Below is a post that I put on the Ontario Board. It contains info about Nathan's hot dogs and other beef dogs. Since my post was general while the thread on the Ontario Board was specifically about finding good hot dogs in Toronto, the moderators requested that I post it here on the General Chowhounding Topics Board.
I live in the U.S. (New Jersey) where I have access to Nathan's. First off let me say that their mustard is actually Gold's mustard that is made for Nathan's in a private label arrangement. Don't know if it's available in Canada.
Even though Nathan's is available in practically ever supermarket I've ever been in, the natural casing franks are a little more difficult to find. If you have a choice, go for the natural casing dogs and prepare them on a grill or griddle. As for the Nathan's franchises, they are hit or miss. The good ones prepare the natural casing franks on a hot griddle. I've been to a few that prepare the dogs well and they are every bit as good as those at the original Nathan's in Coney Island.
The not so good locations (franchises) use the skinless franks and prepare them on a roller grill. Sometimes the dogs are greasy; sometimes dry from being on the roller too long. Many times the dogs are not hot enough. Clearly inferior to the griddle cooked natural casing dogs that are hot and have a char that you don't find from those prepared on the roller grills. Roller grills, at least in New Jersey, can not be found at any reputable hot dog stand. These things are for convenience stores, gas stations, and movie theatres. It's a shame that even in the U.S. close to where Nathan's originated, there are people whose only exposure to Nathan's is a poorly prepared kinless hot dog from a roller grill. And they wonder what the fuss is all about.
While Nathan's is a very good beef dog, there are better; at least in and around New Jersey. Sabrett is less greasy. And not the ones prepared dirty water style. The 10 to a lb franks that are grilled and served at Papaya King, Gray's Papaya, and Katz's. Best Provisions out of New Jersey makes a superior beef frank. Made from bull meat but with a better blend of spices. Spicy, but with less garlic than Nathan's and more complexity. Boars Head and Usinger's (out of Wisconsin) are also superior to Nathan's. But Nathan's is a quality dog that is worth seeking out.
I don't agree that "a hot dog is just a hot dog". Many dogs are made from low quality meat scraps and fillers. Better hot dogs are made from cuts of beef or beef and pork supplemented with trimmings. The finest hot dogs are made from whole cuts of beef or beef/pork, or beef/pork/veal without trimmings. I don't know about Canada, but near where I live there are European style pork stores and butcher shops that make high quality dogs that taste so much better than what you get in stores. Thumann's out of New Jersey makes perhaps the best hot
dogs I've had. And I've had literally about 200 different kinds. It's a beef/pork German style dog that is made from whole cuts of top quality beef and pork. The pork comes right off their hams.
Although I haven't tasted a Nathan's frank from many years ago, I believe Embee when he says their dogs were better in the past. Recently they were made by many different companies including Sabrett (Marathon). And the recipe didn't have corn or wheat gluten. I e-mailed the company and asked why the claim that the hot dogs are made to the same recipe that they were in 1916, supposedly from Nathan Handwereker's wife or wife's grandmother when corn and wheat gluten weren't used then. I never got an answer. Perhaps Jade Alberts can answer this for us. Now their franks are made by a company called SMG Meats.
High quality dogs like Nathan's and those named above don't need a lot of toppings. Just a little mustard is how I enjoy mine. Toppings mask the flavor of a quality frank. In my opinion if you don't start with a quality frank, it doesn't matter what you do to it. If you do have a quality frank, it should be the focus of the taste experience.
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