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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.