The Last Smoked Brats Recipe You’ll Ever Need
December 10, 2020 / Comments
What pairs perfectly with tailgating, backyard BBQs, family cookouts, and warm summer nights? Smoked brats.
Whether you pair it with a crispy, toasted bun or eat it as the main entree, this juicy, smoky BBQ staple is a classic recipe every grilling enthusiast should master.
Today, we’ll show you the last smoked brats recipe you’ll ever need.
In our recipe guide, we’ll also teach you:
- How to choose the best brats for smoking
- What you’ll need to make smoked bratwurst like a pro
- 3 ways to customize your smoked brats recipe (+ our secret ingredient for out-of-this-world brats!)
Are you hungry? If not, you’re about to be!
How to Make Smoked Brats: The Ultimate Recipe
From a distance, making smoked brats can seem intimidating—especially if you’re new to the grill.
But don’t worry! This recipe couldn’t be simpler.
Step 1: Season the Brats
As much as bratwurst contains a delicious natural flavor, plain brats are sacrilegious! We want smoked brats that are bursting with sweet, spicy, savory flavor.
And that flavor is accomplished by seasoning the brats before they hit the smoke.
Start by rolling the brats in your choice of seasoning (we suggest this seasoning blend if you don’t have a favorite already) and placing them on a plate to prep for grilling.
Step 2: Prepare the Grill
Smoking meat is an art and a science.
You’ll need the perfect combination of charcoal and wood to create a nice, lasting smoke. To do this, you’ll need to keep the fire on one side of the grill.
If you have a smoker at home, you’re already set up to accomplish this! Keep the temperature around 225℉.
If you’re using a charcoal grill, you’ll need to position the fire on one side of the grill and work to keep the temperatures inside low and around 225℉. Remember, low and slow is the secret to mouth-watering BBQ!
Begin by removing the grill grate and making a fire on one half of the grill. Place a drip pan on the other side opposite the fire with no coals nearby.
Place the grate back on the grill and put a water pan filled two-thirds full above the fireside. This adds moisture to the air, helping to contain the sweet smokiness we want!
When you’re ready, set the brats opposite the water pan above the drip pan side. Put the cover on and let these beauties smoke for 45 minutes to an hour.
Try your best not to check on the brats too often. This will let out moisture and smoke and mess with the airflow inside the grill. Be sure to adjust the grill vents for proper airflow around the meat, too.
Step 3: The Final Grilling Touches
After the smoking step is complete, now we need to add those picture-perfect grill lines and get the meat up to proper eating temperatures to obtain that tasty snap that brats are known for.
To do so, carefully and safely remove the water pan and drip pan from the grill. We’ll want to ramp up the heat and temperature to 375℉ since the grill is no longer acting as a pseudo-smoker. Tend to the fire, charcoal, and wood as necessary.
When the fire is ready and the grill grate is back in place, put the brats back on the grill. Grill for 10-15 minutes until the brats reach an internal temperature of 140-145℉. Any hotter and you’ll dry out the brats!
Step 4: Enjoy!
Once cooked, remove from the grill and enjoy. No matter if you choose to add toppings and a bun or savor the brats as is, you’re in for a smoky BBQ treat.
How to Select the Best Brats for Smoking
Similar to pork, chicken, and beef, not all bratwursts are suitable for smoking.
We need to select the perfect brats to get that juicy taste and melt-in-your-mouth feeling everyone loves.
Start by looking for brats that are a pork and beef combination—this will be the case for most brats!
Then, opt for a bratwurst that is 70% lean meat and 30% fat.
Just like steak, a little bit of fat is a good thing! The fat is responsible for the melty texture and succulent flavors in a bratwurst.
You can also judge a good bratwurst by the marbling, similar to choosing a steak.
5 Things You Absolutely Need to Smoke Bratwurst Like a Pro
Remember, smoking meat is an art form! It’s also a science. And, what do both mediums need?
The right gear!
While you’re selecting the perfect brats at the grocery store, make sure to pick up these essentials too:
1. A Charcoal Grill or Smoker
Sorry gas grills. You just don’t cut it.
It’s pretty simple. If you want a smoky flavor, you need to produce smoke! And, gas grills can’t compete with charcoal grills and smokers in this department.
If you really want to smoke meat and become a BBQ pro, switch to a smoker or charcoal grill.
2. Chimney Starter
If using a charcoal grill, having a chimney starter on hand will make smoking and grilling so much easier.
This tool works to position your charcoal and wood chips just right so that your fire and temperature are at the perfect spot when you’re ready to grill.
3. The Right Wood Chips or Chunks
When you go to buy wood chips or chunks for grilling, you’ll instantly notice the wide range of options available. So, which one is the best wood for smoking brats?
The wood that will best compliment your smoked brats recipe!
Most BBQ fans prefer apple, maple, or hickory wood chips for the sweet taste they impart on the meat. But, the choice is up to you and your bratwurst recipe!
4. Meat Thermometer
On top of monitoring the temperature of the grill or smoker, you need to monitor the temperature of the brats as well.
Failing to do so can result in super dry and chewy brats (ew…) or unhealthy, undercooked meat (no thank you!)
Always have a meat thermometer handy when smoking meat of any kind!
5. Grilling Utensils and Tools
Last but not least, you always want to have the proper grilling tools and utensils nearby. These include:
- Grilling tongs
- Oven mitts
- Plates/pans/carrying trays
- Grilling spatula
- Extra coals/wood chips
Not sure you have everything you need to grill the perfect brats? Cross-check your supply with our BBQ essentials checklist!
3 Ways to Customize Your Smoked Brats Recipe
Sure, this is the last smoked brats recipe you’ll ever need, but you can also make it your own!
Get creative and try customizing your smoked brats with these three ideas:
1. Don’t Skimp on the Buns!
Bratwurst buns can cause heated arguments. (Get it… heated?)
While some don’t bat an eye at using a room temperature, generic hot dog bun, others will go to great lengths to find and toast the perfect brat buns.
To take your smoked brats to the next level, select a high-quality split-top bun and toast it on the grill!
Slather a layer of butter or mayo on the bun before gently placing it on the grill to really bring out those smoky grill marks.
You can also go crazy and make your own bratwurst buns, too! Try different types of bread like sourdough or even pumpernickel. Your options are limitless!
2. Go Wild with Toppings
Yes, the smoked brats bring a hefty, savory flavor to the table. But, who doesn’t love toppings?
Experiment with different toppings and find out which best pairs with your brats recipe!
Consider adding toppings like:
- Mustard, Relish, and Ketchup
- Sweet & Smoky BBQ Sauce
- Grilled or Chopped Onions
- Shredded Cheese
If you’re hosting a backyard BBQ, set up a toppings bar and let your guests be the captain of their own bratwurst toppings adventure!
3. Try Out Different Seasonings
Remember, plain brats are boring.
Spice it up with a myriad of different seasonings and rubs! From oregano and basil for an Italian-inspired bite to a sweet, tangy BBQ rub, you can enjoy a whole world of flavor simply by trying new seasonings.
Or, if you’re a traditional home chef, a little salt and pepper go a long way!
Our Smoked Brats Recipe Secret Ingredient…
(Did you think we were going to say something left-field like Ranch? No way!)
Whether you choose to use the hot and spicy BBQ sauce as a pre-smoked seasoning or as a sweet dipping sauce, you can’t go wrong with brats and BBQ sauce. It’s a match made in grilling heaven!