Apr 23, 2018

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American Beer Month
What the home grill cook needs to know

Internal temperature is what counts in cooking. You need enough fuel to keep your fire going to generate heat to cook your foodstuffs completely. A meat thermometer is a necessary tool.

Lucy Saunders and Chef Zeller
Amazingly enough, many people do not know how to grill a beer brat. Chef Mike Zeller (pictured with author Lucy Saunders) of Johnsonville Sausage in Sheboygan, Wis., was born on Bratwurst Day in 1959 and knows the technique by heart. Start with 24 oz. of beer in a pot, add one large sweet onion that's been peeled and sliced, bring to a simmer. Drop in your brats, and let simmer about 5 minutes. Then place on the grill to complete cooking for a snappy and smoky flavor.

"The biggest mistake you can make is to cook the brats over too hot a fire," says Chef Zeller. "Cook brats slowly over a medium-low heat - when your coals are just glowing - and they will cook evenly without charring."

Keep raw meats, poultry and seafood chilled until just before grilling or BBQ. Do not reuse marinade that's touched raw products for basting during cooking. Instead, reserve some fresh sauce before marinating, and use that to baste. For more summer food safety tips, see the USDA link below.

Remember that foods will continue to cook for several minutes after removing from the heat source, so don't slice into it right away. Let it sit, and gather up its juices.

Gas vs. wood

If you like the convenience of gas, you can grill slow and low, too. This year, as most homebrewers already know, new safety standards require that your tank be fitted with overfill protection. Check with your propane dealer.

You just won't get the taste that real wood and lump hardwood charcoal can deliver. Some gas grills have additional racks to hold trays of wood chips for smoke seasoning. That works reasonably well, too.

If you decide to use charcoal instead of real wood or gas, be sure NOT to use one of the instant igniting kinds. They reek of chemicals.

Fire prevention tips

Spray the ground and any foliage within 6 feet of your grill with a blast of water from the hose before grilling (remember to soak any nearby bark mulch). Keep grill clear of overhanging tree limbs, power lines, away from house or apartment, and if tailgating, at least 5 feet away from garage or vehicles. Always have a fire extinguisher.

Use a sheet of aluminum foil under drippy, fatty cuts of meat or poultry to prevent flare-ups.

Apply sugary BBQ sauces in final 15 minutes of cooking, again to prevent flareups. Better still, just warm the sauce and serve it tableside.

Links for tips on better grilling: - profiles of chefs and more recipes from author Lucy Saunders

Lucy Saunders is the editor of, and author of COOKING WITH BEER (Time Life Books, 1996).

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