I ate hot dogs from 5 major chains, and the best was also the cheapest

I compared hot dogs from Dairy Queen, Checkers, Shake Shack, Five Guys, and Costco.

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I compared hot dogs from Dairy Queen, Checkers, Shake Shack, Five Guys, and Costco.
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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Not everyone agrees on the best way to eat a hot dog.

As an acolyte of the Chicago school, I like mine dressed in a skimpy squirt of yellow mustard. Others will slather their wieners with ketchup.

Still, the basics tenets of a good hot dog remain universal: a juicy, flavorful sausage and a soft bun that’s a fluffy yet sturdy second fiddle to the meat.

In anticipation of America’s favorite summer party day, the Fourth of July, I decided to eat a bunch of hot dogs and tell you all about it.

Read more: I ate soft serve from 7 major fast-food chains, and the winner surprised me.

I went to Dairy Queen, Shake Shack, Five Guys, Checkers, and Costco to see who made the best dog and the worst wurst. While Costco isn’t typically what eaters think of for a fast food meal, its food court does not require a membership to eat at and the chain is one of the US’ largest slinger of hot dogs.

At each joint, I ordered a basic hot dog and dressed it with mustard a la Chicago rules. I judged the hot dogs on a scale of 1-5 based on sausage, bun, and overall taste.


DAIRY QUEEN: HOT DOG — “Grill” is perhaps a generous term for what goes on at the DQ Grill & Chill. I paid $3.29 for this hot dog in New York.

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SAUSAGE: 2 — It’s juicy, but that’s the only good thing about it. There’s a distinct offal flavor and it’s way too salty. It kind of tastes like cheese even though there is none. BUN: 2 — It’s fluffy, but also stiff, dry, and bland.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

OVERALL FLAVOR: 2 — I’d only go for DQ’s hot dog if there was nothing else available.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

SHAKE SHACK: HOT DOG — I’m a Shake Shack stan, but I never get their hot dogs usually. I paid $4.99 for this example in New York.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

SAUSAGE: 3 — My past avoidance is validated. The sausage has a robust meaty flavor, but it was tough, dry, and too salty. BUN: 4 — It’s lightly sweet and a little fluffy, but I’ve had better.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

OVERALL FLAVOR: 3 — It has a good dog to bun ratio. Although it’s a tough chew, it mostly accomplishes a decent flavor.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

CHECKERS: HOT DOG — Checkers hot dog looks small and grey compared to some of its competitors. I paid only $1.49 for it, the cheapest of the bunch (by a hair).

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

SAUSAGE:— 4 — Very juicy with a meaty flavor. BUN: 2 — Sad, crushed, and sweet.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

OVERALL FLAVOR: 4 — Simple but solid, Checkers hot dog is nothing fancy, but it’s a satisfying classic rendition.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

FIVE GUYS: HOT DOG — Another split-down-the-middle sausage situation. It was also the most expensive dog I had, setting me back $5.05.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Read more: I tried the signature burgers from 5 major fast-food chains, and the winner was obvious


SAUSAGE: 5 — The juiciest, most flavorful and savory sausage with a deep meat flavor and a hint of char. BUN: 4 — Fluffy, sweet, and plentiful.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

OVERALL FLAVOR: 5 — Five Guys delivers one hearty, hugely satisfying hot dog.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

COSTCO: HOT DOG — Costco’s hot dog is the biggest of them all and a testament to machines’ abilities to create a consistently beloved behemoth. It is famously only $1.50 nationwide, and even includes a drink.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

SAUSAGE: 5 — There’s a reason the hot dog is Costco’s secret weapon in drawing customers to the store. It’s bursting with juice and flavor. BUN: 5 — Pillowy soft with contrast from the light coating of cornmeal, it’s light and sweet with a bread-y bounce.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

OVERALL: 5 — Costco’s wiener is just better in every way. It’s the dog I’ll dream of at night.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

FINAL RANKING — 5. Dairy Queen. 4. Shake Shack. 3. Checkers. 2. Five Guys. 1. Costco

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider