Bratwurst and sausage share a history, often have similar ingredients, and are frequently prepared and served the same way. But despite all they have in common, bratwurst and sausage are different products. In our neck of the woods, bratwurst is incredibly popular, but in many parts of the country, you may have a hard time finding an authentic bratwurst. Today, we'll separate fact from fiction and tell you about what sets these two popular meat products apart and why it matters.
How Is a Bratwurst Different Than a Sausage?
The easiest way to discuss the differences is to first look at what sausage is and how it is made.
What are Sausages?
Traditionally, sausage is made from finely chopped meat trimmings. It can be made from pork, beef, chicken, even alligator, emu, and bison. Butchers often add pork fat to lean ground meat when making sausage. Traditional sausages were stuffed into natural casings made from the cleaned intestines of animals along with a variety of spices and seasonings that include ground pepper, salt, and garlic. Sausages were most often smoked to preserve them in the time before refrigeration.
Modern sausages are made from much of the same parts, often seasoned with similar ingredients, and frequently smoked both for flavor and preservation. Sausages can be found in either natural or synthetic casing and in a wide variety of fat contents. Smoked sausages can be sold individually or as fresh link sausage. Fresh sausage needs to be refrigerated while smoked sausage may not require refrigeration.
Nearly every culture on Earth makes sausages according to their regional availability of ingredients, but it is generally accepted that the art of sausage making originated in France. Sometimes, you can literally walk across the street and find sausages that are completely different based on the ingredients and preparation methods used by different butchers to make different types of sausages.
What are Bratwursts?
Bratwurst is a type of German sausage most commonly made from pork, though some recipes also use beef and veal. Bratwurst is prepared and stored fresh so it doesn't have a long shelf life like a sausage can. Another difference that is common across most bratwurst recipes is the use of the herb marjoram for flavor. Fresh marjoram is a culinary herb similar to oregano and is related to mint.
Bratwurst is typically prepared in a natural casing and tends to have a higher fat content than sausage. Regional variations include the use of different spices and meats. Common bratwurst seasonings include ginger, garlic, marjoram, paprika, sage, cumin, nutmeg, caraway, and coriander.
How Bratwurst Came to Be Popular in America
In the 1850s, nearly one million Germans immigrated to the United States, many of them settling in Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, and Minnesota. These immigrants brought with them the love of bratwurst as a tasty way to preserve meat trimmings.
By the 1920s, Sheboygan, Wisconsin boasted numerous butcher shops that made fresh bratwurst each day. Then, in the 1950s, bratwurst and baseball were introduced, creating one of the best match-ups of all time.
The spread of immigrants of Germanic descent introduced uncooked sausage recipes to many groups of people who previously had not experienced these types of foods. Over time, brats have become one of the top picks on the grill or in the smoker all over the US.
These days, another type of sausage is also being introduced to Americans. As the Latino population in the country has grown, many of the cultures that make Spanish or Mexican chorizo have taken their recipes with them. Chorizo is essentially a very fatty pork sausage with lots of spicy flavors.
What Does Bratwurst Taste Like?
Bratwurst has a similar taste to pork sausage and tends to have a bigger, more pronounced herb flavor that also showcases the flavor of the meat products used to make the sausage. Cooking bratwurst often adds to the flavors. If you like fresh pork sausage, you'll like bratwurst.
Is a Bratwurst a Hot Dog?
While bratwurst and hot dogs are often sold at the same locations and share many similar features, hot dogs don't typically have seasoning herbs and spices added. Hot dogs use a finely ground mixture of a variety of meats, while bratwurst tends to be more or less pork-based.
What Types of Sausages Are There?
Sausage covers a lot of ground. With regional varieties in nearly every part of the world, you'll find different flavors, textures, and ingredients of sausage, often with names that reveal the origin of the product. For example, you'll frequently see Polish sausage, Spanish chorizo, or Italian sausage. There are also odd variations like pickled sausage which is frequently sold in tins or in vacuum-sealed packages. You can also find fresh sausage that is not stuffed into a casing so that you can make patties for breakfast sausage or crumble it up for pizza toppings.
What Types of Bratwursts Are There?
Bratwurst originates from Germany, so you'll find most types are regionally named. The most common in the United States is Fränkische Bratwurst. This is a thick, long sausage most often sold individually. Kulmbacher bratwurst is a long, thin sausage popular as street food in Germany that uses citrus, flavorful herbs, and is nearly all veal. Coburger bratwurst is another variation that uses coarse ground pork meat which includes a minimum of 15 percent beef. Seasonings are salt, pepper, lemon peel, and nutmeg and the meat is bound with raw egg.
Bratwurst vs Sausage
Bratwurst is one of our favorite sausages and we love making it ourselves at home. We even have a few DIY kits available so you can replicate our favorite recipes. It has a ton of flavor so you don't have to dress it up which makes cooking it a snap. It is the perfect meal for tailgate parties and summer get-togethers.
When you are looking at bratwurst and sausage, just remember that the primary differences are that bratwurst is usually uncooked pork sausage in a natural casing, whereas sausage can be made from a bunch of different things.