Meat Morgan: Everything Worth Knowing About Hot Dogs

Deputy Food Editor Morgan Bolling shares 10 things you need to know about hot dogs.

Published Aug. 6, 2019.

Whether you love cooking meat or just eating it, it’s time you formally meet our in-house meat connoisseur, Morgan Bolling. She’s worked at a few different kitchens across the United States, gracing those who will listen with her meat knowledge. When she’s not at work developing a new meaty recipe, there’s a chance that she’s hosting a homemade sausage dinner, running a half marathon (to cancel out those sausage dinners), or planning her next pig roast.

From the “hot water” sausages of Coney Island to the pineapple-topped “puka dogs” of Kauai, you can find a hot dog in nearly every corner of America. Even the way you dress your dog can vary with regional custom. Still, the sausages themselves remain relatively constant across all 50 states—a mixture of meat trimmings, water, salt, and seasonings is stuffed into casings and then smoked and cooked. Keep reading to learn all of the things you can do with a frankfurter. 


Slow-Cooker Barbecue Franks and Beans

Bring this savory, meaty, sweet, smoky, and spicy dish to your next backyard gathering . . . it makes a great guest.
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1. Which store-bought hotdog options are best?

Nathan's Famous Skinless Beef Franks. This product emerged as top dog for its “supersmoky” meatiness and “juicy,” “snappy” texture. Our in-house taste testers commented on how plump these hot dogs are and how they're "perfect size" and give a "nice contrast to the bun." We even had one happy taster say, “this is my ideal dog.”

2. Any other shopping tips?

Avoid ones with corn syrup listed as one of the top ingredients; that can make them too sweet and soft.  We also preferred those with a higher fat percentage, making them moister. 

3. Why do many hot dogs say they’re “skinless”?

Traditionally, hot dogs were made using natural casings (aka the intestinal lining from pigs).  Nowadays, it’s more common for casings to be made of cellulose, which is stripped off before packaging.

4. What's the best way to cook them (grill, boil, etc)?

Personally, I prefer to saute or grill hot dogs over boiled water or by steaming them. It gives them crisp skin and some char.

5. Are they made with beef or pork?

Traditional frankfurters—the kind originally brought over by European immigrants in the mid-1800s—are primarily pork-based and can still be found in supermarkets nationwide. But nearly every hot dog manufacturer we talked to told us that all-beef hot dogs now vastly outsell traditional frankfurters because of their punchier meatiness and more straightforward ingredient list. Pork frankfurters today are often bulked up with added poultry or soy. 

6. What's the difference between hot dogs and brats?

Brats are made from ground pork and veal and seasoned with an herbal sweet mix of caraway, coriander, ginger, and nutmeg. They’re available fresh (uncooked). 

Hot dogs (aka franks): were traditionally made with pork but now are more commonly made with beef in the U.S.  They’re cured, smoked, and fully-cooked. They’re seasoned with garlic, coriander, mustard, nutmeg, salt and sugar. 

7. What can you do with hot dogs besides have them in a bun?

You have options. Try corndogs, pigs in a blanket, or put them in mac and cheese. My favorite is franks and beans. Check out our recipe for Slow Cooker Barbecue Franks and Beans.

8. What are some out-of-the-box toppings/condiments?

We polled different people in the test kitchen for this answer.

Nacho cheese, crumbled potato chips, caramelized onions, or slaw.

9. Since they're fully cooked, do you need to cook them to a certain temp?

Nope! You just need to warm them to make them more fun to eat.

10. Bun toasted or untoasted?

I like untoasted personally, but I wouldn’t turn down a toasted bun either.

If you're looking for new or familiar hot dog options, check out our recipe database.

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