Whether you are at a picnic in the park, cooking while camping, or grilling in your own backyard, you can’t beat the taste of a sizzling hot dog. The hot dog is as American as baseball games and your mom’s apple pie. Hot dogs are not typically considered complicated culinary fare. However, there are some tips and tricks you can use for tasty results when cooking up this summertime staple for family and friends.
11. Choose All Beef Hot Dogs
The perfect hot dog starts with a meaty frank. When shopping for hot dogs, avoid products made from a variety of mystery meats. Instead, search out wieners made from 100% beef. Check out the label and choose a product without excessive additives and fillers. A delicious hot dog doesn’t have to be expensive. In a taste test conducted by the Washington Post, Costco’s Kirkland Beef Hot Dogs came out the winner in a comparison of 15 brands of hot dogs. Second place was awarded to Nathan’s Angus Beef Franks, while Oscar Mayer Classic Beef Uncured Franks came in third.
10. Make Sure Your Hot Dogs Are Fully Defrosted
If you keep your sausages in the freezer until it is time to cook them up, be sure they are fully defrosted before placing them on the grill. Allowing your hot dogs to thaw overnight in the refrigerator ensures they are completely thawed out to deliver even cooking. If you decide at the last minute that a grilled hot dog would hit the spot, you can defrost them in the microwave. Place the wieners on a microwaveable plate, cover with a paper towel, and defrost in 30-second intervals until they are thawed but not cooked.
9. Simmer Before Grilling
There’s no reason to choke down a dry, charred, wiener. To seal in moisture, try simmering your hot dogs in boiling water until they are plump and juicy before grilling them. Better yet, Bon Appetit has a recipe for Beer-Braised Hot Dogs. This recipe calls for simmering your frankfurters in a mixture of beer and sugar before placing them on the grill to finish them off. Simmering your franks before grilling them not only keeps them juicy, it can also keep them from bursting open during the grilling process.
8. For Juiciness, Avoid Splitting Before Cooking
If plump, juicy franks are your goal, then avoid carving up your wieners before placing them on the grill. However, making a few small slits or score marks in the hot dogs can prevent the casings from splitting and thereby help to retain moisture. These score marks on your franks can also keep them moist while allowing for a crispy exterior. On the other hand, if you prefer crispiness over juiciness, Epicurious recommends spiral cutting your hot dogs. To spiral cut your franks, place each one on a skewer, and then rotate the skewer while slicing into the dog.
7. Properly Prepare Your Grill
Char-Broil recommends seasoning your grill grate by rubbing it with canola oil and seasoning it each time you use it. To season your grill the first time, apply canola oil to the unheated grate. Wipe off the excess oil with a paper towel, then heat the grill until the oil has burned off. Seasoned grates are darker in color and will help heat your food to a higher temperature and cook it evenly. Keeping your grill grate well-seasoned and free of burned-on food particles also prevents your hot dogs from sticking. Bring your grill to a high temperature before adding your meat.
6. Use Zones for Charcoal Grilling
If you are using a charcoal grill, avoid tossing your hot dogs on the grill while the coals are at their hottest. In fact, Kingsford advises setting up your charcoal grill with two zones. Keep your charcoal on one side of the grill and leave the other side of the grill empty of charcoal. This allows you to move your hot dogs to the cooler side of the grill if the heat suddenly flares up. The best time to add your wieners to the grill is when the charcoal has turned white.
5. Monitor the Heat
Once your grill has warmed up, you can turn down the heat. For the best results, maintain the temperature of your gas grill at about medium. Too low and your dogs won’t cook to tasty perfection. Too much heat and your wieners can burn or become dry and tasteless. Be prepared to stay right next to the grill during the cooking process, as hot dogs require constant attention.
4. Keep Your Franks Moving
When grilling your hot dogs, stay close to the grill. Wieners can cook quickly, and you don’t want to risk burning them. Furthermore, unlike hamburgers, which should be flipped only once during grilling, hot dogs should be kept moving. Use your grill spatula to keep your franks moving around the grill to prevent them from bursting due to high heat. Additionally, continually rotating your hot dogs on the grill allows them to cook thoroughly and evenly.
3. Toast the Buns
Once your hot dogs are perfectly grilled, toasted hot dog buns are the ideal venue for chowing down on these savory goodies. For delicious hot dog buns with the perfect balance of crispiness and chewiness, first spread the insides of the buns with melted butter. Then, place the buns butter-side down on the grill for two to three minutes until they achieve a beautiful golden brown color.
2. Don’t Forget the Fixings
While some claim all you need for the perfect hot dog is a squirt of ketchup, there are a variety of fixings that may appeal to your friends and family. The staples of hot dog condiments include ketchup, mustard, diced onions, and pickle relish. To create chili dogs, try this recipe for Jeff’s Hot Dog Chili from Allrecipes. Combine ground beef, tomato sauce, and ketchup with spices to make a tasty chili dog that will rival the ones from Coney Island. Shredded cheese, sauerkraut, salsa, and coleslaw also make great hot dog toppings.
1. Serve Up Some Tasty Sides
You can’t go wrong with pairing your franks with a bag of crunchy potato chips. However, there are many delicious accompaniments you can also bring to the table. Keep it simple by grilling up some sweet corn and slicing a watermelon. Baked beans, coleslaw, and potato salad are tried-and-true barbecue standbys. Or, go deluxe with this Food and Wine recipe for Pasta Salad with Grilled Vegetables, Parsley and Feta. Serve some fruit and a Strawberry Spinach Salad, and finish off the meal with a batch of gooey, fudgy brownies.