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Why settle for a standard supermarket-bought hot dog on your grill this summer when there’s a whole world (or country, at least) of German sausages out there? German sausages not only tend to be artisan-made from old family recipes, they’re also a big part of German culture and come in dozens (if not hundreds) of varieties. Even the traditional frankfurter, wiener, and bratwurst you’ll find at a German butcher shop are better than the ones you get at the supermarket. And if there’s no German butcher near you, there are some great ones that ship, like Stiglmeier, Bavaria Sausage, and Koenemann’s. Here are five German wurstel that every hot dog lover should know about.
This sausage is made from seasoned ground pork and is lightly smoky. It’s best heated in hot water for about five minutes and served with mustard and brown bread.
Knackwurst (sometimes seen in America as knockwurst) is super garlicky and is made from veal and ground pork. It’s aged for a couple days before being smoked, and is thick, plump, and great either boiled or grilled.
Weisswurst is a white, uncured sausage made with veal and pork back bacon, and flavored with parsley, lemon, onions, and other spices. It’s very light and lean, and you’ll see it as a popular breakfast dish in Bavaria, where it’s simply boiled and served with sweet mustard and a soft pretzel. If you’re looking to eat sausages for breakfast, this is the way to go (and be sure not to eat them after noon in Germany, or you'll look like an amateur!).
There are dozens of varieties of bratwurst in Germany, but the ones traditionally found in America are thick, plump, coarse-ground, and super flavorful, usually made with pork (or pork and veal). Try a few different varieties and find one you like; they’re all intended to be grilled and served with mustard.
A German cultural icon and its most popular fast food, currywurst should be far more popular in the United States than it is. The secret is in the sauce: Bratwurst is simply grilled and then doused in a curry-spiced ketchup. Serve this sauce along with the usual condiments at your next cookout and your guests will love it. You can find several varieties here.
These 13 Gourmet Hot Dogs Put the Food Truck to Shame
We loved hot dogs as kids, and we can love them just as much as adults. (Seriously, put down the burger.) These dogs have gone through a total makeover, and we're losing our collective minds over them. Whether your greatest obsession is over breakfast sandwiches or brimming tacos, we promise you there's a gourmet frank to match it. See for yourself with these 13 crave-worthy hot dog transformations!
Cheesy Mexican Gourmet Hot Dogs
Keep your tacos for Tuesdays and dress your hot dogs with cheese sauce, serrano peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, and crumbled queso fresco every other day of the week. (via The Wicked Noodle)
Bánh Mì Hot Dogs
These astounding hot dogs are inspired by the highly craved Vietnamese Bánh Mì. They’re even topped with all the right stuff, from crisp daikon to punchy jalapeños. (via My Name Is Yeh)
Merguez Hot Dogs With Caramelized Onions
Caramelized onions are a total game-changer on these hearty and juicy Merguez hot dogs — and don’t be shy with that old-fashioned mustard! (via Ricardo Cuisine)
The Ultimate Breakfast Hot Dog
Good news, friends: We can now indulge in hot dogs for breakfast by piling them high with fried eggs, crispy bacon, melty cheese, and potato hash. (via Frugal Mom Eh!)
Korean Slaw Dog
You just haven’t had a true gourmet hot dog until you’ve had one loaded with Sriracha ketchup, ginger-infused mustard, and a sweet ‘n’ spicy Korean slaw. (via Taste and See)
Chorizo Hot Dogs With Chimichurri and Smokey Red Relish
In case it wasn’t obvious, gourmet hot dogs are ALL about the toppings. This recipe lets you choose between an herbaceous chimichurri or a smokey red relish, but we say use both. (via Gourmet Traveller)
Greek Hot Dog
If you feel the need to put a Greek spin on everything, then you need these dogs in your life. They’re jam-packed with cherry tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, kalamata olives, tzatziki, and an obligatory mound of crumbled feta. (via Country Cleaver)
Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeño Hot Dogs
Since everything is better when wrapped in bacon, these hot dogs are a total crowd-pleaser. Just add some melty cheddar and jalapeños, and you’ve got a guaranteed winner. (via Port and Fin)
Thai-Inspired Hot Dogs
These delectable dogs are loaded with crisp veggies, chopped peanuts, and cilantro, and are then finished off with a generous drizzle of Thai peanut sauce. (via What Do You Crave?)
Cuban Hot Dog
Stuffed between grilled panini, these beefy dogs are an ah-mazing nod to a Cuban classic, with Swiss cheese, ham, mayo, mustard, and crisp dill pickles. (via Country Cleaver)
Hawaiian Hot Dog With Special Sweet-Spicy Yogurt Sauce
Put a mouthwatering Hawaiian spin on your franks by piling them with chunks of pineapple, mango, avocado, and a sweet yet spicy yogurt sauce. (via Easy Cooking With Molly)
French Onion Hot Dogs
Bring the essence of French onion soup to your summer dinner plate with some hefty dogs, caramelized onions, gooey Gruyere, and fresh thyme. (via Life Tastes Good)
Hong Kong Phooey Hot Dog
This hot dog is deep-fried in a tempura batter and served with a smear of peanut butter, hot chili sauce, bean sprouts, and a crispy egg net that will woo just about anyone. (via Simone’s Kitchen)
Is there anything mac and cheese DOESN'T go with?
Mango salsa is delicious enough to be put on everything, even a hot dog. So summery!
6. Arugula Pesto and Caramelized Onions
Ummm. who knew pesto on a hot dog could look so incredible?!
7. Caramel Popcorn
Caramel popcorn. On a hot dog. With cheese and bacon. This is a thing that happened.
8. Corn Chutney
This chutney includes celery, tomatoes, honeydew melon, and dill. You'll want to eat it even without the hot dog.
9. Ramen Noodles
Who needs a bun when you could wrap your hot dog in ramen noodles?
10. Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, and Onions
This is just weird enough where you HAVE to try it to see how it is.
11. Celery and Blue Cheese
It's basically like eating wings, except you're not eating wings, you're eating a hot dog.
12. Crushed Salt and Pepper Potato Chips
It's basically a known fact that potato chips make everything better.
13. Cheese, Marinara, Basil, and Pepperoni
Who says you have to choose between pizza and a hot dog? Not us!
14. Pastrami and Swiss Cheese
While we're at it, who says you have to choose between a reuben and a hot dog?
15. Fried Onions and Pickled Cucumber
It's really something when fried onions and pickles are the most normal hot dog toppings on a list.
16. Muenster Cheese, Mayo, Bacon, and Avocado
Of course avocado makes a good hot dog topping!
17. Cream Cheese, Jalapeno, and Bacon
It's basically like a jalapeno popper on a hot dog wrapped in a bun.
18. Bacon, Fried Onions, and Potato Salad
I mean, you're going to be eating potato salad anyway, so you might as well put it on your hot dog instead of next to it.
French fries, cheese curds, gravy, and a hot dog. All you need for a perfect summer meal.
20. French Fries
Or you could just wrap your hot dog in French fries and leave it at that.
They're super inexpensive
As you might expect, Costco isn't making a ton of money on their $1.50 hot dog and soda combo. In fact, the company loses money on every combo sold, to the tune of more than 100 million hot dog meals each year. And according to the company, that's just fine.
When Costco president W. Craig Jelenik once famously griped about keeping such a popular loss-leader on their menu to Costco co-founder and Jim Sinegal, Sinegal was crystal clear in his now-legendary response: "If you raise [the price of] the effing hot dog, I will kill you," Sinegal said. "Figure it out."
Why this commitment to a product that costs the company money with every sale? The answer is twofold. First, losing a few cents on a hot dog combo that may draw shoppers into a store that sells $1,000 big-screen TVs makes a ton of financial sense, over the long haul. Just one sale of a big-ticket item instantly wipes out the losses on hundreds or even thousands of hot dogs. But there's another reason to keep the discount hot dog train rolling: A busy food court creates a buzzing family-friendly atmosphere, and that cheap meal for the whole family helps shoppers justify the yearly cost of membership.
Dirty Water Dogs: a Tasty Treat (for some)
“Dirty-water dogs!” You love ‘em (chances are you grew up in NYC), you can’t stand the thought of them, or you haven’t tried them – yet.
Want one? Look for blue and yellow striped Sabrett umbrellas (sometimes green and white, per regulation, in NYC parks).There seem to be a lot of foodtrucks with blue and yellow Sabrett umbrellas, but you can still find plenty of pushcart vendors hawking frankfurters – even if some of them are now cooked on grills rather than plucked out of pots of warm (“dirty”) water.
The Dirty-Water Dog
“Dirty-water dogs” are hot frankfurters plucked out of a metal vat full of warm, salty liquid. How long the hot dog has sat in in it’s warm bath is anyone’s guess – a time frame probably dependent on how many sales have been made and how long the vendor chooses to leave them in there.
The cooking process is simple. Dump the dogs in the water. Snatch them out for a waiting customer, drop them onto a soft (non-grilled) bun that sops up the wetness that clings to the dog, and add on whatever else (sauerkraut, chili, condiments) the customer wants. If you’re in NYC, go for the famed tomato/onion mixture. Classic NYC street food.
The Origin of the Hot Dog
Hot dogs are derivatives of sausage and sausage has been around a long time – it’s one of the oldest forms of processed food having been mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey in the 9 th century BC.
Although there’s really no consensus on the origin of the “hot dog” (or the “dachshund” or “little-dog” sausage), credit is usually given to Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany around the year 1487. That means the little dog sausage was being happily eaten five years before Christopher Columbus set sail for the new world. The name “hot dog” probably began as a joke referring to the small, long, thin dachshund.
The Dog In The Bun
Who served the first North American dachshund sausage (hot dog) wrapped in a roll is also in doubt: maybe the German immigrant who, in the 1860’s, sold them with milk rolls and sauerkraut from a push cart on the Bowery in NYC. Maybe it was the German butcher who opened up the first Coney Island hot dog stand in 1871 and sold 3,684 dachshund sausages in milk rolls his first year in business.
A baseball stadium staple since 1893, the sale of hot dogs as game day food is credited to a St. Louis German immigrant bar owner who also owned the St. Louis Browns major league baseball team.
in the 1890s, the word “hot dog” began appearing in college magazines. Students at Yale called the wagons selling hot sausages in buns outside their dorms “dog wagons.” An article in the October 19,1895 Yale Record described people as “contentedly munching on hot dogs.”
The Pushcart and the Dirty-Water Dog
Pushcarts used to be made of wood. Cooking sausage dogs over an open flame on a wooden pushcart meant carts that could – and many did – go up in smoke. The solution: around the beginning of the 20th century, pushcart vendors started heating hot dogs in water instead of on an open flame.
After the pushcart transition from wood to stainless steel, hot dog pushcarts all looked pretty much the same – rectangular stainless steel carts on wheels with a hinged bins for the dog water, shelves for squeeze bottles of condiments, and the ubiquitous umbrellas.
Carts began to change and varying types of permits allow for expanded menus. With a non-processing permit vendors can only sell pre-made food like dirty-water dogs and pretzels. A processing permit allows them to cook food like kebabs and falafel – and, since grills allow the vendors to cook, they can also grill hot dogs.
New York’s iconic pushcart hot dogs –New Yorkers eat millions of them a year — come mostly from the company, Sabrett. You can spot Sabrett yellow and blue striped umbrellas on most carts. Sabrett calls it’s product “New York’s # 1 Hot Dog, renowned for the famous snap!of it’s natural casing, all-beef frankfurter.”
The water that the hotdog sits in isn’t – or shouldn’t be — dirty, even though it looks like it when the vendor sticks long tongs into a vat of gray foamy covered liquid. That’s not scum on top of the liquid but a froth from the combination of warm water flavored with the juice, salt and meaty leakage from all the hotdogs that have been sitting in their warm water bath.
Despite greater availability of grilled hot dogs, the president of Sabrett says there hasn’t been a major fall-off in “dirty-water” hot dog sales. He says that the regulars stand firm in their preference for dirty-water dogs, a sentiment echoed by the owner of the truck in the photo. He says he’ll grill a dog if someone wants, but that he uses his grill mostly for rib-eyes. His regulars prefer a dirty-water dog – and he smiles as he calls it that. However, he assures me his water is clean not dirty!
Kitchen “Dirty-Water Dogs”
In case you have a hankering for a “dirty-water dog” and there’s no pushcart in sight, here’s the recipe for a self-made version, along with tomato-onion topping, from Epicurious.
The Middle of the Pack
These hot dogs were good over all but missed greatness because of one attribute: The sausage was either too sweet, too salty, too smoky or too tough.
APPLEGATE THE GREAT ORGANIC UNCURED BEEF HOT DOG, $9.99 FOR 8 “Not bad but the salt balance is off — and where are the spices?” I wrote in my tasting notes. “The kid hot dog par excellence.” This was the only grass-fed hot dog that the panel liked.
NATHAN’S FAMOUS SKINLESS BEEF FRANKS, $5.59 FOR 8 A mild, juicy frank that “melds in a nice way” with bun and condiments, Melissa said. But sweeter than we would have liked.
OSCAR MAYER CLASSIC BEEF UNCURED FRANKS, $5.99 FOR 10 “Superfragrant, smoky and sweet,” Sam said. But the small size of these dogs was disappointing.
BOAR’S HEAD BEEF FRANKFURTERS ORIGINAL FAMILY RECIPE, $5.29 FOR 8 Good texture and great beefiness, but the casings toughened on the grill this would probably make a great boiled dog. According to Sam, “Not a snap so much as a crust.”
THE BROOKLYN HOT DOG COMPANY SMOKED AND UNCURED CLASSIC BEEF DOGS, $9.99 FOR 6 The smokiest of the bunch, with good beef flavor. But at almost a foot long, it did not seem like a backyard barbecue hot dog to me.
13 Tasty Hot Dog & Sausage Recipes
Celebrate the IPO with luxury ingredients all the way, including a kobe beef hot dog, brioche bun, and decadent triple-cream cheese.
4 all-beef hot dogs
4 brioche hot dog buns
3 cups baby arugula
1/4 cup red onion slivers
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard $
1/2 cup washed-rind triple-cream cheese, such as Red Hawk
1. Heat grill to medium (350° to 450°). Grill dogs until slightly charred all over, about 4 minutes, turning occasionally. Add buns and grill, turning frequently, until warmed and lightly charred, about 2 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, toss arugula and onion with oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl to lightly coat.
3. Smear mustard and cheese on buns, tuck in hot dogs, and top with arugula salad.
Relish the smoky flavors of summer with these 8 hot dog, brat and condiment recipes
Summer, and summer food, is looking different for many of us this year. Your backyard barbecues will likely be smaller and closer to home, your trips to the ballpark nonexistent. Hot dogs and other sausages are synonymous with both of those hot weather traditions, and while you may be missing them in the ways and places you often enjoy them, there’s no reason you can’t still have them — and even improve on them — at home.
Here are some recipes from our archives that will really up the ante on your grilling game.
BLT Hot Dogs, above. Bacon mayo, cherry tomatoes and shredded lettuce let you merge two classic summer sandwiches (it’s just easier to call a hot dog a sandwich here, okay?).
Smoked Bratwurst. Take these links off the direct heat and allow them to more gently cook to retain moisture and insert some great smoky flavor.
Tiki Dogs. We know, it’s different, but that’s the point. The apricot sauce on top is reminiscent of that ubiquitous takeout duck sauce, which I happen to adore.
Polish Boy. If you don’t have a grill, you won’t be let down by this over-the-top concoction from Michael Symon. But you could definitely cook the kielbasa outside, if you prefer.
Charred Carrot Dogs. This unexpected vegan option is smoky and a little sweet and can take any condiment you’d put on a more traditional beef or pork dog.
Cookout Burger and Hot Dog Buns. Readers consistently rave about this recipe. The buns are a superb way to take your cookout to the next level.
Spicy Beer Mustard. Close to a year after we shot this photo, I can almost still feel the zing from this mustard that makes you keep wanting to go back for more. It would shine on top of a hot dog, and if you want the full ballpark experience, buy or make some soft pretzels, too.
Spicy, Sweet and Sour Corn Relish. I happen to love a classic sweet pickle relish, though sometimes it’s nice to try a new topping. Keep this one in mind as summer corn starts to pour into the farmers markets.
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Sodium Nitrate for Curing Sausage
Sodium nitrate has been used for many hundreds (maybe thousands) of years in sausage making and meat curing. It's still an important part of the process, but we have become smarter about how we use it.
I'll clear one thing up right from the top. Yes, If you make smoked, cooked, or dry sausage you DO need to use a cure. Here's why.
. There's a nasty bacteria called Clostridium Botulinum that causes botulism (a potent and deadly form of food poisoning). This bacteria lives best in temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees F. and likes moist, low oxygen conditions.
That is exactly the environment we provide in our sausage smokers and hot water baths and when we make semi-dry and dry sausages (like summer sausage or salami).
Nitrites prevent the growth of the botulism bacteria, and nitrites are made from the natural breakdown of either sodium or potassium nitrate.
Nitrites also give cured meat and sausage it's pink color and distinctive taste.
Our sausage making ancestors used saltpeter, a form of nitrate (sodium or potassium) to cure their meat. We now know that saltpeter is many times stronger than what is needed for a good cure. Don't use saltpeter when curing your sausage. We have much better alternatives.
There's lots of controversy around nitrite use and possible health problems. Some studies show that nitrites increase the risk of cancer and they recommend reducing the amount of cured food that we eat.
Other studies have proven that we get much more nitrite in our diet from the natural nitrates found in fresh vegetables. more than we do from any cured meat we eat.
The FDA has strict guidelines on how much sodium nitrate or nitrite can be used in commercially made sausage and cured meats, but they are absolutely sure of one thing.
At this time, there is NO known substitute for nitrite in curing meat and sausage.
They feel that the benefits of using nitrite cures far outweigh the risks.
- . If you are concerned about sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite in your diet, do an internet search or other research and read more on both sides of the controversy. A good place to start your research is the U.S. Department of Agriculture
If you decide not to use nitrites, you can still make and eat many great varieties of fresh sausage.
Available Commercial Cures
There are three commercially available cures that I know of. They're all very safe and easy to use but it's important to remember that they are not necessarily interchangeable.
One brand may have a higher concentration of sodium nitrate or nitrite than another so you must use them based on the directions given by the supplier.
Example: Just because one brand calls for a teaspoon in a recipe it doesn't mean another brand will call for the same amount of their product.
- With the exception of Morton Tender Quick, I have never been able to find these products locally. You may have better luck than me, but you'll probably need to mail order them.
- Some people refer to this as "pink curing salt". There are 2 varieties:
Prague Powder #1 is for all cured meats and sausages except for the dried kinds like hard salami.
Prague Powder #1 is 6.25 per cent sodium nitrite and 93.75 per cent sodium chloride (table salt).
Prague Powder #2 is used for dried meat and sausage. It has 1 ounce of sodium nitrite and 0.64 ounces of sodium nitrate in a pound of product. The rest of the pound is sodium chloride.
Both Prague Powder #1 and #2 are used in very small quantities, around 1 teaspoon per 5 pounds of meat (follow supplier directions).
- This is a curing salt made by the Morton Salt Company. It contains both sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate. It has a lower nitrite/nitrate concentration (0.5 percent of each), and much more salt than the other cures.
Tender Quick is very good to use as a rub or in a brine (for making corned beef etc.) but has limited use in sausage making. With Tender Quick the sausage mixture gets very salty before the correct amount of cure is reached.
- I think this is essentially the same product as Prague Powder. It comes as Insta Cure #1 and #2, and the uses are the same as for Prague Powder #1 and #2.
I have used both Prague Powder and Insta Cure, and they work equally well. Insta Cure doesn't seem to be the same "screaming pink" color as most Prague Powder (it is still pink though), but that is the only major difference I can see.
So, to answer our questions: Yes, we need to use cure if we want safe smoked, cooked, or dried sausage. Sodium nitrate (and the sodium nitrite it produces) isn't evil. Without it, we couldn't have safe (and tasty) cured meats and sausages.
Best high-protein: The Original Brat Hans Organic Bratwurst Chicken Sausage
We're fans of this plump pork brat because it has fewer calories and less fat and sodium than any other variety at the store. It's also free of antibiotics, hormones, nitrates and nitrites. The Original Brat's tasty, but relatively neutral flavor makes it a perfect canvas for a wide range of toppings from traditional German sauerkraut and hot mustard to pickled chilies and chutney. Pair it with a healthy beer for the full bierhaus experience.