Grilling Brats for Tailgating


The last couple of weeks were big for pro football. The NFL lockout ended. Camps finally started. Chad Ochocinco promised to behave now that he’s on the Patriots. Peyton Manning became $90 million richer. And thousands of fans across the country thanked the football gods for this resolution and celebrated by digging out their tailgating gear from their basements.

Football camp get players ready to play. I suggest football fans have tailgating camp to get ready to cook and eat. Try to do too much, too quickly, and you could end up with loose jumbalaya and burned burgers. So let’s start simply with one of tailgating’s most popular foods, bratwurst, or informally “brats.”

First, remember that it’s “brot” like “lot,” not “brat “ like the neighbor’s unruly kid, and that a pair of links is a “double brot.” Got it?

Bratwurst is a German pork sausage that is usually grilled, placed inside a buttered and toasted hard roll, and smothered with any number of condiments, especially spicy brown mustard, pickles, onions, and sauerkraut.

You can buy brats just about anywhere meat is sold: at the butcher’s, the supermarket, and big box stores. Avoid the “pre-cooked” brats which aren’t as tasty as the uncooked originals.

Before you cook brats, you need to give them a beer bath — something a lot of male football fans would gladly do — by submersing them in beer. Be careful not to boil them, or the casings could burst, and you’ll have a bratsplosion to clean up. Just before they reach a boil, you’ve got to either lower the heat to simmer or simply turn off. This will lock in both moisture and flavor and help the meat cook more thoroughly from the inside.

The you’ve got to grill your brats. That’s easy. And you can drink the rest of the beer you opened while you’re doing it.

Don’t serve bratwurst in a hot dog bun. Use a brat bun (if you live in places such as Sheboygan, Wisconsin that actually sells them), or choose a muscular, crusty roll with good chew. Place your condiments on the brats, but remember brat law #23: no yellow mustard and, in many places, no ketchup are not allowed. (I don’t make the laws, I just report them.)

Finally, you must wash down your brat with a cold beer. There’s even a name for it: “bratwash.” Man, I love the Germans.


Bratwurst, recipe from The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches by Susan Russo

Makes 2 sandwiches

2 uncooked bratwurst sausages (about 3/4 pound total)

1 bottle plus 2 ounces good beer, divided

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for brushing rolls

1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced

1/4 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon spicy mustard

2 oblong hard rolls

1/4 cup sauerkraut, drained of excess liquid.

  1. Preheat grill to medium-high. In a large pot over high heat, cover sausages with 1 bottle of the beer. Just before it reaches a full oil, turn off heat. Remove sausages and place on heated grill. Cook, turning occasionally, until browned and crisp, approximately 12 to 15 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F.
  2. Warm olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and sugar; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are browned and caramelized, about 10 to 12 minutes. In a small bowl, mixd remaining 2 ounces of the beer and mustard until mustard dissolved. Pour over onions; cook over medium heat until sauce is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Slice rolls in half lengthwise. Brush with olive oil and toast on grill 1 to 2 minutes, or until gold and crisp. Scoop sauerkraut onto rolls. Top with cooked sausages and onions. Eat immediately.

Photo credits: Flickr Creative Commons, JamieLWilliamsPhoto; Matt Armendariz from The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches

2 thoughts on “Grilling Brats for Tailgating

  1. Living in Wisconsin, your post made me smile. You pretty much hit the nail on the head here, with sauerkraut being the only variable ( love it or hate it). Other than the home grill, there are several hallowed Brat grounds in Wisconsin…Camp Randall in Madison, Lambeau Field in Green Bay and Miller Park in Milwaukee.

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