Chef Andy: Twisting Up a Tailgate Tradition
By Chef Andy Mueller
Owner, Galley 57
With the pigskin officially in flight at every football stadium across the country, grills from here to Oxnard are ready to roll and around here. There’s no bigger tailgate tradition than the fan favorite bratwurst. It may seem like a pretty easy game day preparation because all you have to do is cook it through, throw it on a bun and slather it with your favorite condiment, right? Sort of…
Master grillers of the bratwurst closely guard their secrets on how to cook the perfect brat. From precooking it first in beer and onions to grill first, beer bath after or eliminate the beer all together, I’ll share my easy and delicious way of putting the best tasting brat on the table for your guests to gobble up…with a twist.
After grilling many different brats, using quite a few different techniques, I can always count on my go to method – simmer gently in beer and onions first, low and slow on the grill to finish then back in the beer bath for serving. The first step is the most important. The gentle simmer keeps the casing intact, preventing any cracks from happening. If your casing breaks, it’s because the heat is too high and when you place them on the grill, the heavenly fat and flavor drips onto the coals causing flare ups, burnt casings and quietly disappointed guests.
This gentle temperature cooking is also key when you put them on the grates, as too high of a direct heat source will also cause the casing to explode and you end up with the best tasting charcoal around, but the brat itself is a dried out, chewy disaster. Your best bet is to have one side of the grill with coals/gas heat at about medium, and the other side of the grill is the indirect heat side with no coals or gas heat.
Place the gently simmered brats on the direct heat side, but *do not* leave them unattended for even ten seconds, as any flare up will ruin your hard work. As they start to brown, turn them often until golden on all sides. If a flare up starts, move them immediately to the indirect heat to stop the flare up.
Once the brats are golden on all sides, move them all to the indirect side and cover for a few minutes to absorb that smoky flavor and remove them when you are pleased with the color. Transfer the brats back into the simmering beer and let people help themselves when they’re ready to eat.
Finishing them in the beer after grilling prevents them from drying out, keeps them hot, and allows them to soak up more of the barley/hop nectar that pairs so well with bratwurst.
For service, I like to offer a variety of toppings and condiments. Pictured are three different ways to serve bratwurst. The traditional mustard, onions and sauerkraut is always a fan favorite, the other is a bratwurst with fermented kimchi with sliced red bell peppers and fresh cilantro, and the third is my new favorite: bratwurst topped with a peppadew mustard relish (recipe to follow) – delicious!
Think of a bratwurst as a palate to an artist, limited only by your imagination. Get creative and go paint your masterpiece.
Grill on and enjoy!
Peppadew Mustard Relish
(Great condiment for bratwurst, hot dogs, burgers, sausages or grilled chicken)
In a mixing bowl, add:
- 1 cup jarred sweet and spicy peppadew peppers, drained and finely diced
- 1 cup yellow mustard
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 3 green onions (green and white parts) finely diced
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
- Pinch salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
Stir to combine, refrigerate for an hour to allow flavor to combine.