(ARA) – Whether itâ€™s the taste, the aroma or the fact that one of the recipes starts with “Open three cans of beer,” the specially seasoned pork sausage known as bratwurst (or brats) is the perfect food for Americans and their grills this summer.
Unlike the 1950s, when grills were used predominately for backyard cookout fare such as hamburgers and hotdogs, todayâ€™s grillers are looking for versatile foods that bring new tastes to the table. Brats fit the bill, offering big taste alone on a crusty roll, topped with special mustards, sauerkraut or onions or used in a favorite recipe.
Bratwurstâ€™s popularity is growing more rapidly than any other meat, with 5 million new households having discovered the great taste of brats in the last two years. In fact, supermarkets are reporting anywhere from 25 to 75 percent growth in brat sales.
The increasing popularity of brats comes at a time when a grilling renaissance has gripped the nation. Three out of four U.S. households own a grill and more than 84 percent of Americans agree that grilled food tastes better and is quicker and easier than other cooking methods, according to NPD Foodworldâ€™s Grilling in America survey.
From Humble Beginnings to Worldwide Phenomenon
A long-time tradition in the Midwest, brats came to America with German and Austrian immigrants. The tradition spread from Sheboygan County, Wisc., predominately because of a local butcher named Ralph F. Stayer.
Stayerâ€™s 100-year-old recipe was a hit and became the foundation for Johnsonville Brats — Americaâ€™s favorite brand of brats. Today, Johnsonville Brats are available in all 50 states and 39 countries including Canada, Mexico, Japan, China and France. Laid end to end, all the Johnsonville Brats sold in the world each year would circle the globe 1.25 times.
While brats enjoy worldwide popularity, 75 percent of all the brats produced in America still come from Sheboygan County. Known as the â€œBrat Capital of the World,â€ Sheboygan County is home to Johnsonville Brats and the place where the brat is so revered thereâ€™s even an annual festival every August to honor it.
Grilling expert Steven Raichlen, author of “BBQ USA” and many other best-selling books, says anyone can master brat grilling by following a few simple tips.
“The key to grilling a food like sausage is to use moderate heat — you should be able to hold your hand above the fire for five to six seconds — and grill slowly,” says Raichlen. “High heat is good for searing meat, when the outside needs to be more well-done than the inside.” Raichlen suggests grilling brats over medium heat for 25 to 30 minutes; turning every four to six minutes.
Another method Raichlen suggests is simmering the sausages in beer or wine before grilling. After simmering, grill the brats until brown (about four to six minutes on each side) turning with only tongs — never pierce a brat. Brats can also be brushed with oil lightly before putting them on the grill.
When dripping fat causes flare-ups, move the sausage to another section of the grill. For this reason, itâ€™s important not to crowd the grill when cooking sausages. Most importantly, Raichlen says, the secret to great brat grilling is to have fun, enjoy the taste and variety of this popular summer tradition and experiment with new recipes.
Grilling Brings Friends, Family Together
Now that grillers understand the basics of grilling brats, the menu possibilities for any grilling event are endless.
“Brats are great party food,” says chef Michael Zeller of Johnsonville Brats. “Grillers can prepare a variety of flavors and serve in traditional Wisconsin style — on a crusty roll with toppings such as onion, sauerkraut, mustard or horseradish. Adventurous outdoor chefs may choose to use brats in a variety of inventive ways.”
The Kitchens at Johnsonville Sausage have developed many recipes to inspire grillers this summer, which can be found at www.Johnsonville.com.
- 1 package Fresh Original Johnsonville Bratwurst, grilled
- 1 oz. Swiss cheese
- 1 hoagie roll
- 2 oz. Confetti Coleslaw (see below)
- 1 cup green cabbage, shredded fine
- ¼ cup red onion, finely chopped
- ¼ cup green pepper, finely chopped
- 3 Tbsp. Red Russian dressing
- To make Confetti coleslaw, combine green cabbage, red onion, green pepper and Red Russian dressing in a bowl.
- To create each sandwich, place bratwurst on an open-face hoagie roll and add Swiss cheese. Place under broiler until cheese is melted. Top with coleslaw mixture and serve.
- (Serves 5 per package of Johnsonville Brats.)