Barbecues Around the World: A German Barbecue

German Barbecue

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?

German Barbecue

German Barbecue

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.



Schwenker Barbecues

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.

Thomas Tanksley

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