- Hot dogs can be a simple and tasty meal perfect for summertime grilling, so Insider spoke with chefs and grilling experts to identify the top mistakes people make while cooking them.
- Avoid boiling hot dogs and make sure that you don’t grill them over direct heat.
- Don’t split or poke the hot dogs before grilling them, and make an effort to prep the buns so they aren’t served cold.
- Condiments can make or break a great hot dog, but don’t be afraid to experiment with different flavor combinations.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Hot dogs are the ultimate easy, summer meal. Unfortunately, a few common errors have the potential to take your hot dogs from delectable to detestable.
Insider spoke with chefs and grilling experts to identify the top mistakes people make while cooking hot dogs, and the best practices to follow instead.
Here are a few common mistakes that may be ruining your hot dogs.
Whenever possible, spend a little extra on all-beef hot dogs.
Grillers on a budget might be tempted to add bargain-priced hot dogs to their cart, but a truly sublime hot dog starts with quality meat.
Tim Hollingsworth, the chef and owner of Otium in downtown Los Angeles, told Insider that you'll end up with a tastier dog if you skip the cheaper brands.
He recommended keeping an eye out for natural, all-beef hot dogs, which usually aren't that much more expensive and are available in just about every supermarket.
Avoid boiling your hot dogs.
Though they may look pink, most hot dogs are actually already cooked and technically ready to eat right out of the package. This means that boiling them for ages before throwing them on the grill is probably unnecessary - and it can suck the flavor right out of your dogs.
However, you may want to make sure your chilled hot dogs are heated through before tossing them on the grill.
To accomplish this, chef and cooking-school instructor Candace Conley told Insider that lightly poaching your dogs for a minute or two in a covered saucepan of hot water - that's been taken off the heat - will allow your hot dogs to come to a more ideal grilling temperature without compromising on flavor.
Don’t cook your hot dogs over direct heat.
Since hot dogs are small portions of meat, they can easily burn when cooked on an open flame. That's why it's important to place them on the right spot on the grill.
"To avoid burning or overcooking your dogs on the grill - which can cause the casing to burst - cook them over indirect heat on the grill grate and move them around frequently so every side gets touched by the heat source," Claudia Sidoti, principal chef and head of recipe development at HelloFresh, told Insider.
Plopping your hot dogs right over the flames can also lead to their casings charring and burning before the inside even has a chance to warm up.
Avoid poking or splitting your dogs.
You may be tempted to poke your hot dogs with a knife or fork while they're grilling to test for "doneness," but you should try to break the habit.
"Since hot dogs are usually precooked, there is no need to split them open or pierce them during the cooking process. By poking and prodding your dogs, you release the delicious juices that make them juicy," Sidoti said.
Instead, gently turn your hot dogs using tongs to ensure their casings stay intact and full of flavor.
It's smart to adjust your grilling temperature to the fat content of the hot dogs.
Compare a few packages of hot dogs and you'll probably notice that different styles and brands contain different amounts of fat.
Adapting your cooking process to this variation is a crucial part of serving up delicious hot dogs.
"Consider the fat content in the hot dogs to determine what heat you should be grilling at. Higher-fat dogs should be cooked at a medium heat whereas leaner dogs should be grilling on a medium-low setting," said Julie Busha, grilling expert and creator of Slawsa hot-dog condiment.
Make sure the grill is hot enough before adding your hot dogs to it.
A grill that is too hot can burn your hot dogs or split their casings, but a grill that's too cool can also cause hot-dog havoc.
"If your grill is too cold, your hot dog will get dried out or tough," Hollingsworth said. "Be sure to preheat your grill for a few minutes. I usually aim for a grill temp of 425 degrees [Fahrenheit] with a cook time of about 10 minutes."
Don’t forget to prep the buns.
Perfectly prepared meat is undoubtedly the centerpiece of the hot-dog experience, but the bun is also an important factor.
No one likes cold buns, so don't neglect them.
"A hot dog bun should be gently toasted, which can be achieved by throwing the buns on the grill for about one minute per side," Sidoti told Insider.
For added flavor, brush the inside of the toasted bun with a little butter or oil.
Consider "bathing" your hot dogs before grilling.
Boiling hot dogs for a long time before grilling is a bad move, but "bathing" them in flavorful liquid might actually make your hot dogs tastier.
"Keep an aluminum pan filled with a mixture of hot beer, onions, and seasonings on indirect heat and place your hot dogs in before grilling," Busha told Insider. "This not only warms the hot dogs but also helps firm up that natural casing without breaking it."
Right before serving, simply pluck the hot dogs from their bath and give them a perfect char on the grill.
Adding sugar-based sauces while the hot dogs are on the grill can take them up a notch.
Hot dogs can be great out of the package, but there are a bunch of easy ways to add extra flavor to take your grilling to the next level.
"Once your hot dogs have cooked for a few minutes, brush on some barbecue sauce, mayonnaise, or, if you're feeling creative, any sauce with a sugar base," said Hollingsworth. "The sauce will caramelize as it finishes cooking."
If you want a better flavor, avoid skinless hot dogs.
You know that satisfying snap you get when biting into a perfectly cooked hot dog? That's from the meat's casing.
Busha told Insider that opting for a skinless hot dog not only sacrifices that snap, but also can cause the hot dog to lose moisture more easily on the grill.
Texture is an important factor in the hot-dog experience, so choose dogs with natural casings for the best results.
Don’t stick to just one type of condiment.
Only using one condiment can make even the tastiest hot dogs seem boring.
Though mustard or ketchup work just fine, don't be afraid to experiment with different flavors and combinations for a more gourmet experience.
Sidoti told Insider that for an ideal flavor balance, you should opt for an acidic topping which complements the smokiness and high fat content of the hot dog.
For example, you can try creating Caribbean jerk-inspired hot dogs with grilled pineapple, cilantro, lime zest, a splash of rum, and a dusting of jerk seasoning spices.