There’s no better time than summer to sink your teeth into a hot, juicy frank. But preparing them can be a pain in the ass. You can wind up with a dry, bland interior and rubbery, slippery outside. Or, your tube steak can feature a shriveled, leathery "crust" with an inside that's far too chewy to be enjoyed properly. Here are five foolproof chef tips for making perfectly cooked dogs every time.
1. Remember that the meat matters.
Start at square one: the meat. Whatever you select will ultimately determine the success of the dog, so choose wisely. “Just make sure they are all-beef and kosher,” says Andrew Wyslotsky, sous chef of Pork and Pickles BBQ in Essex Junction, Vermont. And while all-beef is the gold standard, specialty butcher shops will likely carry more interesting takes on encased meat, so it’s worth making a trip if you want something different like elk, bison, or even alligator.
2. Choose the right cooking technique for your hot dog.
Once you’ve selected your base, it’s time to get cooking. Doug Sohn, former owner of Chicago's dearly-departed Hot Doug’s says he likes grilling because it adds a nice flavor from the char, but admits," [If] it's a natural-casing hot dog (and it should be), then steaming or boiling tightens the casing and adds extra ‘snap.’ ” Wyslotsky, too, goes the stovetop route: “Steam it over cheap beer until it’s firm and plump, then garnish." If you opt to fire up your grill, remember that hot dogs are pre-cooked, so it's really just about giving them some heat and grill marks.
3. Take special care with veggie dogs.
Going meatless? Know this: “Vegetarian hot dogs are a little more finicky as they tend to fall apart on a grill,” says Wyslotsky. “Let the hot dog sear before you move it. Once it has grill marks, you can move it to a cooler part of the grill to get hot." For best results, you're going to want to make sure to keep your grill pristine. “Since there's virtually no fat in a vegetarian hot dog, it's really important not to overcook it,” says Sohn. “Steam it to get it hot, and then finish it on the grill to add a bit more texture and flavor."
4. Dress it up properly.
Sure, you could give your hot dog an Empire State spin. All you have to do is drench it with spicy brown mustard and then add either sauerkraut or onions sautéed with tomato paste. And sure, you could head west with the Sonoran-style from Arizona, and wrap your dog in smoky bacon, topped with pinto beans, onion, mustard, mayo, chopped tomatoes, and onions or jalapeños. But Chicago purists swear by serving your dog on a poppyseed bun oozing with yellow mustard, bright green relish, onions, tomato wedges, pickle spear, traditional sport peppers (or peppers of choice), and a dash of celery salt. Try this and you won't look back.
5. Or keep it simple.
We get it, plentiful toppings aren't always an option. And you're probably not traveling with a rotating condiments bar. That's fine, but whatever you do, skip ketchup.“The golden rule is to never eat it with ketchup,” says Wyslotsky. The sweetness from the tomatoes will overpower your hot dog, and most buns have a mild sweetness, anyways. For an unbeatable duo, anoint your hot dog with mustard. “Yellow is preferred, but I like brown and Dijon as well," says Sohn. If sauerkraut is available, add that too, since it will sop up the mustard nicely and give your meal a briny, savory kick.
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