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Grilled Cucumber Is the Topping Your Hot Dogs Need

If pickles and relish belong on a hot dog, then cucumbers do, too.

Published May 31, 2023.

When cooking outdoors, it’s tempting to grill everything. And we really do mean everythinggrilled cocktails, anyone? All those smoky flavors and delicious char . . . why not?

But there’s another thing we think you should grill. Your hot dog topping. Specifically, cucumbers. 

The team behind our new cookbook The Outdoor Cook was looking for a way to "spruce up" a hot simple hot dog, said Executive Food Editor Dan Zuccarello. Inspired by an Ottolenghi recipe, the team landed on adding a slice of grilled cucumber. "Pickles and hot dogs are a common pairing, and this seemed like a fun twist," adds Zuccarello.

We couldn't agree more.

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Grilling a cucumber turns it into a whole new vegetable. As with most grilled vegetables, the exterior caramelizes over the hot grate and the smallest amount of oil keeps everything from sticking. Cooking off so much water results in a crisp-tender texture that is reminiscent of grilled zucchini. 

Plus, grilling amplifies the cucumber’s natural flavor with the crisp crunch you’d expect. The more char, the better. In fact the biggest takeaway Zuccarello and the team developing the grilling recipes for The Outdoor Cook found was about achieving the maximum amount of char while still maintaining the crunchy texture. 

“In order to achieve enough charring, we needed to slice it into quarters for grilling, then slice it further into thinner spears for serving,” said Zuccarello. That way, the slices of cucumber didn’t cook too quickly (or slip through the grates) and fit perfectly onto a hot dog bun.

Here’s how to grill your new favorite hot dog topper.

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How to Grill Cucumbers

This summer, put away that jar of relish. You’ll be glad you did. 

1A. For a Charcoal Grill: Prepare hot half-grill fire using 6 quarts charcoal. 

1B. For a Gas Grill: Turn all burners to high; cover; and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave the primary burner on high and turn the other burner(s) to low. 

2. Cut 1 pickling cucumber lengthwise into quarters and toss with 1/4 teaspoon table salt and 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil.

3. Place cucumbers on the hotter side of the grill, cut side down. Cook covered, turning as needed, until lightly charred on cut sides, 8 to 10 minutes.

4. Once cooled, divide quarters into spears and serve alongside hot dogs in buns.

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