Top 3 Ultimate Gourmet Hot Dog Recipes

I love hot dogs on the grill primarily because they taste great, but also because they are one of those foods that are almost idiot-proof. Heat…place in bun…top with something. Dinner is served. Your meal plan doesn’t get any easier than that! Still, even if your Labor Day grilling involves dozens of hungry guests, there’s always something you can do to take an uber-basic food to the next level.

With the venerable hot dog…there are many, many things you can do.

The Dog

Putting great toppings on a mediocre hot dog is a gimmick, but putting great toppings on a great hot dog is gourmet!

So, first of all, let’s get something straight. When I say “hot dog”, I’m talking about a 100% all-beef frankfurter. Chicken, turkey, pork, bison, or (god forbid) tofu…is not a hot dog. Polish sausages are great, a good bratwurst rocks, but they ain’t hot dogs either.

There…now we know where we stand.

What to look for:

I like my ‘dogs with a natural casing. “So when you bite into it, it snaps,” says Barry Nemerow, co-owner of The Weiner’s Circle in Chicago. “You get a real burst of flavor with all the seasonings and everything in there.” Again, 100% all-beef.

I did an informal survey of 1000 friends on Facebook, and asked them for their favorite brand of dog, method of cooking, and type of bun.

The overwhelming winner in the frankfurter contest was Hebrew National All Beef Hot Dogs, followed by Nathan’s, and Costco’s 1/4lb beef dog. Nolan Ryan’s was a local favorite (Texas) as well. I tested these first three myself, and I have to agree with the popular view…Hebrew National won my vote as well. Not too salty, a nice “snap”, and the perfect (for me) meat-to-bun ratio.

The Bun

Stadium/hoagie rolls came in a dead-even tie with “cheap white hot dog buns” for first place (I prefer the latter), with some interesting options like sweet Hawaiian rolls, and pretzel buns having a few faithful followers.

Whichever you choose…

1. Use fresh buns, preferably within 24 hours of baking. Nothing ruins a hot dog quicker than a dry, stale, crumbly bun. Never freeze leftover buns for future use, either. Fresh is best!

2. Butter and lightly grill the buns just before assembling your hot dogs. Like Mom’s grilled cheese sandwiches (or anything fried in butter)…it just makes ‘em better.

3. Always, always, always put the heated dog in the bun and then wrap it in foil to steam the bread a bit. This is one of the major secrets to a great hot dog or any hot sandwich.

Given the option of grilling, boiling, microwaving, or pan frying, the overwhelming favorite was…

The Grill

Again, the preferred method of cooking was the grill, and again, I agree. For flavor and texture, cooking over flame, with a little smoke (from wood or natural drippings) is hard to beat.

I like “pre-cook” the dogs in some liquid (see note, below) so I can grill them and still get the inside heated through without burning the casing.

Grill your dogs directly on a charcoal grill or a gas grill over medium-high heat, rolling them ½ turn every couple of minutes to ensure nice, even grill marks. Plan on 10 to 12 minutes so that the hot dog browns slowly. If you like to cook by internal temp., you’re looking for 175 to 180 degrees.

For extra crisp-to-meaty dogs, a great method I recently learned is to spiral-slice your dogs before grilling, to increase the area directly exposed to the heat. This works great, and all you need is a wooden skewer and a sharp knife! Google “spiral hot dog” for more details!

Note: Props to my friend and food blogger Anthony Wilkinson for this piece of brilliance: “If I have to boil them, forget water…simmer in beer, onions, garlic, and butter.” Um…yes, please!

The “Stuff”

Okay, the beauty of the hot dog is there are about a million ways to top them, from the old stand-bys to exotic gourmet “fusion” recipes, to the truly horrifying. The problem with the hot dog is… there are about a million ways to top them…

But you know something…it’s a hot dog, not a filet mignon…it’s relatively inexpensive and, by golly, there are seven more in the package! Feel free to experiment, try new things, think outside the box…in the words of Thomas Edison, “I did not fail a thousand times, I found a thousand ways NOT to make a perfect hot dog” (Okay, that was about a light bulb or something, but you get the point.)

That said, here three of the new “gourmet” hot dog recipes I tried specifically for this article, and liked best.

I’ll end with one that’s probably my new favorite dog, and the only one that really needs a recipe.

#3 – Seattle-Style Hot Dog

This dog is awesome. AWESOME! If you don’t like the interplay between cool, creamy, smooth cream cheese, spicy sauce, and a sizzling, salty, beef dog…something in your mouth has died. In my nearby Seattle (a cream cheese crazy town) this one reigns supreme. Cream cheese, grilled onions, and Sriracha sauce, or sometimes grilled jalapenos for the hot-heads). So good!

#2 – The Bahn Mi Dog

I love Southeast Asian food, and here’s a great way to add a Vietnamese twist! Spicy mayo (mayo, garlic-chili sauce, and fish sauce, mixed to taste), thin sliced cucumbers, shredded carrot, and a few fresh mint and basil leaves.

#1 – The System Dog

The System Dog is a staple of Rhode Island food culture, where it is sold as the “New York System” in restaurants. This was, hands down, the best new hot dog I tested. A beef dog, served in a steamed bun, and topped with celery salt, yellow mustard, chopped onions, and a seasoned meat sauce.

If you’re a local, you order it “all the way.”

I have been assured, by those in the know, that this is a “real deal” system meat sauce recipe:

  • ½ lbs. of 80/20 hamburger
  • 2 Tbs. of lard
  • 2 oz. of water
  • ¼ large onion, finely minced
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp. of cumin
½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp. celery salt
1 tsp. chili powder
  • ½ tsp. allspice
  • ½ tsp. dry mustard
Dash of Tabasco
  • Salt to taste
  1. Melt the lard in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, and sauté until softened. Add the spices (except the salt and Tabasco). Add hamburger, chopping and stirring until crumbly and cooked through.
  2. Add the water and simmer until the water almost completely evaporates. Remove from heat and let rest several minutes. Now, you should have a smooth meat sauce with very little liquid.
  3. Add salt and Tabasco to taste. (Remember – you’ll be adding celery salt to the finished dog, too.)

If those aren’t enough to keep you busy, here are a few more that caught my eye…

Happy Grillin’!

-Chef Perry

The Caprese Dog – topped with fresh thinly sliced mozzarella, chopped basil leaves, and cherry tomato slices. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on top.

Peach Salsa Dog – Mix finely diced peaches, chopped jalapeños, and cilantro. Let rest 3-4 hours or overnight. Top dog and serve.

Cubano Dog – Top dogs with shaved ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, and spicy mustard for a tasty take on a Cuban sandwich.

The Mexican Dog – Avocado slices, diced red onions, crumbled cotija cheese, a squirt of hot sauce, and some fresh chopped cilantro top this dog.


Grilling a Gourmet Hot Dog

System Dog

I love hot dogs on the grill primarily because they taste great, but also because they are one of those foods that are almost idiot-proof. Heat…place in bun…top with something. Dinner is served.

Still, even if your Labor Day grilling involves dozens of hungry guests, there’s always something you can do to take an uber-basic food to the next level.

With the venerable hot dog…there are many, many things you can do.

Click here to read the rest of this post and see my favorite gourmet hot dog recipes on my Sears Grilling is Happiness page!


Tips for Raising an International Gourmet

Cooking with kids

Today we’re gonna talk about a few tips I have for “Raising an International Gourmet” (and maybe learning a few new things ourselves!)

I have gone through the following steps with children as young as five and, with a little flexibility and patience, it can be a lot of fun.

Note: when it stops being fun, stop. You’re not teaching at the Le Cordon Bleu, so tell your inner Iron Chef to lighten up! Forcing a kid to cook will only get you the opposite of what you’re shooting for…a lifetime peanut-butter and ramen eater.

Also, don’t let your own bias become theirs! If they pick a recipe that calls for tripe, heart, or pig’s feet…go buy the dang pig’s feet! The whole idea here is to broaden their horizons (and it might not hurt to stretch ours a wee bit, as well, lol...)

So, place your tongue firmly in your cheek, accept that the kitchen is going to be a mess*, and have some fun!

Cooking with kids

Here we go…

1. Take a looking in the fridge/freezer and decide on a protein (chicken, steak, ground beef, salmon, pork roast, etc.) Okay, it doesn’t HAVE to be meat, but I’ve found that those recipes are easier to find in the following steps. You can certainly begin with a vegan main ingredient, as well.

2. Let kiddo pick a country. I have a big mp of the world in my office, but a globe, atlas, or even an online map would work just as well. If the country they pick seems obscure, say “Chad”, just use the continent (Africa) for step three.

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3. Go to Google and type in “(name of country) (protein) Recipes” ie: “African Chicken Recipes” (490,000 results.) If you have additional ingredients you want to use, like rice, or tomatoes…add them in the search.

4. Together, cull through the recipes that Google finds, until you find one that sounds good, and that you have all (or most) of the ingredients for.

5. Do a new Google search for the name of the recipe you’ve chosen, say “Jollof Rice.” Chances are good that you’re going to get a Wikipedia hit like: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jollof_rice. Help junior jot down some notes. Here’s what I found on Jollof Rice:

Jollof rice, also called ‘Benachin’ meaning one pot in the Wolof language, is a popular dish all over West Africa. It is thought to have originated in The Gambia but has since spread to the whole of West Africa, especially Nigeria and Ghana amongst members of the Wolof ethnic group. There are many variations of Jollof rice. The dish consists of rice, tomatoes and tomato paste, onion, salt, spices (such as nutmeg, ginger, Guinea pepper or cumin) and chili pepper, to which optional ingredients can be added such as vegetables, meats and fish.

Cooking with kids6. Together, collect the ingredients, discarding or replacing those that are too spicy, too expensive, or too obscure, and (together) prepare the dish.

While the dish is cooking, or before you start, let the kiddo draw up a picture or two of the dish, the country it came from, a collage of the ingredients, whatever.

7. When Dad (or Mom, or the Grandparents, whoever) get’s home. Let kiddo give a short presentation of what we’re having for dinner, let them share some key points of your research, pass around their artwork, etc.

Then, help them serve the dish to the dinner guests.

8. Remember the three most important ingredients in kid cooking…praise, praise, praise!

9. If you’re the artsy/craftsy type, take some pictures of the process, start to finish, and start a family scrap/cookbook with the pictures, recipe, research notes, artwork, and “customer comments.” Not only will this make an awesome keepsake, but it gives junior a chance to remake favorite dishes, take pride in their cooking, and revisit past “glories.”

Most of all HAVE FUN!

Cooking with kids

Note: I have a daughter, but if I had a son, I would be following the same culinary plan. Let’s put it this way…when I was 27, my sole redeeming feature was my ability to cook really good food…and I married WAY out of my league. If noting else, parents, think of it as your son’s “Failure to Launch” insurance, down the road!

-Chef Perry

*Just a note on that “mess” in the kitchen…Junior isn’t an Iron Chef either, and you’re not his/her “prep-monkey”…clean- up is part of cooking…they might as well get that idea now instead of later. Again, do it together, and make it as fun as possible.

Remember, it’s never too young to start…

Cooking with kids


Novelist, cookbook author, and award winning food blogger, Perry P. Perkins is a work-at-home dad who lives with his wife Victoria and their young daughter Grace, in the Pacific Northwest. Perry has written for hundreds of magazines, everything from Writer’s Digest and Guideposts, to American Hunter and Bassmaster Magazine. His inspirational stories have been included in twelve Chicken Soup anthologies, as well.

Perry’s books are available at www.perryperkinsbooks.com

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