There are two places in the world where you can reasonably expect to get a damn fine bratwurst. One place is Germany. The other is Wisconsin. With its German heritage and die-hard football fans, Wisconsin is the natural place to find the world’s best tailgate bratwurst. In German, bratwurst simply means roast (brat) sausage (wurst).
For the secrets to authentic Wisconsin bratwurst, we descended deep into the belly of the football and bratwurst beast: we contacted Leo Dominguez, the executive chef for Curly’s Pub and the other restaurants at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.
Here’s how to grill up Green Bay bratwurst, with a little guidance from a man who cooks thousands of bratwurst each and every game day (the pub is actually open seven days a week, but closes to everyone but ticket-holders on gameday). Curly’s Pub uses Johnsonville brats, which are available in most parts of the country. But a number of other brats are popular in Wisconsin, including Usinger’s and Klement’s.
1 large onion, chopped
4 to 5 tablespoons butter
1 to 2 12-ounce beers (an American or German lager works best); or substitute with water or beef stock
kosher salt and fresh-cracked pepper
8 high-quality rolls
Place tin grill pan or cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven (we recommend cast iron) on one side of a medium- to medium-hot grill and melt butter in it. Add chopped onions to melted butter, with a little salt and pepper to taste (about ½ teaspoon or more each). When onions soften, add beer (or other liquid) and bratwurst, turn up the heat and bring to a boil for about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove brats with tongs and place over hot grates on other half of the grill.
“The big thing in Wisconsin,” said Dominguez, “is to char the outside of the bratwurst. The crispier and darker, the better. It will stay nice, juicy and tender in the middle.”
Serve the bratwurst on a torpedo, sub, Kaiser or other large roll (an ordinary hot dog roll simply doesn’t cut it). Top with mustard and/or sauerkraut and/or onions.