No question, we love hot dogs of all styles, but nothing truly beats the taste of a delicious grilled hot dog. But if your dogs don’t seem to be living up to your expectations, we have some tips. Here are some of the most common areas where grillers make mistakes when cooking their dogs.

  • They skimp on the meat. OK, sure, we’re not talking haute cuisine here, but when it comes to a dish as simple as the humble hot dog, the quality of the ingredients can make a huge difference. A hot dog is known in the meat industry as a “pre-cooked meat product,” which means it can contain all types of mystery meats and “other edible slaughter by-products.” The cheaper the brand, the more likely filler meats were used, doused with doses of sodium and preservatives. Check the label: With more nuanced seasonings and fewer additives, higher-quality beef franks grill and taste better all around.
  • They don’t prep the grill. All that gunk on your grill from last week’s cookout? Yeah, that’s not helping, and a quick scrape isn’t really enough. Make sure those grates are clean. Dump the old ashes–too much ash can make it hard to control the temperature. Show your grill a little love: a couple minutes of easy prep will make a big difference in the flavor of your dogs.
  • They don’t preheat the grate. Getting the grill hot before adding the dogs will help prevent them from sticking. So will oiling the grate, a simple step many people skip. Light the coals, add the grates and let them heat a few moments. Then grab a wadded paper towel with your tongs, dip it in some olive oil, and use it to coat the grates. In more of a hurry? A layer of non-stick cooking spray can accomplish the same goal, albeit not as flavorfully.
  • They don’t position the dogs correctly. What we’re going for here is even cooking, and that’s harder to accomplish if the dogs are just thrown on the grate willy-nilly. Arrange your hot dogs perpendicular to the grates, striving for equal spacing between them. That way they won’t fall through into the ash, and you’ll be sure to get those important grill marks. Because dogs are relatively small, they’ll burn or cook unevenly in a very short time: cooking times can be as volatile as Bitcoin’s value. That means moving them around is paramount. Roll them frequently so that all sides get touched by the heat.
  • They neglect the buns. Look, no one is saying the dog itself isn’t the most crucial ingredient, but don’t underestimate the importance of the bun. Look for buns or rolls that are soft yet sturdy, squishy but still textured. And then TOAST them. Yup. Even if you’re faint from hunger, take the time. Brush both the open sides with a light coating of butter, then drop them on the grill next to your dogs for a few minutes.
  • They don’t top with panache. Everybody has their preferences, and some of us can get almost confrontational about it … but I think we’re all onboard with the idea that squirting a couple packets of McDonald’s mustard that you found in the back of your junk drawer is just pathetic. Whatever you’re adding, go for presentation as much as correct levels of flavor.

There you have it: some of the most commonly neglected areas of dog-grilling. Don’t misunderstand: we realize that a half-done dog is still better than most of the foods out there. But take the extra time and effort to prepare it right, and you’ll enjoy the full force and all the layers of textures that can be tasted in a truly satisfying hot dog.