Brats provide a wonderful meal no matter how they’re cooked, but smoking your brats is a great way to give them a delicious and unique smokey flavor.
When selecting a wood for smoking your brats, you don’t want the wood to overpower the meat’s natural flavor. Instead, the wood should pair nicely with the rich, savory, and spicey flavors of the meat and tie them all together.
The exact wood you choose for smoking may depend on your preference. Some people like a smokey wood, while others prefer a fruity or sweet option.
Either way, in this article, we look at the best wood for smoking brats. Here are the most popular and are guaranteed to kick your smoked brats up a notch.
Let’s get to it.
Best Wood for Smoking Brats
Oak is the most popular go-to for smoking any meat. It has a medium to strong flavor that pairs great with the savory and spiced flavor of bratwurst. It also pairs wonderfully with other meats, making it a great option for those who are cooking a variety of meat types at one time.
Oak is especially useful if you have never tried smoking brats or other meats before. It is difficult to over smoke with Oak, making it a great option for those who don’t really have a firm grasp on smoking yet. The ease of use that comes with smoking with Oak is why we have named this the best wood for smoking brats.
- Easy to use
- Crowd pleaser
- Does not deliver as strong of a flavor
Smoking with Oak
Oak gives off a strong and mellow smoke. This makes it a great option for all-around smoking needs, including smoking brats. The taste will be much milder, a crowd-pleaser since some people find bratwurst already flavorful.
To smoke your brat correctly, smoke them for 45 minutes to an hour on a smoke setting of 225 degrees Fahrenheit. After the brats have been smoked, kick your grill up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and cook them for a couple of minutes on each side. This will crisp up the casing and give you that juicy bite that you look for in a bratwurst.
Since Oak has a mild flavor, you can really opt for any sauce. Simply go with whatever sauce you think pairs with the individual bratwurst you have selected. The Oak will just enhance those flavors.
Hickory wood has been another highly popular wood for smoking bratwurst and other meats. It is highly versatile and provides a sweet, savory, hardy, and bacony flavor to the brats. Southern cooking and smoking especially use Hickory wood frequently.
We have made this the best runner up because using too much Hickory can cause a more bitter flavor on the meat. Those who are just getting started with smoking might want to start with Oak instead so as not to ruin the beautiful flavor of their bratwurst.
- Strong flavor
- More difficult to smoke with
- May be too strong for some people
Smoking with Hickory
Brats have a strong flavor on their own. This is great for those who are new to smoking because it means that the meat will be more forgiving if you smoke them for too long. The savory and smokiness of the Hickory wood complement the spicy flavor of the bratwurst greatly.
To avoid over-smoking your brats, make sure that you don’t smoke them for long periods of times. Since brats generally cook much faster than other meats, this will not be as big of a concern for smoking brats. If you opt to cook other meats with the Hickory wood, you need to be more concerned about how long you are smoking them.
To smoke properly, control the smoke, and try to reach 225 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the best temperature for cooking brats, and the smoke control will alleviate issues concerning a bitter aftertaste.
Because of Hickory wood’s smoky flavor, you might want to pair a sweet tomato sauce or spicy sriracha sauce with the Hickory smoked brats. The sauces will tie the flavors together nicely and give you a unique kick.
If you want to venture beyond Oak or Hickory, here are some more suggestions that also work well with brats:
Which Woods to Avoid
There are certain wood types that you should avoid for smoking. Essentially if it’s a softwood, you shouldn’t use it. Pine, fir, cedar, cypress, sassafras, sycamore, elm, and eucalyptus should be avoided at all costs.
Pellets, Chips, or Chunks?
It might sound obvious, but you should be sure to choose a style of wood that fits your smoker.
If you have a pellet smoker – obviously you’ll want pellets. On the other hand, chips are appropriate as added flavor in charcoal smokers and chunks are nice if you’re working with an offset smoker.
How to Smoke and Cook Brats
If you are new to smoking brats, here is every step to follow for smoking and cooking the best brats possible:
Step 1: Choose the Brat
Start out by selecting your brat. Select a brat with a good lean to fat ratio. Go ahead and select an option that is pre-boiled because it will shorten the cooking time and dilute the flavor. At the end of the day, look for a 70% lean brat and 30% fat. This will give you a delicious juicy flavor.
If your bratwurst is not already seasoned, try a rub or seasoning before putting them on the grill. This will give them a delicious flavor after they have been smoked and cooked.
Step 2: Smoke
Once you have seasoned the bratwurst, put them in the smoke setting of your smoker for 45 minutes. It should be about 225 degrees Fahrenheit. This gives your bratwurst a chance to smoke up and have a delicious flavor.
If you don’t have a smoker, you can get away with using your grill and adding smoke with a tube smoker or a foil packet.
Step 3: Grill
After you smoke your brats, you need to grill them so you can caramelize their skin. Grill them on a grill of 375 degrees. The internal temperature should be about 145 degrees Fahrenheit. For most people, this will take about 12 to 15 minutes. Take the brats off the grill once they have reached this internal temperature.
Step 4: Don’t Forget the Bun
Meanwhile, you cannot forget about the bun. Toast your bun so that it has a crisped exterior and soft interior. It is a great idea to toast the bread on the grill so that it has a similar flavor to the brat.
Step 5: Serve
Once you have finished with the buns, you’re free to serve your brats. Look for a sauce or additional flavor and serve them up!
Kick your flavor up a notch by smoking your brats. Overall, we recommend Oak as the best wood for smoking brats for first timers. It will give a mild smoky flavor that is easy to use and difficult to overpower.
For those with a little bit of experience with smoking, then we recommend Hickory. Hickory will give a much more flavorful taste, but it is more difficult to use than Oak. Either way, both Oak and Hickory are great choices for smoking your brat.
If you make sure to select a good lean to fat ratio in a brat, season it thoroughly before, and watch the smoker diligently, you’ll smoke a beautifully tasting brat. Your barbeque or party will love you, and you’ll be the best griller on the block.