Proper food for a football viewing party

Friday, January 06, 2012
Lotsa Brats photo from the Haute Housewife
With the NFL playoffs upon us our thoughts naturally turn to what to eat at football viewing parties. Of course the only choice, unless your an idiot or the fan of some Johnny-come-lately expansion team like the Detroit Lions, is bratwurst. 

But how to cook brats properly? To answer that question we have to turn to those that know best -- Packer fans. 

The website The BratwurstPages has a wealth of information on the subject. The site has several brat recipes, any which will do. Below is my favorite of the site's recipes, as well as a recipe for Bratwash which is an important accompaniment to the brats.

Grilled Brats with Savory Beer Sauce

There are three steps to this method - simmering, grilling, and holding.  To cook 10 brats, you'll need:

10 brats
2-12 ounce bottles or cans of beer
1 large onions
Kettle grill (Weber is the standard)
Charcoal briquettes (about 30) or lump charcoal
10 brat buns
Condiments (ketchup, brown mustard (yellow mustard is an abomination - don't use it), chopped onion)
My Holding Sauce (see recipe below)

Mound charcoal briquettes in a pyramid.  Start the charcoal.  I use an electric starter, avoiding the use of hydrocarbons.  When the coals are partially white, spread in a single layer.  Allow the charcoal to burn until coals are covered with white-ash glowing embers (about 20-30 minutes)  On a kettle grill, the heat is just right when you can hold your hand palm-down, 2 inches above the grate, for 4-5 seconds.  If you can still see a red glow, it's too early to start cooking.

As you wait for the charcoal to get ready, put 2 beers in a pot.  Throw in a chopped onion and the brats.  If you need more liquid to cover the brats, add water.  Bring the beer to a simmer (Don't let it boil - ever!  When steam begins to rise from the top of the liquid, it's just right.  Boiling will cause the brats to burst).  Simmer the brats for 20 minutes.  Throw out the beer/onion mixture.

When coals are ready, place brats on the grill 7-9 inches above the coals.

Use tongs to turn the brats often until golden brown on all sides, about 10-15 minutes if you have pre-simmered them.  Cover grill between turns.

Flare-ups can quickly ruin your brats, turning them a hellish shade of black.  Flare-ups can be avoided with proper technique.  Treat the brats with care.  Don't puncture them or squeeze them too hard.  If you see a flare-up developing, quickly move brats away from the flames if you can, immediately close grill cover and close vents for a minute or so.  Some folks control flare-ups with a spray bottle of water.  I find that a spray bottle is unnecessary, if you are prepared to move quickly and use proper technique.  Proper equipment helps as well.  Use a Weber kettle charcoal grill.  The vents can be adjusted to provide the optimum fire for cooking brats.

Serve brats on brat buns, dressed with a bit of the sauce and your favorite condiments.  Accompany with classic Wisconsin side dishes.

For a crowd; double, triple, or whatever.  At many festivals in Wisconsin, tens of thousands of brats are served.

In Wisconsin, nearly everyone drinks beer while grilling brats.  Hey, it's part of the culinary technique, so just do it.

BratwurstPages Savory Beer Sauce

For 10 brats:
2-14.5 ounce cans stewed tomatoes
2 bottles or cans beer
1 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Mix ingredients and bring to a simmer. Hold grilled brats in sauce until ready to eat. Do not let sauce boil.

Try dressing your brat with this sauce instead of ketchup.  Add a bit of brown mustard, if you wish.


Our friend Kevin sent sent us this classic Wisconsin recipe - his favorite accompaniment to grilled bratwurst, especially while tailgating at a Badgers, Packers, or Brewers game.  Kevin says that sometimes he simply enjoys the wash, and forgets about the brats.  For more than 4 healthy Wisconsinites, Kevin recommends multiplying the recipe by the appropriate factor.

1 Cooler
3 Bags Ice (cubes)
1 Case Beer

Remove cans from recyclable cardboard holder.  Place cans in cooler, intermingling with ice cubes.  Chill 45 minutes and serve.