history of kosher hot dogs
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“Where do hot dogs come from?” may not be a question you find yourself asking often (or ever, tbh), but it’s one asked by millions—yes, millions—of Google users during summer grilling season. And if you’re anything like one of the curious cooks who’s turned to the internet for increased hot dog knowledge, we know what you’re probably thinking: “ground-up American pork byproducts like stomachs, snouts, and hearts molded into a phallic shape.”

For that answer, you’d be partially correct. Hot dogs were named after a New York Journal cartoon depicting a dachshund nestled between two buns, but the term “frankfurter” actually comes from Frankfurt, Germany, aka the birthplace of the celebrated sausage wiener.

Related Reading: The History of the Kosher Dog

But What About the Mystery Meat?

While ingredients vary by company, The National Hot Dog & Sausage Council claims that most hot dogs start as “trimmings.” No, these are not your favorite Thanksgiving Day sides combined to create a casing-wrapped meaty treat. Instead, they’re the “lower-grade muscle trimmings, fatty tissues, head meat, animal feet, animal skin, blood, liver and other edible slaughter by-products.” Have you put down that bottle of yellow mustard yet?

why do people hate ketchup on hot dogs


Once trimmings (pork and beef being of higher quality than mechanically-separated chicken and turkey) are pre-cooked to help remove the meat from bone and eliminate bacteria associated with butchering, they’re ground up in a machine, emulsified into a paste, and then mixed with salt, starches, spices, and sweeteners. Water is added to for a smoother consistency, which makes the dogs easier for pumping into their respective casings (either cellulose or natural). Before inspection and distribution, cellulose casings are removed for “skinless” varieties while natural casings (the animal’s cleaned intestines) are left in tact. It’s how you get that “perfect crunch.”

And that’s basically it, folks. An American classic grilled, topped with the most random of condiments, and plopped onto a bun for your satisfaction.

Related Reading: Why Does Ketchup on a Hot Dog Piss People Off?

The Outliers

Thankfully, in these days of artisanal everything, we have many more options for gourmet dogs; check our our picks for the best hot dogs (and hamburgers) you can buy to grill right now.

Dry Aged Beef Hot Dogs, 6 for $12 from Porter Road

Made with things you actually want to eat.
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Hot Dog Recipes

If we haven’t completely ruined your appetite—or if you’ve decided to upgrade to gourmet dogs—check out a few of our favorite hot dog recipes below. You may need to cover your eyes before consuming, but it’s the culinary patriotism that counts, right? Right.

Pizza Dough Dogs


Anything tastes on good pizza, so pizza dough must taste good on anything. We’re not entirely sure if we agree with that logic, but in honor of the 4th of July (and National Hot Dog Day coming right up on July 17), we’re rolling with it. Literally. Get our Pizza Dough Dogs recipe.

Corn Dogs


This is about as American as you’re going to get. Processed pork that is breaded, deep fried, and then dunked in sugary sauces? God bless us and all of our nation’s cardiologists. Get our Corn Dogs recipe.

Related Reading: Everything You Need to Know About Making Corn Dogs

Bison Chili Cheese Dogs


Because meat obviously needs more meat. Go big or go home when it comes to hot dogs. Apparently that’s the only way to do them. Get our Bison Chili Cheese Dogs recipe.

Spiral-Cut Bacon Dogs

Spiral-Cut Bacon Cheese Dogs


Furthering that theory, witness the bacon-cheese dog, which is spiral cut to maximize its charred surface area and catch all those toppings. Get our Spiral-Cut Bacon Dogs recipe.

Banh Mi Spiral-Cut Hot Dogs

Banh Mi Spiral-Cut Hot Dogs


The same method can be applied to even more madly delicious topping combos, like bahn mi-inspired pickled vegetables, mayo, and Sriracha. Get our Banh Mi Spiral-Cut Hot Dogs recipe.

Related Video: How to Spiral Cut a Hot Dog

Header image courtesy of Lew Robertson / DigitalVision / Getty Images

Joey is a NYC-based writer/editor, TV/radio personality, editor-at-large for Chowhound, author of "Basic Bitchen," and host of "Dish This." His work has been featured in outlets like Food & Wine, People, InStyle, Travel+Leisure, and BuzzFeed. Prior to a career in editorial, he served as the lead publicist for hit TLC shows like "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo," "My Strange Addiction," and "My Crazy Obsession." In his spare time, he enjoys volleyball, visiting the beaches of Naples, Fla. (his hometown), worshipping Beyoncé, eating sour candy, writing depressing poetry, interior design, and perfecting his stand-up comedy routine. He's also been struck by lightning—quite the shocking experience.
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