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Is a hot dog a sandwich?

Survey says most Americans say hot dogs are more than just a sandwich

SUBMITTED PHOTOS - The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council says different regions enjoy different condiments. The New York hot dog is topped with steamed onions and pale yellow, deli-style mustard.

I get, literally, hundreds of emails each day, and have over the years become a master at prioritizing what to open first based on the subject line.

The subject line of one email received last week caused me to smile — and immediately open the message. “New Polling Shows Most Americans Agree: A Hot Dog is Not a Sandwich” it read. The email was from the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (NHDSC) and went on to report that a Harris Poll conducted May 2016 online among more than 2,000 adults in the United States showed that 57 percent of Americans say that a hot dog on a bun is not a sandwich, compared to 33 percent who believe it is. And 10 percent were undecided.

“It is clear Americans recognize the hot dog for what it is: a cultural icon that is a category unto itself,” said NDHSC president and “Queen of the Wien” Janet Riley in the release. “The people have spoken, and we hope this new data will help settle many of the heated debates that are still ongoing today.”

The official NDHSC stand is that the hot dog is not a sandwich; they believe that ‘limiting the hot dog’s significance by saying it is ‘just a sandwich’ is like calling the Dalai Lama ‘just a guy.’” The NHDSC has developed a list of a dozen reasons why the terms “hot dog” and “sandwich” are not interchangeable, the most compelling of which is that no one ever sang a song about wishing they were a sandwich.

Hmm. I guess I hadn’t considered the importance of hot dogs, even though they are a traditional fare at summer cookouts. I remember cooking them over campfires as a kid. They were usually burnt, and perhaps even a little ashy, if they had fallen off the stick you whittled. My mom also simmered them in water on the stovetop. Years later, we would get creative and simmer them in beer or cider, to add just a little more flavor to the meat.

Then there were the toppings. My hot dogs were adorned with mustard, and later, I would learn to love them with onions and relish.

A naked hot dog in a bun is the favorite of some younger children.

Nick Kindelsperger, who writes for Epicurious.com, has spent many an hour contemplating the best way to cook hot dogs. He said the most important factor is to get the dogs hot, and suggests that an internal temperature of 150-160 F is ideal. He has tried poaching, roasting, steaming, deep frying, broiling, microwaving and grilling. He likes grilled hot dogs the best, but the problem is that grills produce high heat that is hard to regulate, which tends to scorch the outside of the dog before the interior is hot enough.

The method he found that uniformly heats the dogs is to gently poach them in a water bath at 155 F. He simply heats water in the saucepan over high heat, testing the temperature with an instant-read thermometer. When the water reaches 155 F, he slips the dogs into the pan and warms them up. After about 10 minutes, the dogs are the perfect temperature.

“The only problem? It’s 100 percent unsexy,” he writes on Epicurious.com. “It’s done indoors. The dogs don’t get any color. There’s no smoke, no seared surface. It’s poaching for God’s sake.”

So he fired up the grill.

“Because my poached dogs were already at the perfect temperature and because the grill was operating at high heat, the dogs got a nice char in mere seconds,” he said. “And because I removed them the moment they got a little color, they never had the chance to dry out.”

Now that we have perfectly cooked hot dogs — we can’t just squeeze on a blob of mustard. Let’s take the condiments up a notch.

Anna Stockwell in an article for Epicurious.com suggests three ways to upgrade your hot dog condiments.

  • Spice up classic condiments. Add seasonings like harissa paste (a hot sauce made of chilies, paprika and olive oil) to ketchup; or stir maple syrup into Dijon mustard; or stir chipotles in adobo sauce into barbecue sauce.

  • Grill your toppings. Toss sliced onion, quartered peppers, corn on the cob and skewered cherry tomatoes on the grill along with the dogs.

  • Add crunch with pickles. Make your own quick pickles or jazz up store-bought pickles. Pickled carrots or cabbage will add an interesting taste and texture to hot dogs.

    The NHDSC would love for us to eat hot dogs and sausages year round, and with these upgrades, we might be tempted to do just that. To get you started, I’m including a recipe from the folks at Johnsonville Sausage that uses poaching and grilling methods. Prepare a couple of special condiments, and see if that doesn’t elevate hot dogs to another level. Just be warned that the NHDSC doesn’t condone eating them with anything other than your hands.

    Bon appétit! Make eating an adventure!

    The Chicago-style hot dog is nestled on a poppy seed bun and loaded with condiments including yellow mustard; dark green relish; chopped, raw onion; a pickle spear; a sport pepper; tomato slices; and a dash of celery salt.

    Vintner’s Red Wine

    Sausage Bath

    Serves 10 people

    People think that red wine is good for the body, but we know that it does wonders for Johnsonville Italian sausage. Try this bath when you want to class up your meal even more.

    1 pound sliced bacon, coarsely chopped

    1 bell pepper, sliced

    3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

    1 bunch fresh thyme sprigs

    2 packages (19 ounces each) Johnsonville Mild Italian Sausage links

    8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced

    2 shallots or small onions, sliced

    1 bottom (750 milliliter) red wine

    2 bay leaves

    1 large 12-inch-by-9-inch, heavy-duty aluminum foil pan

    Preheat grill to medium-low. Place a large, heavy-duty, disposable foil pan on the grill, and add bacon. Cook bacon until crisp, stirring often.

    Add the mushrooms, peppers, shallots and garlic. Cook and stir until tender.

    Add the wine, thyme and bay leaves. Bring to a gentle simmer.

    Add sausage and cover pan with foil. Simmer for 10-15 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into the sausage reads 160 F.

    Remove sausage from the pan. Grill links until browned, return to pan.

    Discard thyme and bay leaves. Cover pan and keep warm.

    (Recipe from johnsonville.com.)

    Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-636-1281 ext. 100 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Follow her on Twitter @barbrandallfood.