- Hot dogs can be a simple and tasty treat.
- Boiling, splitting, or choosing low-quality meat can ruin your meal.
- Here are some common hot dog cooking mistakes.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
Hot dogs are the ultimate easy meal. What could be simpler than cooking one up and slapping it in a bun, right? Unfortunately, a few common errors have the potential to take your hot dogs from delectable to detestable.
INSIDER talked to grilling pros to identify the top hot dog cooking mistakes and the best way to cook hot dogs instead. Here’s how to take your hot dog game to new heights.
Don’t buy the bargain brands.
Grillers on a budget might be tempted to bargain-priced hot dogs to their cart, but a truly sublime hot dog starts with quality meat.
Tim Hollingsworth, chef and owner of Otium in downtown Los Angeles, told INSIDER that you’ll end up with a tastier dog if you skip the cheaper brands. He recommended keeping an eye out for natural, all-beef hot dogs, which usually aren’t that much more expensive and are available in just about every supermarket.
Avoid boiling your hot dogs.
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Though they may look pink, most hot dogs are actually already cooked and technically ready to eat right out of the package. This means that boiling them for ages before throwing them on the grill is unnecessary. Even worse, boiling can suck the flavor right out of your dogs.
However, you may want to make sure your chilled hot dogs are heated through before tossing them on the grill. To accomplish this, chef and cooking school instructor Candace Conley told INSIDER that lightly poaching your dogs for a minute or two in a covered saucepan of hot water, off the stove, will allow your hot dogs to come to temperature without compromising on flavor.
Don’t cook your hot dogs over direct heat.
Since hot dogs are small portions of meat, they can easily burn when cooked on an open flame. That’s why it’s important to place them on the right spot on the grill.
“To avoid burning or overcooking your dogs on the grill – which can cause the casing to burst – cook them over indirect heat on the grill grate and move them around frequently so every side gets touched by the heat source,” Claudia Sidoti, principal chef and head of recipe development at HelloFresh told INSIDER.
Plopping your hot dogs right over the flames can also lead to their casings charring and burning before the inside even has a chance to warm up.
Make sure the grill is hot enough before adding your hot dogs.
A grill that is too hot can burn your hot dogs or split their casings, but a grill that’s too cool can also cause hot dog havoc.
“If your grill is too cold, your hot dog will get dried out or tough,” said Hollingsworth. “Be sure to preheat your grill for a few minutes. I usually aim for a grill temp of 425 degrees with a cook time of about 10 minutes.”
Avoid poking or splitting your dogs.
You may be tempted to poke your hot dogs with a knife or fork while they’re grilling to test for “doneness,” but you should try to break the habit.
“Since hot dogs are usually precooked, there is no need to split them open or pierce them during the cooking process. By poking and prodding your dogs, you release the delicious juices that make them juicy,” said Sidoti.
Instead, gently turn your hot dogs using tongs to ensure their casings stay intact and full of flavor.
Don’t forget to prep the buns.
Perfectly prepared meat is undoubtedly the centerpiece of the hot dog experience, but the bun is also an important factor. No one likes cold buns, so don’t neglect them.
“A hot dog bun should be gently toasted, which can be achieved by throwing the buns on the grill for about one minute per side,” advised Sidoti.
For added flavor, brush the inside of the toasted bun with a little butter or flavored oil.
Consider ‘bathing’ your hot dogs before grilling.
So we know that boiling hot dogs for a long time before grilling is a bad move, but “bathing” in flavorful liquid might actually make your hot dogs tastier.
“Keep an aluminum pan filled with a mixture of hot beer, onions, and seasonings on indirect heat and place your hot dogs in before grilling. This not only warms the hot dogs but also helps firm up that natural casing without breaking it,” grilling expert and creator of Slawsa hot dog condiment Julie Busha told INSIDER.
Right before serving, simply pluck those hot dogs from their bath and give them a perfect char on the grill.
You shouldn’t ignore other ways to build flavor.
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Hot dogs are great out of the package, but there are a bunch of easy ways to add extra flavor to take your grilling to the next level.
“Once your hot dogs have cooked for a few minutes, brush on some BBQ sauce, mayonnaise, or, if you’re feeling creative, any sauce with a sugar base. The sauce will caramelize as it finishes cooking,” said Hollingsworth.
Avoid skinless hot dogs for better flavor.
You know that satisfying snap you get when biting into a perfectly cooked hot dog? That’s down to the natural casing. Busha told INSIDER that opting for a skinless hot dog not only sacrifices that snap, can also cause the hot dog to lose moisture more easily on the grill. Texture is an important factor in the hot-dog experience, so choose dogs with natural casings for the best results.
Don’t stick to just one type of condiment.
Only using one type of condiment can make even the tastiest hot dogs seem boring. Though mustard or ketchup work just fine, don’t be afraid to experiment with different flavors and combinations for a more gourmet experience.
Sidoti told INSIDER that for an ideal flavor balance, you should opt for an acidic topping which complements the smokiness and high-fat content of the hot dog. For example, try creating Caribbean jerk hot dogs with grilled pineapple, cilantro, lime zest, a splash of rum, and a dusting of jerk seasoning spices.
Always adjust your temperature to the fat content of the hot dogs.
Think all hot dogs are created equal? Think again. Comparing a few packages of hot dogs will probably reveal that different styles and brands contain different amounts of fat. Adapting your cooking process to this variation is a crucial part of serving up delicious hot dogs.
“Consider the fat content in the hot dogs to determine what heat you should be grilling at. Higher fat dogs should be cooked at a medium heat whereas leaner dogs should be grilling on a medium-low setting,” said Busha.