With summer clearly upon us, it’s time to turn attention toward one of the staples of outdoor grilling. These delicacies are known around the world and are often frequently mentioned by sports announcers whenever they arrive in Wisconsin for professional and college athletic games.
The Wisconsin beer brat has been a state tradition for as long as I can remember. It’s the de facto official state food and held in extremely high esteem. Preparing brats is an act of food worship and to prepare one the wrong way in the presence of a true Badger is an act of sacrilege that could get a violated pummeled with a dead carp.
As a Badger state native, I’m going to show how to prepare a genuine Wisconsin beer brat that will leave your mouth and guests craving more.
First of all, the sausage is pronounced “brahhhht” not “brat,” like some snotty-nosed little loudmouth. A brat is short for bratwurst, a traditional German sausage. Lots of Germans settled here, so Wisconsin has some aura of authority in that regard. Just ask the folks at Milwaukee’s Germanfest or Eau Claire’s Oktoberfest.
To prepare genuine Wisconsin beer brats, you’ll need a a big kettle, a barbecue grill and the following:
- 1 10-pack of JOHNSONVILLE original brats — Don’t be enticed by cheap substitutes. Johnsonville brats are made in Sheboygan Falls, where each one is delicately prepared by trained and gifted craftsmen. Johnsonville is the creator of the world’s largest brat grill. The 60-foot grill that can cook up to 750 brats at a time or 2,500 per hour.
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 10 BRAT buns — not hotdog buns or hoagie sandwich buns. They are available at fine food stores everywhere — even Walmart. If you ask for brat buns and the grocer looks at you with the dull stare of a Wisconsin dairy cow, just move on making note to never patronize such a second-class facility again.
- 3 12-ounce cans of BUDWEISER beer — Not just any old beer will do, it must be Budweiser, not Coors, not Michelob, not Corona and for God’s sake never Miller Lite.
Pour the three cans of Budweiser beer into a large kettle can carefully add the raw Johnsonville brats. Then add enough water to ensure the the brats are fully covered by liquid.
Chop the ends off the yellow onion and carefully remove one layer of onion skin. Then slice the onions and separate the layers to create onion rings. Place them on top of the brats.
Turn the heat on high and allow the liquid to come to a boil while stirring occasionally. Take extra care to ensure that you don’t puncture the skin on the outside of the brats.
Once the brats start boiling, allow them to cook for a full five minutes while stirring once or twice. Don’t be surprised if a bunch of gunk appears on top of the liquid as the beer cooks and the some of the fat comes off the brats. Wimps skim the scum off the liquid, while real Wisconsonians just stir the pot to retain all the flavor.
After the brats have boiled for five minutes, turn off the flame and allow the brats to just sit in the hot water for another five minutes. By boiling the brats and allowing them to rest, you are fully cooking the meat so they are ready to be browned on the grill.
While the brats are resting, fire up the grill or campfire. Charcoal is best, propane is acceptable and wood works, too, but tends to flare up when the grease from the brats drips on the coals.
Once the grill is hot, bring the pot of boiled brats over and by using flat tongs, delicately place each brat onto the grill. Close the grill lid and allow the meat to cook for 60 to 90 seconds, then flip them over. Repeat the process until the outer skin of the brats is a delicious golden brown.
NEVER puncture the skin of the brat with a fork. Some Iowegians use a fork to put brats on the grill. They could have saved $20 in meat and beer and just cooked cardboard over a slow flame.
When the brats are golden brown, remove them from heat and let them sit for a minute or two. Biting into a hot brat is highly tempting, but your evening will be ruined as the scalding hot liquid sealed inside the brat squirts out burning your mouth and spraying into your eye.
Place the brat into an authentic brat bun. NEVER defile a bratwurst by placing it into a hotdog bun. Oversize brat buns are extra chewy and add an important dimension to the quality of a genuine Wisconsin beer brat. If you are out of brat buns, an acceptable alternative is to stab it in the middle with a fork and just eat the ends off.
Some people like to toast their brat buns before serving, but I prefer them moist and right out of the package.
With bun and brat in hand, add ketchup and mustard for sure, raw or grilled onions if you like and, if you must, relish.
Warm Bush’s original baked beans are the perfect accompaniment, and some folks like potato salad or cole slaw as well.
Before eating, toss up a prayer thanking God for the near prefect meal and ask for protection from heartburn if you plan to have four or five brats. It truly is hard to stop. Plus, you can eat as many as you’d like without worrying about alcohol content. The cooking process removes the alcohol and leaves a fine tasting, slightly spicy and savory delicacy.
Children are often unworthy of a genuine Wisconsin beer brat, so make sure to have a few hotdogs on hand to ensure you won’t have to slap a smirk off their face when their presented with one of these beauties.
So, this Independence Day weekend, fire up the grill and try your hand at cooking genuine Wisconsin beer brats. They’ll leave you speechless to the point all you can utter is that wonderful Wisconsin word — Uff-da!