I Tried Every Pack of Hot Dogs I Could Get My Hands On. Now These Are the Only Ones I’ll Buy.
Whether you’re pro ketchup or firmly against it, an onion advocate or prefer relish only, the most important decision to make when it comes to hot dogs is about the dog itself. The supermarket refrigerator section has a veritable wall of hot dog choices, so it’s not always easy to know which one to pick. Some are pork and beef, some beef only. Some are “skinless,” while others have casings. There’s cured, uncured, grass-fed, Angus, cheesy, smoky, and turkey.
I sifted through the options to find the best ones that could satisfy a craving for a classic hot dog. Because some brands only sell all-beef versions, I opted only for straightforward, all-beef dogs from the major brands found at most supermarkets around the country. I steamed them up, so no charring or browning could interfere with (read: improve) the flavor. And we tasted them without buns or condiments, as those can cover a multitude of sins.
Here’s the one we deemed to be Top Dog.
Boar’s Head Uncured Beef Frankfurters, $5 for 14 ounces
Although these are “uncured,” they had a deeply savory and beefy flavor with a slight umami tang that you expect from artisan cured meats. And even though they’re skinless, they really snap when you bite into them. They weren’t as juicy as Nathan’s, which also ranked highly, but if you want a premium hot dog, this is it.
Nathan’s Famous Jumbo Restaurant-Style Beef Frank, $6 for 12 ounces
The Coney Island original still makes excellent dogs. These were classically delicious, with lots juicy, fatty richness. The savory flavor was balanced, skewing neither too sweet nor too smoky or oniony. If you’re looking for a straight-up simple hot dog that stays juicy, this won’t disappoint.
Applegate Naturals Uncured Beef Hot Dogs, $6 for 10 ounces
Made with humanely raised grass-fed beef, these dogs tasted a lot more complex than other brands — almost more like some kind of steak dinner in hot dog form. Although there’s no added sugar, they offered a sweet note that balanced the savory flavors. If you don’t love the distinctive bologna-like flavor of traditional hot dogs, this is the one to get.
Hebrew National Beef Franks, $4.50 for 10.3 ounces
Hebrew National was plenty delicious and could easily displace Nathan’s for those who crave a super-classic hot dog. It was just a bit less juicy and more aggressively spiced. If you love in-your-face hot doggy flavor, you’ll want to opt for this one.
Do you agree with this list? What’s your favorite hot dog?