Germany; land of the infamous speed limit free autobahn where supercars with big engines floor it , land of sausages ...
Germany; land of the infamous speed limit free autobahn where supercars with big engines floor it , land of sausages bigger than a small English cottage and land of gigantic mugs of beer to wash all that sausage down. We don’t suggest you do all those things together of course; at least not the autobahn one anyway, as that would be illegal given the amount of beer one might consume at Oktoberfest. The point is that Germans like to do things big, and the barbecue really is no exception. So, in this instalment of our ‘Barbecues Around the World’ series let’s take a trip to the land of “Unity and Justice and Freedom” to find out how the regular folk of Germany like their barbecues.
The German “Grillen” Barbecue
Germans call a barbecue a “grillen” which, to be totally honest, is simply another name for “grilling”. I should take this opportunity to say I am “chillin” on the “grillen”, although I’m not exactly sure why I said that and any coolness I once held onto with a tight grip has just slipped free and packed a holiday to Cuba. Maybe it will come back one day with tales of Cuban barbecues and a suitcase full of Cuban cigars?
Anyway, I’m getting off the point. Germans tend to do their grilling over a charcoal barbecue, although they are adopting gas barbecues too. The best thing about a German barbecue is that it tends to involve lots of sausages, and being quite the connoisseur of sausage I’m thinking that a trip to Germany may be on the cards for me soon. There are over 1200 varieties of German sausage; with everything from the popular Frankfurter to Cervelat (pork, beef, mustard and garlic) ripe for throwing on the barbecue too.
Aside from sausages though, Germans will throw pork, beef, chicken and duck on the barbecue too, as well as fish including eel and trout. As a side note, if you’re interested in seeing how eel is prepared on a barbecue then view this video of the process being carried out in Japan. Be warned though, it may put you off eating the slimy creature for life! Although I’m sure most of you never intended to anyway.
A few regions in Germany – Saarland, the Mosel Valley, and Rheinland-Pfalz – have their own way of cooking a barbecue; it’s called Schwenker.
When Germans talk about Schwenker they could mean three different things. First off the name can be applied to the marinated pork neck steak that comes from Saarland and is grilled on a Schwenker by a Schwenker. Confused yet? I never took German at GCSE so bear with me here! Basically the name Schwenker applies to the meat, the grill on which it is grilled and the person who operates it; although there are alternative names for those who are getting just as confused as I initially was. The meat is basic enough, with green herb or red paprika marinade typically added when preparing, but it’s the Schwenker (sorry) itself that is particularly interesting.
The Schwenker is made up of a fire bowl – typically just a campfire – with a swinging grill hanging from a tripod over it. It took off because a Schwenker can be made from materials you have on hand, making it a real outdoor experience. These days though Germans normally just buy them from their local supermarkets. As for the person who operates the Schwenker – normally a man as that seems to be the tradition the barbecue world over – they’re sometimes called the Schwenkermeister. I don’t know about you, but that makes that person sound really important and they should be worshiped like a king. Dammit, I want to be a Schwenkermeister!
Aside from meat, including that lovely drool-inducing batch of sausages that I’ve been eyeing upon Hans’ Schwenker, German barbecues are typically accompanied by various side salads. Potato salad is a particular favourite while pasta and your average green salad will also put in an appearance. It’s worth noting that beer is a popular beverage at a German barbecue too, but British, American and Australian barbecues have enough beer to sink a pedalo being driven by Freddie Flintoff anyway.
So, if you’re ever at a German barbecue you should do these things:
- Raise a glass of Pils (or one of the many types of German beer)
- Eat some delicious sausage
- Bow down to the Schwenkermeister
It makes a few burnt sausages on a wet English day seem a bit pale in comparison.
If you liked this then why not read our other articles in the ‘Barbecues Around the World’ series? Head to South Africa or Japan. The Schwenker grill image is from Wikipedia and is used under a Creative Commons Licence.
Did you know that the world’s best-selling and largest chain of restaurants started out as a simple and rather humble ...
Did you know that the world’s best-selling and largest chain of restaurants started out as a simple and rather humble downtown barbecue joint?
McDonald’s, which has 33,000 locations and a staggering 68 million customers worldwide, was once a humble hickory hamburger stand in California which managed to knock its competitors out the ballpark because it believed in the notion of production line principles.
But that wasn’t always the case. When it first opened in the mid 1940s the restaurant’s menu consisted of a variation of barbecued beef, ham and pork. Hamburgers came second place at that time, according to a report by US news station CNN.
It was only when brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald, the owners of the very first McDonald’s, closed their store for three months and returned with a new formula – fast, standardised food sold at high volume, that the chain started to become known as the successful outfit it is today. The idea of franchising didn’t do it any harm either.
The ingenious re-marketing ploy was in 1948 and didn’t include barbecuing because it took so long to prepare. Instead, barbecue cooking became known as a regional speciality instead.
So just what variations are there when it comes to barbecuing trends? We take a look here at how different countries consider barbecue and how they cook it:
Country-wide variations in barbecue cooking:
- Looking at the United States, marinades differ considerably between different sections of the country. For instance vinegar-based sauces are more popular in the South East while tomato-based is a favourite in the Mid-West
- In South Africa they’ve even changed the name barbecue to that of braai!
- Many individuals are probably familiar with the form of barbecue in Hong Kong. It’s known as char siu and involves long narrow strips of pork dipped in a honey and soy sauce marinade then cooked in the open air.
- In the French and Swiss Alps the tradition is to cook meat outdoors on a hot stone. This is known as pierade
- As you would expect, the German’s love barbecue. In fact, this nation of sausage lovers can’t get enough of the activity and enjoy grilling with charcoal or gas
- In Mexico they regularly partake of a Horno where carne asada (roasted meat) is usually on the menu. This involves lots of marinated beef rubbed in salt and pepper then grilled. Toritillas and bell peppers are usually served as a side dish
- The traditional dish of Argentina as well as countries such as Brazil, Chile and Uraguay is cuts of meat cooked asado-style. This is on an open fire and with other meats alongside
- In the Middle East the Shish Taoouq, made from beef and lamb, beef steaks, chicken, or non-pork sausages is a very popular dish. Barbecuing in this part of the willing is done on coal and in India the meat is often eaten with side dishes of pitta bread, tahini and hummus.
So how many of the above methods of barbecue have you tried and when it knuckles down it, which is your favourite?