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Labor Day Grillin'

May 29, 2023May 29, 2023

With Labor Day marking the end of another spectacular Michigan summer, it’s not surprising that we tend to celebrate it outdoors, but since this holiday is meant for relaxing I think it’s the perfect day to pop fully-cooked brats on that grill.

Made to make cooking (and grilling time) both fool-proof and a breeze, I think it’s genius to offer this option, and was super thrilled to discover that Ebels offers a variety of different flavor infusions that make them a veritable flavor party in a package just waiting for you.

Regardless of which type of brat you serve, there are some steadfast rules to cooking them, whether fully cooked or raw, and one that many may not know is to take the chill off them before placing them on the grill.

Placing cold meat on a hot grill or surface shocks the meat and causes it to recoil, making it more chewy and less tender. Reducing the difference between the hot and cold temperatures between them also reduces how much of this shock will occur.

That said, since we also have the problem of bacterial growth, I turn to a container the meat will fit in loosely and fill it with lukewarm water to help take the chill off it quickly.

Simply submerging the package of meat into the water and letting it hang there for a while will help bring it closer to room temperature more quickly, which will provide more tenderness that makes it well worth this tiny step.

Do keep track of the time food you have meat out, and never hold anything at room temperature beyond two hours’ time in normal weather. On hotter days, don’t go beyond one hour.

[FYI: Speaking of food safety, be sure to avoid placing hot dishes directly into the refrigerator. Doing so actually prolongs their overall cooling time, and causes food to spend more time in “danger zone” temperatures, where bacteria grow rampantly. Help food pass through “danger zone” temperatures as quickly as possible. Place hot food in shallow containers and set in a cool open area to help reduce its overall temperature more rapidly prior to placing it in the refrigerator.]

Once brats no longer have a chill to them, they are ready to be cooked. Ebels recommends that their fully-cooked brats be cooked until they crack, or are about to. After they get to this stage, I recommend having a warm and flavorful liquid to hold them in, which not only helps elevate flavor, but also prevents drying.

Whether you begin with raw or fully-cooked, both need to be brought up to between 160 and 165 degrees to ensure food safety.

Able to be cooked using almost any method you desire, most favor using the grill because it imparts extra magical, smoky flavors.

While some like to boil brats in beer (and yes, they float when they’re done) most also follow up with a quick char/sear over a hot grill.

Beer is considered tops for what to bathe those brats in, but if you don’t like beer (or want to be different) try apple cider, which will help you cloak them in an additional layer of “Yum!”

One of the biggest misconceptions about cooking brats is that you need to poke holes in them. However, doing so will allow fat, flavor, and juices to leak out, which reduces moisture, flavors and creates a messy fire hazard on your grill.

Another misconception is to not turn or flip brats more than once while cooking. In truth, grills are notorious for having uneven heat surfaces, so it is best to turn and flip them often, and move them all over the grill to ensure more even cooking.

Finally, do be sure to let those brats rest for at least five minutes (off heat) before serving, so their protein strands can fully relax and provide you with that special, end-of-the-season grillin’ flavor that tastes like nothing else.

Here now are some relaxing and rewarding ways to help you cook up some beautiful brats this Labor Day. Enjoy.

Laura Kurella is an award-winning recipe developer and food columnist who loves to share recipes from her northern Michigan kitchen. She welcomes your questions or comments at [email protected]

Marvelous Michigan Cherry-infused Brats

Prep time: 10 minutes; Cook time: 30 minutes; Total time: 40 minutes. Yield: 4 servings

4 sweet or red (or mixed) onions, peeled and cut into small wedges

1 tablespoon favorite cooking fat/oil

1 ounce red wine vinegar

1 ounce pure maple syrup

1 cup cherries (any style/variety/blend) pitted and halved

8 Ebels cherry brats

1 fresh-ground black pepper, or to taste

1 teaspoon (or more) fresh thyme leaves

1 teaspoon (or more) freshly minced rosemary

Preheat the grill (or grill pan) to 400 degrees.

Meanwhile, place a large, heavy bottom (cast iron) skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and fat/oil then sear until onions begin caramelizing, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Once onions develop caramelization, add vinegar and maple syrup, then scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any bits. Reduce heat to low, add the cherries and the spices, to taste. Cover and let them coast as you grill brats.

Once the grilling surface has reached the desired temperature, place brats on the grill and cook, turning, until they begin to crack, about 7 minutes. As brats finish grilling, move them to cherry sauce in the cast iron skillet.

Once all brats are in the skillet, cook for 5 more minutes then remove from heat and allow the pan to rest, covered for 5 minutes before serving.

Classic Stove-top Beer Brats

Prep time: 2 minutes; Cook time: 35 minutes; Total time: 37 minutes. Yield: 4 servings.

1 tablespoon favorite cooking fat/oil

8 brats

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

3 red or sweet onions

12 ounces dark, malty German lager/bock

1 cup beef stock/broth

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

1 tablespoon thyme

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon sweet or smoked paprika

In a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat, add the fat/oil and the brats. Cook, turning, until all sides are nicely colored, a few minutes per side, then remove to a warm plate temporarily.

Return to the skillet, add the butter and onions, then cook until they caramelize, about 8-10 minutes.

Add beer then stir/scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Add the brown sugar, thyme, pepper and paprika. Stir, then add the beef stock, stirring to blend in well.

Add the brats back to the skillet, making sure they are all nicely submerged. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer and cook until liquid in sauce has reduced to a thick syrup consistency, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Easy-bake Oven Brats

Prep time: 2 minutes; Cook time: 15 minutes; Total time: 17 minutes. Yield: 2 to 4 servings.

4 brats

1 onion, sliced (optional)

1 bell pepper, sliced (optional)

1 tablespoon favorite cooking fat/oil

Black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Position the oven rack to the center of the oven.

Line a brownie pan, or casserole dish, with a large piece of foil then place a smaller piece of parchment paper on top of it.

Place onions and pepper slices (if using) on top of parchment paper then set brats on top of them. Sprinkle it with pepper, to taste, then drizzle all of it with your favorite fat/oil.

Place pan in oven and bake brats for 10 minutes (20 minutes if raw), then flip and bake bratwurst for another 5 minutes (15 minutes if raw), or until your desired level of crispness is reached.

Remove pan from oven and pull sides of foil up, joining them together, then roll them up. Pull side pieces together and roll up to create a sealed packet with the brats and onion sealed inside.

Return the pan (with a packet inside it) to the oven. Close the oven door, then turn off the oven’s heat. Set a timer for 10 minutes.

Once the timer sounds, remove brats from the oven and remove the packet holding them from the pan. Place on a serving tray and let rest for 5 minutes before opening the packet and serving.


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