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A Swiss Style Cookout

It's summer in Switzerland. Summer here means long days and lots of fun things to do outside. Unless it's raining of course, although even then there are plenty of things to do outdoors. Summer also means lots and lots of use for that barbecue that you bought in the spring.

The Swiss love their grilled meats and sausages with a selection of salads and potato chips. In fact, you can spot some sort of barbecue grill on most balconies and lawns. We call these cookouts "grilliere" ('to grill') - and love to have them especially on weekends.

However, there is another style of cookout that is (also) very common in Switzerland. If a cookout is not held at home but somewhere outdoors it isn't called "grilliere" anymore. In this case it is called "brötle".

Brötle - A Swiss Style Cookout

The Swiss German word "brötle" comes from the German word "braten" and could be translated as "to roast" or to "to barbecue". It generally refers to all the activities related to the outdoor cookout from beginning to end, e.g. making a fire or slicing the sausages. Think of it similar to an American style barbecue. When Americans talk about having a barbecue they're usually referring to the whole event and not just the cooking of meat.

An Activity for Everyone

"Brötle" is a pretty laid back activity for people of all ages. A group of friends can be seen doing it, or a family or even a couple. Solitary "brötle" isn't very common although I'm sure it exists. Maybe that's even where the word "Eigenbrötler" (lone wolf, lit. "solitary roaster") comes from.

Ingredients for a Typical Swiss Style Cookout

1) The Cookout Location

For a typical Swiss style "Brötle" you first select a cookout location, called "Brötlischtell" ("roasting place").  There are many public locations easily accessible near villages, in the forests, at the shores of rivers and lakes. You can usually reach them by car or public transportation and a short walk. Other locations are a bit further off and can only be reached by walking. Some are really far off and require several hours of hiking to get there. In fact, in this case the activity is probably not "brötle" but trekking.

2) The Menu

After you've selected the location, you decide on the menu. Typically you'll include Swiss sausages like Bratwurst and Cervelat but other meat is popular as well, especially on accessible locations where you can bring a cooler. Pasta, potato or rice salad are common side dishes. Slices of bread or a whole loaf belong on the table as well.

Sometimes people bring potatoes and tin foil to bake them in the blaze, or vegetables to put on the grill. A fun food to eat is "Schlangenbrot" ('snake bread') which basically is bread dough wrapped around a long stick and cooked over the fire. Dessert can be tin apples or chocolate filled bananas (wrapped in tin foil) cooked on the fire as well.

For drinks people usually do with beer, water or soft drinks. Wine isn't a very typical "brötle"-ingredient.

3) The Activity

Once you get to your location with all your food, you can start the actual "brötle". This means, you'll first have to start the fire. For a fire you'll need wood and in many places you can find plenty in the surroundings of the "Brötlischtell". Usually everyone will give a hand and collect a few branches for the fire. If you know you'll be nowhere near forests, you're well advised to prepare and bring along some wood.

One or two people will assume the task of making the fire while the others set the table (or picnic blanket) and get the meats ready for cooking. Once the fire has died down a little and there are plenty of blazing coals, you can start. If there isn't a grate to put the meat on, you can use long sticks and hold them over the fire. This works very well with sausages!

You'll cook as long as people want to eat or until there is no more left. The whole activity usually goes on for several hours. A very enjoyable time!




  1. Grüessach Irene,
    I came across your blog few months ago, when I was looking for interesting sites about Switzerland.
    It has been almost two years sinced we moved here from the Czech Republic and I started writing about living here on my blog, because I love it here and I like to share, how beautiful this country is. In my blog I focus mainly on family friendly trips and activities (and bit of traveling abroad and DIY).
    So if you have time, you can visit my blog and if you like it, I'll be glad when you subscribe to my posts, or you will follow me on Facebook (or you will add me to you your list of expat blogs ;))
    Btw. I have also written a post about having picnic in Switzerland (

    Have a nice day,
    Hanka, aka AdinaJustina

    1. Hello AdinaJustina
      I just checked your blog. It looks great (I had to use google translate though :)). I will definitely keep looking in!


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