BBQ 101 – Smoked Bratwurst

Smoked bratwurst is great "waiting food" if you've got some spare room and you're doing a long cook.

Smoked bratwurst is great “waiting food” if you’ve got some spare room and you’re doing a long cook.

So you’ve been grilling a little, and want to try your hand at low & slow style BBQ. This is the definitive place to start!

For a lot of people firing up the grill means hot dogs. Which is great. What is not so great, is that it all too often also means bland, cheap, mystery meat pre-boiled sausages with about 20+ ingredients in them. A good sausage should have three basic ingredients: Meat, fat, and spices (and a casing of course). No preservatives, potato flour or corn starch. No secret chemicals. And once you’ve tasted slow-smoked sausages that were uncooked when you started, you’re never going back to pre-boiled ones. Would you buy pre-boiled ribs? Pre-boiled pork butt? If you would, please step away from my blog. So, either make yourself some sausages, or head down to your local butcher or quality food store and get you some of the real stuff. They’re much more filling too, so instead of eating five, you might eat two. In this recipe I like to use raw bratwurst from my local sausagemaker / butcher shop here in Oslo, Strøm-Larsen. One of few places in Oslo that sell uncooked sausage.

Serving suggestion:
I serve these sausages with homemade hamburger buns, a creamy coleslaw,  some pickled gherkins, some homemade ketchup, some quality mustard and sometimes also a little red onion compote.

Total time: 90 minutes
Skill level: Beginner/Intermediate
Grilling method: Indirect, one-zone
Grill temperature: About 110-120 degrees centigrade (230-250F)

You’re going to need:

  • Quality uncooked bratwurst, chorizo or other uncooked sausages.
  • Some form of bun or bread
  • Condiments as mentioned above
  • Some lump charcoal or charcoal briquettes (make sure you get good ones with no chemicals and food starch as a binder)
  • 1 cup of wood smoking chips (I like to mix hickory and some apple or cherry for sausages, read more about smoke wood here.)
  • An instant-read thermometer like a Thermapen, or a leave-in probe style thermometer

How you do it:

  • Fire up your chimney starter with 20 briquettes or lumps of charcoal (this is based
    The setup for smoked brats. A great place to start when you're getting into BBQ style grilling.

    The setup for smoked brats. A great place to start when you’re getting into BBQ style grilling.

    on my 22.5″ Weber kettle, and your mileage and/or method may vary on other grills and smokers)

  • In the meantime, put a briquette basket on one side of the grill only, and a big water pan covering the whole middle part of the grill. Why water you say? The mass of water (I use a stainless steel pan from Ikea that holds about 4-5 liters or one US gallon) helps me maintain a steady temperature inside the kettle, because water stores (in this case) heat pretty well. It also helps the meat retain its moisture during the long cook by increasing the general moisture in the cooking environment.
  • When your briquettes are white hot, put them in the briquette basket you put on the one side of the grill.
  • Put two smokebombs (a handful of soaked wood chips wrapped in aluminium foil) on the briquettes. Putting them out towards the edge of the fire makes them last longer. Wait 5-10 minutes until they start smoking. Replace these as often as you please once they are smoked out. This is especially important the first 4 hours, after that the meat won’t really soak up the smoky flavours anymore.
  • Put the grate on, sausages away from the fire on the opposite side, put the lid on
  • Refill with wood chips when it stops smoking
  • The brats are ready to. Look at the fantastic coloration from the smoke. Oh man!

    The brats are ready to. Look at the fantastic coloration from the smoke. Oh man!

    After about 60-90 minutes sausages should be ready. If one of them bursts, you’re running too hot. Don’t do that. Use your thermapen to check the temperature, uncooked sausage HAS TO be cooked all the way through, ground meat is something you don’t serve rare. I usually take them off the grill when they’re at 85C/185F

  • Enjoy!

Quick tip: Build a two storey Weber kettle

Quick technique tip this time. I had a challenge couple weeks ago, was doing a bunch of low & slow stuff for my wife’s birthday. For about 40+ guests. Now, I only have one standard sized Weber kettle (and a Go-Anywhere, which isn’t really great for low & slow), so I figured I’d try and improvise. This is what I came up with, using the heightener ring from the rotisserie kit, an extra grate I always keep handy, some steel string, and an upside down beer can chicken holder.

20130531_140039This worked great, the rig helg up for the 12+ hours I needed for the cook, so all is well. The moral of the story is: Keep some stuff floating around your yard/house/apartment. It could come in handy someday. Also; keep extra rolls of tinfoil. Everywhere.
2013-05-31 20.10.56

Quick tip: Gloves for grilling and BBQ

With grilling and BBQ as with any other hobby, there’s tons of cheap and expensive, necessary and unnecessary stuff you can buy. Should you buy all of it? Probably not. I’m not exactly a cheapskate myself, but I hate wasting money on unnecessary stuff. I’ve tried a bunch of gloves for both the cooking part of grilling and BBQ, and for the finishing part (handling warm/hot meat like when pulling pork, chicken, or carving a roasts. So I figured in the interest of sharing, it’d be nice to do a post on gloves. Because you’re going to need gloves, that’s for sure.

Part 1 – Gloves for handling coals and utensils over a hot hot grill

Builder's gloves are perfect for handling hot grates and coals when you're grilling!

Builder’s gloves are perfect for handling hot grates and coals when you’re grilling!

I like to handle the coals manually when possible. I don’t pick up white hot coals and juggle them around, but it’s nice to be able to use gloves when adding just a few lumps to the grill, when moving freshly added coals around on the grill grate, and when moving grates and stuff around. I’ve tried some different setups for this. I tried the Weber long mitts. They great, but they are expensive, and they’re mitts. Gloves are much better for dexterity (that’s why we have five fingers, not a lobster claw. Just ask evolution). So I tried silicone gloves. They’re also expensive, hard to clean, so no go. I’ve come to a conclusion after testing different stuff. Leather builder’s gloves are awesome for this. Even here in one of the most expensive countries in the world, they’re about $5 at the local hardware store, ByggMax. They last about a year with my 2-3 times a week grilling, and the leather protects you quite well from heat. Good enough as long as you don’t plan on lifting white hot grates (use tongs for that) or juggling white hot coals around. When they get dirty, just keep them on and “wash your hands” in dishwashing liquid. Or buy another pair. Cheap, simple, and bulletproof!

Part 2 – Gloves for handling hot food items, like when pulling pork or carving a roast

Gloves for pulling pork and handling other hot foods!

Gloves for pulling pork and handling other hot foods!

The first few times I pulled pork, I used just the normal, thin, vinyl kitchen gloves I use when handling chiles (don’t ask), fish or raw meat. The gloves held up nicely, but after pulling two pork shoulders my fingertips we’re quite red and sore from the burns. Not a lot of fun. So I came up with a fix. Went to the gardening store, bought some gardening gloves, fabric, with a rubberized layer inside the hands, and put those under the vinyl gloves for insulation. It works like a charm. Pulling pork is much faster now, and my hands don’t get burned either. Gardening gloves can be reused again and again since they never touch any food directly, and are cheap to replace when you have to.

Quick tip: Beginners – how do I fire up my grill?

It's awesome, and it lets you talk about convection, which is always good.

a chimney starter is awesome, and it lets you talk about convection, which is always a good thing.

Every spring/early summer, my neighborhood, and all others around Norway and many other countries, fill up with the digusting smell of grill lighter fluid. Lighter fluid is horrible stuff. Here in Norway it’s actually very very similar to kerosene. It’s seriously something you don’t want coming near your food in any shape or form. So do everyone, most of all yourself and your family, a favor and go invest in a chimney starter. I’ve used the Weber one for years, it’s still holding up fine. It’s an ingenious device, that lets you fire up a bunch of lump charcoal or even briquettes in no time, using only some crumpled up newspaper with vegetable oil for a starter. It also saves tons of time, especially briquettes take a LONG time to get ready if you’re doing it down on the grill grate.

So in conclusion, a chimney starter is cheaper to run, more envorinmentally friendly, better for your health, quicker, much more awesome to look at, and it makes women lust for you. Only time I don’t use one is when I go camping, because it’s kind of big to carry into forests.

So, I’ll wait here, while you run off and buy yourself a chimney starter. There you go.

Just keep a ziplok style bag with newspaper and a few spoons of food oil in your BBQ stash.

Just keep a ziplok style bag with newspaper and a few spoons of food oil in your BBQ stash.

Now, this is easy. I usually soak a few crumpled up balls of newspaper or kitchen towel in some cheap vegetable oil or cooking oil (see, no poison!), as you can see on the picture to the left. Put them newspaper on the top grate of your grill or some other fireproof surface (never stone, concrete or cement surface, these can “explode” and crack because of the heat, see the picture below…), set your firestarter on top and fill it up with briquettes or lump charcoal.

After a couple more minutes, you're ready to grill!

After a couple more minutes, you’re ready to grill!

Sneak a match in there and fire up the newspaper. Because of the chimney shape things will happen quickly, so always keep an eye on the starter. Once the flames lick over the top of the chimney, you are ready to go. Put on your favorite BBQ gloves and pour them carefully onto the grill grate of your grill. Now get to cooking!

Here’s a shot of what happened when a guy put his starter on a concrete sidewalk. The concrete actually exploded, bits of white hot concrete flying everywhere. Fortunately nobody got hurt. So don’t do that.

Don't put your starter on cement, concrete or stone surfaces. They could explode, like this unfortunate chap found out!

Don’t put your starter on cement, concrete or stone surfaces. They could explode, like this unfortunate chap found out!

Lamb Chops grilled with Hickory and Rosemary smoke

Grilling and smoking lamb chops with rosemary and hickory smoke

Grilling and smoking lamb chops with rosemary and hickory smoke

There’s not much that can top some fresh young lamb for the grill. In this recipe we’ll pair it with some hickory and rosemary smoke, raw spring onions finely chopped and a delicious mint oil to go with your preferred side. Let’s roll!

What you need (to serve 4):

  • 2 racks of young lamb (3 if they’re small, and small is good here)
  • A fistful of fresh rosemary
  • A fistful of hickory wood chips
  • 6-8 spring onions
  • A cup of good olive oil of the extra virgin variety
  • A fistful of fresh mint
  • A Thermapen or similar instant-read thermometer is very useful for this one

How to make the mint oil (can be made a few days ahead, and should at least be made the night before for max flavor):

  • Finely chop the fresh mint
  • Combine with a pinch of good sea salt and about a cup of quality olive oil in a mortar, and crush away
  • Pour into a jar and leave it in the fridge overnight or for a couple days to let the oil take the flavor

How to grill the lamb:

  • Get your firestarter going, fill it up to the top with coals. For this you want the 50/50 setup so you can sear the chops on one side of the grill, and then move them over to the other side for finishing
  • Once your grill is nice and hot, might be a good time to dump some yams on there for a side dish, my recipe for ember-roasted yams is great with the mint oil.
  • Slice a nice little diamond pattern in the fatty parts of the rack, making sure not to Lil' lamb chops - all ready to go go goslice into the meat. This is to help the fat render, and to help with the crispiness of the skin. Important!
  • Cut your lamb racks into “chops” in the order of two bones on each. Doing one boned chops is possible, but you’re going to need your grill to get REALLY hot to pull that off – so let’s go with two. It’s a handy compromise
  • Season the chops with salt & pepper
  • Once your yams (if youre doing those) are done and out of the way, get the grill real hot (you want the grate to be so hot it whitens for this one), and chuck in the rosemary and hickory chips right on the coals.
  • The smoke will start fairly instantly, so get your chops on there (I usually do fatty side down first), and put the lid on for about a minute. Repeat for all sides so you get a good sear all round.
  • When you’re done searing, move the chops to the “cold side” of the grill, and take their temp. Continue to do so until they’re all done (I usually go with 56C/132F, nice and pink in the middle, tastes great!)
  • Give the chops a five minute rest while you finely chop some spring onion
  • Serve on warm plates, with abovementioned yams sprinkled with mint oil and spring onion
  • Enjoy!