Schwenker is a popular German style cook-out — a combination of recipe and method of cooking. And Wow! It tastes fantastic! Instead of throwing your meat on a grill above charcoal where the cook must constantly move the meat to even out cooking temperatures, the Germans have an ingenious but simple method: they swing that sweet chariot of flavorful meat right over the coals, baby!
That’s right, instead of moving the meat around the grill from hot-spot to safe-zone, and from cool spot to hot spot, they simply swing and spin the grill loaded up with meat over hardwood coals. The grill is suspended from a tripod that it is easy and inexpensive to make in your garage. I’ll show you how. I made mine in an hour for under $30.
But that is not all — the meat has been bathed in all the glory that a lengthy 3-day soak in seasoning, onions, and riesling wine can provide. And the flavor is absolutely divine. DIVINE, I SAY!
Let’s get started!
Marinate Your Meat
First, get your meat marinating. Pork is preferred but lately Germans have been schwenking all sorts of meat. My recipe is based on Anne Junglen’s of Zeltingen, Germany, originally published by NPR. I used three pounds of thick-cut, boneless, sirloin pork chops. Use a non-reactive container for this three-day baptism of flavor. Coat all sides of the chops with kosher salt, a liberal amount of freshly cracked black pepper, and then sprinkle on a medium amount of dried thyme (thyme is incredible with many meats!). Next, cut three pounds of yellow onions into quarters, peel the outer skin and place on top of the meat, then sprinkle the onions with a little more pepper. Most importantly, bless these babies with 1 to 1 1/2 cups of riesling wine (until covered in the lovely liquid), cover and refrigerate for at least 48 hours, but a 3-day soak will work miracles!
3 lbs. boneless thick-cut pork chops
3 lbs. yellow onions, cut into quarters
1 Cup Riesling wine
How to Make A Simple Schwenker Grill
Of course, you can grill your marinated meat and onions directly over charcoal, or even on a gas grill. But why not make a simple swinging schwenker grill while your meat is marinating? Incidentally, schwenker is the style of cooking, the grill cooked on, and the person cooking it, AKA schwenkmeister! Here’s a list of what you need:
1 24-inch BBQ cooking grate (I got a porcelain-coated grate at my lumberyard for $8.50)
3 ten-foot sections of 3/4″ electrical conduit ($1.50 each at lumberyard)
3 ¾” eye-bolts with 9/16″ nuts ($1.50 each at lumberyard)
13 feet of lightweight chain ($.59 per foot at lumberyard)
4 spring-bolts (dog leash clips; I bought 2 2-packs at Wally World for $1.99 each)
1 s-hook to fit around one of the eye-hooks
Marker (sharpies are worth their weight in gold)
Pipe-cutter or hack-saw (conduit is easy to cut)
Vise (for opening and closing one eye-bolt)
Pliers (for opening and closing chain links and s-hooks)
- Mark and cut each piece of conduit at 7 ½ feet
- Place one ring of one eye-bolt firmly into vise and pry open the ring enough to slip the other two eye-bolts into the ring, then close it back up. Be sure to not damage the threads of the bolt.
- Thread a nut onto each eye-bolt and lightly tap one into the end of each piece of conduit with a hammer. Set your new tripod up vertically.
EASY SWINGING GRATE
- Use pliers to open up chain links to create three lengths of chain, each 30″ long. Attach
one spring clip to each of the three opened chain links by squeezing the link closed.
- Separate a length of chain 15″ long. Attach each of the three 30″ lengths of chains to it by the ends opposite the spring clips. Place the 4th spring clip on the unattached end of the single chain.
- Attach the spring clips to the outer edge of your cooking grate, evenly spaced out and lift the assembly up by the central chain. You should now have a cooking grate hanging evenly from a chain assembly.
- Attach the remaining length of chain (about 30″) to a ring of on of the eye-bolts using an s-hook and set up the tripod vertically
- Use the spring clip to hang the grate from the single chain hanging down from the tripod. Experiment a bit. You should be able to lower the grate to about 6″ above the ground and raise it up a few feet above the ground by moving the the spring clip up and down the central chain.
- Give is a gentle swing and a slight swing.
- Create a hearty hardwood fire in safe location. I did this with the tripod in place but the grill assembly removed. Allow most of the wood to burn down into coals (this drives off much of the compound that would make your meat taste like an ashtray. When ready, spread the coals out bit.
- Hang your grate over the coals and apply a liberal amount of cooking oil to the grate with tongs and a paper-towel. Adjust grate height to about 3″ above the coals.
- Place your pork, onions, and brats on the grill being mindful of the edge of your grate.
- Gently spin and swing your grill over the coals until your meat is ready to flip. As long as you keep the grate gently moving, you wont need to move food on the grate. It will cook very evenly.
- When ready, carefully use a leather glove to hold the grate still while you flip the meat and turn the onions. Be aware of the edge of the grill.
- As your coals die down, you will likely need to lower the grate to maintain cooking temperature. Cook until your meat reaches a safe minimum internal temperature (145° with a 3 minute rest for pork)and check it with a good digital thermometer.
Congratulations! You’re a schwenker!
The flavor is so amazing you will think you have died and gone to heaven!
Got images or video of your schwenker? Helpful suggestions to share? I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or contact me.