When it comes to outdoor grilling, the world can be divided into two camps: the ones who prefer hamburgers, and the ones who prefer hot dogs. Show up a picnic of family reunion a little late and you won’t have any trouble making out who belongs to which side.
We’re on the hot dog side, obviously: from the pillow-soft bun that is the perfect foundation for piles of different toppings … to the juicy, satisfying snap of your first bite, the opinion around here is that hot dogs are the official basis of the quintessential American cookout.
Ah, but which hot dog is the best for grilling?
Opinions vary. So we figured we do some “field research.”
Of course, we’ve done these sorts of surveys before. But we’ll latch on to just about any excuse to spend the day eating hot dogs. So we gathered a few of our HDBs (hot dog buddies) together for a blind taste of some grilled franks, to see who was Top of the Heap and which ones were only pretenders (nobody likes fraud) . A few of the results surprised us:
Most Beef for Your Buck: Great Value
You can drop a lot of money on gourmet dogs, but we unanimously agreed that there’s not much to dislike about Walmart’s in-house brand of uncured beef franks. They’re a bit saltier than average (the hot dogs, not our tasters), but still boasted a robust flavor and nice snap. The bonus is, it’s Walmart: that means you’re looking at pretty good price point, which can be important if you’re hosting an extended-family reunion or some other large event. For our money, these were the perfect balance point between taste and budget.
Best Use of Spices: Hebrew National
These dogs plumped without bursting and got beautiful grill marks with just a couple minutes on each side, but the big surprise was the unique flavor: spiced, without being spicy. Hebrew National packs its franks with garlic powder and paprika for a flavorful, beefy bite. Not quite as juicy as we expected going in, the hot dogs were nevertheless huge crowd pleasers: what they (arguably) lacked in juice, they more than made up for in satisfying taste.
Most Worthy of Splurging on Applegate Natural
Yeah, we know: they’re pricey. But we’re talking quality cuts of 100-percent-grass-fed beef. As delicious as they are, however, Applegate Natural Uncured Beef hot dogs are equally impressive with what they aren’t: the company boasts that their products come with no added nitrites…no chemical preservatives…no antibiotics…and no added hormones. A couple of the tasters with prior experience said these don’t handle being boiled nearly as well as others, but we felt they performed quite well on the grill, delivering a nice juicy taste.
And the Weiner … er, WINNER … is: Nathan’s Famous
There was a little bit of controversy here: A few of the judges were leaning toward Ball Park’s “Ball Park Finest” dogs, which we all admitted were incredibly beefy and flavorful. As tasty as they were, however, they were a tad on the smoky side, with almost more of a brat texture. Since we were specifically going for hot dogs here, we finally concluded that Nathan’s Famous Skinless Beef Franks combined all of the best qualities of the perfect summer hot dog: robust flavor, seasoned but not salty, extremely grill-able, and a good ratio of juicy to snap.
So there you have it, folks: our latest un-official roundup of the best brands for grilling. But don’t take our word for it: do your own taste test and let us know what you think!