If you love a good brat, you will love smoking them. The level of flavor added during the smoking process using our smoked bratwurst recipe will blow you away. Trust me; you want to try this method.
🍽️ Why This Works
Combination of Cooking Methods. The grilling process adds caramelization, browning, and flavor to the brats. Finishing the brats in a vat of beer and brown sugar adds even more flavor and sweetness. It’s the perfect combination for the best of both cooking methods.
Quick and Easy Smoked Meat. While we do love a good long smoke for weekends, on busy weekdays it is so nice to have meat that can be perfectly smoked and delicious in under two hours.
A fan favorite. If you are serving a crowd, tailgating, or planning your next football-watching party, you can’t go wrong with this mouthwatering smoked brats recipe.
Bratwurst – Choose your favorite or try new brands! We decided to go directly to a German deli to purchase specialty bratwurst. You can use what you find at the grocery store or choose to go fancy and find a deli from which to purchase. Either will work.
Sweet onion – Depending on where you live and where the store sources its onions, these might be called Vidalia onions or sweet onions at your grocery store.
Beer – We used a Landshark Lager, but you can use your favorite beer; just about anything will work.
Brown Sugar – Light or dark brown sugar will both work.
⏲️ Equipment and Tools
- Smoker. If you are in the market for a smoker, we prefer the Big Green Egg or a Traeger. However, this works on any pellet smoker, offset smoker, electric smoker, or charcoal smoker. As long as you have a lid and the possibility to create an indirect heat zone, you can make this recipe on a charcoal grill, pellet grill, or a gas grill too.
- Smoking Wood. We prefer a mild flavor for these brats so we used apple wood. Other mild options include cherry wood, and maple. For an intense smoke flavor choose hickory or pecan.
- Aluminum Pan. Any disposable aluminum pan that fits in your smoker will work. You can find these at your local grocery store or warehouse store.
- BBQ Tongs.
Step One: Prepare your smoker. Get it preheated to 225ºF and add your wood of choice. The low and slow cooking method will gently infuse the brats with smoke flavors and prevent the juices from running out, as it can happen when cooking over direct heat on a hot grill.
Step Two: Place the bratwurst on the grill grate. Cut each onion in half and add those inside the smoker as well.
Step Three: Smoke the brats and onions for about 60 minutes with the lid closed.
Step Four: After the brats have been smoking for 1 hour, combine the beer and brown sugar in your aluminum pan. Set it in the smoker.
Step Five: Add the onions and brats to the mixture. Continue smoking this mix until the brats reach an internal temperature of 160ºF. Use a digital thermometer so the brats are perfectly cooked.
Step Six: Remove everything from the liquid. Slice the onions, and serve your smoked beer brats with onions and your favorite toppings.
❗ Recipe Tips and Tricks
Your cooking time for smoked bratwurst should be based on internal temperature; the times can vary significantly between the different brands and sizes. Use an Instant Read Thermometer or Wireless Meat Thermometer to keep track of the cooking time.
If you are cooking for a group, don’t crowd the brats on your smoker grill grate. Instead, see if you can borrow or rent an additional smoker to use so that everything can be spaced out a little bit. This allows the smoke to circulate and the food to cook more evenly.
Save the liquid left in the aluminum pan and use it for a soup or a casserole. Such an easy way to make a hearty, flavorful meal!
🧑🍳 Storage and Reheating
Leftover brats should be kept in airtight containers or freezer-quality plastic bags in the refrigerator. They will keep this way for up to one week and can be easily reheated in the microwave in just a minute or so. Make sure when you reheat the brats, they get up to 165ºF.
Leftover smoked bratwurst can also be frozen if you don’t plan to eat them within one week. Just place them in an airtight container and plan to thaw and reheat them within three to six months. All leftovers will keep longer in a deep freeze versus the freezer connected to your refrigerator.
Thaw frozen bratwurst overnight in the fridge or thaw from frozen in the oven at 350ºF.
Don’t microwave the frozen brats. It will be difficult to thaw the brat thoroughly without parts of it becoming rubbery using this method. You can also thaw the frozen brats in boiling water.
🌶️Additions and Substitutions
- Reinvent your smoked brats by changing the types of brats you purchase, or even go for another sausage you love.
- Enjoy the bratwurst with different buns. Try pretzel buns, sesame seed buns, or homemade bread for variation.
- If you cannot find sweet onions you can use a different onion.
- Try different types of mustard, ketchup, relish, and other condiments to find new favorites.
- Chili, pimento cheese, pickles, onions, sliced radish, cole slaw, sauerkraut, or even baked beans are other fun toppings to add to your bun.
- Use a different smoking wood. This is one of the easiest flavor changes you can bring to smoked bratwurst. We love apple and cherry wood chips or chunks for this recipe but as you can see in our free smoking wood chart, there are other options to explore. Let us know if you find any interesting pairings!
Brats go with anything! Traditionally served around campfires or straight off the grill, smoked bratwurst brings a new level of flavor and sophistication to the dish. You could go with classic sides like chips, grilled baked beans, or cole slaw.
If you want to break with tradition, serve your bratwurst with Grilled Eggplant, Bruschetta and Goat Cheese or Grilled Bacon Wrapped Tater Tot Bombs. We’re not done yet! Here are some more ways to serve smoked bratwurst:
👉Salad Ingredient. Slices of juicy brats are an excellent way to add protein to a hearty salad like this smoked potato salad.
👉Bratwurst Tacos. This is a flavor-packed taco version that will knock your socks off! Serve with coleslaw, and chipotle mayo or any other toppings you’d like.
👉Bratwurst Skewers. Thread sliced bratwurst with fresh vegetables like onions, peppers, and tomatoes like we did for these grilled cheeseburger kebabs, and arrange them on a platter.
👉Bratwurst Scramble. Scrambled eggs with cheese and smoked brats is the kind of breakfast that will make my entire day better!
👉Pizza or Pasta Topping. Try one or both, either way you won’t be sorry. A pizza or pasta dish with a smoky flavor is the best kind there is (try it on this super easy grilled pizza).
👉Bratwurst Stews and Casseroles. I find it absolutely amazing when I can pull some frozen smoked brats from my freezer and make a heavenly soup, stew, or casserole like this grilled sausage breakfast casserole. This is the perfect soul-warming food for the cold season.
Looking for more sides for smoked bratwurst? The German sausage goes well with many BBQ sides so there’s no shortage of options. Even more, it makes a great team with these hot dog sides, just in case you need extra inspiration.
♨️More Sausage & Bratwurst Recipes
Smoked or grilled, sausages including brats get the amazing smoky flavor any BBQ fan loves.
You can enjoy bratwurst or any other kind of sausage you love when making smoked shotgun shells, and smoked pig shots. You can also make bratwurst burnt ends the same way we did hot dog burnt ends. These always go so fast!
For a large gathering, this grilled beer brat chili will ensure no one leaves your place hungry.
Or serve a quick appetizer like these honey mustard beer brat bites. You can make them ahead so they are great for picnics, tailgating, and parties.
Grilled sausage and peppers are one of my favorite BBQ recipes when I need something fast and flavorful. Smoked hot dogs are another iconic quick smoker recipe that can save you in a pinch and trust me, they can’t get any better!
🍲Should brats be boiled before smoking?
This is not something we recommend. If you boil them first, that means you’re smoking already cooked meat and the total time spent in the smoker will be shorter. This also means less smoke flavor.
Our recipe requires smoking the raw brats at 225ºF for an hour and then cooking them in a disposable aluminum pan with beer, brown sugar, and onions until they reach the target internal temp.
Smoking the uncooked brats will allow them to absorb more smoke flavor. They are finished in the beer and brown sugar brine to add moisture and sweetness.
❓ Recipe FAQ
The internal temperature should reach 165ºF by the time the bratwurst rests. That means you can pull it off the grill or smoker at 160ºF.
Let it rest for five minutes or so. The time will vary depending on how thick your bratwurst is and the temperature of your smoker.
225ºF is perfect, allowing a nice slow smoke and plenty of that flavor to get into the meat. You may find other recommendations ranging from 200ºF – 250ºF.
All bratwurst is sausage but not all smoked sausage is bratwurst. Bratwurst is a specific type of sausage with many regional variations that generally use pork or a combination of pork and beef, seasoned with ginger, nutmeg, coriander, or caraway.
Bratwurst is usually purchased raw. Smoked sausage is a more general term that can apply to any combination of ground meats in a casing that have been smoked during preparation and are purchased cooked. Other examples of smoked sausage include Polish Sausage or Kielbasa.
Finishing the bratwurst in a vat of beer and brown sugar adds just the right amount of moisture to your brats.
The same as any other bratwurst. Whether you use the stovetop, oven, smoker, grill, or air fryer, bratwurst should be cooked until it reaches an internal temperature of 160ºF.
This applies to all types of ground meat and sausages, according to FSIS. Cook the brats at a low temperature to prevent the casing from bursting.
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- Aluminum Pan
- 8 Bratwurst we used German
- 2 Sweet Onion
- 4 Bottles Beer
- ¼ cup Brown Sugar
- Heat up smoker to 225°F.
- Place the bratwurst on the grill grate and smoke for about 60 minutes.
- Slice the onions in half and place on the grill grate next to the brats.
- After one hour, pour the beer and brown sugar into an aluminum pan and add the onions and brats. The onions will be fork tender at this point. Cook until internal temperature of the brats reaches 160°F.
- Remove brats and onions from the beer, slice or chop the onions and serve up on buns of your choice.