No snack is as quintessentially American as the good ol’ hot dog.
A staple on the stands at baseball games and 4th of July backyard BBQs, the hot dog is more than America’s favorite snack – it’s a national institution.
As with most institutions, our favorite franks have been the subject of much-heated discourse over the years.
From the Great Sandwich Debate to the controversial use of ketchup as a topping, questions and opinions concerning the tenets of proper hot dog consumption have long captured the imagination of the nation.
One such question, posed by none other than Queen Elizabeth herself, is the subject of today’s lesson.
As the story goes, in the year 1939, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth were invited to a picnic hosted by the Roosevelts to mark a momentous occasion—the first-ever visit of a reigning British monarch to one of their former colonies.
The first lady, in the tradition of true American hospitality, presented the monarchs with a silver tray of hot dogs and beer at the event. Having never encountered one before, the Queen, puzzled, is quoted as having asked, “How do you eat this?”
The President’s answer?
“Very simple. Push it into your mouth and keep pushing it until it is all gone,”
The Queen, it is said, chose a knife and fork instead. But what if we were to tell you neither FDR nor the Queen got it quite right?
That’s right, America: Chances are, you’ve been eating hot dogs the wrong way.
At The Hot Dog, we relish nothing more than advocating on behalf of America’s most beloved food.
In today’s lesson on wiener etiquette, we discuss the proper way to eat hot dogs—from plating to prep, and from consumption to hygiene—so that your next barbecue doesn’t end in a pickle.
Plating Your Hot Dogs
In keeping with the true spirit of Americana, the hot dog is a study in simplicity.
Laid-back, easy-going, and effortlessly enjoyable, a hot dog is a culinary expression of the very best of American values and should be presented as such.
If you’re looking to indulge in the nation’s greatest snack the right way, toss out that silver cutlery and high-browed garnishing, and stick to the basics for your hot dog buns; sesame, or poppy seed, or even the traditional plain bun will do nicely.
As The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council so succinctly put it, “Sun-dried tomato buns or basil buns are considered gauche with franks.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
Dressing Your Hot Dogs
Nothing is worse than a hot dog with a soggy bun. This is why the discipline of dressing your dog is considered an art form in and of itself.
While the temptation to load your buns with heaps of garnishes and toppings is difficult to resist while waiting for your sausages to come off the grill or out of the oven, aficionados will explain that there is a method to the madness, all while scoffing at your eager impertinence.
The objective, according to The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, is to “dress the dog, not the bun.”
The art of dressing, therefore, follows a distinct path, that can be broken down into the following steps:
- Step One: Place your frank in your choice of bun
- Step Two: Wet, non-ketchup condiments, such as mustard, may be applied to the dog directly
- Step Three: Layer on chunky ingredients, such as a pickle spear, caramelized onions, and sauerkraut
- Step Four: Whether your perfect recipe contains blue cheese or the regular kind, now is the time to layer it on
- Step Five: Lastly, sprinkle on your spices, salt and pepper, and your dog is all dressed for the barbecue!
Serving Your Hot Dogs
In keeping with the traditional values the hot dog espouses, The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council dictate that the serving of the meal be kept as low-maintenance as possible.
While the First Lady’s use of a silver tray may be a defensible transgression when considering her guest list, a true connoisseur will tell you that the foundational core of a good hot dog relies on a single premise: A little goes a long way.
While paper plates are the traditional favorite, an argument can be made for a regular kitchen dish as an acceptable replacement.
Similarly, if cocktail wieners are on the menu, it is considered proper to use colored toothpicks or for skewering. Cocktail forks, much like silver platters and expensive China, are in poor taste.
Finding The Right Pair
When serving beverages, keep in mind to offer a selection of complimentary drinks.
That vintage bottle of red you’ve been saving up for the right occasion might have to wait a little longer.
Instead, The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council recommend that you stick to the all-time favorites of beer, iced tea, soda pop, and lemonade to not overpower the flavors of your hot dog.
Eating Your Hot Dogs The Right Way
Now that we have covered the correct method of preparing and presenting a hot dog, it’s time to get to the meat of the issue.
To begin, it is advisable to clear the area in your immediate surroundings. Hot dogs are a simple and yet infinitely complex beast, and require the use of both hands to be consumed effectively.
It is not uncommon to tip over a full glass of beer, or end up spilling bottles of condiments over unsuspecting neighbors if you’re not careful. Clear a space both in front and around yourself before digging in.
Next, we must assume the position. Hand placement, grip, and dexterity are vital to the proper consumption of a hot dog and are not to be taken lightly. To master this art, you must ensure the following conditions are met:
- The hot dog must be picked up, gently, from the mid-section, so that the two halves of the bun envelop the meat.
- Next, gently cup one hand around the bottom of the bun, while using the other to pinch the buns at the hind of the hot dog, securing the meat in place and preventing any unfortunate slipping.
- The hot dog must be kept level, with the meat and condiments facing upward, to ensure nothing falls off.
- For some, it is useful to angle the dog so that you get an equal measure of meat, condiments, toppings, and bun with every bite. Experiment with different angles to see which suits your hands and mouth type best.
It goes without saying that using a fork and knife, à la Queen Elizabeth, is considered bad form.
If you’re doing it right, it shouldn’t take more than 5 bites from start to finish to consume your dog, with The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council making an exception of 7 bites for foot-longs.
Hot Dogs and Hygiene
While experts warn against the ensuing mess of hot dog consumption, the clean-up process is no stranger even to the amateur.
Unless you have been very thorough, chances are that once your dogs are gone, you are left with more than just a satiated belly. A rite of passage for hot dog eaters is to find yourself covered in condiments and spilled toppings.
As a rule, it is considered improper to leave behind traces of a hot dog, no matter how quickly you have devoured it. Be sure to eat every remaining bite of the dogs, whether that be a lone chunk of dry bun or a stray onion.
While it is considered acceptable to use paper napkins for the face and mouth—cloth, of course, is a frank faux pas—condiments like mustard that linger on the tips of your fingers must be licked off.
Gestures of thanks must also be kept in the casual tone of the hot dogs themselves. Stray away from the ever-so-thoughtful thank you note after a successful hot dog barbecue, choosing to rather give your host an enthusiastic high-five on your way out.
Follow these rules carefully, and you will have mastered the art of eating hot dogs.
Until we ‘meat’ again!