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What is Bratwurst?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Bratwurst is a type of sausage closely associated with the nation of Germany, where it originated. In addition to being served throughout Germany in numerous regional variations, it is also popular in areas of the world with large German populations. The sausage tends to be heavily spiced, and is traditionally served with mustard and a hard roll, although it is served differently in some places. Many grocery stores and butchers carry bratwurst, and it is also possible to order German sausage through a specialty supplier.

In German, brat means “finely chopped meat,” while wurst means “sausage.” Pork is the traditional meat in this sausage, although beef and veal may be used as well. Often, it is made with a mixture of meats. Bratwurst is heavily spiced with things like marjoram, cardamom, nutmeg, celery seeds, pepper, ginger, and other regional ingredients. The spicy sausage mixture is forced into casings and is typically grilled or fried before serving.

Like many European sausages, bratwurst is not usually cured, which means that it needs to be cooked before it is served. In some cases, it may be pre-cooked and canned, so that cooks can simply lightly heat it before serving. This type tends to have an inferior flavor, and it should be avoided if fresh bratwurst is available. When consumers purchase fresh sausage, they make sure to check the expiration date to ensure that the meat is good.

In Germany, bratwurst is served with spicy mustard and a hard roll, along with a side of sauerkraut. Many German beers complement the heavy, spicy sausage very well, and bratwurst and a beer is a common German lunch as a result. Outside of Germany, the sausage may be served with an assortment of other sides on breads ranging from soft white rolls to whole wheat buns. Toppings like cheese, relish, and onions may be added outside of Germany as well.

Different parts of Germany all have unique recipes for bratwurst, making it difficult to generalize about an appearance common to all of the sausages. They can range in size from small to jumbo, and can be white to dark brown, commonly with dark flecks of spice. Like all fresh meats, bratwurst should be kept refrigerated until use, and it should be thoroughly cooked, since the fine chopping process can introduce bacteria. Before cooking it, cooks should make sure to puncture it with a fork so that it does not explode in the pan from pressure.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By ZsaZsa56 — On Oct 16, 2012

I love to boil bratwursts in beer. It gives them an amazing flavor and they turn out so moist and juicy.

By whiteplane — On Oct 15, 2012

Where can I find the best brats in the world? Is it Germany, New York, someplace else that I am not even considering? I love brats and I am ready to take my sausage consumption to the next level. I am on a quest to find the very best brat in the entire world.

By summing — On Oct 14, 2012

This summer I really got into chicken brats. I usually don't like all these poultry alternatives that have been coming out, but chicken brats are actually really good and they have like a quarter of the fat. That means you can eat more!

By anon251626 — On Mar 01, 2012

How long does it take to grill a bratwurst?

By anon176777 — On May 16, 2011

braet - is the expression of finely chopped meat in Germany. Brat (like in Bratwurst) means braten, and this term is used for anything fried in a pan or casserole, like Sauerbraten, Bratkartoffeln etc.

By anon118310 — On Oct 13, 2010

@73587: Or simpler and more precisely "fryed sausage" for Bratwurst. "finely chopped meat" is called Braet (Brät) or Wurstbraet.

By anon73587 — On Mar 28, 2010

"brat" doesn't mean "finely chopped meat" in german. that's called gehäcktes. brat is the term used for anything browned in a frying pan, so in the case of bratwurst- it's sausage browned in a pan!

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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