How to Grill Brats on a Charcoal Grill

Summer is right upon us and so is the grilling season. Whether you are a meat enthusiast or maintain a veggie-heavy diet, it’s not difficult to see what makes a well-grilled meal tempting now and then. For those who prefer red meat options in grilled food, bratwursts become an automatic pick for the summer grilling season.

However, these German-origin sausages are slightly difficult to prepare than your regular hot dogs due to their thick skin. The task seems more difficult when you are working on a charcoal grill and don‘t want them dry. It’s certainly tricky to grill brats to perfection. However, you can easily pull off the plump mouthwatering brats grilling by taking care of a couple of things.

Learn How to Grill Brats on a Charcoal Grill

In this piece, we are going to put down a detailed guide on how to ace the grilling of brats on a charcoal grill.

Preparing the Grill

When you cook on a charcoal grill, half the work is to prepare it in the right manner. The word ‘prepare’ here entails many things and we will discuss them one by one.

1. Clean the Grill

First off, clean your charcoal grill before firing it up. By cleaning, we mean rubbing its grates with a hard bristle brush to remove the char and grease buildups. You can certainly do without it too. However, you may have to experience these two unwanted outcomes.

  • Brats stick to the grates if there is grease already present on them. This will only make the entire cooking process more tiresome.
  • While having too much tar on grates is dangerous for health, it can also meddle with the taste of grilled brats.

While scrubbing the grates, keep the brush movement parallel to the length of grates to get better results.

2. Ignite the Grill

With propane grills, it’s easy to fire up the pit with an even heat. However, with a charcoal grill, you need to get certain things right in order to create the right grilling environment for brats. The best way is to fire up the briquettes in advance (30-45 minutes prior to the grilling) to get them red hot.

Many people fire briquettes right before putting the brats on grates. Grilling is a gentle and gradual cooking process. So, a hastily done grilling is not going to give you the desired results.

A Trick— Make Temperature Zones

With gas grills, you are well in control to regulate the pit temperature. However, that’s not the case with charcoal grills. Moreover, the red/orange coal flames raise the temperature more quickly than a blue methane/propane flame.

While working with the constrictions of a charcoal grill, you need to be slightly innovative to have better temperature control. One simple trick can help you in having better control of the grill with its temperature. Stack up all the fired up, red hot briquettes on one side, and all the relatively cold ones on the other. With this, you can actually create temperature zones on the same grates.

Having these temperatures zones means you can prevent the instances of overcooking or even burns that people often face when they work with delicate grilling items like brats on their charcoal grills. When you feel a brat has already got too much heat, you can shift it to the relatively cold side.

The other way to have better temperature control is to keep your grill at ‘slow-burning’ mode. When briquettes are not sweltering red, you don’t need to worry about the temperature spiking. However, acquiring this low and slow burning charcoal grill setting needs some practice.

3. Oil the Grates

Once you have burning briquettes and grates with optimal temperature, you can go ahead with oiling them.  There are grill sprays that let you oil the grill in the right manner without underdoing or overdoing it. We have reviewed some of the best grill sprays in one of our previous articles right here in this section.

The oiled up grates are needed for multiple reasons. To begin with, they keep the brats from sticking to the grates. Moreover, you can ensure the right texture and a degree of moisture with oiled-up grates. Both of these things really matter in coming up with the perfectly grilled brats.


Avoid using a basting brush to oil up the grates. It usually goes on to overdo it where the oil starts dripping on heated up coals to produce a thick smoke that makes it uncomfortable for people to sit and stand around the grill. Moreover, it also goes on to give an extra smoky flavor to the grilled brats which sometimes override the meat’s original taste.

Grilling the Brats

With grates having their temperature zones in place, you are all set to go with brats grilling. From here on, it might look pretty straightforward.  However, one needs to take care of many little things. These little things may not matter as much individually but collectively, they can completely change the taste and texture of what you finally get as a grilled brat.

How to Arrange the Brats on the Grill

You need to take care of a couple of things while lining up brats on the grill.

  • Put them vertically with the length of grates
  • Instead of stacking them up, keep an even space between two brats. This might extend your time on the grillbut it will give you the best results.
  • If you have made heating zones on the grates, then put all the brats at once on the hot section. It will help you in tracking the grilling time.

Taking Care of Grilling Time

Well, no one can give a definite grilling time for brats. The cooking time can vary with density, thickness, and the type of meat you have used. However, 15-25 minutes is the time window in which every type of brat is grilled to serve, given that the grill is perfectly fired up.

Quarter Turn Will Prevent the Burn

You need to turn the sides of brats every 3-4 minutes in order to get an even crisp. Instead of turning them all the way upside down, just move them like a knob from one side to the other. To make it easier, consider them as a square that can be turned on its four sides. This way you will be able to get the even crusting which is a sign of well-grilled brat and an ace grilling chef.


You can use a fork or a pair of tongs to do this shifting and turning of brats. However, the latter is the best option. Not only will it keep the turning handy but it will also keep you from puncturing the brats which can affect their taste.

Continuously Keep an Eye

Time is certainly a good indicator to be sure if brats have been grilled or not. But as mentioned earlier, it is not an absolute parameter. Therefore, you need to have your visual meter on to make a better judgment.

These are the three scenarios where you can tell with one glance as to what degree the brats have been cooked.

  1. When brats start wrinkling on the skin and turn their color into something reddish brown with a dull trace, it’s time to take them off because they have been perfectly grilled.
  2. When brats get that reddish brown color but with a slight luster and smooth surface, they are undercooked and you are supposed to grill them for a couple of minutes more.
  3. When the brown of the brats start getting gray undertone with excessive wrinkles, they are overcooked and you need to pick them up immediately to keep them from turning into burnt meat.

How to Be Sure the Brats are Grilled to Perfection

Now, this is the last and most crucial part of your brats grilling. The above color indication is certainly an effective way to decide if you need to take them off or leave for a little while. But still, you may need to be certain if the filling is also done to perfection. There are two simple ways to be dead-sure about your grilled brats.

Cut into a Sausage

The most tried and tested method to be sure about filling is to make a slight cut into one of the sausages to see if it is safe and yummy to eat. How easily are you able to slice the sausage will be enough for telling if it’s perfectly cooked or not.

Get a Meat Thermometer

To be more precise about your grilling, you can use a meat thermometer to find the internal temperature of a grilled brat. Insert the thermometer’s pointed probe into the sausage, if the needle gives the reading of 160 Fahrenheit or more, your brats are perfectly grilled and ready for serving. These thermometers are easily available in the market. You can also get one online.

Our Final Thoughts

If you follow this guide, then grilling brats to perfection on a charcoal grill will become a breeze.

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