"Parboiling isn’t the best for bratwurst"

Jim Lampe

TVWBB 1-Star Olympian
Read the entire article here:

Should you parboil brats? Nope. And science can tell you why.

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What's the proper bratwurst topping? Some questions are best left unanswered.
(Photo: Daniel Higgins/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)

Tempers will flare up quicker than flames from pork fat hitting hot coals when telling a backyard grill master how to grill bratwurst. Specifically, if it's best to parboil or not.
Grilling cookbook authors including Jamie Purviance, Steven Raichlen and the America's Test Kitchen team extol parboil benefits. Shorter grill times and adding beer flavor are the biggest gains.
Johnsonville Sausage bratwurst packages instruct grillers to toss fresh brats directly onto the grill.
Ralph Stayer, retired CEO of Johnsonville, said his brat grilling method skips parboiling in favor of enjoying a cocktail while grilling the brats.
Uncooked brats need more turning, which includes more double-click tong checks, which are two of best reasons to grill anything.
Experts are divided on the parboil debate, but not the science. And it's not good news for team parboil.
Jeff Sindelar, associate professor in the meat and science department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the uniform heat of parboiling provides more ease of cooking and that water (or beer, in this case) is one of the best mediums to cook in. But not for all foods.

"Parboiling isn’t the best for bratwurst," he said. "Because you want to provide gentle heat. A slower increase in heat."
Before delving into the science, Sindelar points out that bratwurst means "frying sausage" in German.
Bratwurst would be called "gekochtewurst," or something similar, according to Google translate and my friend living in Germany, if these sausages were made to be boiled.
Semantics is not science, but it provides a clue to the true intent of preparation.

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Keep the grill temperature around 300 degrees and turn brats every few minutes
to prevent splitting and maximize browning.
(Photo: Daniel Higgins/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)

Bratwurst ingredients — ground meat, sugar, salt, pepper and other seasonings — bind together to maximize texture and flavor under the right conditions.
Proteins unfold in the meat and casing when heated. During the unfolding process, proteins bind with fats, salt, pepper and seasonings to create texture and flavor.
Parboiling speeds up the process that can create a mushy meat texture, develop rubbery casings and separate the casing from the sausage
Proteins unfold slower in the medium-low heat of a grill. That environment creates more opportunities for the meat proteins to properly bind with the fats, seasonings and the casing.
Meanwhile, proteins in the casing shrink and dehydrate, leading to binding with the ground meat proteins. That bind creates a snap to each bite.
It would seem science has settled the debate: stop parboiling brats.
But, there is more to taste than how proteins combine. Smell, sounds, the surroundings and more can impact human perception of flavor. So can memories.
If the sight and smell of brats boiling in beer before hitting the grill brings back fond memories of family and friends, science stands little chance of changing your mind.
When it comes to a beer bath for the brats, Sindelar said it's possible to change the bratwurst because even at a proper hold temperature of around 140 degrees, the brats are slowly cooking. Limit time to a couple of hours, but less is best.
While cooking method impacts final results, there's no helping a bratwurst that doesn't suit your tastes.

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Coarseness of the meat grind impacts a bratwurst's flavor.
Coarser grinds provide more pop at first bite while finer grinds release more flavors as the meat is chewed.
(Photo: Daniel Higgins/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)

A bratwurst maker's use of seasonings and quality of meat impact the final product, but so does the coarseness of the meat grind.
Coarser grinds deliver a big flavor hit up front that fades as the meat is chewed. Finer grinds need the chewing process to release layers of flavors.
Generally, a Wisconsin bratwurst is meaty and salty with a hint of sage, ginger, coriander and nutmeg.
A true German or European style bratwurst will be more subtle, said Sindelar, with all flavors present and balanced.

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The double bratwurst method not only cuts carbs but boosts your brat cred in
Sheboygan where this is a popular option.
(Photo: Daniel Higgins/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)

With all of this in mind I embarked on ingestigative reporting. I wanted to use fresh bratwurst that are widely available across Wisconsin.
By that standard, that means Johnsonville Sausage Company and Klement's Sausage Company.
Also, I'm aware there's a butcher shop in your town that makes "the best" bratwurst, but that's a story for another day.
Brats went directly from package to a gas grill set to medium-low heat.
Yeah, yeah, I hear purists screaming that I should have used charcoal but using gas allowed me to eliminate heat as a variable.

Johnsonville Original Bratwurst
Cost: $4.29-$6.49
Weight: 19 ounces
Cooking time: 35 minutes
Splitting: None to minimal.
Browning: I probably went 5 minutes past done to get the golden brown color I like.
Tasting notes: Big immediate hit of salty, pork fat flavor backed by slight peppery bite. Other seasoning flavors are muted.

Klement's Bratwurst
Cost: $2.49-$4.49
Weight: 16 ounces
Cook time: 25 minutes but I moved them to an upper rack away from the heat after about 20 minutes. They could have been served at that time.
Splitting: Three of five had significant splits which started about 10 minutes into grilling.
Browning: Easily turned a beautiful golden-brown.
Tasting notes: A wonderful blend of classic brat seasoning complements mild pork flavor. Each bite brings out more flavor. Slow down and chew longer to get the most out of these brats.

More: Johnsonville brats: How a small town Wisconsin butcher shop joined the global sausage race
More: Use the right beer to make those bratwurst even better
More: Surprisingly, Beyond Meat veggie brats aren't terrible

Contact Daniel at (920) 996-7214 or dphiggin@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @HigginsEats.
 

Jim Lampe

TVWBB 1-Star Olympian
It's too bad the author didn't include the 3rd method, which is often seen at tailgates:

Incinerating the brats for 5 minutes over blazing, petroleum-soaked briquettes.
i'll never forget chicago cub fans tailgating at Milwaukee's Miller Park attending a BrewCrew game in TRYING to light their charcoal by blasting it with lighter fluid...
a few of them saw what we were using (a Weber charcoal chimney) and gazed in wonderment... "how on earth is THAT going to work."

a couple ventured over asking what the contraption was used to ignite the coal...
all this, while the other portion of their entourage continued to douse their coals with more lighter fluid...

Welcome To Wisconsin.
 
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Dave Mazz

TVWBB Member
I used to steep brats in beer, butter, and onions. Then throw them on the grill. Once done, put them back into the mix of beer, butter, and onions to "soak" some of the liquid back into the brats. Have not done brats that way for over ten years. Now I go directly to the grill. I prefer the direct to the grill method. Planning on grilling brats later today if the rain holds off.
 

timothy

TVWBB Hall of Fame
My new favorite way to do brats is with the Vortex.
You have a little more wiggle room cause your not directly over the coals. And they come out better IMO then doing indirect , direct or vsa vs.

Tim
 

Brad Olson

TVWBB Guru
i'll never forget chicago cub fans tailgating at Milwaukee's Miller Park attending a BrewCrew game in TRYING to light their charcoal by blasting it with lighter fluid...
a few of them saw what we were using (a Weber charcoal chimney) and gazed in wonderment... "how on earth is THAT going to work."

a couple ventured over asking what the contraption was used to ignite the coal...
all this, while the other portion of their entourage continued to douse their coals with more lighter fluid...

Welcome To Wisconsin.
When we tailgate I use a charcoal Go Anywhere, and 12 lit briquettes evenly spaced provide plenty of heat to safely cook 3 to 5 brats, Polishes, or Italians. When people ask me why I'm using so little charcoal my standard reply has become, "I'm grilling sausage, not smelting iron.";)

We've been to some games where the smell of lighter fluid was so strong, I could swear it created a haze in the air.
 
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G Schafer

TVWBB Fan
I like to go up to Road America (near Sheboygan Wisconsin) whenever I can to watch the races and enjoy the brats with sauerkraut and mustard. I think they cook em on a big charcoal grill. Yummy!
When I cook them on the gasser it's indirect (m-o-m) for five minutes each quarter turn. Done in 20 min.

I use a more direct approach for beer flavoring.

Prosit!
Gerry
 

Robert McGee

TVWBB Gold Member
Jim;
I'm always happy to read what you have to say. However, I use the beer and sauerkraut method:

My favorite way to do brats is to use an aluminum throw away pan with sauerkraut. Put the brats nestled in the kraut. Pour beer into the kraut and brats until the liquid is half way up the brats. Put the brats on the Performer (two stage fire) over direct until the kraut starts boiling. Then, move the pan over indirect with with lid closed for ten minutes. Then flip the brats, close the grill again and give it another ten minutes. Then, put the remove the brats from the kraut and grill them direct until browned on all sides. Put the brats back into the kraut and serve.

We sometimes use the brats on a bun topped with the kraut. Sometimes, we eat the brats naked with the kraut as a side dish over mashed potatoes. The brats flavor the kraut and the beer and kraut flavor the brats. Flat out "good eats"!

Keep on smokin',
Dale53 :wsm:
 

Brad Olson

TVWBB Guru
I like to go up to Road America (near Sheboygan Wisconsin) whenever I can to watch the races and enjoy the brats with sauerkraut and mustard. I think they cook em on a big charcoal grill. Yummy!
Gerry, if you take I-43 up to Sheboygan and head west, stop in at Charcoal Inn North or Charcoal Inn South sometime for a classic brat sandwich.

 

J Hasselberger

TVWBB Pro
Since Texas is taco and barbecue territory, we usually do them in a WSM for about an hour (150° internal) then serve them wrapped in a grilled flour tortilla with German mustard and kraut. The casing gets nicely browned and snappy in the WSM. More taco-like if you add shredded carrot and a dash of cinnamon to the kraut.

Jeff
 

Colin W

New member
With all of this in mind I embarked on ingestigative reporting. I wanted to use fresh bratwurst that are widely available across Wisconsin.
By that standard, that means Johnsonville Sausage Company and Klement's Sausage Company.

I can't believe they left out Usinger's using that criteria! what would Bob Uecker say?
 

Brad Olson

TVWBB Guru
He'd tell Daniel Higgins to get up and get outta here, of course!

I almost picked up some Usinger's "Mr. Baseball" brats today but the store didn't have any Pretzilla buns to go with them.:mad:
 

G Schafer

TVWBB Fan
The route for us to get to Road America in a hurry is to take 57 up. Usually by the time the races are over it's time to make haste going home. That being said we are always driving the old Chevy convertible up in Wisconsin (otherwise known as The Land of the Free). Usually we are out in the western part of the state where it's more fun to drive the scenic roads. We do hit Cedarburg sometimes for Strawberry Fest, and Sheboygan is just up the road...

Gerry
 

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