A staple of any good barbeque, brats are easy-to-grill links that are excellent alongside baseball, football, and beer. However, many people confuse them with hot dogs or bangers – other types of sausage. So, then, are brats and sausage the same?
Brats, or bratwurst, are fresh link sausages made from pork and veal and flavored with spices like nutmeg and ginger. Although all brats are sausages, not all sausages are brats; you can find other links made from different ingredients, spices, and styles.
Now that we understand that brats are a type of link sausage, we can look in-depth at what makes them unique. This article will look at bratwurst compared to regular sausage and explain how to differentiate these links from the rest.
Not only that, but we’ll give some advice on how to grill them too.
The Differences Between Brats and Sausage
While sausage recipes date back over a thousand years, brats are far more recent. The earliest evidence of their existence dates to 1313 in Nuremberg, Germany. Their name comes from the German words brät and Wurst, meaning finely chopped meat and sausage, respectively.
So, immediately, it is pretty clear what bratwurst is by the name alone. But there’s more to them than just that. For a sausage to be a brat, it must have specific ingredients too. Also, brats are fresh links, which isn’t the only sausage style either.
See, you can make sausages in several ways, from a nearly endless combination of ingredients. Even though these all still involve minced or ground meat in some casing, they all taste profoundly different. And only one of them is a brat.
Specifically, bratwursts are fresh link sausages – raw ground meat forced into a casing, then divided into convenient portions. Unlike dried or smoked sausages, you must thoroughly cook fresh links before eating them.
Conversely, chorizo and salami are dried sausages. You can eat those without extra preparation, and they don’t need refrigeration either. They were initially invented to stop meat trimmings from stale but remain delicious.
Andouille and kielbasa are examples of smoked sausages. These links are prepared in a smoker and don’t necessarily need to be cooked again before eating. Like the name would suggest, they often have a smoky taste and incorporate many herbs and spices into their recipes.
Brats Use Specific Ingredients
Like other famous types of sausage, brats also have specific ingredients. For a link to count as bratwurst, it must be pork, veal, or beef. Most American brats are pork, although you can find some butchers who still sell veal brats, too.
Pork brats typically have a darker color and a more intense taste, while veal brats are lighter and milder. However, regardless of the meat used, butchers boil it before packaging the sausage. Doing so sterilizes it and makes it safer to eat.
Even though the sausage comes pre-boiled, you’ll still need to cook it. That’s because boiling doesn’t thoroughly cook the brat; it only kills any bacteria in the meat.
Not only that, but brats also contain specific spices. Most notably, brats have nutmeg, caraway, sage, ginger, and coriander. These herbs and spices lend brats their unique flavor and make them stand out from the competition.
Traditional recipes for bratwurst include egg and cream, giving the end product a tastier, smoother flavor.
However, cheaper products tend to avoid these ingredients – they’re hard to preserve, especially for fresh links. Nevertheless, you can find some brats that contain them. Similarly, you can also find pre-cooked brats.
Brats Are Best Grilled
While you can get away with boiling or frying most other links, it’s best to grill brats. Doing so gives them the best possible flavor and consistency.
Although you can simmer brats in beer before finishing them on the grill, that isn’t necessary. If you’re barbequing over coals or a wood fire, you won’t miss out on any flavor either – the brats will end up deliciously smoky.
We recommend cooking bratwurst on medium-low heat, turning them about every minute. If you’re not grilling outside, then you can finish the brats in a broiler to ensure you’ve got them cooked through.
Nevertheless, parboiling brats is an excellent alternative, especially if you have a couple of pints of beer lying around. Of course, that is the traditional Wisconsin style, too – and Wisconsin is America’s home of the bratwurst.
Generally, what works best is soaking the brats in beer after grilling them. That way, you don’t risk any acrid flavors that come up when boiling beer.
After browning, the brats on the grill – three to four minutes on each side, on medium heat – remove them and put them in an aluminum grill pan. Add onions, garlic, and sauerkraut to taste, then pour beer over it all until it comes up to halfway up the pan.
Let the brats soak in the beer mixture back over the grill. Cook it for fifteen minutes on low heat. Your onion should be soft, and the sauerkraut should be warm by that time. Serve it all on a roll with a generous squeeze of mustard.
Brats Are A Traditional German Food
Another thing that separates brats from other types of sausage is their heritage. We know already that brats are from Germany, but they also eat them differently.
If you can, we recommend trying them at an authentic German restaurant. There, you can expect the brats to come alongside a pretzel, red cabbage, sauerkraut, curry sauce, and sweet mustard. And, of course, beer.
The traditional German way of serving brats might seem a little foreign if you’re used to Wisconsin-style tailgates, but it is truly delicious. The mix of flavors is comprehensive, hitting the taste buds for everything from umami to sweet and sour to salty and bitter.
Not only that, but that’s how people ate brats before coming to America. German-American immigrants introduced this sausage style to our country when they settled in Wisconsin and the neighboring Midwestern states.
Today, Sheboygan County in Wisconsin remains the center of brat culture. However, people nationwide enjoy their style of brats at baseball games every year.
So, brats are a German-style of fresh links, but not all sausages are brats. Instead, many sausages come dried or smoked and use ingredients other than the pork, veal, nutmeg, and ginger found in bratwurst.
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