Where Do You Fall on the Hot Dog Spectrum?

How done do you like your hot dog? You might think your way is the only way, but bring this up at your next dinner party and get ready to defend your position like it’s your thesis for a PhD in sausage.

Hot dogs are divisive foods. The tube meats have inspired to-the-death-level arguments about whether or not they’re sandwiches. The choice of bun (classic or New England-style) gets people going. And the debate over ketchup’s qualifications as a topping has incited plenty of bar fights in Chicago. But before we talk about any of that, we need to discuss another touchy subject: hot dog doneness. 

Anyone who’s ever manned a grill at a cookout can tell you just how specific people are about their hot dogs—and how they’ll hover over your shoulder just waiting for you to keep the dogs cooking one second too long. There are many more shades of hot dog doneness than burger and each one comes with its very own identity. Let’s dive in: 

Practically Raw

This is the “blue” of the hot dog world. Except a “blue” steak is delicious, letting the iron-rich flavor of the steak come through with no heat or rendered fat to hide it. A “blue” or just-warmed up hot dog is only acceptable if you’re on the run with no way to create fire and only a lightbulb to cook on. 

Lightly Toasted

The dog hasn’t developed that taught, snappy skin yet, but it has a touch of color. You might need to let this one cool down a bit before taking a bite, but not much. This is a respectable order for someone in a hurry, someone who showed up to the party at 3 p.m. after skipping breakfast and lunch. 

Sun Tanned

Kissed by the flames, golden brown, this is a commercial-ready frank. This is the type of hot dog you play “legs or hot dogs” with. It’s not my type of dog, but I respect it. It’s also the hardest level of doneness to achieve, so kudos to the grillmasters out there delivering these tawny weenies. 

Dappled 

You might think you’re looking at the sun shining through the leaves, casting shadows on the forest floor. But no. You’re looking at a hot dog, haphazardly rolled around a grill so that some spots are more done than others. You get the best of both worlds—or the worst, depending on your outlook on life—some, toothsome spots, some snappy, crispy spots. 

Striped 

These are rarely seen in the wild and typically only spotted on the packaging of Ballpark Franks. Striped dogs have those classic grill marks all grillmasters try for and usually fail at, as achieving such a feat calls for the calculation of angles and turning radiuses. Honestly, I’ve never experienced one. So I must withhold all judgment and simply tip my hot dog-shaped hat to those who are able to create such a brand photo-worthy masterpiece. 

Singed

Now we’re getting somewhere. Spoiler alert, everyone, I like a well-done hot dog. I like my steaks raw but my dogs donezo. A singed dog is often an accident—a sun tanned dog forgotten in the corner of a grill for a few minutes too long. But those few spots of char make for good eats. This is a happy accident, indeed. 

Blackened 

This is what I, personally, ask for in a wiener. I want a charred skin all over. I want crunch and slight bitterness from the burn. It gives you the texture you need to offset the soft bun and juicy meat. I want to see the skin splitting. I want it to slightly separate from the meat. My mouth’s watering, excuse me. 

Full-On Charcoal 

Oh, no. You ruined it. This is the sad, final hot dog left to toast and char and burn on the grates. “Anyone want another hotdog?” the grill master asks, desperately. “The meat’s still fine—you just might need to peel off some of the outside.” Appetizing. 


About the Author

Justine Sterling

Justine Sterling is the editor-in-chief of Sporked. She has been writing about food and beverages for well over a decade and is an avid at-home cook and snacker. Don’t worry, she’s not a food snob. Sure, she loves a fresh-shucked oyster. But she also will leap at whatever new product Reese’s releases and loves a Tostitos Hint of Lime, even if there is no actual lime in the ingredients.

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  • I aim for singed, personally. My family likes dappled. Also, while the Ballpark frank striped is made by a food artist with some kind of hot iron, you can achieve this at home if you have cast-iron cooking grates or GrillGrate stainless steel grates. You have to put some weight on top of the hot dogs to get that sort of indented sear (a cast-iron skillet works). I don’t think the juice is worth the squeeze, but you can do it if you want.

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    • same here! I am a singed guy for sure. When you get like fancy hot dogs like hoffmans or zweigles you really want that skin to start separating and crisping just ever so slightly. As the wolfepit would say, “peak crispification”

      Reply
      • Man, I love Larry Wolfe’s recipes. I first started following his stuff about 12 years ago when I first signed up for The Virtual Weber Bulletin Board.

  • I always aim for striped, but it’s not a sure-fire thing.
    Mostly I feel like I end up with a slightly-singed ‘dog with maybe a stripe or two on one side.

    I will say that I am very particular about my type of ‘dog, though. I only cook Nathan’s skinless all-beef franks.
    They’re the best, in my opinion.

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  • I don’t really eat hotdogs, but when I do, it really depends on how it’s being cooked. If they’re being held over a camp fire, I like kind of blackened maybe almost charred, on a grill I like stiped. On a roller I like dappled. In my macaroni and cheese I like boiled…

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    • This is the kind of in-depth consideration I can really appreciate.

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  • If you haven’t have a steamed/boiled hot dog… have you even lived?

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    • John. Never. If that is living…I’m not long for this world.

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  • May I add a thought?

    why don’t packages of hot dogs ever match the number of hot dog buns in a bag? WHY?

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    • They do…. 😂 Most hot dogs come in packs of 8 and so do most packs of buns

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  • I like striped and singed ones and personally do not like the first, practically raw and, at first, almost gagged every time I ate them but have over time taught myself to become “one with the dog” and not gag and somewhat enjoy them while also despising them. That is my opinion and I mean no offense to people who like somewhat raw ones.

    Reply
  • Any of the ones lighted toasted through striped. Striped is probably my favorite though.

    Reply