How to grill the perfect brat

Once long ago, on a dare from one of her three Uncle Steves, Molly penned a little ode to the brat. The chorus went like this:

Bratwurst, bratwurst a mixture of beef and cow.

Bratwurst, bratwurst I wish I had one now.

In Wisconsin, we don’t raise brats, we grill them. While cheeseheads will debate the proper way to cook a brat with as much passion as they back their Pack, in this house we have it down.

We know, for instance, that a proper brat requires a fresh Sheboygan hard roll and a generous smear of brown mustard.

We understand that some folks pierce the brats before they cook them, an appalling breach of grilling logic. We’ve heard of other misguided grilling neophytes who boil their brats before they cook them, really?

Our philosophy is this: you’re never going to make a real brat healthy, so why bother? You’ll end up chewing on a tasteless, chewy, gray sausage and craving the juicy Wisconsin kind. The difference in calories is negligible, in flavor profound.

On the other hand, we know (and live with) people who butter their hard roll before they add the brat.  We can’t jump on that bandwagon of cholesterol.

Wisconsin brats should be cooked simply, grilled and then soaked gently in a warm, sudsy bath of beer and sautéed onions.

We don’t sanction a brat season; we fire up our grill year round. But there is something special about the late days of spring, during which the scent of lilacs and fresh cut grass pair nicely with the spicy smell of grilled brats.

What follows is our recipe for Wisconsin brats. Enjoy them pregame, post church, at the cabin, in the driveway, parking lot, backyard, beach, park or dining room table.


6 fresh brats

1 large onion

3 tablespoons butter

Two cans beer

6 Sheboygan hard rolls

brown mustard

In a large pot, sauté sliced onions in butter until the onions are translucent. Add two cans of beer and simmer on low heat. Meanwhile, grill brats over direct, medium heat turning at least once. Be careful not to cook them too quickly as you don’t want the skin to burst. It’s also important to let the inside of the brats cook evenly with the outside. Once the outside is evenly browned with dark grill marks, remove the brats from the grill. Place the grilled brats in the beer and simmer until you’re ready to eat.

Note: If you grilling brats for a school function or if, for any other extreme reason you want to avoid alcohol in your cooking, you can soak the brats in Sprite. This sounds disgusting but it works.

These are fresh, pre-cooked brats from Cedar Creek Meat Market, but you can buy any variety of frozen brats as well. Just make sure they’re thawed thoroughly before you grill them.
Choose a nice deep pot to sauté the onions in butter.
Add the beer to the cooked onions and butter. This is a Wisconsin dish, man, don’t use margarine.
Meanwhile, grill the brats. Here some nice, fresh brats share the grill with venison brats.
Scoop the onions from the beer sauce just before you serve your brat for a perfect topping.
Here Vinnie enjoys a roadside brat to benefit the pom pon squad in Cecil, Wisconsin. Brat stands pop up like dandelions all over Wisconsin when the weather gets warm.

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