Sauerbraten (German Beef Roast)


The entire month of October really is a very significant month for our family. Oktoberfest is celebrated at the beginning of the month, and although we don’t have a local Biergarten we try to have our own little family celebrations. The month is scattered with birthdays in our family, so we generally prepare at least one batch of sauerbraten to celebrate. I should probably consider not using bacon as a condiment, but October is just not the time to try and convince me its a bad idea. Why? Sauerbraten, sauer meaning sour or “pickled” and braten meaning roasted meat is probably the most popular, traditional German supper. For my family German food is what we all associate as family food, and these hearty recipes are familiar to us. Although somewhat humble, sauerbraten is possibly one of my absolute favorite recipes… ever. As a kid we had only it for special occasions, and I suppose I’m passing that tradition on to the next generation. Why is it so special you ask? It takes about 4 days to pickle the roast and a good few hours to simmer. I promise you it is well worth it!

Sauerbraten, German Pot Roast Recipe
  • 1 large onion sliced
  • 2 Carrots, 2 Stalks of Celery (Optional)
  • 1 3-5 pound roast, see note*
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pickling spice
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon pink (or black) peppercorns
  • (+I also add a little extra allspice and whole mustard seed)
  • 2 cups vinegar
  • 5 cups of water or milk, whatever it takes to cover the roast. (Milk works good for game and tough cuts of meat)

To Prepare:

  • 4-6 slices of bacon

In a large non metallic crock, air tight plastic container or air lock baggy combine all ingredients and allow to soak 4-5 days. Make sure not to use a metallic container, if your using a baggy insure that its resting in another vessel to prevent accidental leakage. Depending on the size of your roast will determine how long it needs to soak. Anything above 5 pounds you will want to increase spices a bit and soak longer about 1 day per pound.

NOTE: You can use beef, venison or even Pork. (called schweinebraten)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

After your roast has soaked strain the liquid, remove the roast from the soaking liquid and DO NOT throw away the liquid. Pat the roast dry and sprinkle with a little bit of flour or arrowroot. In a large dutch oven or oven safe lidded pan, (cast iron preferably) cook bacon until crisp, remove from pan without discarding the grease. (You can use this bacon to place in the gravy or for another use.) Fry the roast in the bacon grease on all sides approximately 6 minutes, or until browned.

Set the roast aside. aside. Pick through the strained vegetables and spices and pick out any real large things that you might not want to bite into, allspice, bay leaves etc. Cook the remaining vegetables in the pan the roast and bacon were cooked in. Place the meat in the pan and cover with the soaking liquid. Cover with a lid and place in the oven for 4-6 hours adding more liquid if necessary. (or about 3 1/2 hours for a 2-3 pound roast)

Remove roast and strain the liquid. I wrap my roast in foil and set it aside. (You can let it cool and refrigerate it at this point if you’d like I have always preferred sauerbraten after its been well rested, often the next day it is even better!) Press the vegetables into the strainer thoroughly to get all of the juices. Discard the vegetables at this point and make your gravy.

Sauerbraten Gingersnap Gravy: (Optional)
  • All reserved liquid from soaking and roasting
  • 4-8 Gingersnaps (depending on how large they are I use about 3-4 large homemade cookies.)
  • 2 teaspoons raw sugar

Any liquid that did not get used for roasting crumble gingersnaps and sugar into. Stir around and allow cookies to soften. Stir this mixture into the pot with the soaking liquid, whisk until smooth. You can reduce on the stove top or place back into the oven until thick.