With grill season in full swing, this is a good time to talk about hot dogs, arguably America’s favorite grilling item for a lot of reasons, including the price.
There are all kinds of ways to prepare dogs, but one of my favorites goes back to childhood and hot dogs we roasted on a stick over a campfire until they were mostly black and crunchy on the outside. Probably for nostalgic reasons, I still like to char my hot dogs when I cook them on the grill, but I recognize not everyone likes them that way so I pull some of them off the fire before they’re too “well done.”
I like the old-time “natural casing” hot dogs that come linked together, but you can’t cook those to a well-done state. They tend to swell up and burst, making them rather unappealing -- like something awful happened to them on the way to the picnic.
I favor hot dogs that are made from beef and pork combinations, not all beef. Those tend to taste like something other than a hot dog.
Did you know the content of frankfurters is regulated by federal law? Did you know they range in fat content up to 30 percent? (Always read the package before you purchase.) Find out more about types of hot dogs — all-beef, kosher and chicken dogs — at the Web site about.com, which is here.
As for how you serve your dogs, there are infinite possibilities. One cook I know insists that they’re best if you boil them first and then grill them. That seems overkill to me. One of the virtues of hot dogs is that they’re easy to prepare so let’s not complicate them.
I favor what’s generally known as a Coney Island dog, which is served with a spicy meat sauce (and plenty of mustard). But there are also Chicago dogs with yellow mustard, dark green relish, chopped raw onions, tomatoes, celery salt and poppy seeds in the buns.
There are also hot dogs served with coleslaw on top, or wrapped in pastry and baked or deep-fried as “pigs in a blanket.”
In Baltimore, there’s the “frizzled,” a hot dog that’s split and then deep-fried. Mini or “cocktail” franks are often simmered in barbecue sauce and served skewered at parties.
One way to greatly improve the humble hot dog is to toast the bun. You can do it right on the grill and it makes a big difference.
If you’re not up to cooking outdoors, try Sweet-and-Sour Hot Dogs and Beans which you can make in minutes on top of your stove.
Cut 8 to 10 hot dogs into bite-size pieces. Mix them with a large can of baked beans (a sweet variety like Grandma Brown’s). Add a tablespoon of yellow mustard and a half-cup of cider vinegar. Cook until the hot dogs are done, stirring often to make sure the beans don’t stick. You’ll like the results. (You can also bake this dish at 350 degrees for about a half-hour.)
Got a favorite hot dog recipe for grilling season? Share it by posting below.