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Lucy Saunders
4230 N. Oakland #178
Shorewood WI
53211 USA
@ site name

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Chef Mike Zeller,
Johnsonville Sausage
Sheboygan, WI

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....Chef Mike Zeller of Johnsonville Sausage, Sheboygan, WI, shows the best beer brat recipe

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.

For 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 180F. 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.

And Johnsonville 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.

In Sheboygan, 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.

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