Tips from the Pros: How to Cook Brats Right

Think you know the best way to cook a brat? Hang up your tongs and hear out Mark Hibshman, who co-owns Headons Fine Meats in Creston, Ill., with his son, Justin.

While the butcher shop and deli is well known for high-quality meat items, summer brings a big focus on bratwursts. And Headons knows a thing or two about them. The shop not only grinds its pork fresh on site, but it also seasons and stuffs its brats without preservatives. “You can taste the difference,” Hibshman says.

Headons makes 57 flavors of brats, from traditional options to more exotic tastes like mac-and-cheese or blueberry.

Some of those flavors require particular cooking techniques, which leads Hibshman to share his biggest tip: Cook your brats on the grill. Don’t boil them.

“There’s a big myth out there that brats need to be boiled,” Hibshman says. “We recommend strictly on the grill. When you have brats filled with different cheeses and fruit, they just fall apart in a pot of water.”

Grill brats on low heat so they don’t char on the outside, and use a thermometer to make sure they reach an internal temperature of 165F, Hibshman says.

“When a brat is done, it starts to split and starts spitting out the juices,” he says. “You want it done just enough to pop and be up to temperature.”

For those who like a taste of beer on their brats, Hibshman says to pour a couple of beers into a tin pan on the grill. Place finished brats in the warm beer for a few minutes, and they’ll absorb the flavor.

When it comes to brats, remember that sometimes, smaller is better. If you’re having a party, purchase a few flavors of brats, grill them up and cut them into 1-inch pieces, Hibshman says. Serve them as appetizers using toothpicks.

It’s also important to choose your sides – and buns – wisely. Certain side dishes go well with bratwursts. Top-choice side dishes at Headons are tri-colored pasta salad, baked beans or potato salad.

“We make all our own buns here, so I recommend those,” Hibshman laughs. “But if you don’t have ours, a nice thick, higher-quality brat bun is always preferred.”

Headon and Sons is located at 103 S. Main St., in Creston, (815) 384-3620,