recipe for the first time today. Rainy day and very cold, seemed the perfect time to try it. The Brats I’m using are Beer Brats with (Founders brand) All Day IPA ale incorporated into the meat. I cooked the brats without the beer and onion but I did deglaze the pan with a generous splash of Kentucky bourbon and it’s delicious!
Tip: if your brats curl up more than you want during cooking, use a bacon press to keep them flat to the cast iron skillet.
Thank you for this simple and perfect recipe Victor! I’ve used it several times now to cook my beer brats and they ALWAYS turn out perfect!
You are very welcome, Jeff. Glad you like it. Thank you for taking time and providing your feedback.
Someone apparently from Germany posted earlier that they don’t use beer for cooking the brats, but to drink along with them! I agree having lived in Germany (non-Military) for 14+ years. Betcha she never had pizza with Sauerkraut either! Yum!
Bruce D Terry
Thank you for the recipe! Being a southerner, I’m not really up on cooking brats, and unlike most southerners, I don’t have a grill at this time. Your recipe was PERFECT! I shall keep an eye out for your next recipe. Please keep up the great work and thank you again!
Thank you for the kind words, Bruce and you are very welcome for the recipe. More are coming.
I use water instead beer
David, I haven’t tried using water but I’ve used beef broth with great results as an alternative to beer.
Don’t have a cast iron skillet
Just use your favorite pan that you know well. I supposed you can use different tools to get the same result if you know how to use them.
Tasted extremely close to the real thing! (If you don’t have a grill). Wasn’t disappointed.
Happy to hear that, Holly. Thank you for your feedback.
I used your instructions and the brats were fantastic! Thank you!
You are very welcome!
Thank you for taking the time to share this. It was awesome and I can’t wait to try the beer.
Fantastic method .
I made this with Guiness, and OH MY GOODNESS IT’S SO GOOD. Only complaint, I should have bought 2 onions. I normally hate onions, so I thought 1 would be enough. I am sorely mistaken. THANK YOU!
Used your instructions for Italian sausage. Came out perfect! Thank you!
You are very welcome, Kathy. Glad my instructions helped.
Thanks for taking the time to post these gorgeous pictures and perfectly yummy directions! I’m known for my cooking… only I’m the FIRST one to tell you that I cant do simple recipes or make simple food that everyone loves! It’s frustrating to be able to wing my own recipes for very complicated meals OR follow a list of ingredients that’s 195 items long and yet NOT be able to make a good meatloaf and in THIS case, brats. Ugh. I mean I can grill anything and make it taste delicious but stovetop brats? Nope. Not until I came across YOUR recipe! Oh and you’re right, both the stovetop and grill are delicious in their own right. Not one better than the other… just different! Anyway, thanks for making me excited about brats again! I’ve avoided them for TOO long!
You are very welcome and thank for your detailed feedback. Glad I could help.
I made this yesterday and they turned out great! Thank you for explaining the correct temperatures and all, it was very easy to follow.
No problem. Glad my post helped.
It’s October in Minnesota so hearty German food is what’s on the menu. I thought I didn’t really like brats, I eat them but once a year. That is….until now. This simple recipe is fantastic and there is no need to fire up a charcoal grill on a chilly evening, the cast iron and butter with some good strong ale worked perfectly. Off to read your blog and see what else you have up your sleeve.
Thanks for the recipe, it’s a keeper!
You are very welcome, Carrie. Thank you for your feedback, it’s greatly appreciated.
awesome way to cook brats, i love them i the summer on the grill, but when weather sets in, this is equally awesome!
I am very curious to try your beer method for cooking brats. Those brats look delicious.
Thanks so much for these instructions. Your way is much simpler, and tastier, than my old way.
No problem at all. Enjoy!
Holy moly those brats look so mouthwatering!