I’ve always been a finicky eater. I was a real pain in the butt for my parents… When it came to meat, I was paranoid that the inside of chicken, pork chops and sausages weren’t fully cooked. I mean, sure the outside looked done, but what’s lurking inside? If you’ve ever been fooled by a false sense of dark, caramelized sausage security and took a big bite with abandon only to find an undercooked center, you’ll understand why I have trust issues when it comes to brats.
Now that you know my personal fears with undercooked meat, here’s how I’ve learned to prepare the perfect brat. Aside from cooking in a two step process to assure balanced doneness, I started to use a richly flavored broth to impart flavor during the first step. Here’s why:
- Hard apple cider adds a touch of sweetness and acidity
- Onion, garlic and bay leaf are aromatics that enhance the savory elements
- Salt emphasizes flavor and helps tenderize the pork
Simmering these together for just a few minutes prior to crisping the casing infuses and enriches the fatty, porky sausage. It’s a step worth taking.
1 pound brats from pastured pork, raw (about 4 links)
1-12oz bottle of hard cider (find one that doesn’t have added sugar, colorings or gluten)
1/2 yellow or white onion, cut into thick slices
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp sea salt
Cooking the perfect brat, or any pork or chicken sausage for that matter, is a two-step process. The first step is to warm the sausage through without prematurely crisping the outside. The second step is to finish the sausage by evenly caramelizing the casing.
Place all of the ingredients in a high-sided pan with a secure lid. Cover the pan and place on a burner over medium-high heat. Once the hard cider bubbles (not boils), reduce the temperature to low and let simmer for 15 minutes with the lid on.
Let’s talk hard cider for a minute. Is it Paleo? Most of the time, yes. But just like the quality of brat counts in terms of how Paleo-aligned the item is, so is true for the hard cider. By definition, fermented apples is legit. However, the added sugars, “natural flavors” and caramel coloring contaminate an inherently good thing. So from brats to cider, be a picky purveyor — make sure your pork is pastured and gluten-free, make sure your cider is just apples. Also, if you don’t have (or care to have) hard cider, use some chicken stock instead.
While the brats simmer, preheat the grill to around 400°F (204°C). After 15 minutes of simmer time, remove the brats from what is essentially poaching liquid and directly transfer to the preheated grill. Cook for only a few minutes on each side. Remember, the majority of the cooking process has already been completed by simmering (or poaching) the brats. All we need to do on this step is crisp the casing, which takes next to no time at all.
Don’t want to grill? Grab your cast-iron skillet and sear the brats off that way! Same rules apply: only a few minutes per side are needed to caramelize the casings and perfectly finish your brats!
So there you go, the inside is fully cooked, the outside is crisp and caramelized. It’s exactly what we want in a brat. Now serve it up with sauerkraut and grainy mustard with a glass of kombucha on the side! Doesn’t get much better than this…