More than 60 million Americans are seasonal barbecuers from late spring to early fall.
If you are one of them, it’s time to clean your grill, stock up on fuel, check your gadgets and — of course — buy some new gadgets.
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It’s also time to practice cooking each of your standard outdoor barbecue favorites, one or two items at a time, to make sure you’re back in the groove.
When you’re up to speed with your old favorites, add something new to your repertoire. How about learning the art of brat grilling without busting a gut?
Everybody knows brats are easy.
Yet, every season you’ll see brats burned and busted so badly that even the dog won’t touch them.
What seems simple, isn’t always easy. When encased sizzling fat has no exit, it will explode — Brat Bomb.
Two brat bomb avoidance techniques prevail. You’re in good company with either one.
The Brat Commandment: Thou shalt not puncture your brat. Grill brats by tonging them back and forth from hot zone to cool zone before they explode. Many brat grillers treat their brats to a beer and butter bath during visits to the cool zone.
Brat Blasphemy: Stick a fork in it. You won’t be summarily dispatched to Barbecue Hell if you break The Brat Commandment.
Here’s the easy way: before grilling, puncture your brat casings with a table fork in three or four places.
Punctures create escape routes for hot brat fat. Absent escape routes, hot brat fat will bust a gut faster than outlaw biker mamas can liberate the men’s rooms at a David Allan Coe concert.
Although some brat grillers reduce brat fat by boiling them in water or beer first, I think that comes closer to blasphemy than sticking a fork in it.
Like it said on a bumper sticker I saw at a barbecue contest: “Boiled Ribs is Soup!” Same goes for boiled brats.
Some other tips for grilling great brats:
• Don’t overcook or undercook. Test for internal doneness, from 150 to165 degrees F.
• Grill with beer/butter bath. Grill brats three minutes over hot coals, turning constantly with long-handled tongs, then let them rest in a metal pan containing 1/4 pound unsalted melted butter and twelve or more ounces of warm beer.
Grill and bathe until done. Try marinating brats in beer overnight in the refrigerator before grilling. See if you can taste a difference.
• Grill Smoke. When your grilled brats are almost done, put them in the cool zone and drop a handful of soaked and drained hardwood chips on your coals. Place a lid on your grill and smoke the brats for ten to fifteen minutes until done.
These tips also work with grilled Italian sausage, German knockwurst, Polish kielbasa, Swedish potato sausage, English bangers, Mexican chorizos and other ground meats in casings.
Fire up your grill and bring on the brats.
Ardie Davis is a charter member of the Kansas City Barbeque Society and an inductee into the KCBS’ Hall of Flame. Davis’ most recent cookbook release is “America’s Best BBQ Homestyle: What Champions Cook in Their Own Backyards.”