Hot Dogs vs. Bratwursts: Unwrapping the Difference

As asked by a CMWR event attendee, what is the difference between a hot dog and a bratwurst? They seem pretty similar, since they’re both made of meat, are generally the same shape, and can go on a bun. (Though many of us probably have pretty strong opinions about which one is superior.) They do have some differences, though, which I’ll explore in this post, in case you’re curious. And be sure to share your preference in the comments below!

Where’d they come from and what’s in the meat?

Bratwursts are from Germany originally. They can be made of a variety of meats—some of which include veal, pork, and beef. There are many different styles they are prepared in, depending on where you are. For example, the Coburger bratwurst is seasoned with salt, pepper, nutmeg, and lemon zest and made of veal and beef. Its texture is grainy and thick. It’s both wide and long, while the Kulmbacher bratwurst is extremely thin and long, with a finer texture. The Kulmbacher is also made from primarily veal. In the United States, a more popular kind of bratwurst is the “beer brat,” which primarily references a method of cooking. These brats often cook entirely on a stove pan with beer, or are partially cooked on the stove and then moved to the grill. This brat was popularized in Wisconsin, where the majority of immigrants were German.

The hot dog’s history is a bit more controversial than the brat’s. America generally lays claim to the hot dog, largely because it was popularized here and became a symbol of American baseball. However, many different people claim they invented the hot dog, including Frankfurter Würstchen, Antonoine Feuchtwanger, and Harry Stevens. The variance among hot dog varieties is much more mysterious than the variance among brat varieties. In general, hot dogs are much more processed than bratwursts. Pork, beef, chicken, turkey, and other mysterious meats can go in hot dogs in various amounts and combinations. Hot dogs also typically have more sodium and preservatives than bratwursts.

How do you eat them?

How you eat a bratwurst is largely dependent on what kind of brat it is. The actual brat and the fixings go hand in hand, while hot dogs are identified by the toppings. To continue with the examples referenced above, the Coburger bratwurst is grilled over pinecones and served in a bread roll, and the Kulmbacher is traditionally served in threes on a special roll with anise seeds. Both of these can also be served sans roll and with sauerkraut.

Hot dogs are traditionally served on wheat rolls. A popular variation is the Coney, served with Cincinnati chili, mustard, and chopped onions. And of course, the Chicago hot dog is served on a sesame seed bun with mustard, white onions, relish, tomato wedges, a dill pickle spear, a bit of celery salt, peppers, and perhaps most importantly—no ketchup!

So, what’s your preference? Feel free to share your favorite way to prepare and eat hot dogs and bratwursts in the comments below!