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.


How to grill the perfect Hot Dog

If you’re anything like me (no offense) you grew up on hot dogs, that favorite of backyard grillers everywhere. Sadly, many a tube-steak that hit our plates were charred on the outside, chilly in the middle, and split and twisted in decidedly unappetizing shapes.

Not something you really want to add to you weekly meal planner…

But fear not, we’re gonna fix that!

Claims about hot dog invention are difficult to assess, as stories assert the creation of the sausage, the placing of the sausage on bread or a bun as finger food, the popularization of the existing dish, or the application of the name “hot dog” to a sausage and bun combination most commonly used with ketchup or mustard and sometimes relish.

Around 1870, on Coney Island, German immigrant Charles Feltman began selling sausages in rolls. The term “dog” has been used as a synonym for sausage since 1884 and accusations that sausage makers used dog meat date to at least 1845.     By the way, if you’re enjoying our recipes, please subscribe to our free meal planning newsletter; we’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each week, no charge! Plus, you’ll be helping us feed the hungry, and teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk and foster kids through our MY KITCHEN Outreach Program!




According to a myth, the use of the complete phrase “hot dog” in reference to sausage was coined by the newspaper cartoonist Thomas Aloysius “TAD” Dorgan around 1900 in a cartoon recording the sale of hot dogs during a New York Giants baseball game at the Polo Grounds. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)  

Picking the perfect dog*:

Chicago Style Hot Dog is a traditionally all beef and contains no fillers.

Don’t even think of using a Hot Dog made from turkey, chicken or pork. Some all beef Hot Dogs are “Kosher”.

If you prefer a Kosher Dog, look for the Kosher symbol (K) or (U) on the packaging.

When buying your Hot Dogs, stay away from the 97% fat free choices as they are more difficult to cook and lack flavor. Another excellent choice is Red Hot Chicago brand dogs. For a real treat, try the “jumbo” sized version of your favorite brand.

BTW – If you’re a fan of the burger as well, be sure to check out our post: How to grill a Perfect Hamburger

Grilling the perfect dog:

So, how do you grill the perfect dog? Here’s a tip I learned a long time ago, while doing my time at the grill station for a national hotdog chain…

1. Allow you hotdogs to come near room temp before cooking, never, never put a frozen dog in, or over, heat.

2. Simmer (very low boil) your hot dogs in water for four minutes before placing them on the grill.

3. Grill them over a low fire just long enough to get those nice grill marks and toasty outside.

3. Once the skin starts to glisten (about 1 minute) turn the dog over and cook for an additional minute on the other side – no more!

Your hot dog is now ready to serve and it will stay hot all the way through for up to 10 minutes after serving.

Chicago Dog

Photo: chicago.seriouseats.com

Assembling the perfect dog:

Now, what to do with that perfectly grilled dog?

Well, no disrespect to my New York readers (please don’t have me whacked) but as much as I enjoy a good dirty-water hotdog, I think that the windy city has reached weiner perfection with the Chicago dog.

Create your Chicago Style Hot Dog by adding the toppings in the following order:

1. Start by placing your Hot Dog in the Bun.

2. Yellow Mustard – Squirt the mustard directly on the Dog from one end to the other.

3. Relish – Add a generous amount of sweet relish.

4. Chopped Onions – Place onions on top of the Dog.

5. Two Tomato Wedges – Place tomatoes along the crevice between the top of the bun and the Hot Dog.

6. Pickle Spear or Slice – Place pickle in the crevice between the bottom of the bun and the Hot Dog.

7. Two Sport Peppers – Place 2 sport peppers on top of your Chicago Dog.

8. Celery Salt – Sprinkle a dash of celery salt over the Dog.

The only change I make to the list above, is that I leave out the sweet relish, which I’m not a fan of.

Typically, I use a white stadium roll with a jumbo, all-beef, kosher hotdog.

I also like to use crunchy dill pickle spears on my Chicago Style Hot Dogs.

Now, go fire up that grill and celebrate National Hot Dog Day!

-Chef Perry

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