Folks in Wisconsin are known as a polite lot. Don’t insult their cheese or the Green Bay Packers, and you’ll probably be fine. That is until you bring up brats and beer. If you do, duck as the sparks begin to fly. Because the only thing they’ll agree on is that you shouldn’t use fancy beer but brands such as Old Milwaukee. So why the brats-beer-wars?
Soaking brats in beer adds flavor and juiciness to bratwurst (brats). Those who soak before grilling believe it helps ensure that the brats are cooked all the way through. However, some believe this is a sign of a lazy grill master, and you should only soak brats in beer post-grill for flavor and juiciness.
Unless you are from Wisconsin, voicing an opinion on bratwurst is like going to Italy and providing your two cents on pasta. Don’t. You can’t even discuss black pepper and brats without controversy, never mind charcoal vs. gas grill. But the opinions on beer and brats fall into two main camps: before or after. Both have their reasons; you can decide who is right.
The Beer And Brats Controversy
Soaking brats in beer does add flavor and juiciness. The controversy revolves around when you should do it: before or after grilling.
Those who do it beforehand say it ensures that the bratwurst is cooked all the way through. They all also say it reduces the chances of the brats splitting or popping open during the grill.
Those in the camp of soaking beer afterward claim that you add more flavor and juiciness if you do it after.
So who is right?
It is easier to grill brats successfully if you soak them in beer first. However, soaking in beer after will provide more flavor and juiciness because the “marinade” is fresher, having been applied last. However, it is much easier to screw up your brats by doing the beer bath at the end. Nor do you do the beer bath quite the same.
But to really throw a flame into the battle, some do both. So there is practical justification for this third option, too. If you agree or not is another matter.
Why Soak Brats Before Grilling?
People boil brats before grilling to ensure the middle is fully cooked. The grill sears in the juicy flavor and will provide a nice, snappy bite to the outer texture. Almost all Wisconsin folks agree that you should not poke holes in the brats. Medium heat, so they won’t split.
People boil on a stove or top of the grill for around 10 – 15 minutes. Your main ingredient is beer. After that, things get controversial.
Onions are the second most popular addition to the beer. Some people think this is a waste and you should just serve onions at the end. Others claim it adds essential flavor.
Black pepper is the final spice that is absolutely necessary, or the worst, depending on whom you consult.
Why Soak Brats After Grilling?
People soak brats after grilling to add extra juicy flavor. They tend to use beer and onions, just like those who do the beer pre-grill. Again, black pepper is a must or the worst. We say, you do you, and just nod and smile to anyone who argues passionately one way or the other.
However, the difference with the post-beer soak is time and heat. The grilling takes longer since you haven’t boiled them. Also, you soak the brats for 20 minutes in hot but not boiling water. Like cup-of-coffee hot. But you are not cooking them longer in the beer. This is like a post-cooking marinade bath.
The flavor and juiciness produced with this method are remarkable. However, as mentioned before, it is the easiest to screw up.
Why Soak Brats Before And After Grilling?
People sometimes employ both methods: soaking before and after. However, the after soak is even cooler than the coffee. More of a medium-just keep the brats warm. The post-grill-soak method is a bit risky, as you can end up with soggy brats.
But there is a practical reason for doing it: it’s for serving people at different times. A standard warmer plate will dry the brats out. Thus, the post- warm beer bath (often diluted with water for this method) acts as a fragrant warmer plate. Then you can serve people as they come, here and there.
This is not perfect, but it is often what concession stands do and those hosting large, casual get-togethers, such as a children’s party or a 4th of July celebration.
Is It True That Using Good Beer Is A Waste On Brats?
There is some truth to the belief that using good beer is a waste when soaking brats. However, the statement is not entirely correct. Most agree that using IPAs is like pouring money down the drain. However, using an ale, hard cider, lager, porter, or a stout will change the flavor, and people have their preferences. There are some die-hard soak-in-Guinness fans out there, for example.
However, soaking brats in beer is not like using wine to make a reduction sauce. So if you find darker beers overwhelm the brats and enjoy a lighter taste, use lite beer. But getting the most expensive lite beer isn’t necessarily going to produce a better flavor.
Popular beers to use for brats:
- Coors Light
- Miller High Life
- Miller Lite
- Old Milwaukee
Does It Matter If Brats Are Grilled On Charcoal Or Gas?
Yes, it matters very much if you grill brats on charcoal or gas. However, which answer is the absolutely correct method, never do it the other way, depends on which person is giving you the advice. This issue is right up there with black-pepper-gate and when-to-do-the-beer-soak.
We think a smoky flavor is a part of what makes brats a delight. But as with the beer and spices, you do you.
Soaking brats in beer will add juiciness and flavor to this mouth-watering meat. Those who pre-soak brats in boiling beer will ensure the brats are cooked all the way through. However, the juicy factor will be greater if you soak post-grill. Regardless of what you choose, let’s all agree that brats are delicious.
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