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Hot Dogs

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Frankly Speaking from Slate

The Fourth of July is not only America's most patriotic holiday, it's also the holiday during which we consume large quantities of the foods the writer H.L. Mencken once described as "rubber, indigestible pseudo-sausage"—that is, the hot dog. Yes, the mighty hot dog: perennial of ballparks, barbecues, and lowbrow punch lines alike. (It's also the inspiration behind the freestyle-skiing sex comedy Hot Dog ... The Movie!) According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (located at the highly amusing hot-dog.org), 150 million hot dogs will be consumed during the July Fourth weekend. But are we gorging ourselves on the tastiest brand of pseudo-sausage?

To find out, I assembled a panel of six tasters, dedicated to determining which dogs are the hottest on the market. We tested examples of every available variety in a Los Angeles Ralph's: all-beef, chicken, turkey, tofu, and regular old hot dogs. Although there is great variance in their healthfulness, our panel only considered one thing: taste.

Read on to find out all of the taste "results" .... a few examples:

Ball Park Franks (made with beef, pork, and turkey)

The ubiquitous ads for these dogs boast that Ball Park franks are "girthy," but, in not-totally-freakish terms, we'd call them "good, plump, and not too greasy" ... which, after all the inferior options, elicits a cheer of "yay!" Though one panelist nitpicks, "[t]he taste is not of meat, but of fat," others simply enthuse "lots of flavor!" Everyone likes that they aren't overly greasy, but some note that they're "just not as juicy as I'd like." Regardless, Ball Parks are definitely "a good standard."

Oscar Mayer Beef Franks (all beef)

Greasiness is the thing when evaluating Oscar Mayer's all-beef entry. "Almost unbearably greasy," says one taster; "a classic hot dog: salty, greasy," counters another. It seems that one man's greasiness is another man's "very, very juicy and flavorful." The grilled version far outperforms the boiled because grilling provides "that nice crunch" and "boiled equals overflavored and kind of gross." (Although it should be noted that others praise the boiled dogs for their "salty, smoky flavor.")

Hebrew National Beef Franks (all beef, kosher)

A "rich taste," "hearty juiciness," and "good texture and flavor" make this dog "what a dog is meant to be." This is a "beefy hot dog, juicy without having something to prove." (Or, as one panelist with a full mouth put it, "spurts grease, yum.") That "spicy, salty taste" and terrific boiled performance ("tastes just like the grilled") make this a dog to remember. "I had another one right after the contest," confessed one convinced taster.


Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Anyone who has been to a Ted's in Buffalo (or the one in Arizona) will know what I am talking about. 

i still remember enjoying Ted's franks, some four years after my one stop in Tonawanda. those made having driven across all of New York state almost worthwhile.

sadly, there's been precious few hot dog options out in the Northwest. i seriously miss Hebrew National, which was always a winner in the mass-produced category. ditto for Nathan's and Papaya King in their retail locations, but some of that's probably just nostalgia for New York.

luckily, there are a few options out here for sausage -- terrific Nurnberger bratwurst, for example -- which almost replace the lack of decent 'dogs.

of course, Seattle is also a town that inexplicably endorses cream cheese as a hot-dog condiment, so go figure. there's probably a whole other thread to be had on what belongs atop the frankfurter, but it's just that: a whole other thread.

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Other than the fact that they gave Nathans really good ratings (which it rightfully deserves, its a benchmark hot dog) I would have like to have seen an evaluation of some of the other smaller brands, such as Sabrett, Usinger, Bests, and perhaps some of the weirder ones like Zweigles. I would have liked to have seen some information as to what the dog per weight count was, as well as if they were natural casing or not, such as in the case of the Nathans which makes a huge difference in my opinion. Some of the other obscure Kosher dogs that you can buy in the NYC area would have also have been interesting.


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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For the bratwurst, simmer (not boil) then finish on the grill. For the dogs, either simmer, then grill, or just cook them on a griddle. These dogs are so good, they even taste great right out of the water. Let us know what you think. You might want to throw another quality beef dog like Best or sabrett on the grill next to the Usinger's for purposes of comparison.

good effing god these were really good hot dogs.

i ended up grilling the bratwurst, as i hadn't seen this post. seemed OK. i'm interested in other ideas for bratwurst, though, as i'm pretty sure people do all kindza silly things with them.

out of the 2 hot dogs (the larger beef one, and the skinnier other one), we actually liked the skinnier one better. more spice, i think.

regardless, these things rocked.

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tommy, I live about 10 miles south of the Cheese Curtain (Wisconsin Line)and the following is some local knowledge about brats that I've picked up from the locals who take them as seriously as Neopolitans take pizza margherita:

First and foremost never ever split or pierce them at any point during the preparation; the casing is not to be voilated by any other instrument than one's teeth! Use tongs when moving them.

The actual cooking of brats depends on the context of the meal itself, that is, whether they are to be consumed as soon as they are done, or over a period of time, as in a picnic or a tailgating party for example. In the first case, you want to carmelize a couple of onions in butter (no EVOO here, thank you very much, this is Wisconsin cuisene we're talking!) add the raw brats and enough cheap beer to cover and simmer gently for 12-15 mins. When they are ready, transfer them to a medium grill. Cook another 10-12 mins. turning so that they brown evenly. In the meantime, cook down the beer that you poached the brats in. Toast some sausage rolls on the grill, then assemble by simply transferring the brats onto the rolls, slather on Dusseldorf or any mustard you prefer and top with the onions. Life is good!

If the brats are not to be consumed immediately, simply reverse the cooking process! That is, grill the meat first and then hold them in the carmelized onion/beer bath till you are ready to eat them. The only loss is that you can't reduce the beer, you might even have to add some at some point. Life is still good!

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If I can't get handmade locally, make mine hebrew nationals.


Not to be confused with egullet veteran Ms. Ramsey

Webmaster, rivitman's daily axe:

My Webpage

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dumplin don't apologize! We are odd birds down here.

I'm in ATL and we do slaw dogs too. Mine are just chili (no beans), cheese, slaw and minced onions. I love the Hebrew National dogs. I haven't tried many others recently.

I also love my interpretation of a "chicago" dog, ketchup, brown mustard, sauerkraut, sweet relish and a little sprinkle of minced onion on top.

I also love them just grilled and eaten plain.

I'll have to try the mail order! They sound really good. Does anyone else cook their brats in beer? I really got a taste for these when I lived in Buffalo, NY.

And I have to agree with the advice on NOT piercing the skin on a brat. It will dry out pretty fast and just not be as juicy. When I cook brats I just eat them on a buttered toasted hot dog bun.


The stars above me are not real, they are the sparks from smitting steel - Michael Penn

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Thanks to you guys, I've just placed an order with Usingers. To round out the order to make the six pound minimum, I got a few other things besides hot dogs. I've never had knackwurst or mortadella before. Can't wait to see what I've been missing.

I feel rather deprived that I've grown up thinking Oscar Mayer all beef weiners were the top dog. My favorite way to eat them is on a dijon mustard coated hot dog bun, topped with chili (no beans, from a can yet!), grated sharp cheddar, chopped white onion, and a quick trip under the broiler to finish it off. Melts the cheddar and gets the bun just slightly toasty. Mmmm, I'm back to my childhood when chili dogs were our regular Saturday lunch. My husband and son do not eat them my way. Son likes ketchup (gasp!) and husband likes Southern barbecue sauce.

Today I searched Albertson's for any of the brands mentioned in this thread. I found Nathan's and bought a package, so we'll test that out soon. Maybe I should wait for the Usinger's to come in and make a taste comparison.

bleachboy, I am salivating over your picture of those gorgeous hotdogs.


Edited by SmrtAss (log)

"I like 'em french fried pertaters." (Billy Bob Thornton as Karl, in Sling Blade.)

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I still say a hot dog discussion isn't complete without the ones from the Amish people in Lancaster, available at the Reading Terminal Market here in Philadelphia.

But that's just me.

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I still say a hot dog discussion isn't complete without the ones from the Amish people in Lancaster, available at the Reading Terminal Market here in Philadelphia.

But that's just me.

Which Amish are those?

The Stoltzfus Amish people (who seem to have several other shops in the Northern DE area) sell fresh hot dogs and sausages in the New Castle Farmers Market. I have tried their Andoullie, and it is great, but never thought about their weiners. Are these the same ones as in Reading?


He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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Executive Summary of Perlow Supermarket Hot Dog Roundup:

So here was the concept: Five adults are going to eat hot dogs anyway until they are ready to vomit during the 4th of July. Now, even though two of them didn’t show up, we decided to go along with this anyway.

Fourteen brands, 29.6 ounces of meat (that’s 1 hot dog per package, for those of you taking count, each split 3 ways). We decided to each eat only 1/3 of a dog per brand, because we aren’t Kobayashi “Tsunami” Takeru. Because we are purists, we ate them unadorned, making sure we introduced condiments on the second bite, if at all. Because we didn’t want to confuse the issue, at least for this initial roundup, all hot dogs were 100 percent beef, except one which was a bison/beef hybrid, and the other which was a beef/chicken hybrid. The intent of this is that hot dogs with pork, although standard for much of the country, are considered a very different thing around here (meaning the New York area) and thus will likely receive a different roundup at another time. All were grilled on a gas-fuel Weber with the simplest possible cooking method – no basting, no smoking, and we did not split the dogs, which we felt would not have represented what most people do on their grills.

Overall, Kosher dogs did pretty well. The best liked of the Kosher dogs, which was #3 overall, was a hot dog completely new to all of us, International Glatt Kosher, which likely is NOT available nationwide. This came as a complete surprise to us, because generally the term “Glatt” as pure is it might be from a Kosher standpoint, does not bring associations of great taste. We all thought this dog has really good spicyness and an appropriate level of saltiness to balance it out. The surprise is despite our perception of adequate saltiness, the dog that we reviewed from International Glatt Kosher is in fact a reduced-sodium (and also reduced-fat) product. However, the amazing thing is we couldn’t tell that was the case. The texture was good, and was somewhat fatty/greasy but not inappropriate given the high flavor and texture profile, but again remember this is also a reduced-fat product, so the fact that we even considered it to be slightly fatty tasting is again somewhat bewildering.

An interesting surprise (although one reviewer was entirely cold on it) was the Abeles & Heymann Kosher Bison/Beef hybrid, the most expensive hot dog we surveyed. Spicyness and saltiness were all medium level, but all agreed it was a very firm dog and not very greasy. The Bison taste blended well and was not overpowering. One reviewer thought the texture was “somewhat like baloney” but the others didn’t agree.

Well-received was the NY Kosher Deli dog by Meal Mart. The reviewers noted an unexpected herbal taste, some slight spiciness and about average saltiness. Reviewers disagreed on the greasiness, two finding it to be very low, but the other finding it to be very high.

Hebrew National is considered one of the old standbys of Kosher dogs. It’s certainly one of the cheapest dogs in our entire survey, even allowing for different size packages. The thing about Hebrew National is that it wasn’t as good as any of us remembered. For one thing, it was among the softest textured dogs in the survey. Overall we all thought it was fairly greasy and although the scores for saltiness and spicyness were split, it just wasn’t the standard of excellence we had expected from our memories of those commercials with Uncle Sam and God.

The final Kosher dog was Rubashkin’s Aaron’s Classic. Now we aren’t very sure about what is so classic about this dog, because it’s a beef/chicken hybrid. To be fair, we don’t know if there is a Rubashkin’s pure beef dog, but if there is, we hope its much better than this. Words like “slimy”, “mushy” and “nightmare” were thrown around the eating area, although one reviewer didn’t think it was bad as the other two. All agreed it was very, very soft textured, although there was wide disagreement about the greasiness level.

Two “Kosher-style” dogs were surveyed. For those who don’t know, Kosher-style dogs are prepared with the same ingredient standards and methods, but without Rabbinical supervision. As with traditional Kosher dogs (not hybrids), they never include pork. It should come to no surprise that Nathan’s kicked some serious ass. The dog we surveyed with natural casing is the identical item to that which is served in Nathan’s fast-food franchises, and is generally regarded as far superior to the skinless version also sold in supermarkets. Overall, it was our second-best rated dog. Although the spicyness and saltiness figures don’t stand out as extreme in either direction, something about the actual blend of spices just plain works. A firm dog, generally regarded as not that greasy if cooked properly – it’s the classic, all-American hot dog. Nathan Handwerker knew what he was doing.

Generally mentioned in the same breath as Nathan’s, at least by most New Yorkers is Sabrett’s, again with natural casing. One reviewer liked it almost as much as Nathan’s, but the other two were fairly cold on it, perceiving quite a difference. One reviewer thought the texture, although medium-firm, somehow felt wrong. Another reviewer was very pleased with the assertive garlickyness and spicyness of this dog. Even the two reviewers that were critical of it recognize that this is the classic “dirty water dog” throughout New York City and perhaps boils better than other brands. However, this was not a boiling survey.

Two brands, coincidentally purchased at Whole Foods, made a point of being Nitrate-free and uncured. Well, maybe a little bit of curing might have improved them, because overall they weren’t well-liked. Han’s All-Natural Uncured Beef rated about as low as anything in our survey, and reactions varied from thinking it tasted “bad” to thinking it tasted like “nothing at all”. Very soft, not very spiced, not very salty, there really wasn’t much going for this dog. Welshire Farms Old-Fashioned Beef faired a little bit better – one reviewer in fact thought it was the second-best dog overall, but the other two disagreed very strongly. One perceived an “aftertaste”, the other thought the spice mix was “slightly odd”, but the one thing they were unanimous about was that it was by far the largest dog that was surveyed – literally twice the weight of several of the others, at a whopping 3.2 ounces each. It wasn’t a disaster, but it’s really no reason to visit Whole Foods and spend $4.99 on a package of Hot Dogs – although arguably you have your value per weight.

The two hot dogs which arguably every person reading this can most easily get their hands on are also are among the worst. The dog that inspired generations of Wienermobiles and had one of the most memorable theme songs of any food product in the world, Ocscar M-A-Y-E-R, may have a Semetic name that implies a tie to Kosher dogs of quality, but at least from the reactions of our surveyors, is light years behind that standard. Let’s just say that if it’s the best tasting hot dog in your local supermarket’s refrigerated case, please, please consider mail ordering. Please note that again we are only surveying non-pork hot dogs, but really, if you’re having an Oscar Mayer, its questionable if you are really eating beef in the first place. There is a bad artificial smoky taste, it’s a very soft dog, woefully underspiced, very salty and at least two of our reviewers perceived it as very greasy, although the third disagreed. All agreed however, that it was a waste of time, or at least a waste of a nice hot dog bun.

A similar brand available widely across the country is Ballpark. We tried the Grillmaster Beef, a new variant, whose commercials have been subject to ridicule on the Internet due to its self-proclaimed Girthyness. It rated pretty badly on our survey, not near the depths of Oscar Meyer, but still we weren’t impressed. It’s biggest problem – its bland. It’s a little less salty than Oscar Meyer, which was all salt and no spice, but the general reaction was that it tasted like a big stick of baloney.

Last, but not least, are the Deli Dogs. This is an arbitrary label that we have chosen to convey the fact that while these dogs MAY be available nationwide, they are generally sold in channels that are related to the distribution of food service deli meat products which can be either regional or nationwide, depending on the success of that brand. Hebrew National and Oscar Meyer started out that way, but have long since transcended into such mass-produced mainstream products and packaging and these so-called Deli Dogs may be headed that way, but in our opinion were not yet there, since their target market seems to be on deli counters and deli-meat products for food service use.

First up is Thumann’s Push Cart style. These were the thinnest, lightest dogs we tried and were regarded as “fairly ordinary” although not unlikeable. Think of any value we tested – Spicyness, Texture, Greasiness/Fattyness, Saltiness – and it hit around the middle score. And among the potential 30 points maximum from all our judges, it scored exactly a 15. In other words, it was sitting right there in the middle. Surprisingly, it hedged out Hebrew National by 1 point.

Next’s up is Best’s Beef Reduced Sodium Frankfurters. This is not to be confused with Best’s Kosher, an unrelated Chicago-based brand we did not have access to. This Newark New-Jersey company has been described as the default hot dog vendor used in Italian Hot Dog stands in the area surrounding its city of origin. It scored 4th highest on our entire survey, despite being low-sodium. Particularly liked was the texture of the dog, which while rated Medium on average, seemed pleasing.

Finally, the last of our reviewed dogs is one that we arguably could have grouped under Kosher-style because it comes in a natural casing and probably adheres to the same standards. We’re talking about Boar’s Head Natural Casing, and we’ve saved it for last because it was in the top 3 of all our reviewers and overall scored the best on average of everything in our survey. Extremely firm, extremely well-spiced, somewhat greasy but not inappropriately, and even somewhat salty, still it worked and the snap that we all noticed when biting into it seemed to seal the deal. Likely this brand is available in most markets and while we went into this survey not having had it that often, that will probably change in the future. Simply having tasted it in comparison with all these other dogs we just finally noticed what a class operation Boar’s Head really is.

We promise this isn’t the end, but we are all hot-dogged out and will have to consume the remainder of this many packages in some creative way to get past this in order to someday have a next round with pork-based and mail order premium brands.

Attached by the following link is our scorecard, which went down in the following way: the choices highlighted in tan/orange were our worst scoring, and the ones highlighted in cyan blue are the best. Spicyness scores were rated on a 1-5 scale, although this scale was not a qualitative rating but only a general feeling about the intensity of the seasoning. In some cases, a lower or average score could work better for that particular dog. Texture was rated as Soft, Medium or Firm, occasionally with a plus or minus thrown in if we were indecisive. In general, Firm was better although again this could be a bias of this particular group. Fattiness/Greasiness was rated Low, Medium or High and in general, less greasy dogs were regarded better although there are a few notable exceptions. Saltiness again is not a qualitative rating but a general sense of the strength of that quality. The overall ratings are the one qualitative number we imposed. This is how we actually feel about the dog – how much we actually enjoyed eating it. Some of us were tougher than others, but as a relative number to each other we feel it is fairly reliable.

Hot Dog Scorecard (click here)

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Abeles & Heymann Bison/Beef, Ball Park Grillmaster Beef, Best's Beef Frankfurters (Reduced Sodium)

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Boars' Head Natural Casing, Han's All Natural Uncured Beef, Hebrew National Beef Franks

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International Glatt Kosher (Reduced Fat/Sodium), Nathan's Natural Casing, New York Kosher Deli (Meal Mart)

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Oscar Meyer Beef Bun Length, Rubashkin's Aaron's Classic (Beef/Chicken), Sabrett's Natural Casing

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Thumann's Push Cart Style, Wilshire Farms Old Fashioned Beef Uncured


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Dude, Boar's Head Natural Casings are always a hit around the beans family/friends wienie roast nights. :cool:


Edited by beans (log)

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Jason, I am so incredibly impressed with your hot dog "research" here!!

Slate survey looks positively wimpy by comparison! :laugh:

Think Consumer Reports will make you an offer for this project??

and, more importantly, is this a fond farewell to your cherished and beloved White Castles?? :rolleyes:

Still digesting?? Great post in all respects! Many thanks for doing this thankless task on behalf of us all who adore the hot dog in whatever form! No rabbi has ever been more scrupulous in checking out the kosher franks you reviewed here.


Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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I have to remind myself, this is the price of accepting an invitation to the Perlows... getting roped into these weird food experiments.

Frankly, I'm more amazed than ever by the Hot Dog eating champs like Mr. Takeru. I ate the equivalent of only 5 hot dogs (tossing a lot of the bun as I went), taking over an hour to do so, and can't quite imagine eating almost 11 times that in 1/5th of the time.

A few other oddities. Although 2 of the 14 samples were Nitrate free, 2 were "reduced sodium" (although likely still high compared to most foods) and 1 was also "reduced fat" (likely still pretty high), comparing notes we all realized afterwards that we were feeling a bit strange. Not necessarily full (10 ounces of meat or so each is not really that much), but kind of odd and floaty. Not quite with headaches, or with a buzz, but... something. Sitting down and thinking about it I realized that I've probably never had more than 2 hotdogs in a single seating in my life. Ever. Yes, I've often had 2 dogs, 2 burgers, a steak, a chicken breast, etc. etc., but never more than 2 dogs. 2 dogs, plus fries and drink is the standard "big meal" at Nathan's... but I don't think I've ever seen anyone get three dogs instead, and I've certainly never done so myself. I've also remember having the equivalent to I think... 6 sausages... last time Jason had one of these experimental things (search for Arthur Avenue Sausage tasting or something like that), but somehow this was worse. Well, I shouldn't complain--I mean some of these dogs were pretty good--but obviously the sausages are a different mass-eating experience.

Was it the nitrates? The sodium? The fat? The soda we drank between rounds (that was a dumb idea--water would have made more sense than Coca Cola)? All of the above? I'm pretty sure it didn't bias us against later products (we ate alphabetically), but let's just say... Jason will have to be very persuasive to talk me into "Round 2: Pork Yer Dog". I also noticed we all had to take bathroom breaks with the same increased frequency after consuming all of this, and that also could have been caused by any or all of the above.

Most of the sarcasm in the "summary" is my influence, perhaps from feeling so spacey. Except that "girth" reference--I disavow that one. But Consumer Reports is not going to be hiring someone who turns a phrase like "words like 'slimy, 'mushy' and 'nightmare' were thrown around the eating area" either, so Jason and I may be even for sillyness. :smile: General spaceyness might also be my excuse for not doing my usual no-doubt annoying nitpicking on stuff Jason writes with my input, but then again we'd likely still be there. I suppose all's well that ends well. Except that I'm only barely getting over the spacyness, and I'd really appreciate it if you all stop speaking in magenta and glob-farbing my dinosaur. :huh:


Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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Oh. ...Now I know what real good hot dogs are.

Thanks to everybody who recommended Usinger's! My order arrived Friday and they were included in yesterday's 4th of July Feast. They were the best hot dogs we've ever eaten. They were grilled to perfection. To each his own, but I second the notion not to split the hot dogs or brats, especially those with natural casing. We tried the three different hot dogs yesterday, beef franks, beef weiners, and Certified Angus Beef franks. If we were forced to pick a favorite, it would have been the CAB.

Next up... We're looking forward to the fresh brats.

Just too good!


Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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General spaceyness might also be my excuse for not doing my usual no-doubt annoying nitpicking on stuff Jason writes with my input, but then again we'd likely still be there.  I suppose all's well that ends well.  Except that I'm only barely getting over the spacyness, and I'd really appreciate it if you all stop speaking in magenta and glob-farbing my dinosaur. :huh:

So now the famous "Twinkie Defense" has been thrown out in favor of the "Hot Dog Defense"?? Will Jason, your barrister of all things beefy, speak up for you in court, intoning sonorously. "My Lords, the Crown intends to prove that Jon Lurie is not guilty by virtue of having ingested a surfeit of weinery ..."?? :laugh:


Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Jason,

Great job! I loved reading about your tasting. Enjoyed the pictures too. I live for this kind of stuff. I do taste comparisons of hot dogs all the time, as recently as yesterday when I had some Usinger's beef wieners, Best 5 count, and Union Pork Store German franks. I've had most of the hot dogs in your tasting, including all of the highest scoring ones many, many times. Boiled, grilled, fried, and in combinations. In fact, I would be able to identify them blindfolded, I'm so familiar with them. That doesn't mean that my tastes and preferences don't change from time to time. Some interesting observations. Sabrett natural casing franks (the ones you used in this tasting) do have a weird texture/consistency. I find that they are too mushy, and they aren't as good on the gas grill as others including Nathan's. However, I think they are better boiled than Nathan's for whatever reasons. As I said, I've had them every conceivable way. The Sabrett's that I really prefer are the smaller, 10 to a lb dogs that are griddled cooked and served at Papaya King and Gray's. Smaller in size, they have a better snap than the bigger ones and aren't mushy. I like these dogs as much as, if not more than Nathan's. The 10's are available at Sabrett distributors. I hear that a few grocery stores or supermarkets sell these labeled as Papaya King dogs. I've gotten them from a distributor and always cook them on the griddle.

Boars Head is a great frank with a good tough casing. This one was tied for first place with Lobel's beef franks ($14.99/lb) in a tasting held a few years ago by David Rosengarten. He had a separate rating for franks with pork or other than all beef. I would say that Boar's Head is very similar to Lobel's although I never had them side by side. These 2 are slightly less spicy (garlic/paprika) than Nathan's and Sabrett. I've cooked Sabrett and Nathan's next to a Boar's Head on my griddle. I personally prefer the Nathan's and Sabrett. I like the spicing.

Two dogs that I would have loved to see in this tasting is Best's natural casing 5 to a lb dog (served at Syd's) and Usinger's beef wiener. I realize that these 2 are hard to come by. Best's natural casing dogs are only available at the plant (or at some of the places like Syd's or Tommy's that serve them) and the Usinger beef wieners can only be obtained by ordering them from the company. These 2 are my favorite beef franks. Best is more in the Eastern Jewish New York/New Jersey style. Usinger's has a great blend of spices (including nutmeg) and a smoky flavor that you don't find in typical beef dogs. The smoke flavor is mainly a characteristic of the German style pork dogs. Usinger's is also a little shorter and thicker than your typical kosher style beef dog. But delicious, high quality, and considered by many to be the best hot dog in the country. Certainly in my top three along with Best's and Thumann's pork and beef dog.

The Best's dog that I described tastes great cooked on the gas grill. In fact, I can't determine which I like better, this one or Usinger's. I like Usinger's better on the griddle, and both taste great simmerred in water. I agree with tasters regarding Thumann's beef dog. Light, but ok. As for Hebrew National, I think it is a good dog, just that some of the others are better. I don't know if it's changed over the years; I just suspect that it might not taste as good as some remember because they have been trying better dogs. I wonder if Nathan's has changed. They are one of my favorite dogs and I don't discern any difference over the last couple of years, but I have noticed that they list corn and wheat gluten in the ingredients.

One other thing about Best. Their skinless dogs are used by the vast majority of places serving Italian Hot Dogs because they just taste better deep fried. It's true that they are from Newark and the Italian Hot Dog is often called a Newark Style dog, but I've spoken to many people that serve Italian Hot Dogs and they tell me that they use Best because they prefer it. Ironically, one of the only places that doesn't use Best is called Frank's Newark Style dogs. The owner prefers Sabrett. I've tried Sabrett, and it's ok in an Italian Hot Dog (as is Nathan's) but I like Best's. Last week when I got my shipment of Usinger's, I took one of their skinless 8 to a lb dogs (my son likes skinless) and deep fried it along with some Best's for Italian Hot Dogs that I was making. Usinger's, although at least as good or better than Best did not have the spiciness/saltiness that I'm used to in this type of dog.

I can't wait until you review pork based dogs. Oh, and I just noticed in your post that you will do mail order dogs. I guess this is why Usinger's was left out of this tasting. Can I offer a few suggestions for the next round? For pork based dogs (in commercial brands usually 60% pork to 40% beef, or 50-50) Thumann's (my personal favorite), Schickhaus, Schaller & Weber, Hofmann's German brand franks (available at Wegmans; not the coneys) and the German Franks at the Union Pork Store. These dogs taste better (especially Thumann's) cooked on a griddle at low heat (160-180) for awhile. If that's not possible, grilling on the Weber is a good choice. In David Rosengarten's tasting, Schaller & Weber's wieners were tied for first with a butcher shop dog from Syracuse, N.Y. called Lieh's and Steigerwald. I don't think Thumann's was included in this tasting. All the dogs tasted (all beef and beef/pork) were boiled. I don't think this does justice to a dog with pork in it.

I don't know if you want to pay the premium price for mail order, but Lobel's (similar to Boar's Head as I stated), Niman Ranch, Vienna Beef, and Klements are some of the brands out there with good reputations. And of course, Usinger's. Again, great job. Maybe bratwursts somewhere down the line?


John the hot dog guy

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Last night, while the Perlews and crew were wading through weiner after weiner, in search of their perfect dog, I looked into my refrigerator and found mine -- Big City Reds Beef Polish Sausage. At four to package, they are huge and, as the name implies, more sausage than hot-dog in girth and appearance. The spicing, however, screams hot dog, and the passion with which it marries itself to a sub roll (nother smaller will handle it) fried in butter reveals its true nature.

I scored mine, to make the natural casing easier to penetrate -- no need to worry about these dogs being juicy enough -- and fried it in a skillet until it was hot through and just burnt on each side. Then, into the bun with raw onion, blue cheese (not bleu cheese, this stuff is called "Pirate's Treasue" and does not come from France) mustard and ketchup.

FO, man.

Learn (a little) more here.

PS, props to all you slaw dog eaters. I got turned onto those at a Dairy Queen in Cobb County, Georgia and have been a staunch fan ever since.


I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I can't wait until you review pork based dogs. Oh, and I just noticed in your post that you will do mail order dogs.

The pork and mail-order dogs such as the Usingers, Niman and Schaller & Weber will be evaluated at some point, probably along with the mail order bratwursts at some later date. It will have to require strategic ordering of the product so that they all arrive basically at the same time, that is within a 2 to 3 day period. Hopefully we can convince some of the suppliers to send us review samples, because it could get very expensive.


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Wow, amazing report. I look forward to subsequent installments.

One note on nomenclature: a kosher or kosher-style frankfurter does not as far as I know generally have a natural casing. My understanding is that most natural casing materials are unkosher aka trayf, either because they come from pigs or from unkosher parts of otherwise kosher animals. There are some kosher frankfurters with casings but the casing is typically made from some sort of vegetable starch and they tend not to be available in supermarkets. I'm sure John could explain a lot more about this.


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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Wow, amazing report. I look forward to subsequent installments.

One note on nomenclature: a kosher or kosher-style frankfurter does not as far as I know generally have a natural casing. My understanding is that most natural casing materials are unkosher aka trayf, either because they come from pigs or from unkosher parts of otherwise kosher animals. There are some kosher frankfurters with casings but the casing is typically made from some sort of vegetable starch and they tend not to be available in supermarkets. I'm sure John could explain a lot more about this.

Right, but the Nathans and Sabrett's companies are generally regarded as Kosher-style, irregardless of whether or not one of their particular products has a natural casing. Most of the ones you find in the supermarket have no casing at all, but we chose the natural casings because they distinguished themselves from the others in the group.


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Kosher style is not actually kosher, so anything goes as far as casings. Most hot dog producers make skinless dogs; those who make both generally make more of the skinless because that is what the public is used to, and it is easier and cheaper to make the skinless. As far as kosher or certified kosher dogs go, pig or hog casings are out, as well as any casing deemed not kosher. This does not include collagen casings or some sheep casings. Although kosher franks generally don't have casings, some do. Goldberg's Kosher Meats in Old Bridge is one example. They sell Hebrew National franks with a collagen casing. I always thought collagen was an artificial casing, but a distributor from Grote & Weigel told me that collagen is animal based, and accepted by kosher standards. At least by those who make and consume the Hebrew Nationals using these.


John the hot dog guy

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I always thought collagen was an artificial casing

I probably got the information from you!

Here's an interesting description of how kosher collagen casings are made:

http://www.devro.plc.uk/products/dev_kosh.htm


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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