The best – and in the opinion of many – the only way to eat them is grilled and soaked in beer and onions. Travel outside of Wisconsin and you’ll soon realize that not everyone really knows how to make a Green Bay-style bratwurst.
I went to college in Tulsa, Oklahoma where a well-meaning cook in our cafeteria (who also happened to be a Packers fan) found out I was from Green Bay. One day he tried to make brats for the students. The sign outside the food station even read “Wisconsin Bratwurst.”
While it was a valiant attempt, it didn’t even come close the kind we grill up around here.
Maybe it was because my Alma matter, Oral Roberts University, is a dry campus – which would make beer for the brats hard to come by. But the truth is – nobody knows how to make beer brats on the grill like real Wisconsinites.
Here’s how we do it…
To Par-Boil or Not to Par-Boil?
At some point, your sausages need to soak in a mixture of beer and other ingredients (more on that later). But the big question is whether you put them in the beer before they go on the grill or after.
A lot of people will tell you to par-boil the bratwurst in beer and onion and then brown them up for a short time on your grill. There’s nothing wrong with that school of thought – but I like to do it the other way around.
Put your brats on the grill and briefly brown them on both sides. Don’t cook them all the way through. Let them finish cooking in your beer mixture.
The benefit of this is that even if you burn your brats by mistake – they still tend to plump up again in the beer. Overall, soaking after grilling means you get a juicier bratwurst.
The Secret Sauce for Beer Brats
The best way to personalize your beer brats is to develop your very own beer mixture to cook them in.
These are two standard ingredients for making bratwurst:
- 3-4 cans or bottles of beer. Enough to cover the meat (that’s what she said)
- One or two sliced onions
The rest of the ingredients for the beer mixture are optional but definitely worth trying:
- Butter – A few Tablespoons should do, but some folks put in up to a 1/2 cup
- Worcestershire Sauce – 2 to 3 Tbsp (this is my favorite and essential in my opinion)
- Salt and Pepper
- Garlic or Garlic Salt
- Brown Sugar – 2 Tbsp (for sweeter beer brats)
- Tabasco or Cayenne Pepper (for spicy beer brats)
Sauerkraut is a popular topping on bratwurst, but you can also put some right into your beer mixture for a tangier flavor.
Feel free to experiment! This is how you make your beer brats stand out from the rest of the sausages at the barbecue.
Bring your beer to a boil and then let it simmer for awhile before adding the brats.
Does the Beer You Choose to Use Matter?
I know it’s hard to pour out a pricey micr0-brew into a pot on the stove instead of into your mouth. But if you want a little extra flavor – why not go all out?
Dark beers will give the bratwurst a richer taste. You may want to avoid IPAs as the hoppy bitterness tends to come out in the meat. Personally, I like to use something malty such as Leinenkugel’s Amber or Red. They’re a bit less expensive than other micro-brews (at least in our neck of the woods).
Sometimes, when I don’t want to use up my good beer on the brats, I’ll just use one bottle of quality stuff and fill it up the rest of the way with a cheap domestic.
Bonus Tips and Serving Suggestions
They make big bratwurst buns – but your everyday hot dog bun lets you savor the flavor of the sausage
Never pierce your bratwursts before you grill them. That just lets out all the juicy goodness.
Mustard is a must. Stone ground is great, but try Dijon and other types too. Of course, plain old yellow mustard works fine if that’s all you’ve got in the fridge.
You can put the onions from the beer mixture right on your brat. Diced raw onion and pickles or relish are also important toppings.
Some of the most popular side-dishes for a beer brat feast include baked beans, potato salad, pasta salad, pickle spears, potato chips or french fries. You know – typical picnic stuff.
Don’t even think about buying the pre-made beer brats! What are you some kind of amateur?
Let’s Hear from You!
I’m sure there are plenty of other bratwurst grillers with their own strategy for the perfect beer brat.
What did we forget? Let us know about your tips.
There’s certainly more than one way to skin a cat – or a brat as the casing may be.
For more bratwurst fun – check out the collection of hilarious and nostalgic Johnsonville Brat Commercials.