When it comes to grilling, there’s one classic meat that I prefer above all others. It’s not juicy ribs, or a perfectly seared tri-tip or even a really expensive rib-eye. It’s a good old fashioned hot dog.
In the summer, there is nothing more satisfying that a perfectly grilled dog in a toasted bun, topped with sauerkraut and mustard with an ice cold beer. Hot dogs get a bad rap as being a low-rent barbecue item, but when you purchase the right meat and really know how to grill them, hot dogs rise to another level.
Buying Quality Hot Dogs
As with any great meal, getting a great grilled dog starts with the ingredients. Quality hot dog meat will make or break this particular grilling experience. But how do you choose the right raw hot dog from the fifty varieties packed into grocery store shelves?
Following these simple rules will help you make the best selection:
- The number one rule is to look for hot dogs that don’t have any artificial colors or flavors. Hot dogs with natural ingredients that aren’t enhanced with chemicals and additives always taste better and grill better.
- Go all beef. When it comes to taste and grilling, all beef hot dogs perform best.
- No sugars. Your hot dog does not needed any added sweeteners to taste delicious, so look for brands without sugar added.
- No nitrates or nitrites. These additives have been found to create nitrosamines at high temperatures (like a grill), which are known carcinogens. Nitrites specifically are often used to cure meat, which is why they are found in hot dogs, deli meats and bacon. Skipping dogs that include nitrites especially, even natural ones, is a healthier and safer choice.
- When it comes to health concerns, organic and grass-fed options should be a first pick. Grass-fed beef doesn’t have nearly as much saturated fat as hot dogs made from grain-fed beef, organic meat also ensures the animal wasn’t fed any hormones during its lifetime.
Grilling Hot Dogs
Once you’ve picked up the perfect pack of hot dogs and are ready to fire up the grill and get to barbecuing, there are a few solid tips that will help ensure your hot dogs are perfectly cooked with sear marks so beautiful a commercial could be shot around them
- Use a grill spray. This is a good tip for other meats too. It will help keep the grill clean, keep the dogs from sticking to grates and overall create a better end result.
- Watch the heat on your grill. I like to recommend you start off on high to pre-heat and then when you are ready to start cooking, reduce the heat to medium. If your hot dogs have a lower fat content, then aim for a medium-low heat.
- Rotate your hot dogs regularly and evenly to ensure all sides have perfect sear marks and that slightly crisp outer layer. I recommend using grill tongs for this, forks can puncture the skin and release juices.
- When it comes to timing, cook your franks until the sides are just beginning to split and are glistening with juices. Generally for standard beef hot dogs 5-8 minutes is the sweet spot, for jumbo franks, aim for 7-11 minutes. This will vary based on the grill you use and cooking conditions, but that’s the range to watch for.
- Equally as important as the cook of the meat is making sure you don’t neglect those buns! The very best buns for hot dogs are lightly toasted. To optimize bun toasted, brush the inside of your buns lightly with melted butter before placing them face down on the grill. Recommended heating time is 60-90 seconds.
- Deck out that hot dog with all the fixin’s! Some of my personal faves: stone ground mustard, sauerkraut, sliced jalapenos, bier cheese, and grilled onions.
Summer just isn’t summer without at least a couple grill outs with hot dogs, coca cola and lots of chips. I hope this guide helps you make your barbecuing time fun and extra tasty.
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