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Food Review: Kirkland Brats

By Mike Thayer

Kirkland BratsThe bratwurst - more affectionately known as 'brats' by those who love these sausage treats - is a popular offering at summer cookouts and at baseball stadiums, especially in the Midwest.

That's what I'm into today, some brats!  I've tried pretty much all of them, Johnsonville, local butcher, various grocery store brands and today, I'm grilling up some brats made by Kirkland, the store brand of Costco.

As tasty as these things are, I'm actually kind of surprised that brats aren't more popular in restaurants, specifically burger and hot dog joints.  I'll take a juicy brat fresh off the grill over a burger or dawg just about any day of the week.  When brats are done right, you don't even need a bun, that's how good they are!

I've grilled brats for family, friends, at parties, at company functions.  I've prepared brats with beer, wine, my own secret parboil recipe and I've smoked them over a variety of woods.

Today's preparation is putting the brats in the smoker over pecan wood.  This is my favorite preparation and there's no parboiling required, this preparation is that good.  Beer brats are good, wine brats are better, but smoked brats.....  Smoked brats my friends, is THE best way to have them and pecan wood is a perfect pairing! 

I've used this particular preparation using the various brands of brats and Kirkland comes out on top.  They're better than Johnsonville, they're better than the local butcher shop, they're better than the typical grocery store brand.  In my book, the Kirkland recipe is the best of all I've sampled.

Perfectly smoked brats...

With each bite you get the perfect snap of that casing, the juiciness, that perfect blend of spices and that hint of smoke complimenting it all.

Not only does Kirkland have the better recipe, they make bigger links.  These are quarter pounders, that's 4 ounces each in case you didn't want to do the math.  Most other brands weigh in between 3.2 and 3.8 ounces per link.  That may not sound like much of a difference but it's actually quite noticeable when you put the final product on the bun.  Lesser brands also have more shrinkage and casings that more easily split during the cooking process. 

Costing just under $17 for 14 links, or $1.21 each, Kirkland brats cost a bit more than other brands.  In comparison, a package of Johnsonville brats typically run about $4.99 for 5 links, or $1 each, but you're getting an inferior product.  The Kirkland's are worth the slightly higher price, in each and every bite. 

I'm giving Kirkland brats 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars.  There may be a better brat out there, but I haven't found it yet.

4 stars

$pend Wisely My Friends...

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John J. Opperman

Wimmers brand owned by Land-o-Frost makes a good smoked sausage in both a standard flavor and one with cheddar. Basically they are a smoked brats with the same shape and contour along with flavorful medium course texture. I used to buy them at a Hy-Vee store in Marion Ia, but after moving to SC I haven't been able to find them. I'll be checking out the Kirkland brand brats here in the near future.

Jim Glunt

I know this article is old but I just tried Kirkland Brats. I grilled them on a charcoal grill as I always do with Brats and I found them to be rather flavorless. In terms of that unique Brat spice, I much prefer Johnsonville.

The Kirkland's were on sale at my Costco for $8.49 for 14 of them. So...good buy but the taste just wasn't there.

Bachelor on the Cheap

Thanks for reading Jim.  Try a side by side comparison, be sure to put some pecan wood chunks on the coals, cook the brats on indirect heat.  Youll thank me.


Hawkeye Bob

Being a native Iowan I think Costco brand is much better than Johnsonville as far as flavor and quality. If you're boiling or steaming them you're washing the flavors out of them. Costco has a nice snap no shrinkage and a nice sweet flavor. Pair it with a quality bun, some kraut, mustard, onions, and for me a good quality peppers in "oil" which you can find in the gourmet section of your grocery store or a good Italian grocer.

Russell Fielder

Ive grilled 3 packages of the Kirkland Brats each package one for a separate occasion. The first was out of this world good , full of flavor. I grilled some of tyat package on charcoal and others on a traeger using apple and mesquite pellets. It made no difference how I grilled them, they were all excellent and everyone raved about them.
So for the next event I got another package grilled them on the traeger again . what a disappointment, no flavor. Very puzzling.
A month later I got a third package hoping the second package was a fluke. It wasnt... no flavor again. Completely unremarkable.
How to get more like the first batch??!!


I also found the Kirkland brand to be somewhat flavorless. But the other issue is the casing is so thick and hard that most of the bites squeezes out the sausage and the casing is left hanging out of the bun. Not very appealing. Very few times do I have any issue with Kirkland products but as far as brats….Johnsonville is the way to go. I grew up in Wisconsin and and raised on Brats for all family functions. The best non-national brand to try is Neimuths. Excellent.

Mike Thayer

Denny, do you grill your brats over direct heat, or indirect? Indirect is the way to go. You'll get the proper snap in the casing, the meat absorbs some great smoke (I prefer pecan for brats) and the brat is juicy!

Henry Nipper

I have tried the Kirkland Brats a few times. The most recent I was not pleased. The casing is very thick and hard to chew, the flavor was not good.

I will be purchasing Johnsonville brats in the future.

Jennifer Williams

Very difficult to bite through since the casing is so thick. Will not be buying more.

tony dadson

i would guess that costco gets its brats from various suppliers at different times and therefore cannot get a consistent product as per some of the posts here

Mike T.

Costco keeps a tight lip on it's Kirkland products, but they do have a meat processing plant so it's reasonable to think they make their own brats. Kirkland brats are made with preparing on the grill in mind and the casing holds up to that dry heat preparation. So if you're boiling your brats or are par-boiling them in beer - DON'T! That turns the skin rubbery, you lose the snap. When prepared correctly, on the grill over indirect heat, Kirkland brats are top notch. These are designed to pick up the smoke from the grill.


In my opinion, Schaller and Weber are the best you can buy, or maybe Olympia Provisions.
S&W meats have won awards in Germany.

My understanding is that some parboiling helps make the casing easier to deal with, but I just found this:

Boars Head and Karl Ehmer are good, I'd like to try the Costco, pretty sure I've had Johnsonville at some point.
Often I find that the spicing is too weak.

FWIW, I've tried some specialty brand brats from Whole Foods: around Octoberfest you'll find the Olympia Provisions (the ones with potato are best), but I've also tried about 2-3 brands that were terrible (weird spicing, oily as hell, etc).


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