In our Taste Test series, BA editors conduct blind comparisons to discover the best supermarket staples (like vanilla ice cream or frozen pizza). Today, which hot dog deserves a spot on your grill?
Do you know the difference between sausages, wieners, frankfurters, and hot dogs? If, like me, you hadn’t ever really thought about it and assumed they were all pretty much the same, I’m thrilled to tell you that you’re wrong.
For the unilluminated: A sausage refers to any meat wrapped in a casing. It’s the umbrella term for wieners, franks, and hot dogs. Wieners trace their lineage to Vienna and contain seasoned beef, pork, poultry, or some combination thereof. Franks come from Germany (Frankfurt, to be exact) and are made of pork seasoned with things like salt, pepper, garlic, sugar, mustard powder, and nutmeg. The hot dog, our person of interest today, is like an American remix of the Frankenfurer—made with beef and/or pork as well as spices like paprika, nutmeg, pepper, garlic, and coriander; they’re a bit shorter in length and usually contain some preservatives too.
Regardless of which type of sausage is your favorite, there’s one that screams summer louder than the others: hot dogs. Our staff tasters were sure childhood standbys like Oscar Mayer and Hebrew National would sweep the competition but, as always, the results of our taste tests are full of surprises.
To cut down on variables, we boiled and tasted only all-beef hot dogs. And though we offered up buns, ketchup, and mustard, most testers boldly chose to taste their dogs plain. In the end, we blind tasted seven of the most popular brands and judged them on flavor, casing snap, and the satisfying firmness of the meat each bite. There was only one brand that we settled on as our summer grilling pick.
The Biggest Loser: Oscar Mayer
The ingredients: beef, water, cultured dextrose; contains less than 2% of salt, distilled white vinegar, cultured celery juice, sodium phosphate, cherry powder, flavor, extractives of paprika.