Bratwurst Making 101
Here in the Brat Belt, sausage making is more than just a hobby, it's a way of life. To pay tribute to our favorite encased meat, we're showing you how to make homemade bratwurst the PS way.
What makes a Brat a Brat?
Originating in 14th century Germany, bratwurst is a type of fresh link sausage that's traditionally made with a combination of pork and veal, along with spices like caraway, nutmeg, onion and coriander.
Travel to Germany, Switzerland, or the Midwest and you'll find that there are many interpretations of bratwurst, with variations on texture, flavor, size, and cooking method. In Wisconsin, our brats are courser than their ancestors with flavor variations that range from beer to pineapple and everything in between.
- Grinder/Stuffer with 3/16" plate
- Meat Lug or Stainless Bowl
- 3% Distilled Water: Distilled water will ensure a nice clean flavor, and prevent any unwanted bacteria from entering your meat. Water content should be 3% of your total meat block.
- Sausage Pricker: This little tool will remove any small air pockets left in the casing that occur during the stuffing process. The pricker’s small prongs will remove air bubbles without rupturing the casing. If you’re in a pinch, the tip of a sharp, small knife or toothpick work too.
- Smoker (optional): We like to precook our brats by smoking them for 1-1.5 hours.
When making homemade bratwursts, we recommend natural hog casings. They’re extremely tender and have a great “snap” when you bite into them, and durable enough to grill up fresh or use in the smokehouse. If you don’t plan on smoking your bratwurst, you can also use collagen casings for uniform and consistent links.
Selecting Your Meat Block:
While a traditional old-world bratwurst is made from a combo of pork and veal, you can make your sausage with any meat you choose. We like to stick to an 80/20 or 75/25 ratio of pork trimmings (we use picnic meat). If using a leaner game like venison, be sure to add additional trimmings or the finished brat will be dry and hold less flavor. For chicken or turkey, we recommend using boneless thigh meat with skin-on.
Seasonings & Add-ins
The sky is the limit here. Go traditional with a peppery Sheboygan brat or venture into more unique flavors like Philly Cheesesteak or Mac N Cheese (with real noodles). Our seasonings are available in B Units, premeasured for 25 lbs of meat, and some in C-Units for 12.5 lbs of meat. If you plan to make less than this, you can adjust your seasonings using our Conversion Chart. Some seasonings may cause a slight discoloring when they react with the meat, especially flavors containing onion and garlic. Don’t panic--this won’t affect taste or texture of your brats.
Instead of adding distilled water as your liquid, you can replace it with beer, pineapple or apple juice, or wine for an added flavor boost. Just note that the more acidic the juice, the more it can break down the proteins in the meat, affecting your overall texture. Other great add-ins for brats are high-temp cheeses, dried onion and jalapeno, and whole mustard seed.
Begin by prepping your casings. If packed in salt, rinse thoroughly and soak for 40-50 minutes in warm water. Replace water with fresh warm water (about 90°F) and soak again for 30-40 minutes. If in saline, just soak in warm water for 20 minutes before stuffing. Prevent oversoaking or you may end up with brittle casings.
If you have leftover casings, drain from water and place in a freezer-safe plastic bag with a generous amount of salt. Store in freezer for maximum shelf life.
- Ask your butcher to chunk up your pork slabs to make it easier to grind. For best results, refrigerate overnight or freeze for 30 minutes to keep the meat as cold as possible (but not frozen) throughout the grinding and stuffing process. This will make grinding easier and ensure optimal shelf life of your finished brats. Pass your meat twice through a 3/16” grinder plate into your meat lug and weigh out a batch of 25 lbs.
Sprinkle pre-measured seasoning on top of ground meat and add cold distilled water. Mix by hand from the bottom up until seasoning is completely incorporated and meat batter is sticky. We like to use latex gloves to keep fingers warm while mixing. When fully incorporated, load mix into stuffer.
Tip: This is a great time to test the flavor of your brats. Remove a small piece of meat and fry up the patty on the stove. Adjust seasonings to taste as needed and proceed.
- Find the end of your casing, and run your sink head over it and let water run through. Thread onto stuffing horn and gently thread on the rest of the strand. Tie a knot at the end of the casing once it's fully on the stuffing horn.
- Keeping a finger on the top of your horn, begin stuffing just enough so that you can still pinch the meat down, but not too full that they won’t be able to twist. Use your other hand to gently guide the stuffed sausage away from your stuffer. Once your strand is stuffed, go through with a sausage pricker or knife and remove any large air pockets.
- To twist, grab one end and pinch a divot to make a sausage that’s about 6-6.5” in length. Grab the first pinch with your left hand and pinch another 6” down with your right hand so you have two links. Twist forward and repeat the process until you’ve linked all your strands. You can twist forward or backward or alternate as you go--whatever is the most natural to you.
- If you’re throwing yours straight on the grill, you can cut the links with a sharp knife or scissors and refrigerate overnight or until use. We like to precook ours in the smokehouse for 1-1.5 hours or until internal temp reaches 160°F. If you're smoking, link sausages 2 up, 2 down on your smoke stick.