You’ve just bought a shiny new grill or you’ve taken your grill out of winter hibernation, and you can’t wait to cookout!

But wait… Before you grill those steaks, burgers and garden-fresh veggies—you’ll want to season your grill.

Barbecue grills are like cast-iron skillets, they get better and more seasoned, the more you use them. When food cooks on the grill, the fats and juices are vaporized by the heating element and create the smoke that flavors the food with that legendary grilled taste. The smoke accumulates on the inside of the grill and is “seasoned,” making your food “sing” with grilled flavor.

If you’ve had your grill for a while and use it a lot, you may notice that the inside of the lid of the grill looks like the “paint” is peeling.  This is simply the accumulation of layers of smoke and not paint at all.  You will want to remove the excess layers so that they don’t flake off and fall into your food. You will want to make sure that you scrape the inside of the lid first. Warm soapy water, a scrubbie and a little elbow grease will take the excess off quick and easy.  You don’t want to scrub so hard that the grill becomes shiny again.  Be sure to leave the first layer of seasoning on the grill, but get rid of any excess soot and grime.  If you’ve had any flare-ups, you may want to clean the outside lip of your grill as well—that is the part of the lid that meets the rest of the grill. Be sure to rinse with cool clean water and you are ready to re-season your grill.

My favorite and most effective way to season a new grill or a grill that has just been freshly cleaned is to fill the cooking grate with uncooked sausages such as bratwurst or Italian sausage—not the bulk breakfast variety. You don’t want to waste good sausage, so make it a meal!  Smoked Sausage with Apple Fennel Sauerkraut

is my favorite sausage recipe and is perfect for people who think that they don’t like sauerkraut. The “sauerkraut” is made with aromatic fennel and tart apple and seasoned with caraway seed.  Try it and I promise, it will go into your favorite recipe rotation!

Normally, I grill raw sausages slowly on a low-medium indirect heat, but when I am seasoning the grill, I opt for a medium-low direct heat to get more of the juices rendering and releasing on all of the surfaces of the cooking grates.  Cook sausages until very brown and bubbling hot.  Remove the sausages and re-set the burners to high, letting the grill burn off any residue until it turns ashy white, or about for 20-30 minutes.

You can do this while you enjoy the Smoked Sausage with Apple Fennel Sauerkraut. When you are done eating, clean the cooking grates with a brass-bristle brush, turn off the gas or close all the vents on a charcoal grill to extinguish the coals—and you are ready for the season!

Follow my tips for Cleaning the Grill and Grill Safety all summer long!

Note: Today’s recipe is sponsored by our friends at Martin’s Famous Potato Rolls and Bread. All opinions are my own. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Smoked Sausage with Apple Fennel “Sauerkraut”

Double the amount of sausages and buns—the Apple Fennel Sauerkraut will stretch to feed a crowd! I love serving these sausages on Martin’s Long Potato Rolls because the texture of the bun is soft but hardy.  The juices from the sausage and the sauerkraut are soaked up by the bread, but the bread still keeps its shape. In fact, I like Martin’s so much that I pack them with my barbecue meal kits that I sell on


Serves 8

Grilling Method: Medium-low Heat (can be cooked direct or indirect)

Mock Sauerkraut:

1 large fennel bulb

1 tablespoons olive oil

1 Large Vidalia onion, cut in rings

5 Granny Smith apples, grated

½ lemon, juiced

1½ tablespoons butter

2 teaspoons caraway seeds

½ cup hard cider or apple juice

Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper


8 uncooked sausages, such as Bratwurst, Italian, etc

2 tablespoons butter, melted

8 Martin’s Long Potato Rolls

Spicy brown or Dijon mustard


Clean and cut the fennel bulb in long strips (julienne) and trim tops. Reserve furry leafy part that resembles dill and chop finely for later use.   Heat oil in heavy-bottomed sauce pot or small Dutch oven over medium heat, add onion and kosher salt.  Cook until onion begins to brown, add strips of fennel, stir, and let cook covered for about 5 minutes or until fennel begins to wilt. Reduce heat to medium-low.

Preheat the grill.

Meanwhile, mix grated apple with lemon juice and add to pot. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.  Add butter, mixing well.  Add caraway seeds, reserved fennel tops and hard cider or apple juice.  Cook for an additional 5-10 minutes, uncovered.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and let sit to allow the flavors to mingle.  The sauerkraut can be made up to 2 days in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Just before serving, warm sauerkraut, grill sausages and toast buns, if desired.

To grill sausages, place them on the cooking grate directly over medium-low heat for 25-35 minutes, turning occasionally until they are cooked through, bubbling and browned on all sides of the sausage.  If using indirect heat, turn once halfway through the cooking time.  If using direct heat, turn occasionally and watch closely so the sausages don’t burn.

Meanwhile, split the buns and brush a little butter on the inside.  Toast until lightly browned by placing cut side down directly on the cooking grates for 1-2 minutes or until marked.  When ready to serve, place one sausage and a generous amount of the sauerkraut on the bun and serve with mustard on the side.  Serve immediately.


©2017 Elizabeth A. Karmel, Girls at the Grill