The Best And Worst Hot Dogs To Buy At The Grocery Store

As backyard barbecue season is upon us, it's time to reevaluate our hot dog options. But this begs a question: What exactly do you want from a hot dog? Different people want different things. Some view it merely as a meaty carrier for toppings like spicy chili, sauerkraut, and peppers. Others hope for a dog that will send them on a nostalgic trip via their tastebuds, calling to mind childhood summers playing tee ball and dashing around the waterpark. And others still want a hot dog that offers a sophisticated flavor that calls to mind artisan sausage rather than a concession stand filler.


The good news is that there's definitely a hot dog out there that will fit the bill, no matter how specific your needs. The hard part is just tracking that Goldilocks hot dog down. That's where I come in. I roasted common hot dog brands to find the best franks for each hankering, plus a few you should skip entirely. Without further ado, let's dig into some dogs. Prices may vary based on location.

Best-Tasting Bargain: Bar S Beef Franks

The Bar S brand, like Oscar Mayer and Ball Park, can be found throughout the country and offers a number of sizes, including bun-length and jumbo. However, its most distinguishing feature is its rock-bottom price point. For eight hot dogs (12 ounces), you can expect to pay around $3.12. It certainly checks all the boxes of convenience and value — but how does this all-beef frank taste?


I first noticed this Bar S Frank's slightly sweet flavor compared to the other distinctly savory brands. This isn't alarming when you consider that this sweetness may be coming from a traditional seasoning for the hot dog. Coriander and mace are sweet spices that set the American hot dog apart from all other sausages. Add to this a bit of sugar, which manufacturers mix in to help with the dog's ability to caramelize on the grill, and you can understand why this brand may skew sweet. Surprisingly, this sweetness was an excellent complement to the beefy taste of the frank, and it was nice not to have all other flavors be overwhelmed by too much sodium. It has a soft texture, so don't expect it to give you a good snap, but it's not so soft as to call to mind tofu. Overall, if you're expected to feed a busload of family and friends at your barbecue, Bar S Beef Franks offers the best bang for your buck.


The Juvenile's Hot Dog: Oscar Mayer's Beef Franks

A brand this famous needs no introduction. Oscar Mayer is the reigning king of inexpensive processed meat products, so its beef hot dog had to be evaluated. For $3.94, I got a 15-ounce pack of all-beef hot dogs that promised no artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors. That's the kind of low price that can lure even a snooty shopper, especially in these times of dire grocery inflation.


Unfortunately, as the old adage goes, you get what you pay for. Taste-wise, it hits the signposts of a salty, savory hot dog but lacks any discernable nuance. Though this slightly bland taste isn't enough to sink the hot dog alone, its texture finishes the job. As the softest hot dog on the list, it had a mushy feel that made me think of tube-shaped meat mousse. Now, some people live for that cat-food-masquerading-as-vienna-sausage texture. But if you like a sturdier, more flavorful dog, you'll find this a juvenile effort among more mature options on this list.

The Consistent Classic: Hebrew National Beef Franks

Another heavy hitter in the realm of hot dog brands, Hebrew National has been serving Kosher beef dogs since 1905. The brand first evolved to offer a hot dog that met the requirements of the Kosher diet, which abstains from eating pork, but has become beloved by foodies of all religions and diets. It's a little pricier than the previous brands (I spent $4.92 for eight hot dogs), but it's not going to break the bank, either.


There's a reason this hot dog is a classic. One bite sent me to the memories of hot summer barbecues and my favorite baseball game dinner in the stands. It has a juicy, salty flavor that declares its hot dog taste with oomph. This is not a flavor that knocks at the door, it's a battering ram. Let me be clear: A classic hot dog should be a sodium bomb, packing enough of a beefy punch to fight through the bread bun and numerous toppings a consumer may put on it. When I classify this hot dog as offering plenty of salty savory flavor, that's a compliment. It has a nice traditional texture as well, blending a chewy snap with a moist interior. It's a solid option for the classic hot dog lover.

Perfectly Average: Ball Park Franks Angus Beef

Once upon a time, Ball Park Franks was made with veal, but these days, it's made with beef, a blend of chicken and pork, or with Angus beef, its premium option. The Angus beef franks, my Ball Park selection, are more expensive than the other options, clocking in at $5.84 for a 14-ounce pack of eight.


As a name that invokes America's favorite pastime, you'd think it would have a more signature hot dog flavor. It ticks all the boxes for a typical hot dog (sodium, smokiness, beefiness) but lands on the blander side for what it's promising, especially considering the inflated price. On the positive side, one of the hot dog's claims to fame — its "plumpness"– is apparent. This was one of the juicier hot dogs in the line-up, offering plenty of moisture in each bite. This plump texture does make it a softer, less snappy dog, but that's to be expected. It's a perfectly fine hot dog if slightly underwhelming with that Angus distinction.

Solid Classic: Nathan's Famous Beef Franks

Nathan's Famous is another time-honored classic hot dog brand. Long associated with two American treasures, Coney Island and the Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest, Nathan's wins plenty of nostalgic brownie points before you open up the package. You can purchase a 12-ounce pack of eight for $4.97, though there are also Colossal Quart Pounder Franks available if you like your hot dogs to be roughly the size of an actual dog.


With a comparable price point to Hebrew International hot dogs, it's interesting that I found this hot dog's taste and texture to also match comparable to Hebrew International. It was a properly intense hot dog with a beefy, salty aftertaste, just like the ones you'd expect to find on Coney Island. As for texture, it had a juicy, chewy finish that would make any average hot dog lover pleased. Would I want to eat 62 of them like Joey Chestnut, the reigning champ of Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest? Let's leave that job to the professionals.

Not Quite A Hot Dog: Hempler's Uncured Wagyu Beef Franks

You may not be familiar with Hempler's as it's an artisan, small-batch meat company, but what it lacks in name-brand recognition, it makes up for in fancy bells and whistles. Case in point, take a look at the Uncured Wagyu Beef Franks ($8.10 for a 16-ounce six-pack). Proclaiming to be made from Wagyu beef, the fanciest, most expensive beef around, this hot dog should basically taste like the filet mignon of hot dogs. But does it?


No, not really. In my opinion, all of this primo meat disqualifies it from being considered a proper hot dog. The flavor is more akin to a kielbasa, with a smoke-forward, heavily seasoned taste. Add to that an overly tough, chewy texture, and you're no longer looking at a hot dog — it's really a sausage. This doesn't mean that the Hempler frank is bad, it just doesn't hit enough of the key characteristics to be qualified as a hot dog. If you want a true hot dog, save a few dollars and opt for one of the other recommended brands.

The Beefiest Hot Dog: Texas Heritage Beef Brisket Hot Dogs

There are a lot of things that help set Texas apart from the other states in the U.S., but one of its tastiest delineations lies in the existence of H-E-B grocery stores. Only found in Texas and Mexico, H-E-B has some incredible (and whacky) in-store brands that call to mind an exclusively Tex-Mex version of Trader Joe's. One delicious option is its Beef Brisket Texas Heritage Hot Dogs ($4.99 for a 12-ounce package of 6). Brisket? In a hot dog? You have my attention.


Amazingly, as high as my hopes were for this dog, I was not disappointed. Offering a nice, chewy texture and a supremely beefy flavor, this dog actually delivered on the promise to bring the juicy taste of barbecue brisket to the hot dog sphere. Best of all, that smoky, salty hot dog flavor is able to coexist with that rich brisket element, creating a harmonious frank worth the pilgrimage to Texas. Sure, I'm waxing poetic about a hot dog — but this is the actual filet mignon of hot dogs.

The Okay Organic Option: Dakota Organic Grassfed Beef Hotdogs

In our modern world, it seems inevitable that someone would eventually create an organic hot dog for more modern diets. Enter the Dakota Organic Beef Hot Dog, a clean-eating choice for the discerning shopper. For $7.27, you can buy a 12-ounce pack of six, an expensive price by any measure.


This is a brand that trades a lot of its reputation on using quality organic grass-fed beef for its base. The flavor should, in theory, be far superior to the other humdrum beef dogs on the list. Instead, it suffers from a similar problem that the Hempler's brand did — this fine quality makes the frank feel more like a sausage than a hot dog. The texture is a bit too tough and chewy to get the hot dog qualification. On the upside, this brand uses a lighter hand when it comes to sodium, and it has a clean, unsaturated flavor that is a pleasant change to other, saltier options. If you prefer an organic product above all others, Dakota is a good choice.

Avoid At All Costs: Applegate Organics The Great Organic Uncured Hot Dog

Like the Dakota brand before it, Applegate Organics created an organic, grass-fed beef hot dog hoping to lure in a clientele that preferred a less-processed hot dog experience. It's also offered at an identical price point as the Dakota brand but for fewer hot dogs in the pack, basically $7.27 for a 10-ounce pack. So, besides size, what really separates the two brands?


This is the one true dud in the whole batch of hot dogs. A taste test immediately revealed a hot dog that had serious deficiencies in both flavor and texture. Inexplicably, these overly chewy dogs had a metallic and artificial aftertaste that made further eating almost unbearable. Of all the brands I tried, this one is the only one that I have to proclaim deserves a hard pass from shoppers. Shoppers may have better luck with one of the other Applegate Organic products, but the hot dogs can't be counted on.

The Bologna of Hot Dogs: Oscar Mayer's Wieners

Oscar Mayer has already made an appearance on this list, but this is the hot dog that really made the brand famous (and inspired the infamous Wienermobile that marks the package). The Oscar Mayer Wiener is a blended meat hot dog, featuring chicken, turkey, and pork. This makes it a considerably cheaper option than the beef options, coming to $2.95 for a 16-ounce eight-pack.


Unsurprisingly, this blended hot dog reminded me immediately of Oscar Mayer's equally famous bologna meat. In fact, this is as close as you'll get to a tube-shaped bologna outside of you rolling up a slice of it and shoving it into a hot dog bun. This doesn't make the hot dog that off-putting — heck, I'm a big bologna fan — but what really makes the hot dog so egregious to the senses is its baby food-soft consistency. It could even merit the descriptor of creamy, which is never a word you want to say to describe a hot dog. All in all, I'd prefer my hot dog not to look and taste like a bologna sandwich in disguise.

The Cheap Eat: Bar S Classic Franks

Marking the return of the Bar S brand, this hot dog has the distinction of being the cheapest on the list, offering a 12-ounce pack of eight hot dogs for only $1.18. Why so cheap? Well, this mixed meat frank uses chicken and pork as its base rather than beef. The real question is whether this inexpensive hot dog can deliver a satisfying taste as well as a good price.


Like the other Bar S brand hot dogs on this list, this frank had a markedly sweeter taste than the other ones. I dig this warm spice hit, as it's a traditional touch, and found that it was balanced out by other more savory notes. The texture is soft, but not abominably so, and I can see this easily being a favorite for those who like their hot dogs to be more of a meat carrier — something to be drowned in sauces and condiments. Considering its excellent price and decent enough taste, it's also one of the better hot dogs to select when feeding your whole neighborhood.

The Gourmet Hot Dog: Boar's Head Frankfurters

If Oscar Mayer is the king of inexpensive processed meats, Boar's Head is the emperor of its expensive deli brethren. Its entry onto the list is the Uncured Pork and Beef Frankfurters (don't call him Frank; he's a Frankfurter). Fittingly, these are the priciest hot dogs on the list, coming to $9.35 for a 14-ounce seven-pack. Made with pork and beef and packed into natural casings, these old-fashioned frankfurters come in links that you'll have to manually cut, which will either annoy you — who has time to untangle meat nunchucks — or delight your retro sensibilities. Presentation aside, with each hot dog costing more than $1, you better believe these hot dogs need to deliver superior flavor.


Reader, it delivered. This is what I imagine all other hot dogs aspire to be. Offering a well-balanced mix of sodium, spices, and meaty flavor, the taste feels like a bygone throwback to the original hot dogs of old. Indeed, the Frankfurter sausage is the forefather of all hot dogs. Beyond that, the texture is divine, giving the perfect amount of snap (thanks to the natural casings) and a smooth yet firm interior. Of course, this is still a pricey dog, so I wouldn't waste it on the casual hot dog fan. This one's for the fanatics and gourmands.

Hot dog testing methodology

Why did I buy these specific hot dogs? First, as I was looking to evaluate a plain Jane hot dog category, I decided to rule out trying any diet-restricted choices, like soy or vegan dogs. I also avoided any novelty hot dogs, so no cheese-filled weenies. The only variation I sought to include is that of beef hot dogs and hot dogs with a blend of meat, like pork, chicken, and turkey. Second, I stuck to hot dog brands that I could easily find at local grocery stores like Walmart and H-E-B. That ruled out some good honorable mentions, like Costco brand hot dogs and others that weren't available in my area. Tip: If you love a New York-style hot dog, check out Sabrett's.


As for cooking, each hot dog was roasted at 400 F for 15 minutes. I skipped the grill to keep any smokey chargrill flavor from masking the plain flavor of the hot dog. They were split down the middle to see how they'd crisp up and release any juices during roasting. During the tasting, they were served plain, with no bread, and no condiments. I evaluated the texture (like the snap of the hot dog), the flavor notes (saltiness, sweetness, and spice level), and the general aftertaste of the hot dog.