Hot dogs. We love to eat them. In fact, a recent survey stated that 80% of Americans think hot dogs taste great or fantastic. But also, we love to hate on them.
We love to eat them. In fact, a recent survey stated that 80% of Americans think hot dogs taste great or fantastic. But also, we love to hate on them. So much so that 50% of people in this same survey stated that they feel judged when eating them.
It’s crazy that a staple at American BBQs and a quick dinner secret busy moms count on, could cause such eating dilemma. In the 60s and 70s, kids clamored to run behind the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile and sing “If I were an Oscar Mayer Wiener, everyone would be in love with me.” And well into the 80s, families would eat hot dogs for dinner on what was known as Wiener Wednesdays. But somewhere in the 90s, the hot dog’s reputation began to tarnish.
All the sudden, they became mysterious meat sticks due to anti-meat advocates and animal cruelty activists who made up outlandish stories about where the meat used to make hot dogs came from. There were so many bizarre stories being shared with false information that hot dogs became passé. So much so that now 60% of people surveyed said they are afraid of what’s in them.
Feeling judged and afraid for eating an American iconic food? Don’t we have enough shame being thrown around in our lives as it is? So we did some research and found that hot dogs are not as bad as most people think. So go ahead and get yourself a dog. In public. With all the toppings and feel good about yourself.
1. Hot dogs are actually made of… meat! And it’s not so mysterious.
Poor hot dogs, the victims of a heavy rumor mill. The internet claims they’re made from lips and snouts. Or even clippings off the floor. No wonder nobody wants to eat one. But who can trust the internet, especially when most of the information on hot dogs is posted by anti-meat activists? Thanks to the USDA’s regulations and inspections, you can be sure that your hot dog is made of real beef, chicken, pork, turkey, or a combination thereof. Ask a hot dog maker, and he or she will boast about their specifically chosen combination of meats and spice because that combo is what gives your dog the flavor you like. Fortunately, America’s laws prohibit making meat products out of floor clippings, and there are government inspectors in each hot dog factory to make sure only quality meats are used. So, wherever you grab your frank, you can rest assured that it’s made of good old actual meat.
What’s that you say? You’ve seen the emulsified meat batter video online? Well, sure, those exist. And we admit that meat batter makes hot dogs look like they’re made of some extraterrestrial matter. But that’s the emulsification technique that makes hot dog hot dogs. The meats and spices are blended together in what some might call a meat smoothie which is then piped into the casing before it is finished in a smoker oven that turns it into the tubular treat that it is. So that emulsified meat batter is nothing gross— it’s the process that gives America its symbol of summer and gives hot dogs their smooth even consistency, making every bite as good as the first.
2. Wait, are hot dogs healthy?
Hot dogs are unhealthy only if you make them that way by what you top them with. By themselves, a hot dog has about 150 calories, 5 grams of protein, and hardly any carbs. Hot dogs live high on the famed Keto Diet list, helping millions lose weight yearly. Some say hot dogs are unhealthy due to nitrates, compounds used to keep meat safe. Nitrates are naturally occurring, and there are more nitrates in celery, spinach or beets than there are in hot dogs. Also, it’s believed that nitrates have been found to provide cardio benefits. Wait, could this mean that eating hot dogs will help athletic performance? Maybe!
3. Hot dogs taste damn good.
Always. The special blend of meats and spices always makes for a delicious meal. Every time. Add the condiments you love like a sweet relish if you’re from Minneapolis; mustard, pickles, tomatoes, and onions if you’re from Chicago; and ketchup if you dare. The taste combination makes your mouth smile. When such a tasty treat is pretty much guaranteed, why experiment with anything else? Hot dogs for every meal.
4. Hot dogs are smoked, which makes them kinda fancy
Creating the perfect hot dog is an art, a very serious art according to dog manufacturers or DIY smokers. In a machine specially calibrated to the perfect temperature and humidity, franks are hard-wood smoked for up to two hours for texture, color, and flavor. Different hardwoods are chosen depending on the desired flavor. Smoking Meat author Jeff Phillips suggests using a cherry, oak, or hickory when smoking beef and a pecan or apple wood when smoking poultry. Franks then get a cool water shower before making it to the packaging you’ll be buying at the store. One hot dog goes through a long process just to be at your BBQ. Doesn’t that make it epicurean?
5. ’Murica loves their dogs.
That’s why 20 BILLION hot dogs are consumed by Americans every year. “That works out to about 70 hot dogs per person each year served in 95% of homes in the United States,” says the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. That’s a pretty large majority, which means hot dogs could be the American symbol that unites us all. Next time you question whether you should eat a dog in public, do it. Raise it up high. It’s patriotic.
6. Hot dogs are a foundation for creation.
A hot dog all alone is good. It’s already been smoked for flavor, so it doesn’t actually need anything to make it taste like heaven. That does not stop innovative chefs from using the dog as a base for total creativity. Hot dogs are making it onto lists at upscale restaurants as a way for chefs to show what they can do with the blank canvas of meats. At the famed Mark hotel in NYC, Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, has his own cart where he sells a $6 dog that features potato buns, sauerkraut, kimchi, and yuzu pickles. The “Juuni Ban” is the world’s most expensive hot dog at $169. Seattle chefs Eugene Woo, Samson Kwong, and cocktail king Rocky Yeh, topped their dog with Wagyu beef, caviar, and foie gras. The team at BuzzFeed gave it a taste and agreed it’s totally worth it. The internet is flooded with fancy hot dog recipes from breakfast dogs, pizza dogs, dogs in tortillas, dogs cut up in salads, dogs in cups, ways to throw hot dog parties. With such versatility, pick a recipe and experiment. It could be fun. And you could charge $169 for it.
7. Hot dogs are inexpensive and easy.
Perhaps the price of a hot dog is another reason some of us are embarrassed to be seen in public chowing down on a dog. We know, Instagram tells you to show off your riches and luxury vacations– not your bargain meats. But let’s get real. Everyone likes a deal. Even the richest of the rich love to save a little dough. Even the most expensive pack of artisan dogs run for about $8 for 4. That’s $2/dog. Add a bun and you have a craft meal for two for under $10.
What’s even better is that such a meal can be ready in a quick shake of a pan. Since hot dogs are pre-cooked and smoked before they make their way to the store, they’re pretty much done. A quick surge in the microwave does the trick or a butterfly pan fry takes less than 5 minutes if you want to get fancy. Cheap and easy might not sound good when it comes to people. But when it comes to food, it’s something to celebrate.
8. They make you feel good.
It’s scientifically proven that certain foods make us happy, and much of that is tied to our memories and friendships. If you spent your childhood eating hot dogs with your family around a pool or at a ballpark, it’s quite possible that a bite into a dog can take you back to some of the greatest times of your life. Do you need a bigger reason to love a dog? Next time you need a pick me up, just stay home and reminisce with a hot dog. Almost like actually being there.
9. They’re actually global.
Those who feel that a hot dog is too low brow to boast them in public have to check themselves. Scores of countries have their own version of the dog, making them an international treat. In China, hot dogs are wrapped in a dumpling dough and baked, somewhat like a large version of pigs in a blanket. In Amsterdam, hot dogs are a foot long, covered in pizza sauce and mozzarella, and then broiled for a crispy cheese topping. Vietnam calls on its French roots to give hot dogs a soft French roll. Then it adds julienned pickled vegetables to make sure it tastes Vietnamese. Georgia serves hot dogs open-faced while Peru slices them up and serves them on a bed of fries. So if you’re ashamed of your dog because it’s not cultured enough, think again. That hot dog has been places.
10. They’re a part of our history.
Every bite into a hot dog is a bite into a storied history. During the mass immigration to the United States in the 1800s, immigrants brought their favorite dishes from their homeland. Many of these were sausages due to their convenience, delicious taste and portability. In New York, two varieties became very popular to be sold from push carts around the city; those from Frankfurt, Germany known as frankfurters (“franks” for short), and those from Vienna, Austria known as wieners. Both of these sausages had a very similar spice blend that became a favorite of New Yorkers. Soon, the popularity of these franks and wieners grew to other states and became a standard food item at fairs, sporting events and colleges.
In the 1860’s and 70’s at various locations throughout the United States vendors started putting franks and wieners in buns and the hot dog was created. It was the perfect portable sandwich that everyone fell in love with it. But this idea of eating a frank or wiener in a bun as a hot dog didn’t gain mass popularity until 1893 at the world’s fair in Chicago (also known as the Columbian Exposition to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the new world). At this exposition, many famous American brands were introduced the masses including Cracker Jacks, Pabst Blue Ribbon and Vienna Beef Hot Dogs.
Hot Dogs were solidified as an American icon in 1939 when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt served hot dogs to King George VI during the first time ever that a sitting British Ruler visited an American President in the United States. It was during a lunch at their house and the King asked for more!
So every time you take a bite of a hot dog, you’re tasting some history of America. Now go squirt some mustard on that history and take a snappy bite.