Grilled Brats 101
September 8, 2013
When I think of grilling in Wisconsin, I always think of bratwurst. First introduced to the US in the late 1800s by German immigrants, bratwurst are becoming increasingly available outside of the Badger state thanks in part to the Johnsonville® brand.
When it comes to preparing brats, I am of the beer bath school, parboiling the fresh brats before moving to the grill over medium heat to add color. Now, the rationale behind the beer bath is two fold. First, because the sausages are much thicker than a traditional hot dog, they take much longer to heat all the way through. And more time over direct heats means a great likelihood of charring and/or splitting the brats. Second, the beer bath allows the cook to bring a new level of flavor to the brats while ensuring they stay juicy while coming up to temperature.
To prepare the bath, I use a disposable half pan, adding to it two Pilsner beers, a stick of butter, and one onion thinly sliced. Place the pan directly on the grill and bring to a simmer. Once heated, add the brats to the pan in a single layer and add additional beer or water until sausages are fully covered. Simmer the bratwurst until they turn completely white, approximately 10 minutes. Remove and place directly on the grill over medium heat. Grill approximately 5 minutes per side until nicely browned and the internal temperature is 175-180 degrees. When grilling the brats over direct heat, note that fare-ups can be best controlled by simply closing the lid. Also, while some people recommend piercing the sausages before cooking to prevent them from bursting, I find that the beer bath eliminates that threat without sacrificing all of those precious juices that escape through the holes.
And finally, by returning the finished brats to a beer bath (I would recommend a fresh one in order to avoid any threat of contamination from the raw sausages), the cook is able to keep them warm while finishing other dishes on the grill. Serve either straight up or on crusty rolls with spicy mustard.
- Clint Cantwell, Grilling.com Editor