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Cyndi Allison - Grill Girl

Hot Dogs & Sausages

Kum Ba Ya
Hot Dogs are inexpensive
and easy to grill.

I’m not too proud to say that I adore hot dogs and especially grilled wieners. I know that frankfurters don’t get much respect in grilling circles, and I know “the other grill meat” has gotten a bad rap from the health nuts. But, they’re darn good eating, and I’m in good company, since the average American snarfs down 60 hot dogs per year.

What are Hot Dogs?

Hot dogs are actually sausages. They are lightly spiced, so most sausage folks also consider them to be rather sad in terms of the category. If you hook up with a sausage freak, then he or she is going to give you a hard time for liking good old-fashioned franks. They’ll try to get you to try all manner of other “real” sausages. I like most all sausages, so I’m not downing those. I love to slather up a good spicy sausage with hot mustard, but I’m down for a regular old hot dog too.

The name does not do much for the reputation of the hot dog. I don’t know many people who would eat actual dog. And, hot dogs are surely not made from dog meat. Most, in fact, are ground beef or pork. There are lighter options on the market made with chicken or turkey. I think you can even get vegetarian hot dogs too, but I’ve not gone down that road yet. As a rule, I’d rather have my vegetables in a salad.

The best explanation I can find for the “hot dog” name is that they were, at one time, marketed as “dachshund sausages” reflecting that they look rather like the dogs of the same name. I guess I can go for that explanation. It makes more sense than hamburgers being called hamburgers when they are not made from pork.

The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (yes—they have an organization for everything) credits the creation of hot dogs back to Frankfurt, Germany in 1852. This is why, they say, that they are also called frankfurters or franks for short. Again, I wasn’t around and can’t vouch, but that sounds reasonable.

Cheap and Easy (to grill)

In any case, the hot dog is a great grill treat. In addition to being very inexpensive, they are quick and easy to cook. Really, you just need to heat them through. Fire the grill to medium (coals or gas) and toss the hot dogs on. By the time the dogs have a few grill marks, they are ready to come off. Five to ten minutes should do the trick. Do watch them closely and don’t burn them to a crisp as very few folks really like charred meat.

The only real trick to grilling hot dogs is to avoid sticking them with a fork. That lets out the flavors. Use tongs for the best hot dogs. Roll them around and then pull them off when they’re heated through and flavored by the smoke.

I often encourage new grillers to start off with hot dogs. They are super easy. It’s hard to mess up hot dogs. Also, most people do like hot dogs even if they don’t brag about it. Kids especially seem to be thrilled if you put franks on the menu. Even miniature family members can enjoy the fruits of the grill. The only note I’d make there is that it’s important to cross cut the meat for little ones. The round circles can choke younger guests. If you cut the meat in circles, then cut them again to make half circles. This greatly reduces the problems with choking.

Top Off Those Dogs

Hot dogs from the grill aren’t fancy. But, you can dress them up with the toppings. Every area of the country seems to have different ways of making hot dogs special. Here in the south, a dog “all the way” means chili, mustard, onions, and slaw. When I was in New York City, they dressed up the franks with sauce and onions. In other places, I’ve been offered hot dogs slathered in cheese and even with chili including beans. It’s been rather a shock to see hot dogs decked out in these various ways, but I’ve come to appreciate the variety and to enjoy almost all the regional variations in serving hot dogs.

My favorite hot dog topping is chili. I like the slow southern hamburger chili which is super greasy, but it’s hard to beat Chili-O which is a big brand name chili seasoning sold in a pack. I make up a big crockpot of Chili-O and then freeze containers of that to break out when we cook or grill hot dogs. It’s way better than the canned chili sold in the stores. The taste is mild, and even kids generally love Chili-O chili.

Slaw is rather a southern topping for hot dogs, and I’ll have to put up a good slaw recipe. The crunch of the cabbage is interesting with hot dogs. The taste is somewhat acquired, so it can take a while for people to warm up to this topping. It’s definitely something to try though, so I’ll talk with my southern buddies and get a really good slaw recipe up soon.

Have a Great Time and Make No Apologies

Don’t feel bad if you’re on a tight budget or need to feed a crowd. You can pick up some hot dogs and buns and have a great evening without going broke. If you cook the frankfurters on the grill, they are extra good. Everything just seems to taste better outside. We often have hot dog cook-outs with the neighbor kids, and they always are thrilled to have a night out in the back yard. With the dogs, chips, and baked beans, it’s a really easy party and a good time. It’s nice to have a fancy outdoor meal with steak or other high dollar meats, but there’s nothing wrong with treating with the under appreciated hot dog and trimmings.

Also try some Brats (another type of sausage) on the grill. Those are perfect for tailgate parties and concerts.

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