Chef Mike Zeller,
Born on Bratwurst
Day, chef Mike Zeller has the lineage and credentials to take on the
lucky task of cooking with Johnsonville sausages.
When I got the
following note from a beercook reader, I had to get in touch with
chef Mike to get his perspective....
Sue wrote in asking
for advice..."Well, I'd like to share the how-to of brats cooked
in beer for a neighborhood grill. The brats to be used are precooked.
(Oh well, so that's the bad news). I say to grill them up for color
and texture, throw them in a slow cooker with beer and sliced onion
and let it cook for a few hours. Do you agree?"
Turns out Chef
Mike prefers to parboil brats with beer and onions BEFORE placing
them on the grill. "That way, the casings get crispy and browned,
and when you bite into the brat, you get the snap and texture of a
browned sausage," Zeller says.
I observed him
preparing bratwurst in beer for a test kitchen sampling last July.
Zeller began by slicing onions into a large pot ("best if it's
a pot you don't mind putting right on the grill"), adding several
bottles of beer, plus some pepper and a bit of garlic. He let the
brats simmer on the stovetop in the beer bath, and then placed them
on the grill to brown.
those who can't be bothered with parboiling, there's even a Johnsonville
brand called Beer 'n Brats. They put the beer right in the sausage
as it is being made! More than half of the Johnsonville Original Brat
sales are the Beer 'n Brats variety, which launched in 1985.
Zeller says, "The
first lesson in Brats 101 is to learn the correct way to pronounce
the word. "Brat" rhymes with "hot" or "pot," not "hat" or "pat." Lesson
two is to master the authorized way to "fry" a brat. What we're talking
about here is outdoor grilling, preferably over real charcoal. Follow
these simple grilling tips and you can host a traditional brat fry:
LOW AND SLOW:
Low and slow is the only way to go when grilling brats. Wait until
the coals are coated with white ash before placing the brats on the
grate. If you are grilling with gas, start the flame at medium, then
reduce to low when the brat juices start to flow.
HEAT THE MEAT:
Watch the brats closely, turning them every few minutes. Rotate the
links from hotter to cooler portions of the grill as they cook.
NO POKING PERMITTED:
To retain juices and flavor, always use tongs instead of a fork when
turning brats, to avoid piercing the casing.
ALL FIRED UP:
Consider brats done when casing is evenly browned and a bit crisp
and they've been on the grill for about 25 minutes, or when the internal
temperature reaches 180ºF. The final lesson in Brats 101 is to learn
how to garnish a brat.
Chef Zeller is
featured in Steven Raichlen's new book, BBQ USA, a compilation of
fabulous regional foods for the 'cue. Raichlen wove a story of Wisconsin
bratwurst traditions, with recipes for specialty mustards, brat rolls
and tips on presenting brats.
is now a sponsor of Raichlen's fabulous BBQ bus, with a 21-city tour
of the USA throughout 2003, with brat stops all along the way.
natives eat brats two at a time, both links tucked side-by-side into
a crusty round roll slathered with coarse-ground brown mustard and
topped with dill pickle slices and thinly sliced raw onions.
But I'd recommend
lifting those cooked onions out of the brat pot with a slotted spoon,
and adding those ale-soaked alliums to the sandwich for the best beer
flavor... For more recipes, visit the Johnsonville website: www.johnsonville.com.