Monday, April 11, 2011

Baseball Brats - Usinger's vs Johnsonville - Milwaukee Style

Major League Baseball is here and underway. I've been watching a lot of Brewers games and reading boxscores. Great weekend series win by the Crew over the Cubs was made sweeter by indulging into my favorite baseball pastime, grilling brats.

Yes, this is my third post on bratwurst but I like to share my love for them. In Wisconsin, two bratwurst-making companies stand tall, Johnsonville and Usinger's. Both are great, both are fabulous and while listening to Bob Uecker and the Brewers on the radio, I decided to decide which brat is better. Truely a tough call.

It began in 1945, when Ralph and Alice Stayer opened up a butcher shop named after their hometown of Johnsonville. Today, Johnsonville is one of the most popular sausages and is available all over the U.S. and in 30 countries.

Usinger's have been making sausages for 125 years. It is located on Milwaukee's Old World Third St, the original site of the store. Usinger's slogan states it all, "America's Finest Sausage."

Both sausages are made with pork and seasoned with fine spices. While Usinger's sausages are a little longer than Johnsonville's, Johnsonville brats contain a great juicy flavor.

These brats are delicious enough to eat without condiments but sausages are perfect hostesses to adding mustard, sauce, or sliced vegatables. For me, I'm combining sauerkraut with Secret Stadium sauce and Koops' spicy brown mustard and Koops' Dusseldorf mustard.

To achieve the juiciest brats, I am grilling them low and slow on the indirect side of the grill. No flare ups, no bursting of the casing, just slow cooking while I listen to the game on the radio. The brats took about 45-50 minutes on the indirect grill.

To height the pleasure factor of this test, I choose to include Pretzel Buns from Miller Bakery in Milwaukee. Those buns just look oh so perfect.

The brats are done, the kraut is resting, the Brewers are winning, lets eat!

For the Usinger's brat, I placed it on the pretzel bun, added the sauerkraut, and squeezed some Dusseldorf mustard on it. 
The spicy brown mustard is a perfect match for the Johnsonville. Secret sauce-flavored kraut also is must add to the bun.

The verdict of the Baseball brats:

The Usinger's brat was a juice explosion. Yes, the chin was covered in runny, juicy brat goodness. Cooking it a low temp held in all the flavor. The seasoning of the ground pork gives it that old world flavor. The brats are sold fresh so it leaves the shop within days. It is not frozen and that quality really comes out.

The Johnsonville is a shorter brat but packed full of bratwurst power. Snappy, crunchy texture from the casing combined with the tender, fatty pork lends iself for an amazing bite. The spice of the horseradish in the brown mustard also highlights the seasoning of the sausage.

Both wursts are top notch and it is hard to pick a winner. I tried each bratwurst sans bun and condiments and Usinger's had better flavor but the Johnsonville brat really shined with my additions. The sentimental favorite goes to Johnsonville as I grew up eating them. I learned how to grill brats by grilling Johnsonvilles. I love them brats. But this test is about taste and quality. I chose Johnsonville in a slim margin.

What won me over was the total package. Quality pork, great seasoning, juicy inside, snappy outside, great on its own or with condiments, it really is "heaven on a bun."

Decide for yourself, go the store and fire up some bratwurst, taste Wisconsin at its finest.

Buy Johnsonville.
Buy Usinger's.

Love them brats!


  1. More great stuff, your pics make me drool each and every post. I'm going to cook my next brat batch indirect and thanks for the reminder to pick up some stadium sauce next time I'm in state. Happy Grilling.

  2. Klements are also locally produced by hardworking pork artisans such as my family.
    Please give them a try and post a follow up.

  3. Johnsonville is kind of a joke, Usingers is on a Much MUCH higher caliber of sausage than Johnsonville. Also you say 2 sausage companies stand tall? What about Klements?

  4. JVille? No veal? Ha! Not even a real brat. This is a joke!