Grilling season is officially upon us, and with Memorial Day just around the corner, one is presented with the first major outdoor cooking opportunity of the year. Yes, we know burgers are always in fashion. And we also recognize that ribs and brisket have a devoted audience of obsessive fellows stroking their beards as they carefully monitor their smokers full of kiln-dried oak (no judgement). But for these purposes we would like to focus on a simpler, more elegant grilling option: encased meats that fit neatly in a cylindrical bun.

Fact: the brat is the king of bun-paired encased meats, ruling over the Midwest in particular with a pork-flavored fist. Equally at home in the backyard or at a ballpark, it wins not only on flavor, but on the basis of its preparation (you can pre-boil them in beer, or soak them in beer afterwards; either way, beer is involved). We prefer the standard variety brat with mustard, but Randy always requests Cheddarwurst. And while we respect the desire to include cheese in a meal whenever possible, the risk of being scalded by a molten pocket of cheddar leads us to avoid this minefield of the encased meats world.

These days it is more commonly referred to as Kielbasa, but as meat traditionalists we choose to swim against the tide and will keep calling it Polish Sausage. The key to this one is the prominent use of garlic, to which we say “barwo.”* Fun sausage fact: The Polish Sausage used to be made of all pork, but in 1964 the Polish government introduced a new variety which was made of 80% pork and 20% beef. Now, we certainly don’t want to get political here, but show us a politician who demonstrates a track record of improving a meat product, and we will vote for them in every election.

*Polish for “bravo”

These have a decent zesty flavor to them, but in all honestly, we have never been able to fully enjoy this variety due to the presence of seeds mixed into the meat. We have a mouth, not a beak. No hard feelings, signor.

The classic go-to for any large-scale feeding event, the hot dog just might be the most downright American food out there (you had a good run, apple pie). Chicago Style, Chili Dog or Coney Dog (they are not the same thing), steamed or grilled, beef or pork—we love them all. Plus: if things get dull, nothing restores life to your gathering like an impromptu hot dog eating contest. Rest assured we will handily win said contest, but we nonetheless encourage you to participate, and take your loss like a man.

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