Grilled Bratwursts with beer and caramelized onions

Last weekend we celebrated Tom’s birthday by buying 2 charcoal grills, inviting about 20 friends and then grilling everything in our sight.

We grilled vegetables, corn on the cob, hamburgers, ribs and because I was brought up in the center of an Italian butcher family, we had to grill sausage. 

When I was younger and growing up in Venezuela, most major events in my family revolved around a “Parrillada” (BBQ).   My paternal side of the family owned a cattle ranch, and a “Parrillada” party was a huge affair with the family.  They would usually take place at “el rancho” (ranch) and pretty much consisted in a full day eating feast. Pigs, cattle and chickens were butchered, prepped and ready to fill the great big “parrillas” (grills) which were coal-heated hours before.  In some cases the whole animal was grilled, nothing was left to waste and while meat was favored, I loved the grilled sausages.  

The sausage, were typically in the grill first and as they were ready, pull from the fire, and whoever was the “parrillero” (the cook) would have a wood cutting board next to the fire where he will be cutting them up and tasting them.  This “spot”, was the most desirable spot during the event, since you pretty much got to eat “fresh” off the grill before everyone else.

So when Tom, and I, we were checking off the type of meats to be grilled during the party, sausage made the cut.

While you can just straight up place the sausage on the grill and slowly grill them to perfection. Over the years (and many recipes later) I have made this recipe because a) saves you time “slaving away” over the grill and B) the caramelized flavor that the beer imparts to this is dish is indescribable.

Grilled Bratwursts with Beer and Caramelized Onions

1 or 2 packages of Bratwurst Sausage (or any type you would like, we usually like the simple one for this)
1 beer bottle (again we like the strong dark beer, but you can use anything you have at hand)
2 medium onions, slice into rings
Salt and pepper (to taste)

The idea is to start with poaching the sausage in the beer with the onions, before “finishing them” over the hot grill.

Prepare the sausage by pricking them once or twice with a toothpick or something sharp (I use a needled embedded in a wine cork).  This will help the beer get inside while you are poaching them and also prevent them from splitting once they hit the grill.  Some (ok, many if you run a Google search) may argue with this step, saying that if you have really good quality sausage, there is no need to do this step, others don’t see the difference and say that today’s sausage does not need to be pricked before hand.  I will let you be the judge of that.  In my case I have found that old habits are hard to break – so I prick.

In a large shallow saucepan, over medium/high heat, add the slice onions, season with salt and pepper and move them around the pan for about 3-4 minutes, until medium soft.

Pour the beer (be careful, since the pan is hot and the beer may bubble up!) and set the sausage around the pan, cover and cook for about 10 minutes, until the sausage are pale and the beer has evaporated for a bit.

Remove the sausages from the pan (leaving the onions cooking in the beer) and place them on the hot grill.  Grill the sausages until a golden brown color is achieved on all sides.  Use tongs to turn the sausages, a fork will puncture and release the beer flavor – and you don’t want that.

While the sausage is grilling, go back to the saucepan with the onions.  At this point the beer should have reduced quite a bit, if not you can pour some of it out in a heatproof measuring cup leaving about ¼ cup in the pan.  Raise the heat to high and cook the onions until they caramelize… you can use the saved beer to deglaze the pan as the onions cook if you see that more liquid is needed before the onions are ready.  Once they reach a dark, rich brown color, turn off the heat and remove the sauce from the hot stove.

Back to the grill you go.  By this time your sausage should be nice and brown and fully cooked. Remove the sausage from the grill, place in a serving plate and pour the onions on top.

Now dig in!