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Supermarket Hot Dogs


John
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There was a good discussion in the New Jersey Forum about the many good hot dog restaurants in the state (see Rutt's Hut thread). Then it was suggested that we begin a new topic; Supermarket Hot Dogs.

Living in the tri state area (N.J.) we have access to many good brands that are readily available in supermarkets. I like to differentiate between kosher style, all beef and German style beef and pork. There is all beef that is not kosher style such as Oscar Mayer and other brands. This means that the dog is all beef, but lacks the spices (paprika and garlic) that are found in the kosher style.

The beef and pork is usually more pork, and contains no garlic and paprika. It has a more subtle, less aggressive flavor. The best supermarket example of this type is Thumann's. These dogs are very tender, juicy, and flavorful. They taste great grilled. I cook them on my griddle. These dogs are even better than the ones sold at my local German butcher shop. Schickhaus is also a very good beef/pork dog. This one is a little harder to find.

My favorite all beef dog is the Black Bear Natural casing beef frankfurter. This one is only available at Shop Rite. The entire Black Bear product line is produced for them by Dietz and Watson. It is a spicy kosher style dog that is better than any all beef dog you will find in a supermarket or anywhere else, with the possible exception of Usinger's. And I have tasted both side by side, and I like both equally. In fact I give a slight edge to Black Bear because they have a natural casing while the Usinger Angus is skinless. Previously not available at supermarkets in the east, they are now being sold at Foodtown Supermarkets. A unique dog, it has a special seasoning. Black Bear is always on sale if you have a Shop Rite card. Other good brands are Sabrett, Best, Boars Head, Hebrew National, and Shofar. Out of these, Sabrett is the spiciest, and Best's has perhaps the best overall flavor. But you have to go to their plant in Newark to get these dogs with natural casing.

A lot of stores have the Sabrett with natural casing, but you have to look. These are great to cook at home; but I prefer Black Bear. Luckily, there are many Shop Rites in this area.

John the hot dog guy

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I'm going to hunt down some Black Bear dogs very soon. Thanks for the excellent analysis.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I'm going to hunt down some Black Bear dogs very soon. Thanks for the excellent analysis.

Me too. Thanks, John.

-- Jeff

"I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members." -- Groucho Marx

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Fat Guy and I did a spur of the moment hot dog tasting several years ago. It was terribly unscientific based on franks available at the local grocery store. I don't recall the actual results, but I believe a "skinless" dog was preferred and Ball Park Franks clearly came in last. FG, do you have those results?

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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I've given up buying the skinless Hebrew Nationals that you find in the supermarket. They have little in common with the natural casing ones I sold when I worked a deli counter.

The Boars Head naturals are good. Nice porky flavor with a good snap.

PJ

"Epater les bourgeois."

--Lester Bangs via Bruce Sterling

(Dori Bangs)

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Varmint, here is your record of that event:

Holding court from his designated position on the couch, Steve came up with a brilliantly demented dinner idea: A hot dog tasting. Yes, we were about to engage in the paradoxical exercise of combining something as snooty as a “tasting” with something as ordinary as a wiener. It sounded like fun (and once again, we got to snicker with our kids about the funny quirks of New Yorkers). We hastily returned to the Harris Teeter (Steve could not get enough of that place) and chose our dogs (we also had to visit another market--Steve wasn't confident that any one store would contain a sufficient range of franks). The contenders: Hebrew National, Nathan’s, Ball Park, and Schaller & Weber (a natural casing frank that is made in a place a few blocks from Steve and Ellen’s Manhattan apartment). We even invited three friends over to participate in this experiment. The dogs were gently grilled and presented to the panel (my three friends participated on a double-blind basis, knowing neither the brands nor which hot dog was which; Steven knew the brands but not which was which, although he could have made educated guesses as each had a distinct appearance; I, as the cook, knew all brands and which was which). Although there was no clear-cut winner, it was obvious that our panel was divided into two distinct camps: those who liked natural casing wieners, and those who would rather eat a tofu dog. Three of the 5 panelists put the Schaller & Weber natural casing dog at the bottom of their list, whereas the other 2 rated it as their first or second choice (Steve and I were the two, in case you were wondering). Perhaps we Southerners just don’t like real meat (face it, many of us eat hot dogs that have an incredible amount of red dye in them, resulting in a hideous fluorescent pink colored wienie). Nathan’s franks came in with 3 first place votes, a second, and a third to receive the honor of the top dog. The Hebrew National wiener scored a solid second place rank with one first place vote (Steve, who had cast the lone first-place vote for the kosher dog, simply glared at the rest of us and declared, "Antisemites."), 3 seconds and a third. This was followed by the Schaller & Weber frank (my favorite and Steve's number two). The Ballpark Frank easily took bottom honor, as no one liked its flavor--too salty and soft. We celebrated the success of the tasting with more wine--yes, we had discussions of what wine goes best with a hot dog (I recall that Steve led that discussion--another New Yorker trait, I guess). It should also be noted that Ellen made some awesome blond brownies, using some (it was a lot, but barely made a dent in the total amount) of the Russell Stover chocolate in the batter. One warning to those who eat Ellen’ s cooking: Do not attempt to cut the brownies before they have rested the appropriate length of time. Surgery will be required to reattach the fingers to the offending hand.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I'm surprised that in all the hot dog discussions on this board and elsewhere, no one ever mentions one of my favorites: Grote and Weigel all beef franks. They're nice and spicy and get juicy when you cook them. They took over my #1 spot from the Isaac Gellis dogs I use to buy at the deli.

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I had been using Dietz & Watson or Hebrew National until I found Sabrett's at the local Acme. They are good (they only had skinless) But when I went in Sat. there was not a Sabrett to be had. I guess I'll have to go to Shoprite and try the Black Bear. (I do love the snap of the natural casing)

While we are at it, can we discuss the difference between a Hot Dog, Frankfurter, and Weiner?

I was always under the impression they were different names for the same thing, but on Usinger's web site, under product listing the have all three as though they are different products.

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I don't know of any supermarkets that sell Nueske's or Grote & Weigle beef franks. Does anyone know of any in N.J.? I have bought the Grote & Weigle beef franks at their N.J. distributor (5 lb minimum). They are served at Father & Son Luncheonette in Linden. Along with Syd's (Best Brand) and Boulevard Drinks (Sabrett) my favorite places for all beef dogs. All three similar, but Sabrett's is a little spicier, then G&W, then Best's.

I've compared these brands alongside Black Bear, and Black Bear wins hands down. All cooked at home on a griddle. Black Bear is spicy, smoky, and very flavorful. My favorite all beef dog along with Usinger's. I've yet to taste Nueske's, Lobel's, or the Fearless Franks from Neiman Ranch.

Regarding Hebrew National, I contacted them regarding a natural casing product. They no longer make them (I didn't know if that would be Kosher) but they do make a frank with a collagen casing. These are available primarily at Kosher deli's. They are also available at a place called Jonathan's Deli on rt 110 at the Powder Mill Shopping Center in Morris Plains. Ben's Deli (not sure of location; NYC) has them. The person said that they may be available at Zabar's.

Usinger's and many other hot dog makers don't like referring to them as hot dogs. They prefer franks and wieners. The difference is that wieners are thinner and usually not bigger than 8 to a lb. Frankfurters are wider in diameter. Usinger's also differentiates by enclosing the wiener in a softer sheep casing, while the frankfurter is given a thicker hog casing.

John the hot dog guy

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I've given up buying the skinless Hebrew Nationals that you find in the supermarket. They have little in common with the natural casing ones I sold when I worked a deli counter.

My preference is always for a kosher frank, but I would never buy the packaged Hebrew National franks that are carried in the supermarket with that yucky liquid that leaks out when the package is opened. And the franks themselves are small, skinny and not very tasty.

Fortunately, my kosher butcher carries Hebrew National franks which are fresh and strung together. He separates them and packages them himself. They are longer, plumper and spicier than the factory-packaged ones and quite delicious. I like them grilled, never boiled.

Actually, my all-time favorite kosher franks were those made by Shmulka Bernstein (of Lower East Side fame). Whenever I had folks over for a barbecue and served those Shmulka franks, everyone wanted to know what kind they were because they were so good. My butcher carried them until Shmulka went out of business quite some time ago, and he then switched to Hebrew National.

BTW, I was just at Yankee Stadium yesterday for the first time in many, many years, and it appears that they are now selling only Hebrew National franks. :shock::smile:

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Ball Park Franks clearly came in last

I had a dog once, who sometimes (much to my shame) eats poop, won't eat Ball Park Franks. He would take it from my hand then spit it out. I had to hide his medicine in Hebrew National (almost $4 a pack here). I guess I'll have to vote with Mr. Plotnicki.

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Okay, so I finally made it to ShopRite in Yonkers today and picked up some of these Black Bear franks that John has been raving about. I assume nobody will be surprised to learn that John is right: Subject to revising my opinion based on side-by-side blind comparison I can say that these are the best natural casing beef franks I think I've ever had. A wonderful product. I have nothing to add to John's description. Bravo, ShopRite.

John, I noticed a couple of variants of the Black Bear (full name Black Bear of the Black Forest) franks. I bought the eight-to-a-pound but there were also some big-ass ones on offer. Do you have a preference? Also, for anybody who goes looking for these, they're near the deli case not with the other dogs.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Steven,

I have seen the big-ass ones but have not tried them yet. They were in a 3lb package. I'll wait until I get low on dogs, then I'll try these. I've had the 8 to a lb beef frankfurters and the 8 to a lb frankfurters (beef and pork). The all beef are the ones I prefer and the ones I hope you tried. First time I had them, I thought they were great. But to really get an idea of how good they are, it helps to compare them next to other brands. When you have them alone, the enjoyment may be based on how hungry you are rather than on the overall quality of the frank. I compare them to other brands I've had and are familiar with and see how they match up. I've tasted Black Bear next to Sabrett, Grote & Weigle, Best, Nathan's, Dietz and Watson, and Usinger's. And I prefered the Black Bear. To my surprise. Last time I even liked them better than Usinger's. I had just these 2 to compare. Both very high quality and hard to describe the difference, but Black Bear just has a great, hearty beef flavor without overdoing it on the spices.

As I mentioned before, this product is made by Dietz and Watson especially for Shop Rite. The Dietz and Watson New York style beef frank is so similar to Black Bear that when I first had them, and then saw identical ingredients on the label in the exact same order, I figured one was a knockoff of the other. I found out from Shop Rite that they are both made by Dietz and Watson. I prefer the Black Bear. Slightly better flavor. Plus the Dietz and Watson leaves a real lot of grease on the griddle. I don't know why. Black Bear leaves a little also. I would assume that the Black Bear is a special higher quality line of meats. Their roast beef is great, as is everything from them that I've tried. Their North Western Potato Salad has bits of bacon and cheese in it. Even their cole slaw is good. But I digress.

John the hot dog guy

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Yes, I had the beef ones. In Yonkers I didn't see any with pork. What by the way is the pricing scheme where you shop? There seemed to be some confusion in Yonkers about whether the 1 lb package of 8-to-a-pound beef franks was $2.99 or $3.99. The 3-pound package of big-ass ones was $8.99. I'll be trying those next, as well as several other Black Bear products. It's amazing to me that ShopRite has this incredible line of stuff and doesn't do a damn thing to market it. I've never seen them sample a single bite of Black Bear product at either of the ShopRites I frequent (Paramus, NJ and Tuckahoe Road, Yonkers, NY) and I've never seen the stuff pitched in a persuasive manner in a circular or on signage. What's up with that?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I shop on occasion at the Shop-Rite in Lyndurst NJ and they never seem to put out samples of anything, hotdogs or otherwise. It appears that they don't think taking the time or space is worth it (or they haven't pushed the vendors to subsidize it).

Not sure if they carry them at the Wegman's in Bridgewater NJ (Princeton area) but all Wegman's in central NY state carry Hoffman's brand hot dogs and coneys (white hots). Theirs is a pork, veal and who knows what mixture but is incredibly good. They are old-line German susage makers who've been making the3se the same way in their Syracuse NY plant for about 100 years or so. Worth trying if you're a hotdog aficionado (I am not).

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