Just in time for the fourth of July barbecue, the New York Times Food department conducted a taste test to decide which all-beef hot dog is the most delicious. Here are the results.
DELICIOUS HOT DOGS
WHY ONLY ALL-BEEF HOT DOGS?
Three reasons: 1. Most high-quality hot dogs (those without lots of added fat and fillers) in the US are all- beef; 2. Most producers of organic, all-natural and humanely raised meat make only all-beef hot dogs; 3. By restricting entry to only one kind of hot dog, the Times leveled the playing field.
Applegate, Nathan’s Famous, Oscar Mayer, Wellshire Farms, Boar’s Head, Trader Joe’s, Niman Ranch, Ball Park, Brooklyn Hot Dog Company, and Hebrew National.
1. All the hot dogs were cooked on a gas grill until well browned.
2. Each hot dog was first tasted unadorned, to experience the hot dog’s seasoning, texture, and beefiness undiluted by condiments or bun.
3. Finally, every hot dog was eaten in a bun with the taster’s predetermined condiments (same for each dog). This allowed the taster to rate the hot dog in its natural environment of bun and condiments.
Wellshire Farms: Premium All-Natural Uncured Beef Franks ($7.99 for 8)
“Smoky, herby. Good levels of garlic and spice.”
Hebrew National: Kosher Beef Franks ($6.29 for 7 hot dogs)
Each of these brands had one failing—too salty, too smoky, too tough, wrong size, or too bland.
Applegate: The Great Organic Uncured Beef Hot Dog ($9.99 for 8)
Nathan’s Famous: Skinless Beef Franks ($5.59 for 8)
Oscar Mayer: Classic Beef Uncured Franks ($5.99 for 10)
Boar’s Head: Beef Frankfurters Original Family Recipe ($5.29 for 8)
Brooklyn Hot Dog Company: Smoked And Uncured Classic Beef Dogs ($9.99 for 6)
Niman Ranch: Fearless Beef Franks ($6.99 for 4)
NOT SO GOOD
These two brands didn’t measure up.
Trader Joe’s: Organic Grass-fed Uncured Beef Hot Dogs ($5.99 for 6)
Ball Park: Uncured Beef Franks ($4.99 for 8)
(Note: These are all New York City prices.)
UNDERSTANDING TERMS ON THE LABEL
A good general rule for buying hot dogs (and other pre-cooked foods) is to buy those with the least number of ingredients.
• Cured: The USDA defines “cured” meats as those that have been preserved with synthetic nitrites. Most organic and all-natural brands are therefore labeled “uncured.” In fact, however, almost all sausages are cured in the sense that they are preserved—whether by salt, smoke, sugar or nitrates.
• Casing: All hot dogs are made and precooked in casings (skins). Hot dogs labeled “skinless” (best for grilling) have had their casing removed. For boiling, it makes no difference whether or not the casing has been removed.
• Organic: No food product is guaranteed to be organic unless it has the USDA “certified organic” stamp.
• Angus: This is a breed of cattle that produces especially marbled beef. “Certified Angus” is a brand of beef, not an official designation.
• Kosher: These are hot dogs made under the supervision of rabbis. This means the cattle have been slaughtered according to rabbinical rules, and the hot dogs don’t contain pork, shellfish or any dairy products.
(Note: Prices listed above were in New York City.)