- As I chef, I know the main things to consider when buying and preparing hot dogs for a summer feast.
- Skinless sausages or hot dogs with natural casings are a good choice for grilling.
Even as a professional chef, I believe no backyard, summer feast is complete without hot dogs.
Hot dogs are a type of sausage traditionally made from pork or beef — though you can find a variety of meat and vegetarian options — and mixed with a good amount of spices. They’re then formed, encased, and preserved.
As you take advantage of the grilling weather, there are some easy ways you can elevate your hot-dog game.
When selecting which pack to buy, a simpler ingredient list is ideal
The better the butcher or more transparent the brand, the tastier your hot dog will likely be.
Always read the ingredients on the label — the fewer, the better.
Quality dogs are made with finely ground meat trimmings that were too small for other purposes. Those trimmings are then mixed with salt, curing agents, and seasonings like pepper, garlic, cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, sweet paprika, onion, and celery powder. Water or ice is often blended into the mixture and helps the sausage achieve its unique texture.
Also, consider what meat is best for your purposes. You can easily find beef and pork dogs, as well as chicken, turkey, or meatless options.
Skinless sausages or hot dogs with natural casings are best for grilling
If you’ve ever taken a bite of a freshly steamed sausage and noticed a snap, that’s from the casing. The squishy meat mixture has to go into something, and these shells hold it together.
Natural casings are made of cleaned and processed animal intestines, but there are synthetic options created with collagen, cellulose, and even plastic that are not always edible.
Most hot dogs have casings at one point, but any package marked “skinless” means it was peeled off after cooking.
Skinless or natural-casing hot dogs are great for grilling since sausages with artificial ones can become tough.
If you’re wary of added chemicals, opt for uncured hot dogs
Curing is a method of food preservation that traditionally involves salt. Cured meats, including sausages and hams, often have a pink color, no matter how thoroughly they’re cooked.
But these days, there are many ways to chemically cure meat.
When a package of hot dogs says that it’s “cured,” it means the meat’s been preserved with artificial nitrates or nitrites, and not everyone wants added chemicals in their food.
On the other hand, an uncured hot dog is preserved using naturally occurring nitrates, like salt or powdered celery.
Make sure to warm your bun
From brioche to potato rolls, most people have their bun of choice, but just because the bread is ready to eat doesn’t mean you should serve it as is.
Use the way you’re cooking the hot dogs to your advantage. If the grill is fired up, toss the buns on it for a minute or two.
If you’re steaming or boiling hot dogs, briefly add the buns to the emptied pan or pot and shut the lid. The residual heat will make the bread super fluffy.
Toppings tie together a meal and there are a lot of options
Pretty much anything can go on a hot dog.
For extra flavor, wrap the meat in bacon and pop it on the grill, then complete it with chili, cheese, and chopped onions or grilled jalapeños and cheese sauce.
You can also simply top your hot dog with ketchup and mustard for a classic take.
I recommend leaving a variety of toppings out so people can assemble their own combinations of flavors.