Hot Dog History

hotdogHot dogs have been part of American history since 1867 when German immigrant, Charles Feltman, hit upon an idea. His “sausage” in a bun saved money on plates and utensils, and he sold so many, he ended up with a huge entertainment empire serving five million people a year. So, that worked out well and not just for the Feltman family. Many families in America enjoy hot dogs on a regular basis.

The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council reports that Americans down seven billion hot dogs every summer. That’s a lot of grilling. Grilling is a preferred way to cook hot dogs because it brings out the taste in such a wonderful way.

Long-standing debates about how to grill hot dogs drone on, but what matters is the preference of the hot dog eater. Some grillers soak hot dogs in water or beer before grilling. A marinade, yes, marinade, may include ketchup, Worcester sauce and minced garlic in the beer. Some cooks marinate hot dogs overnight in the refrigerator. Marinade may also include teriyaki sauce, cider, brown sugar, herbs, onion and chiles, not necessarily in this combination.

The anti-marinating argument proposes that soaking makes hot dogs rubbery after grilling. One of the very gratifying parts of eating grilled hot dogs is the “snap” of that first bite. If there is no snap, it’s kind of anticlimactic. Some may know how to marinate hot dogs and grill them while maintaining the snap. Each griller must come to terms with this, or not. Try several methods and enjoy them all.

One griller advocates using medium heat to create that snap-bite. If the grill is too hot, the hot dogs split and may not snap the way they should. Turn the hot dogs to get nice brown grill marks all around each one, ensuring that they are cooked through. Serve hot dogs immediately after grilling so they’re nice and warm in the bun.

Fresh baked buns enhance the hot dog eating experience, of course, like a good baguette goes with a tasty grilled steak. If the griller spends money on 100% beef hot dogs, adding fresh baked buns might make the cookout more memorable.

The subject of hot dog toppings could fill volumes. People have put things on hot dogs that would make a great-grandmother shriek. Purists love hot dogs with mustard and scorn the very idea of ketchup. Ketchup is an American idea. It’s not so common in Germany or any other European country, if it’s used at all, ever.

There is no right or wrong way to eat hot dogs because each person can make a hot dog the way it suits him or her. It’s not like making a souffle. Have fun-it’s a hot dog. Grilling, however, should be done carefully so as not to eat pure charred ash. That’s not at all healthy, even if some like their hot dogs black.

It is possible to get “healthy” hot dogs, in regard to meat, because some are not filled with nitrates. Some claim to have none, so it might be wise to go with those kinds. Moms pay attention to such information, and it makes sense to care. The well-made, non-nitrate hot dogs taste as good or better than the nitrate-filled ones, so go healthy.

Corn dogs and “veggie” dogs may be all right for meat substitutes, but the same warnings apply. Look at the ingredients, and if there are words too complex to pronounce, don’t bother. The calorie count might not be any better, depending on the brand, so don’t be fooled. Meat lovers don’t care anyway, because corn and vegetables will not be part of the equation except as side dishes at a cookout.

The only way to find out how to grill hot dogs is to do so by following recipes that sound good. Find a good one and grill, eat, enjoy and repeat. It’s fun.

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