Food & Drink

I Tried Every Pack of Hot Dogs I Could Get My Hands On. Now These Are the Only Ones I’ll Buy.

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Whether you’re pro ketchup or firmly against it, an onion advocate or a relish diehard, the most important decision to make when it comes to hot dogs is about the dog itself. The supermarket refrigerator section has a veritable wall of hot dog choices, so it’s not always easy to know which one to pick. Some are pork and beef, some beef only. Some are “skinless,” while others have casings. There’s cured, uncured, grass-fed, Angus, cheesy, smoky, and turkey. Which one is top dog? Well, that’s what I decided to find out — with a hot dog taste!

How I Tested the Hot Dogs

I sifted through the options to find the best ones that could satisfy a craving for a classic hot dog. I opted only for straightforward, all-beef dogs from the major brands found at most supermarkets around the country. To prepare, I steamed them up, so no charring or browning could interfere with (read: improve) the flavor. From there, my tasters ate them without buns or condiments, as those can cover a multitude of sins.

Here’s what I’ll be grilling up all summer long.

The Snappiest Hot Dogs: Boar’s Head Uncured Beef Frankfurters

Although these are “uncured,” they have a deeply savory and beefy flavor with a slight umami tang that you expect from artisan cured meats. And even though they’re skinless, they really snap when you bite into them. If you want a premium hot dog, this is it.

The Juiciest Hot Dogs: Nathan’s Famous Jumbo Restaurant-Style Beef Frank

The Coney Island original still makes excellent dogs. These are perfectly delicious, with a juicy, fatty richness. The savory flavor is balanced, skewing neither too sweet nor too smoky or oniony. If you’re looking for a straight-up simple hot dog that stays juicy, this won’t disappoint.

The Most Virtuous Hot Dogs: Applegate Naturals Uncured Beef Hot Dogs, $6 for 10 ounces

Made with humanely raised grass-fed beef, these dogs taste a lot more complex than other brands — almost more like some kind of steak dinner in hot dog form. Although there’s no added sugar, they offer a sweet note that balances the savory flavors.

The Most Classic Hot Dogs: Hebrew National Beef Franks

Hebrew National is plenty delicious and could easily displace Nathan’s for those who crave a super-classic hot dog. If you love in-your-face hot doggy flavor, you’ll want to opt for this one.

Do you agree with this list? What’s your favorite hot dog?

Danielle Centoni


Danielle Centoni is a James Beard Award-winning food writer, editor, recipe developer, and cookbook author based in Portland, Oregon. Her latest cookbook is “Fried Rice: 50 Ways to Stir Up The World’s Favorite Grain.”

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