Whether it’s a grueling night punishing your bicep by the constant lifting of beverages after a hectic work week, or that mad dash for something to eat because we have unimaginable time restraints, there is nothing better than a hot dog. Topped, capped, cheesed, dressed, soft and briny, this delicacy (yes, I said it) is adorned by millions, and I wanted to know why I love it so much, so I once again dove in too far without a tank. Here is some wiener knowledge.
“Some people wanted champagne and caviar when they should have had beer and hot dogs.”–Dwight David Eisenhower
The origin of the name “hot dog” is mostly narrowed down to two theories. One has to do with a newspaper cartoonist Thomas Aloysius “TAD” Dorgan around 1902 when, apparently late on a deadline for his work (I share that procrastination), he looked outside for inspiration, and what he saw and heard was a guy behind a cart yelling, “Get your Dachshund sausages while they’re red hot!” Dorgan decided to draw the scene but he couldn’t spell Dachshund (Wiener dog) so he decided just to go with “hot dog.” Unfortunately, there has been no copy found of this cartoon to verify this theory. Theory number two: Thomas Francis Xavier Morris, also known as “Hot Dog Morris,” was a black man from the Caribbean. Morris worked as a strong man around Europe, married a European woman and eventually landed in Paterson, New Jersey, selling his frankfurters. The word Frankfurter comes from Frankfurt, Germany, where pork sausages a lot like hot dogs got their name. Just for giggles I want to throw out my theory:
A hot dog is a sausage and originally was made as a way to preserve meat, especially the cheap varietal cuts and leftover meat. Dog meat has been eaten for a very long time. Now put the two together. Someone stuffed a casing with dog meat, cooked it and ate it. I’m sure hot dog was an old-school household name at some point but we may never know, due to lack of material proof.
Traditionally, sausage meat was stuffed into sheep intestines or stomachs, Yum, right? Well, now we either stuff the meat into natural, collagen, or cellulose casings. “Natural” casings are the sub-mucosa lining of an animals intestine. The sub-mucosa layer is behind the mucosa layer, which is the layer in direct contact of the food being digested. No direct contact with excrement – that’s good news right? Collagen casings are usually derived from the collagen (natural proteins found in connective tissues and skin) of pigs and cows. Cellulose casings are made of plastic usually removed after the meat is cooked.
Today most hot dogs are made by taking cuts of meat, putting them through a chopper with some seasonings to make an emulsion or batter (mmmmmmm, meat batter), put into cellulose or natural casings, cooked, smoked and, if they are used, put through a cellulose casing removal machine.
Okay, let’s make a great hot dog. Per usual, let’s keep it simple. I’ve done some research and these steps are what major players use to ensure a tasty dog:
1. Choose a good hot dog. Most of what I read leans toward an all-beef hot dog.
2. If it’s natural casing, you should cook it for three or four minutes in a 350-degree oven to “render” the casing, then grill it over medium heat and you should get that “snap” that a lot of hot dog coinsures look for.
3. To steam the bun, simply wet some paper towel, wring it out and wrap it around your bun, set in the microwave for 10 to 20 seconds and whammy!
4. Choose regular yellow mustard or German mustard with even horseradish in it, say no to ketchup, and choose white onions for the crispness. Sound good, right? Well, we all like them different; I love boiled hotdogs with ketchup, chili, cheddar and ketchup. So I guess it depends on where you’re from. Let’s at least try to choose a good wiener, grill it, steam the bun and from there, let’s tell the experts, “Fuck off, we’re making it with ketchup if we want!”
NASA approves them, Weight Watchers approves them in its regiment, soldiers are given them (with the moniker “tube steaks”) – so we can’t go wrong, can we? Well, maybe. Hot dogs are just one of those foods that bring people and nostalgia together like one amazing imperfect family. Happy Spring.