The marinade mixture for Sauerbraten varies with the particular recipe. Vinegar and a sweet syrup, beer and water, or olive oil combined with an entire bottle of red wine, are only a few of the combinations of ingredients that may be used for the liquid portion of the marinade in the many variations of Sauerbraten. Seasonings for the marinade may include cloves, juniper berries, carrots, onions, celery, bay leaves, and peppercorns. The meat is soaked in the marinade for several days in the refrigerator, and often it may be left for a week or longer.
After the meat is marinated, it is ready to be cooked. Most often, the meat is braised in the marinade, but some recipes call for the marinade to be discarded and a fresh mixture of stock, water, and wine be used as the braising liquid. In both cases, the meat is seared in a pan on the stovetop prior to braising it in the liquid (in the oven). When the meat is done, the liquid is used to create a pan sauce, usually by reducing it and thickening it. In some versions of sauerbraten, ginger snaps are crushed and added to the sauce as a thickener while other recipes may call for sour cream to be used. Often, the sauce is strained before serving. It is traditional for Sauerbraten to be served with spaetzle, potatoes, or noodles.