As I was writing about the best way to cook brats, which inevitably involves a grill, I couldn’t help but think about the best way to cook brats when you don’t have a grill. 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.
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.
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, 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. The brats are super juicy no matter when cut or bite into them.
A slight variation to the cooking approach
If you are craving that malty, onion-y flavor, add one sliced onion and one cup of your favorite beer right after you are done searing your brats. Cover and cook as described above.
The beer will need to come to boiling temperature so the cooking time will be a bit longer if you do it this way.
I can’t easily tell which brats I enjoy more, the grilled ones or these ones cooked on the stove. Both are exceptionally good, very juicy and very flavorful. Neither are better than the other. Just a little bit different.