Hot DOG! Facts About Franks to Impress Your Kids.

hot dog science! Specialty hot dog toppings for summer grilling

It’s grilling season! At our house, we can’t get enough of the grill. Family and friends hanging outside…simple, delicious meals…beautiful weather…what’s not to love? So here’s a post to earn you an impressed look (or an eye roll) while you’re tending the grill…the science behind hot dogs!

Whether it’s a wienie, frank, red hot, durger, coney, or “dog,” today’s hot dogs share a few things in common:

Composition – Most hot dogs are made with beef, pork, or a combination of the two. (Chicken and turkey dogs can also be found on today’s grocery shelves, and may be a healthier or cheaper option to more traditional beef/pork options.) The meat is processed, and cured/smoked/cooked. On the labels of commercial hot dogs, you may also find ingredients like sodium erythorbate and sodium nitrate, which act as a preservative.

History – Many believe today’s franks were born in Frankfurt, Germany (just a few years before Columbus sailed the ocean blue).  Others give credit to a German butcher from Coburg who reportedly developed the “dachshund” in the late 1600’s and later promoted his creation in Frankfurt. And, as the name “weiner” would suggest, others claim Vienna (Wein) Austria to be the birthplace of today’s hot dog.  The origin of the name “hot dog” in the US is equally disputed. Some funny stories here.

An affinity to ballparks – In 1893, sausages started to become popular at baseball parks. Some hot dog historians (yep, it seems there is such a thing) believe it was the St. Louis Browns major league baseball owner (a German immigrant), Chris Von de Ahe, who started the trend.

Differences in dogs – to name a few.

  • Natural casing vs. skinless. It’s a natural casing that gives hot dogs a firmer texture and that characteristic “snap” when bitten. Skinless dogs are cooked in casings that have been removed prior to packaging. Kosher dogs are generally skinless.
  • Cooking method. Grilling is my favorite way to cook hot dogs, mostly because I love a little char. Some people smoke hot dogs, while others prefer to fry, boil, or steam.
  • Condiments. Mustard is the # 1 preferred condiment in the US (mostly in the East), followed by ketchup (preferred in the Midwest), and chili (loved in the South). Onions, sauerkraut, and pickle relish also top the list of beloved hot dog toppings. What’s your favorite topping?

Source: National Hot Dog and Sausage Council

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