Almost everybody loves bratwurst and the few folks that don’t simply can’t be trusted.
The bratwurst is a funny thing. One one hand, this is a classic German sausage with a cult like following. One the other hand, this is a sausage with more than 50 regional variations and has no “true” recipe. The “brat” in the name of this sausage has the German meaning of “minced meat” so technically any minced meat sausage meets this definition.
Typically a brat is a fresh (uncooked) sausage with a coarse texture. However, there are regional varieties that are emulsified and others that are smoked.
Let me show you how I make this sausage along with a few different ways of cooking and what to serve with it.
How to Make Bratwurst
While there is no official standard recipe for bratwurst (Len Poli offers eight different versions), the defining characteristics to me are a richness complemented with a mace/nutmeg/ginger flavor profile. You can use pork, veal or beef for this sausage but I think you get the best results using ground pork butt.
- 2.5 pounds fatty ground pork
- 1/2 pint heavy cream
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 2 teaspoons ground white pepper
- 1 teaspoon mace
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Make sure all of your ingredients are COLD.
Mix the ingredients for one minute with a stand mixer until everything is well incorporated.
Stuff into 32 mm hog casings and form 5 inch links.
For greater detail on the sausage making process please see How to Make Sausage at Home.
There are almost as many ways of cooking brats as there are recipes for making them. People will argue over which way is the best or authentic but the reality is that however you like your sausage is the right answer for you.
Ideally you want to cook these sausages to an internal temperature of 150F. If you overcook the sausage (like I did in the final picture in this article!) then the casing will split and the fat will start to escape. But heck, even an overcooked brat is better than a ketchup soaked hot dog!
- Start by placing two teaspoons of vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet.
- Place the skillet in the oven and then heat the oven to 325F.
- Once the oven reaches 325F let the skillet preheat for at least five minutes.
- Place the sausages in the skillet and cook in the oven for approximately 10 minutes and then flip and let them cook for another 10 minutes.
- Remove the sausages from the oven when an internal temperature of 150F is reached.
- Some folks like to add some sliced onions to the pan when the sausages first go in.
Simmer, Don’t Boil
I always tell folks to simmer, not boil, a sausage. Boiling water, or beer, has a temperature of over 212F and will easily overcook the sausage and cause it to burst.
Instead, heat your liquid to a warm simmer, I use 175F, and gently poach the sausages for about 20 minutes until they reach an internal temperature of 150F.
A lot of folks use a beer and onion bath to poach their brats and that is a pretty nice combination. I am not a big fan of the texture of the casing on poached sausages. A common fix for this is to finish the sausages on a grill or hot skillet to give the skin some color and a little texture.
How to Grill
Always grill brats with Low or indirect heat. If you grill them over High or directly over open flames the sausages will start dripping grease and you will have massive flare ups on your hands.
I set up my kettle grill with the charcoal banked on one side and the sausages on the opposite side. I move the sausages around every 5-6 minutes to ensure even cooking and they are typically done (150F) in about 20 minutes.
You can also throw these guys on a barbecue pit and cook them at 225F while getting some nice smoke flavor going on them. Here is some more detail on smoking bratwurst.
What to Serve With Bratwurst
The standard side dishes for brats are potatoes and cabbage. I like to go with a mustard based potato salad and coleslaw. It would be more traditional to go with a German potato salad and sauerkraut. It never hurts to throw in some baked beans, a slice of bread and a dollop of mustard.
When I eat these on a bun I almost always add a kosher dill pickle spear. The cool briny bite of the pickle really balances out the richness of the sausage.
Lastly, you are going to want to serve this sausage with an ice cold beer.