One-Pan Bratwurst and Caramelized Onions

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No grill? No problem! These easy pan-fried brats with caramelized onions are sure to “WOW!”. So easy to prepare in one-pan on the stovetop, this recipe will leave you feeling “RELAXED” and ready to eat!

Summer and grilling just seem to go together. Growing up, I have treasured memories of my Dad grilling out on the patio. It never occurred to me that I would find myself living in a condo where outdoor grilling is not an option. Well, that’s not entirely true, I do have a mini “Smokey Joe” grill in my garage, but cooking in the garage just isn’t the same! Okay, if I’m honest, the real reason I have a portable grill is in case of losing power in a hurricane. My Dad raised me to “always be prepared!” Anyway, while I miss my Dad and miss having a grill, I have learned how to re-create many of my favorite grilled meals in my kitchen, including bratwurst. I’ve tried all sorts of methods in my attempt to recapture the deliciousness of those hearty, juicy brats, and I want to share my favorite recipe with you in time for both Father’s Day and the 4th of July. This simple recipe takes just one skillet and 20 minutes! Not only does it produce perfectly brown and juicy sausage, but it also makes fabulous caramelized onions.

Image of the ingredients
Just three ingredients — plus a half cup of water!

All you need is a package of bratwurst, red onion, and a half cup of water. Cast-iron is perfect for pan-frying brats – the screaming hot temp creates the best sear, turning the sausage that deep golden brown, beautiful color and giving it mouth-watering flavor. A well-used cast-iron skillet also is non-stick, making for easy clean-up. A stainless steel skillet is also suitable for this high heat recipe. Please don’t use your non-stick cookware! The high temps can both discolor the pan and ruin the non-stick finish. For more info about choosing the right pan for the job, check out my video, blog post, or podcast “Navigating Cookware.”

raw brats and a fork
Let the sausage come to room temperature. Using a fork, poke holes in the side of the brats to prevent them from bursting as they brown.

First things first. Take the brats out of the fridge and let them sit at room temp while you slice the onion and prep the pan. Room temp sausages will cook more evenly than those straight out of the refrigerator. It doesn’t take long to lose the chill. Using a fork, poke a few holes into the side of the brats to prevent them from bursting while browning.

Sliced red onion and water in a measuring cup
Mise-en-place: Slice the onion and measure out the water

While the brats are hanging out on the counter, slice up the onion. I used a red onion as they are slightly milder—however, it’s not a big deal. Yellow or white onions work just fine; I’ve substituted both when I didn’t have a red onion on hand. This recipe uses water, not beer or soup stock, as there isn’t any real benefit to using a flavored liquid. It doesn’t change the taste. Feel free to go ahead and substitute beer, chicken/beef stock, or apple cider, if you like – while it doesn’t do anything to enhance the flavor. It won’t hurt them.

Hot oil in skillet
Heat the oil till it ripples or shimmers, just before it reaches the smoking point.

Pour a tablespoon of canola (or vegetable oil) into a large skillet. Don’t use olive oil as it doesn’t do well at high temps, and it will just make your kitchen smokey! Heat the skillet on med-high until the oil is rippling or shimmering. The ideal temp is just before it reaches the smoking point. Add the brats to the hot skillet, then place the onions around them. Stir the onions to spread them around and to coat with oil. There will be a lot of sizzling and some smoke, so you will want your oven exhaust fan turned on.

Brats and onion in skillet
Place the brats in the skillet and add the onions.

Cook the brats for about 4 minutes per side and nicely browned. Now it’s time to make a little steam. Carefully pour 1/2 cup water in the skillet, immediately cover, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook covered for about ten more minutes (or until the internal temperature reaches 160°F.)

plate of brats and pan of cooking onions
Remove the brats from the skillet. Continue to cook onions until the liquid is evaporated.

Remove the brats from the skillet. Season the onions with salt and increase the heat. Continue to cook the onions for a few more minutes until the liquid reduces.

Toasted buns on a baking sheet
If serving on rolls or buns, use this time to pop them under the broiler to brown.

I use this time to toast some buns or rolls for the brats. I pop them under the broiler for just a minute or two. When the liquid has evaporated, it’s time to eat! For a complete meal, serve the brats on toasted bread rolls or buns with a side of Pinto Bacon Beans and garnish the plate with Quick Pickled Veggies. Enjoy!

Brats, beans and garnish on a plate
Serve up with Pinto Bacon Beans and a garnish of Quick Pickled Veggies

One-Pan Bratwurst and Caramelized Onions

Recipe by Jane BruceCourse: MainCuisine: German InspiredDifficulty: Easy
Servings

4

servings
Prep time

5

minutes
Cooking time

20

minutes

Enjoy delicious bratwurst and onions pan-fried to a dark, golden brown and steamed to lock in the juiciness in just 20 minutes prepared in one skillet. No need to let weather or lack of a grill ruin the fun, these brats are fast and easy anytime!   

Ingredients

  • 4-6 Bratwurst Sausages

  • 1 Red Onion, sliced

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil

  • 1/2 cup Water

Directions

  • Prep: Set out sausages to bring to room temp (for even cooking). Using a fork, poke a few holes in the brats to keep them from bursting while they cook. Slice a red onion. Measure the water.
  • Heat a large frying pan with a tablespoon of canola oil over medium-high heat until it just starts to smoke. Place the brats in the hot skillet, then place the onions around them. Stir the onions to spread them around and to coat with oil. Cook the brats for about 4 minutes per side, or until they are nicely browned.
  • Carefully pour 1/2 cup water in the skillet, then immediately cover, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook covered for about 10 more minutes (or until the internal temperature reaches 160°F.)
  • Remove the brats from the skillet. Increase the heat and season the onions with salt. Continue to cook the onions for a few more minutes to reduce the liquid. Serve the brats on toasted buns topped with the onions and your favorite mustard.

Notes

  • Water: Substitute beer or chicken stock for the water for additional flavor. (It is NOT necessary!)
  • Red onion: White or yellow onion can be substituted, the flavor will just be a little sharper.
  • Pan: A cast-iron skillet works best. Stainless steel is also a good pan for this recipe.  Non-stick cookware is not recommended because the high temperature could damage the coating.
  • Turn on your exhaust fan! There will be a little smoke when the brats and onions hit the pan.
  • Zhoosh it up by serving with Pinto Bacon Beans and a garnish of Quick Pickled Veggies.

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