HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Best Bratwurst?

I am having a bbq and want to serve the right things. Who makes the best Brat and why?


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Well, it's hard to say not knowing where you live; I could suggest the best is in Montreal, but if you live in Montana, it's no big help.

    1. Any of the "big three" are good: Johnsonville, Usinger's or Klement's - of those I like Usinger's best but can find Johnsonville at nearly any local grocery store.

      I have had Miesfeld's Grand Champion brats at a cookout once and they were amazing. Great balance of spices.

      Brats are all about how you cook them:
      Use fresh brats, charcoal grill them over LOW heat turning frequently with tongs until done.

      5 Replies
      1. re: CDouglas

        I prefer to simmer the brats in beer and thinly sliced onion, and then grill them as needed. The onions can be caramelized and served with the bratwurst on a hard roll and plenty of mustard.

        1. re: Kelli2006

          I like caramelized onions and a good brown mustard on mine too. I ususally will only put them in beer after they are done if I need to hold them for awhile before folks are ready to eat - or if I am cooking a bunch of them.

          I melt half a stick of butter or so in a few cans of simmering Schlitz (the beer that made Milwaukee famous! - plus it is cheaper than bottled water at this point) with some sliced onions and maybe some German mustard and then pour the mixture into a disposable aluminum pan. The brats can float around in there until people are ready to grab them.

          Definitely get some good rolls for them. Hot dog buns should not apply here.

        2. re: CDouglas

          i agree CDouglas,

          my brats are cooked on the grill, never simmered in beer first(beer is for drinking with the brat imho). Learned my method from the cooks up @ Bratfest in Sheboygen, WI.

          Served on a brat roll with raw onions, pickle slices, and some mustard.

          1. re: CDouglas


            Wisconsin Hound, here...I'll agree with CD, above...Johnsonville is a fantastic choice and readily available....I hope, for you too.

            I'm a par-boil man: Couple cans of beer in the bottom of the stockpot, onions in the pot, and I add a stick of butter...In go the brats, water to cover.

            Simmer slowly and leave in the pot until they go to the grill. Some folks then return them to the simmer for a bit..not me.

            Don't skimp on the quality of your bun or your mustard and all's good!

            1. re: CDouglas

              I agree with the Johnsonville statement but stay away from the Cheddar brats. They just don't grill up right and have an odd texture to them. Their Beer brats are the best.

              Slightly off topic; Johnsonville makes a decent chorizo too.

            2. http://local.yahoo.com/info-17676867-...

              and one should simmer a raw link and then grill (thorough cooking and then the nice skin char)

              1. I actually love johnsonville. I've had better one (Usinger's) but they are hard to find around where I live and johnsonville is ubiquitiously available and really good. I think I'll grill some up this weekend.

                1. Hi valval,

                  Where do you live? Someone may know of a treasure in your backyard!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: fern

                    I'm kind of looking more at grocery-store brats! :)

                  2. well this msp hound is aghast at all the johnsonville brat recs. those are what people in california think are brats, but i guess i'd agree that they would be available no matter where the op is from. ime folks in MN and WI buy good brats, fresh or smoked, either directly from the farmer or from the butcher/small processor. people around here still know how to make good brats. but it's a regional thing, and lacking any decent local german/polish butchers, i'd probably make do with the johnsonville brats, use lots of mustard, onions, and beer, and pretend they taste like something.

                    it is important to get real brat rolls, hot dog buns absolutely don't cut it. if you can't get real brat rolls get a loaf of artisan rye and serve the sausage on a plate with a wedge of rye and grainy mustard.

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: soupkitten

                      We make an 8 hour drive to our butcher to get brats fresh. Fortunately, he's looking to start shipping them in the near future. I totally agree that fresh brats are best but Johnsonville works in a pinch.

                      I'm considering making my own because you just can't find a good brat in TN! And finding real brat rolls down here? Ha! We don't use hot dog buns but it's hard to find a good hearty roll.

                      1. re: Dee S

                        wow 8 hr drive, that's some dedication! :)

                        1. re: soupkitten

                          When I find a butcher I like and can trust, I glom on like white on rice. He does amazing things with his spice mixes and guards them carefully. The balance of meat to fat is perfect; you get lots of porky flavor without wearing it all. The texture is consistent so you don't get big pieces of fat (yuck!) but the product is not paste. They grill up moist and the casing gets the right amount of pop/crunch when you bite into it. Three to a pound so they are a nice size.

                          Our favorites? Garlic and cracked black peppercorn - they are the best; habanero; beer.

                          Oh and he makes a great fresh andouille. It's not traditional but has great flavor. We smoke it at home and I use it for gumbo. I do mail order when I want the good stuff from LA.

                        2. re: Dee S

                          I made a few batches of bratwurst when we lived in Nashville, including one low-fat attempt that was...unfortunate. Until Bread & Co. came into existence I was having to make do with Pepperidge Farm French rolls. It's probably easier to find decent stuff now. On the other hand, a mere twenty years ago, up in Louisville it seemed that every other corner had its own German-run market, where the butcher made fresh sausages of every kind, but mostly bratwurst, bockwurst and mettwurst. Walk in the door and the smell of mace would make your glasses mist over...but last few times I was there they were all gone.

                        3. re: soupkitten

                          Not to defend or put down Johnsonvilles (to me they taste fine, but have a funny texture) but there are regional differences in brats in Europe, so what may be standard in Wisconsin isn't representative of all brats. Had some extraordinary "kalbfleisch" (veal) ones in Switzerland last year that are nothing like you normally find in this country.

                          We had a German sausage maker in my area who put out 4 different styles of brat. California, BTW.

                          1. re: Akitist

                            I ran into some information somewhere not long ago that suggested "bratwurst" is not so much a single kind of sausage as it is a TYPE of sausage that comes in different styles. Bockwurst was referred to there as a type of bratwurst; I just bought some cooked bratwurst from Schreiner's, a German butcher/deli in the LA area, that is the same general color as their bockwurst but with darker speckles in it, and it appears to be not quite so finely ground. I know that both of these are made with veal, and seasoned with mace, among other things.

                            1. re: Will Owen

                              Dittmer's, a much admired German butcher shop in Mountain View (Silicon Valley), makes SIX types of bratwurst.


                              For me, the definitive bratwurst are the ones I got in Frankfurt at schnellimbisses (lunch counters). White, fresh, uncured sausages made of fine-ground pork, 1/3 lb in size, served mit mustard on brotchen. Memorable!

                              1. re: Sharuf

                                Dittmer's is the place my buddy David, in Palo Alto, is always raving about. He's never sent me the link to their website, I think maybe because he knew it would cause an insufferable yearning to suffuse my being...as indeed it has. Thanks loads!

                                Seriously, what's impressing me the most is that they make BOTH blutwurst and boudin noir! What I wouldn't give to participate in a tasteoff of that! Bring on the sauerkraut, bring on the spuds...

                          2. re: soupkitten


                            I'm 100% on board with the post above. Respect your reputation on the board AND as a Minnesotan!

                            I'm with you...IF....BIG if...you can get a good brat from a local sausage-maker...GO FOR IT! You'll probably be thrilled...Especially if there's a German heritage in the area's butcher industry.

                            That failed. Buy Johnsonville. They're pretty GD good.

                            The Kitten is spot on as far as the recommendation about the rolls and the mustard.

                            I'll cook, and eat, brats with Soupkitten any day!

                            1. re: soupkitten

                              lol at Monch's post: "the Kitten"-- makes me sound like a monster truck or something! but "we are all merely men." or merely chowhounds-- everybody's opinion is important, i just happen to be picky about my brats. :) but i'm down for the mn/wi brat party, i'll pick up sausages at kramarczuk's and some surly beer-- Monch, bring over your fave local brats & beer & don't forget the awesome wi cheese!

                              first i'd like to give a shout out to all of the cali hounds who i may have inadvertantly offended with the wording in my jul. 25th post. i am sorry(!)-- i did not mean to imply that *no* authentic german/polish charcuterie exists in cali, and it doesn't surprise me *at all* that the uncompromising hounds in all areas of the state would seek out the best european heritage sausage shops, and get the best brats there. the dittmer's link provided by Sharuf looks especially wonderful. i always skim the list of sausages at a german/polish butcher for "nuremburg/nurnburg brats." if they carry this authentic, old-world type of tiny bratwurst, it's a great sign that they do authentic old-world charcuterie, and also that their clientele is engaged enough for there to be a demand for this kind of sausage, which to the average customer (*not* the average chowhound) may not look at all like a "real" bratwurst. dittmer's passes that test and other visual checks with flying colors. i would *love* to visit that sausage shop someday. again, i did not mean to make a blanket statement that could be interpreted as derogatory, or dismissive of charcuterie in california, or cali hounds.

                              i fumbled a word or 2 in that post. what i could have more adroitly articulated was that, regionally, the average, non-chowhound, non-food oriented *person* in the northern heartland states of mn/wi will be familiar with high quality, small butcher, handmade brats. these unpreserved sausages are grilled up at noon on the construction jobsite. they are cooked up by the thousands at tailgates for packers & vikings games, you can pick them up in the same place where you get your venison processed, and are what you will find on the grill at the in-laws' house on the weekend. you can still pretty much walk into an average rural bar in wisconsin and order a handmade local farm meat bratwurst, jagerwurst, etc. and enjoy it with a tap leinies and housemade spicy mustard, probably for < $5. brats are not a food for connoisseurs around here. they are food for dudes. food for everyone. everyone, regardless of age, occupation, income, sex, race, etc. knows real brats, how to cook them, and what they are supposed to be like & taste like. it was in this cultural environment of good small-batch traditional european charcuterie, that a visiting group of average californians (not chowhounds, mind, just average cali joes--and they could just have easily come from georgia, nyc, or tanzania) happened to bring several packages of johnsonville brats to a backyard cookout attended by myself and dh. a wide assortment of various handmade sausages and game meats were already sizzling on the grills when the visitors presented the supermarket brats to the host of the party, who politely thanked them for the gift and said that they'd be cooked just as soon as there was grill space for them. i last caught sight of the johnsonville packaging, unopened, well after 3 a.m, stuffed way under the ice in the hamm's cooler. no matter how drunk everyone got, nobody wanted to touch them. i can only assume they were fed to the host's lovely & amiable pit bulls sometime after the party.

                              the moment these folks walked into the party with storebought "brats" was one of those moments when the movie soundtrack skips, everyone stops and stares for a moment or two, then everyone scrambles to cover the faux pas-- asap. like a nineteen year old bringing a box of franzia white grenache to a wine tasting. it wasn't these folks' fault they didn't know better, they thought they were going to a brat party, better bring some brats, right? but, you know-- embarrassing. hence the out-of-context reference in my above post. sorry about that.

                              back to nurenburg/nurnburg brats, and other types of brats-- brats are, as Will Owen states, a *type* of sausage rather than a monolithic food item. brats are sausages made of "fine chopped meat," which can ime be pork, beef, chicken, turkey, duck, veal, lamb, goat, ostrich, bison, or yak, or a combination of any of these. they can be fresh or smoked, and are many times frozen for the winter, but they shouldn't contain artificial preservatives or exist in plastic outside of a butcher's case, unless they are frozen.

                              veal bratwursts are not so common you trip over them on the street, but they are easy to get in msp and most areas of wi. heritage butchers will frequently make very traditional old-world bratwurst and other sausages, and also come up with bratwurst variations based on the local farm ingredients. locally to me, turkey bratwursts are very common due to the many turkey farms and processors in the state.

                              okay. here's the raving wingnut part of my post: charcuterie is a difficult thing, it's a culinary pursuit that tends to be very unforgiving of amateurs, and therefore the folks who undergo lengthy charcuterie apprenticeships to become top sausage makers have a very interesting, unusual specialization. great sausage makers need great reserves of experience, and seemingly, a number of intangible inner resources in order to ply their trade. they must have rock hard muscles in the arms, lower back, and thighs, while at the same time possessing a light, responsive and sensitive touch in the fingers and hands. a master sausage maker is an odd combination of pragmatist and philosopher. odd, inscrutable men and women of large-boned polish and german stock seem well-suited to the mysterious task of sausage-making. for lack of better words, to make a great sausage, a person must possess great skill, great physical prowess, and great. . . love. all great sausages have been loved. you can make sausages by machine, inject them with preservatives and have an acceptable (in most cases) *product,* but handmade sausages, like handmade breads, handmade cheeses, and handmade chocolates, are among the greatest of the artisan culinary offerings. these foods are at once humble and imperfect, and at the same time eloquent in what they can say about culture & craft, the land, human experience. sausages reveal and conceal, simultaneously, the soul of the sausage maker, who (probably) absolutely and resolutely has nothing to say to you in words.

                              if anyone accepts the premise that to make great sausage, you need to possess great love, then no great sausage can be built by machine. it *must* follow (and i am saying all that follows with a very, very straight face): all good sausages must be handled and loved, and nobody should handle any sausage that has not been loved. sausages are very sensitive little packages. handle your sausage with care. love your sausage, and it will love you back.

                            2. Went to the market yesterday and everything Johnsonville was on sale.I bought JV Stadium Brats(haven't seen them before,something new?) on sale 2 for $6.Picked up some sauerkraut(I like my brats w/ kraut & mustard),peel off coupon bag of kraut for $1 offf anything Johnsonville.So I got 2lbs. of Brats for @$2lb. and @2lbs. kraut @.99lb.I like the stadium brats.

                              1. I love Karl Ehmer Weiners. If you look on their website, they also sell brats and other kinds of sausgae, smoked meats etc. I would bet that all their products are good since their wieners are excellent

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: emilief

                                  I totally agree about Karl Ehmer products. I grew up on them and still go to their store and buy their products.
                                  Their brats are great so are their weiss wursts and their other sausages and hams. Thier liverwurst (many different flavors and styles are amazing.
                                  Anyone who thinks Johnsonville brats are real brats are crazy. Order some from Karl Ehmer and taste what a real brat should be.

                                  1. re: RichK

                                    Thank you so much for the info. My local gourmet shop used to sell their weiners and no more. So, I just went on the website and was wondering what else I should order online. Now I know. Looking forward to getting the package, although I am sure overnight fedex (the only way they ship in summer) will be expensive!

                                    1. re: emilief

                                      Yes it is during the summer months. However, during the Fall and Winter months, they ship everything for free if you order $60 or more which isn't too hard to do. So stock up during those months!
                                      BTW depending on where you live, they do have retail outlets. Check their website.

                                      1. re: RichK

                                        I'm not saying Johnsonville brats are near the best, but the Stadium brats are ok for what you get in a supermarket. I've sent away for brats from Usinger's in Milwaukee, and they are outstanding. Someone who is originally from my area (Union, N.J.) told me about the Union Pork Store. The brats there are the best that I've had. This person moved to Pennsylvania and used to drive a couple of hundred miles round trip to pick them up..

                                        We don't have brat rolls here, but what I do is pick up some slightly larger rolls at a bakery (similar to brat rolls), simmer the brats in water, finish them off on my grill and top them with spicy mustard and German sauerkraut. I enjoy these as much as hot dogs.

                                2. First off, it depends where you are: availability is key. Johnsonvill is the LOWEST rung on the totem, only to be gotten if there is nothing better available ( ALDI brats are better than JVille)
                                  If you order online, there are some small markeets from Sconie that make some good stuff ( I would avoid the Bavarian Inc site,but thats just me.

                                  To cook.: Par boiling is for the lazy or drunk cook. Do only if you dont know how to grill.

                                  Best way is to have a super hot fire and blast the raw brat ( keep an eye on the grill!!!)
                                  You can have a bear bath waiting to "quench" once seared on all sides then move off heat. All meat should be cooked this way. Blast heat then slow. Think about prime rib: would you boil it first? or would you do it slow the entire time until you got a big grey mass? NO! you crisp the outside then slow the heat, locking in the juices!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: adventureandy

                                    Your right! par boiling is the lazy man's way. Unbelievable how many people boil not only sausage but ribs and chicken, throw on bbq sauce, put it on the grill for 15 minutes and call it good. If they could jam a rack of ribs in the microvave, they'ed probably do that too. I use plenty of shortcuts but when it comes to grilling & bbq, no! Would anyone parboil or precook a hamburger?

                                  2. This is obviously after your great barbecue-- yet I want to add, the ALDI " German Bratwurst Aged Cheddar Cheese" Bratwursts are the best I have ever tasted and that's comparing them to our local German butcher.
                                    They are not always available so I suggest to stock up when possible.
                                    The fact that they are directly from Germany may have something to do with it too.
                                    They cost about $4 for 4.