This piece originally appeared on Fix.com.
Who doesn't love a good hot dog? I know I get excited when it comes time for a hot dog cookout. First off, hot dogs are simple to grill. Second, they are a blank slate when it comes time to add your favorite flavors. From a simple squirt of ketchup to an elaborate topping of lump crab meat, hot dogs can handle it all. This is cookout food that both the kids and adults can be happy about.
Best Type of Hot Dog
Hot dogs have changed a lot over the years. There are options now available that can rival a high-end sausage. The first thing to look for is “all beef”. This will provide a hot dog that has a stronger, richer flavor. It will almost taste like you are biting into a piece of steak rather than a mystery blend of various processed meats. Second, you’ll want a hot dog with a natural casing. This will provide that “pop” when you bite into it, like an authentic sausage. Third, take a look at that ingredient label. Try to keep things simple. The first ingredient should be beef, following by a list of spices for flavoring. I also like to avoid any preservatives, such as sodium nitrate. The addition of nitrates allows the hot dog to last a very long time, but chances are I'll be grilling the hot dogs within a few days of buying them, so I prefer to pass on the preservatives. The organic and all-natural brands mostly have no added preservatives.
So there we have the foundation of the cookout – an all-beef, minimally processed hot dog with an all-natural casing. Now it’s ready to be grilled. For all of the recipes discussed in this article the hot dog can be prepared many ways. If you are grilling the hot dog, simply put it over medium or medium-low heat and roll it over every couple of minutes until it is lightly charred and heated. Alternatively, you can boil the hot dog, or even bake it in the oven. For boiling the hot dog, fill a small pot with water and turn the stove on high. When the water is boiling, add the hot dogs, leaving them in until they are heated. For baking in an oven, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, arrange the hot dogs on a foil-lined cookie sheet, and bake for about 10 minutes.
Chicago-Style Hot Dog: This hot dog is unique. The history of this hot dog supposedly goes back to America’s Great Depression, when these hot dogs were sold in the streets for about a nickel. This hot dog has an amazing combination of contrasting textures. You bite into a hot grilled hot dog that has a cold medley of vegetables on top. Some bites are focused on the tomato slice and pickle, while others will get the spicy pickled sport pepper and onions. It’s all rounded out perfectly on a soft poppy seed bun with a sprinkle of celery salt all over. Prepare this hot dog by placing the cooked hot dog on the soft poppy seed bun. On one side of the hot dog, place two slices of tomato. On the other side, place a dill pickle spear. On top of the hot dog, add some mustard and place some diced white onions, sweet relish, and a few pickled sport peppers. (Note: Pickled sport peppers are commonly sold as pickled Serrano peppers in most grocery stores.) Then lightly sprinkle some celery salt on top and serve.
Crab Mac ‘n’ Cheese Hot Dog: This hot dog is from Baltimore, where I first saw it served at Camden Yards, where the Orioles play baseball. It’s a simple hot dog that relies on two powerful flavors: macaroni and cheese and luxurious lump crab meat. Any macaroni and cheese recipe will work for this hot dog. The easiest way to do it is to grab a box of easy macaroni and cheese from the grocery store and follow the instructions. The lump crab meat can be found in most grocery store seafood sections. A soft simple hot dog bun will work for this recipe. Place the cooked hot dog on the roll, top with the cooked macaroni and cheese, and then place the crab meat on top. In Baltimore, the common spice to put on top is Old Bay. If you can't find Old Bay, you can use any shrimp boil seasoning. Generously add the seasoning to the top and serve.
Coney Island Chili Dog: The best chili dogs are made with a smooth, beefy chili sauce. This recipe is my take on the classic Coney Island hot dog. Cut 1 pound of flank steak into 1- to 3-inch chunks and put the chunks into a food processor. Pulse the beef for about 2-3 seconds each a total of 40 times until the beef is a little finer than standard ground beef. In a pot, sauté 1 diced medium sized onion, 3 diced large celery stalks, 1 diced garlic clove, 1/2 cup of ketchup, 1/2 cup of chili sauce, 2 tablespoons of yellow mustard, 2 tablespoons of hot sauce, 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, 1.5 tablespoons of chili powder, and 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves. Cook this mixture until the beef is done. Assemble the hot dog by placing the cooked hot dog in a fresh soft bun, smothering with the chili sauce and then placing shredded cheddar cheese and diced white onions on top.
Southwestern Dog: This hot dog recipe incorporates fresh avocados and salsa. Simply open up the avocado and remove the core. Slice the avocado and line a few slices on one side of the hot dog between the hot dog and the bun. On the other side spread the fresh salsa and top with sliced jalapenos. This easy and flavorful hot dog is best when avocados and salsa are fresh and ripe.
Making one of these hot dog recipes will take your summer cookout to a whole new level. So don’t be afraid of a cookout centered around hot dogs! Give these recipes a try and let me know which one is your favorite.