The post we did a couple weeks back on how to cook hot dogs got a bit of a response—most of it arguing that we didn’t know how to cook hot dogs at all! The nerve!
To be honest, however, we weren’t particularly offended—many of our posts are deliberately “high-level” to appeal to the widest audience. Having said that, we DO feel a bit of a need to re-establish our street cred … or maybe our grill cred. So we figured we do a more advanced post on cooking your dog like the pros.
If we’re going to do this right, we have to come out right up front and say: boiling a hot dog to cook it is for emergencies only. Grilling is the preferred method of cooking—so much so that anything else is almost considered sacrilegious.
But the purist griller knows, the process starts before you even drag out the grill: for the best effect, always make sure your dogs are thoroughly thawed. This isn’t a safety issue, as some people think; it’s just the best for cooking. The meat should be at room temperature before it hits the grill.
Your best bet is to put frozen meat in the refrigerator to overnight, and then allow it to come to room temperature before dropping it on the grill. It’s the only real way to get them to cook evenly all the way through. And yes, before you say it: some folks wouldn’t be caught dead eating a dog from the freezer. We won’t go quite that far … some things just aren’t practical.
For the grill, charcoal is the fuel of choice: it simply adds more flavor. Once the coals are nice and ashy all over, spread the briquettes flat with fire tongs. Unless you’re cooking enough hot dogs to feed the Green Bay Packers, banking the coals to one side of the grill allows for more efficient cooking.
Attach the grate and let it heat up for a few minutes. It’ll be tempting—especially with that delicious aroma—to get to the grilling, but patience is a virtue here. While you’re waiting, let’s prep those (thoroughly thawed) dogs. To prevent shriveling on the grill, you’ll need to cut four or five small slits on each frank with a sharp knife just before putting them on the grill.
Don’t split the hot dog in two down its length: remember, the goal here is to cook the dogs RIGHT. A long slit will allow for faster cooking, but it dries out the meet. You’ve waited this long for your perfect frank … don’t sacrifice flavor now, just for a few seconds of cook time.
It won’t take more than 2 or 3 minutes to develop grill marks on one side of dog, once you have it on the grill. Turn it over and repeat the process, and it should be fully cooked. The amount of char is a matter of preference, but don’t overdo it: leave that puppy on the grill for more than 5 or 6 minutes, and it’ll end up looking (and tasting) like an exploding cigar.
Try to keep the char even on all sides. One good rule of thumb is to watch for the juices: when the dog is plumped up and the natural juices start flowing out, it’s ready to go … almost. A trick the pros know: right before you pull them from the grill, brush your dogs with a bit of melted butter. Do the same with the buns, then plop them on the grill for a half-minute or less—just enough to get a slight toast.
For final assembly, we’re going to back off on the directives: everyone has their own favorite ingredients, and who are we to tell you you’re wrong. The one thing all the pros agree on, however, is that mustard is a must. The smokiness of the hot dog has a strong, rich flavor that’s the perfect counter balance to the mustard’s tang.
There you have it: the perfectly cooked hot dog. We think so, anyway … you might not agree, and that’s your prerogative: the customer is always right, right? We’d suggest you write and tell us where we screwed up … but we have a feeling that some of you are already pounding your keyboards!