What Is Bratwurst and How Is It Different from Other Wursts?

I love hot dogs and I am not afraid to admit it. But when I want to feel fancy, I turn to bratwurst. Tossing some brats on the grill, delicately placing them in a bun, covering them with spicy brown mustard and sauerkraut—the thought evokes the smell of a freshly mowed baseball diamond in the middle of summer. But that’s not the only way to eat bratwurst—let’s take a big bite of one together, shall we? Lady and the Tramp style. Here’s everything you need to know about bratwurst.

What is bratwurst?

Bratwurst is a type of German sausage that has been around since the 14th century, way back when butchers looked at a pig’s intestines and said, “Hey, let’s fill these things with meat!” 

The name comes from two German words: “brat,” meaning “finely chopped meat, and “wurst,” the word for sausage. Brats are popular throughout Germany but vary in flavor and ingredients based on their city of origin; Nuremberg, Coburg, Kulmbach, and Wurzburg are just a few examples that have their own versions of bratwurst. 

In Germany, brats are a popular biergarten food, served with sauerkraut and potato salad. They’ve immigrated to America and mostly are served the same way.

What is bratwurst made of?

While hot dogs and bratwurst can serve the same purpose, they are often made quite differently. Hot dogs are made of “meat,” specifically highly processed meat trimmings from a number of different kinds of meat like pork, beef, chicken, and turkey. Traditionally, brats are made with pork, but on occasion they can contain beef or veal. 

Different spices also come into play. Hot dogs mostly have salt, garlic, and paprika in them, whereas brats can have a wide range of spices based on their city of origin: marjoram, nutmeg, caraway, coriander, ginger, and lemon zest are very common. 

All the ingredients are ground together stuffed into a casing, and then they are hung in strands like a long rope in a butcher’s window. You love to see it.

What do bratwurst taste like?

Your standard hot dogs taste like… meat. Just general meat and salt. Brats, by comparison, have a little more going for them in the flavor department. This obviously comes from the wider variety of spices, but it also has to do with the preparation of the sausage. The pork is enhanced with fats and is slightly more coarse when ground. It’s not as coarse as, say, an Italian sausage, but it’s certainly more than a hot dog, which is as sleek as a tiger shark.

A well-made and well-cooked brat is juicy, pork-forward, and well-seasoned with a variety of spices and/or herbs.  

How are bratwurst different from other wursts?

Brats aren’t the only wurst in the German sausage game, but they are perhaps the most prototypical; they are the baseline to which other wursts can be compared. Germany actually has over a thousand varieties of sausage that vary based on the type of meat, the type of seasoning, and the cooking process.

A bockwurst is mostly veal and it is usually smoked. A knockwurst is all beef and contains a lot of garlic. A blutwurst is blood sausage and, yes, it contains pig or beef blood. All god’s wursts got a place in the choir, some sing lower and some sing higher.

About the Author

Luke Field

Luke Field is a writer and actor originally from Philadelphia. He was the former Head Writer of branded content at CollegeHumor and was also a contributing writer and actor to the CollegeHumor Originals cast. He has extensive improv and sketch stage experience, performing both at The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater and with their Touring Company. In addition to writing, he also works as a Story Producer, most recently on season 4 of Accident, Suicide, or Murder on Oxygen. Keep your eyes peeled for his brief but impactful appearance as Kevin, the screaming security guard, in the upcoming feature The Disruptors, directed by Adam Frucci.

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