How to Make Bratwurst at Home, Sheboygan-Style

The perfect summer project—a delicious sausage project, that is.

July 10, 2019
Photo by Megan Scott

It's always more fun to DIY. Every week, we'll spare you a trip to the grocery store and show you how to make small batches of great foods at home. Today: Get ready for a project, because Megan Scott of The Joy Kitchen is walking us through how to make bratwurst at home, for Oktoberfest and beyond.

Any way you look at it, making this homemade German sausage recipe (specifcally, bratwurst) is a project—a delicious, grilled, sausage-y project, but a project nonetheless.

Luckily, you can break it down into stages to make it more doable: On day one, get your spice mixture ready. On day two, grind the meat. On day three, stuff the sausages. On day four, grill and poach your brats. 

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These homemade bratwurst, finished off Sheboygan-style (named after the city in Wisconsin that made this preparation famous) in a beer-butter-herb bath with braised onions, are completely worth the time investment. The beauty of the beer bath method is that you get all the charred flavors and browning of grilling, but you don't have to rush to have all the brats grilled off at the same time.

Homemade Bratwurst Recipe

Keeping them in the beer bath not only adds flavor, but it also keeps the brats moist and warm while you grill the brats in batches if you need to. This gives you more leeway in terms of cooking time and ensures that all your guests get the brats at their peak. The beer and butter-braised onions are a bonus.

This recipe will make about 12 four-inch sausages, which should be just enough for dinner. But if you think you'll need more brats for a big get-together, say a family BBQ, then simply double or triple the recipe.

But First, What Is Bratwurst?

Originating in Germany in the 14th century, bratwurst is a particular type of sausage that's usually made with some combination of pork and veal, along with spices like caraway, nutmeg, and ginger.

If you travel through Germany, you'll find that every region has their own style of bratwurst, with variations on ingredients, size, preferred cooking method, and serving. Speaking of cooking methods, there are a number of ways you can cook bratwurst, including grilling, steaming, poaching, and boiling—it's really up to you. 

Watch: The Perfect Side Dish

How to Make Bratwurst, Sheboygan-Style


For the bratwurst:

- 1 1/2 pounds pork butt, fat trimmed and discarded
- 1 pound veal shoulder or beef hanger steak, fat trimmed and discarded
- 1/2 pound pork fatback
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons ground white pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
- 1/2 teaspoon caraway seed
- 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic, optional
- 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes, optional
- One 5-foot piece natural sausage casing

For the beer bath:

- 6 cups beer, preferably a German lager, pilsner, or ale
- 1 cup butter
- 2 large onions, one grated and one thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes, optional
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt and pepper,  to taste


For the bratwurst:

1. Cut the pork butt, veal or beef, and fatback into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes and chill thoroughly. It helps to have the meat partially frozen to prevent the fat from smearing.

2. Grind the meat in small batches using a meat grinder fitted with a 3/16-inch plate.

3. Combine the meat in a bowl with the spices. Mix thoroughly and refrigerate.

Homemade Bratwurst Recipe

4. If the sausage casings are salt-packed, rinse and soak them for 30 minutes. Slide the casing onto your sausage stuffer's tube. Put the beef-pork mixture into the stuffer and run the motor (or press the mixture, if using a manual stuffer), pushing the mixture until it begins to emerge from the sausage stuffer. You want to start pushing meat into the casing before tying off the end to make sure no air is trapped in the casing.

5. Tie the casing into a knot and start extruding the meat into the casing, slipping more casing off as necessary. You want the casing to be tightly packed with the sausage mixture, but not so full that it bursts. At first, this can seem tricky, but as you go you'll get the hang of it. Now you have one long sausage. Gently twist it into 4-inch lengths. Cut apart or leave in a string and refrigerate until ready to cook, no more than two days. To store longer, freeze in zip-top bags with as much air squeezed out as possible.

Homemade Bratwurst Recipe

For the beer bath:

1. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, combine all the ingredients for the bath and bring to a low simmer.

2. Prepare a medium grill fire. Brown the brats evenly, off to the side of the coals, turning frequently. When the brats are browned, remove to the barely simmering beer bath and let sit for 15 minutes or longer.

Homemade Bratwurst Recipe

3. Serve the brats in good crusty buns with the braised onion slices on top. Have sauerkraut, whole-grain mustard, and ketchup on hand.

Homemade Bratwurst Recipe

What's your favorite type of sausage? Tell us in the comments below!

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Megan Scott.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Sheila Ann
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A southern girl with a globetrotting palate, I work alongside my husband John Becker to update and maintain the Joy of Cooking cookbook, website, and app. I love to bake, ferment, and preserve, and I spend an inordinate amount of time perusing farmers markets and daydreaming about chickens and goats.


Sheila A. November 8, 2021
Recipe looks good, can’t wait to try it. But don’t put ketchup on a brat. Ever. LOL
Ketchup is the devil’s work. LOL

Mustard For Life!!
george August 26, 2021
I made this recipe on saturday and it was delicious! I am writing from Wisconsin, and I need to tell you this is a great recipe, but it ain't a "Sheboygan brat", doesn't mean you shouldn't make it! Real Wisconsin, Minnesota or yooper (Upper Peninsula of Michigan) is 100% Pork, with salt, white pepper, mustard, nutmeg (or mace) and onion powder. And the beer bath is just beer, and maybe an onion if you're feelin' fancy. The great debate is do you poach the sausage before or after your brown on the grill. Peace/Out
Michelebuckler September 21, 2020
I made this recipe over the weekend. It was terrific. I eliminated the fatback, added a bit more salt, and cut the optional hot pepper flakes by half. They were delicious!
Michelebuckler September 21, 2020
I made this recipe over the weekend. It was terrific. I eliminated the fatback, added a bit more salt, and cut the optional report flakes by half. They were delicious!
Steven B. June 22, 2020
Cheboygan is a city in upper peninsula of Michigan.
hardlikearmour June 22, 2020
Sheboygan is a city/town on Lake Michigan in Wisconsin. It's about halfway between Green Bay and Milwaukee.
Michelebuckler September 21, 2020
Cheboygan Michigan is in the lower peninsula.
Fog C. July 10, 2019
More sausage recipes, please!!!
Geraldo C. February 10, 2016
Thank you by your help, from Brazil!
Chris E. January 28, 2016
After being in the Army, and living In Germany twice, I can say, with certainty, this IS the Bratwurst that I had while there. TERRIFIC!!!!
David D. December 15, 2015
We just stuff with a hand crank sausage stuffer. Works great and has an old timey feel.
Danny M. September 24, 2015
Does anyone have an alternative to sausage stuffing besides the KitchenAid sausage stuffer? I have one but it is VERY ineffective at stuffing sausage. The plunger just pushes air the entire time into the casings, its very slow so by the time you get movement your meat is already at room temp (which makes stuffing nearly impossible = horrible experience. Anyone have advice for using the KA, or suggestions for other products? Someone please help!!
Chris E. January 28, 2016
Due to the consistency of this, I used an Eatsman Outdoors jerky and sausage maker to make this. It's like a caulking gun, and it works great for making Brats.
painless February 4, 2016
I concur with Danny. If you are just making a couple of pounds at a time, get one of these:
For larger batches:
For large scale production:
Danny M. February 4, 2016
I got the LEM vertical stuffer, and IT WORKS LIKE A CHARM!
Patti July 19, 2015
Made these brats per recipe with only the following changes- omitted the fat back and used all the fat in the pork butt (I hate to waste anything when making sausage). Added an extra tsp salt to make up for no fat back (about 500mg sodium per 2 oz fat back and there's about 2,000 mg sodium in a tsp salt). WOW! My best sausage-making adventure to date. I'm wondering if the beer variety really matters since the beer is blended with strong-flavored onions, garlic, spices, butter, and then boiled. I hate to ruin high-quality beer so whatever is on sale is my "cooking beer". I do see how the beer bath keeps them tender and juicy though. Now I need to work on making the perfect bun to go with them. Anyone got a recipe?
Lefty February 14, 2015
I might be the first commenter who has actually made this recipe... :)
The spices were balanced aside from the nutmeg and red pepper flake, I cut both down a bit for my 2nd batch which came out nicely. Instead of garlic I opted for dark, almost burnt chopped onion which was fried in butter. I also added a splash of craft brown ale, a handful of golden raisins and minced Medjool dates. All seemed to add a pleasant, maltiness to the final product.
Boone B. September 15, 2014
Allen, there are top and bottom ale yests. Pilsner is a malt used in both ales and lagers. The majority of yeasts are ale yeasts. At least get your facts right if you'regoing to be smart about things.
Allen J. August 1, 2014
You recommend serving it with ale, lager or Pilsner, but All beers are either ale or lager, defined, respectively, by whether top- or bottom-forming yeast is used. Whatever beer you choose will be one of those.

Pilsner is a lager.
Aya October 16, 2013
This looks way better than any hot dog I've ever had! Especially love that drizzle of grainy mustard . . . that stuff's like gold!

Beehive A. October 9, 2013
Sheboygan native here... Can't wait to try making my own brats.
To me, the Hard Roll to serve it up on is key. A soft hamburger bun just doesn't cut it!
ChefJune October 9, 2013
i normally order my Brats from Nueske's, but this certainly looks like a fun project for a cold January weekend. :)
Gmarkb October 9, 2013
I live just down the road from Sheboygan. There are many little butcher shops in the Milwaukee area, north to Sheboygan that pride themselves on making great bratwurst. Those of us who have grown up and live in Wisconsin take for granted the abundance of great sausages - brats, Italians, Hungarians, Polish -- until we travel to other parts of the country and find out how unique it is. Brats grilled,steeped in beer-soaked onions, then slathered in grainy mustard is a staple around here, which partially explains our girth, I suppose. If you're ever in Milwaukee be sure to stop in to the Usingers factory store downtown.
savorthis October 9, 2013
Ha! I remember stopping in Sheboygan on a camping trip across country and loving the toasty buttered buns. We missed the Friday fry-out but the brats and cheese curds were great. And for some reason the restaurant owner gave us a "wink-wink nudge-nudge" when we told him we were from San Francisco. We still don't know exactly what he was getting at but it was pretty funny. Made my husband and me feel like exotic world travelers.
arcane54 October 9, 2013
Just saying Sheboygan makes me smile. Can't wait to have a brat party! I wish we could get Schlitz out here... Now that would bring back some good memories!
petitbleu October 9, 2013
Nice! My grandfather used to work at a Stroh's brewery, and I distinctly remember Schlitz. I wish we'd had one when we were taking photos of the brats!