Guide to German Hams and Sausages

As with breads and beers, cured meats—hams and sausages—are essential components of German cuisine. You can find close to 1,500 varieties of sausages across the country, while hams are divided into two main categories: the air-dried, prosciutto-like “raw ham” (Rohschinken) and the boiled, pink “cooked ham” (Kochschinken).

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Both “raw” and “cooked” hams are frequently featured as ingredients in German cooking, for example White Asparagus with Black Forest Ham or mixed into the comfort-food classic Stuttgarter Spaetzle. Ham is also used much like it is in the US, in sandwiches for the casual German evening meal (Abendbrot), along with mustard and fresh tomatoes, pickles or cucumbers.

The quality and ultimately the price of hams depend on how long they have been smoked and air dried. A distinction is then made between Knochenschinken (ham on the bone), Nussschinken (fillet ham), Rollschinken (rolled ham) and Schinkenspeck (bacon), depending on the way in which the ham is cut, spiced, smoked, dried, or stored.

An important note: the original Black Forest ham is actually a Rohschinken (“raw” prosciutto-like ham), not a cooked ham as it is sold in the US. This ham owes its unmistakable smoky flavor and  dark red color framed by a white layer of fat to the fact that the ham is de-boned before it is cured and then smoked over pine wood. This process gained the EU Protected Designation of Orgin (PDO), which means a ham cannot be called Black Forest ham, if it wasn’t  produced in the Black Forest region under regulated conditions and using time-honored methods.

Light Smoked Ham (Gekochter Schinken)

Light smoked ham. A real traditional German cooked ham. Smoked over beechwood and very mild.



Black Forest Ham (Air Dried Black Forest Ham)


A great number of German states, cities, or even towns have their own signature ways to mince, mesh, and stuff meat, bacon, salt and spices into a casing made from intestines or other materials. Germans differentiate between three types of sausages: Kochwurst (cooked—over 350 types), Brühwurst (scalded—over 800 types) and Rohwurst (raw sausages—60 types ) These are all prepared in various ways and consumed either cold, warm or hot, and whole or sliced.

Brühwursts are the most common type. Made from raw pork or beef, bacon, and finely crushed ice, which are finely minced and mixed with salt, pepper and other spices, such as coriander, paprika, nutmeg, ginger, or cardamom. The name “scalded sausage” (Brühwurst) comes from the fact that these sausages are scalded in hot water or steam. They need to be refrigerated and eaten as soon as possible. The most common varieties are: Fleischwurst, Bierwurst, Jagdwurst, Bierschinken, Paprikawurst, and Zigeunerwurst (literally, “gypsy sausage”).

The most famous of Germany’s sausages are the “Würstchen.” Würstchen can be eaten any time and anywhere; they are filling, taste great and are good not only as a between-meal snack. One could say they are the original convenience food. There’s a huge variety of würstchen, including Bockwurst, Frankfurter or Vienna sausage, Nurnberger or Thuringian sausage—eaten hot or cold, singly or in pairs, grilled or fried. And what would Munich’s annual Oktoberfest be without the world-famous Weisswurst? Real Bavarians eat this scalded sausage variety, which contains lots of fresh parsley, before noon, with sweet mustard and fresh pretzels and, of course, a real Bavarian beer. Here are the most famous varieties:







Wiener (Wiener Würstchen)