Culinary no-no FLASHBACK: Brats and Beer

Culinary no-no began on Father’s Day 2007, a beautiful summer day, when I wrote about grilling brats. And eating brats. And topping those brats. I was inspired by my wife, Jennifer who, in my admittedly unscientific opinion, ruins brats by squirting ketchup on them. Other dining taboos quickly came to mind. The original idea was to take this concept only a few months, till the end of summer and then pull the plug. Then the unexpected happened. People started reading Culinary no-no. Lots of folks. So we keep doing the no-no.

We just flipped the calendar but remain in prime grilling season (As far as I’m concerned it’s always grilling season). This week’s blog is a return to an April 2015 no-no feature that’s been tweaked just a bit. And this is very serious business, let me tell you.

Here’s a cooking demo by a guy only known as Larry. We join Larry at his grill already in progress.

There are a couple of violations in that clip I noticed but let’s continue.

Nice juicy pork sausage plopped inside a nice chewy bun.

Needs toppings, but that’s not the no-no. For sure I’d be chowing down on that!

Well, let’s head to…

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In 2002, the NY Times wrote:

This is the capital of the kingdom of bratwurst. A brat — the name rhymes with pot, not with pat — is a pork or pork-and-beef sausage, spicier and stubbier than a hot dog. In Sheboygan, at least, it is also an object of veneration, taken as seriously as a lock of some medieval saint’s hair.

No self-respecting restaurant here, whether humble hole in the wall or soigné supper club, can make do without a proper charcoal grill, because the bratwurst catechism specifies that the stout little sausage must be grilled over charcoal, not boiled or fried or sizzled on a stove top griddle.

Once cooked, a Sheboygan brat must be served on a split hard roll called a semmel, which is rugged enough to hang together under attack from the torrents of savory juice released when you bite into it.

Since this is Wisconsin, the dairy state par excellence, the cut sides of the rolls are slathered with plenty of butter before the sausage is inserted. And since the German-Americans who dominate the local population are big eaters, two bratwursts are usually squeezed into one roll, side by side.

So it looks like this.

Image may contain: food and text

And another point from the NY Times:

True sons of Sheboygan view parboiling as foolishness. They acknowledge the danger of exploding brats, certainly, but they insist that the way to guard against it is to cook the sausages slowly, for 20 minutes or more, a respectful distance from coals that have subsided from red to gray-white.

As I mentioned, brats are serious business in Sheboygan.

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Alright, let’s return to…

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Image may contain: sky, skyscraper and outdoor
Usinger's Sausage, Old World Third St., on the northern edge of Milwaukee's Downtown area. Wonderful sausage! Milwaukee, WI.
Sausage-maker Fritz Usinger says drink the beer, don't cook with it

That’s Fritz Usinger, a fourth-generation sausage-maker pictured in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Photo: Michael Sears)

You saw Larry in the opening video dunk his brats in a beer bath and then move them to a grill. A gazillion grillers cook brats that way. But here’s what Usinger told the newspaper:

I never precook sausages. Some people swear by parboiling, nah. When parboiling, you’re cooking them twice, in the pan, then grill. I don’t parboil them.

I’m a lager kind of guy. And I never cook my sausage in beer. The sausage-maker creates a spice recipe and flavor he wants to give his customer. He’s creating it and he likes that flavor. He wants you to like it, and if you like it and buy it, then you’re on the same page. When you cook it in beer, it tastes like beer.

That’s consistent with what Usinger told OnMilwaukee.com:

If you’re going to grill your sausage, if you parboil it, you’re cooking it twice. You’re overcooking it and losing flavors. I never do it. Parboiling makes the sausages rubbery.

Beer is for drinking. I don’t want my brat tasting like a beer. I like to keep my beer and my brats separate. Usinger’s does not make a beer brat.

I rarely simmer my brats in beer, but not for the reasons Usinger states. I simply prefer less time and hassle.

But I do believe Usinger has me convinced. Nothing wrong at all with a brat getting as TV chef Emeril used to put it, “all happy” from swimming in a Pilsner. My #1 choice would be package to grill to bun.

And let’s not forget:

NO KETCHUP!

CULINARY NO-NO BONUSES

Sexism in the Bartending World Is Real

Ten Juicy Secrets About Restaurants I Learned Working as Nobu’s Maitre D’

1 In 4 Food Delivery Drivers Admit To Eating Your Food

ICYMI…

Culinary no-no #619

UPDATE: Culinary no-no #513

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