It's been said there are as many kinds of German sausages as there are Eskimo words for snow. While that is surely an exaggeration, this European country's fascination with meat in a tube has resulted in sausages spicy and mild; soft and hard; and cured or fresh. There's a recommended cooking technique Germans prefer for each of these culinary creations, so go ahead and do your wurst.
On the Grill
Bratwurst and Knockwurst both take nicely to outdoor grilling. Just be sure to use tongs instead of a fork to avoid piercing the skin and allow the juices to escape. To keep the sausages from bursting, spray them frequently with water or splash them with beer. Small Nuremberg sausages are traditionally crisped over a grill and served in threes on a sliced hard roll with a dollop of spicy mustard.
Brats come both raw and cooked. If you have chosen the raw version, simmer the sausages in beer or water for 5 or 6 minutes before grilling or frying.
In the Pan
The rote wurst variety of Bratwurst is often just called "The Red." The meat is pink with a lot of spices and bacon bits added into the pork. It's a good one to pan-fry because of the traditional cross cuts on the ends. The cuts allow the meat to expand without the whole thing exploding. Lower-fat summer sausages such as the huge Thuringer, and its smaller Swiss cousin the cervelat, also work in the pan as long as you use a coating of bacon fat and a splash or 2 of beer.
Not unlike the classic American street-food hot dog, the German frankfurter is steamed in water. In fact, this thin pork sausage -- protected by law since 1860 -- is merely heated through in hot water and served up with bread and potato salad. For sausages that are not precooked, simmer them in a couple of inches of beer and any other seasoning you fancy. The creamy white Bockwurst goes well with its namesake beer.
The beer you use for steaming will impart flavor to your sausage, so choose a good one. If you don't use it all, you can always drink it.
You've grilled it, steamed it, fried it -- now what? Serve it on a bed of hot sauerkraut or with a side of warm German potato salad. For a simple meal, provide some long crusty buns, spicy mustard, pickled peppers and grilled onions and let your guests do the fixings.